HIMYM Finale: A Happy Ending Upon Second Look?

Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily and Barney.
Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily and Barney.


How I Met Your Mother Series Finale: (Contains Spoilers!)

Now that How I Met Your Mother has come to an end, there are seemingly two extreme viewpoints on the finale, and perhaps they match up with the two different ways of looking at life, on many levels, with those who enjoyed it and those who were left disappointed.

There is the optimist and the pessimist, the romantic and the cynic, those who believe in “The One” and those who believe there are many possible matches for everyone; those who believe that stories should always have a happy ending as well as those who realize that shit happens.

In some ways, the finale is being undeservedly criticized, as in many ways, it gave the viewers all of those aforementioned perspectives. It had its shaky moments, not to mention a shaky final season, but no television show is perfect and HIMYM ended on a note that was truer to the heart of the show than it had been throughout the ninth and final season, not coming back around until those last two episodes.

The network added season nine at the last minute, and it showed. Many of the episodes felt like filler, especially in hindsight after seeing how the finale played out. The addition of the Mother, who we finally learned is named Tracey, was a savior to many of the episodes. The episode that gave her backstory, “How Your Mother Met Me,” was one of the few season highlights. The other highlights included the moments when each of the main characters met Tracey. Knowing how it all ended, the show did set Tracey up as a bit of a tragic figure, having lost a previous love, only to die young. This wraps into one of the themes of the episode, which seems as good a place to start as any.

Ted finally meets Tracey.
Ted finally meets Tracey.

So the mother died. We pretty much saw it coming, though that made it no less devastating. We see that Ted met her on the train platform and decided not to move to Chicago after all, which was in keeping with the romantic spontaneity, sometimes to a degree that was just a little too much, of the character, starting in the pilot with the blue French horn that we saw again at the end. After they met, we saw Ted and Tracey happy through the years of Lily and Marshall having three children, Robin and Barney getting divorced, Barney going back to his ridiculous ways before getting a girl pregnant and Robin finding great career success at the expense of the other aspects of her life. But then, Tracey got sick and she died. This led to the controversial ending of Ted going to see Robin six years later with the blue French horn.

Now here’s the theme that goes through the lives of all the couple’s involved in this plot. They all have more than one great love during their life. For Barney, there was Robin and then his daughter. For Robin, there was Barney and then Ted. For Ted, there was Tracey and then Robin, or Robin, and then Tracey, if you prefer to look at it that way. And for Tracey, there was Max and then Ted. The theme carried throughout the show. The writers clearly fall into the group of those who believe that there is more than one right person for everyone.

The divorce of Robin and Barney is the next aspect of the finale that upset many fans. The problem with this viewpoint comes when you think about any of the episodes you watched, ever. As Robin pointed out herself, all of the big romantic gestures Barney ever made were based on lies. His most romantic moment, the proposal, was a convoluted plot that involved lying to Robin for months. To be with Robin, he changed himself, and that never works. We saw that with Ted, as he went though all the women he dated trying to find the right one that would go with who he was until he finally met Tracey. She loved him for who he was, without him having to change from the overly romantic and sentimental, even bordering on overly sincere at times, person that he was. Lily and Marshall were the same, with both accepting the other for who they were, something that could never happen for Robin and Barney. Even aside from how much Barney had to change himself, the entire ninth season basically showed how ill suited the two of them were for each other. The first few episodes consisted of them having multiple crises of faith in their relationship and compatibility as a married couple, which in real time was all happening on the same day. That much doubt, that close to the wedding seems to be a sign that maybe the marriage isn’t a good fit.

The happy ending people versus the shit happens people, which is really similar to the optimists and the pessimists, is demonstrative of whether you look to see a semblance of reality in your entertainment, or whether you want happy escapism, which is entirely possible as this is a comedy. However, there have been many episodes that have established that the show isn’t afraid to cause you pain through the characters. I would bet there were many tears from the viewing audience when Marshall’s Dad died, and even more at the funeral, right through the laughter as they started grilling meat at the cemetery. There were the moments of sadness and pain regarding Barney and his search for his father and the internal crisis Lily had when she went to San Francisco to pursue her artistic dreams. It only followed that some of that pain that reflects the pain we all experience in life would be reflected in the finale, through Tracey’s death and Barney and Robin’s divorce and the years of pain Robin felt afterwards, watching Ted happy with Tracey.

And for those optimists, looking for a happy ending in their entertainment? It was still there if you looked. Lily and Marshall went to Italy where Lily got to pursue her dream. Then they had another baby and Marshall got his promotion and got to leave the corporate law job he hated to become a judge, which was his dream. Barney and Robin had a short period of happiness together, and then Barney found his true love in his daughter, who made him happy. (Though did anyone else wonder what happened to her mother?) Ted and Tracey were happy together for a good amount of time, and had two children. The three of them seemed as well adjusted to a major death as people can be, and Robin and Ted, who had originally broken up because Robin didn’t want children, found each other again, giving Robin a second chance at happiness, and saving Ted from a sad ending of loneliness.

In the end, HIMYM wasn’t a show about how Ted met Tracey, but rather a show about the lives of this group of people struggling through the challenges that life threw at them, much like everyone else, and the ending showed how all of the main characters we had spent nine years with did, in fact, manage to overcome those challenges and find the optimistic silver lining in life, something you can only find when you get through the inevitable clouds.

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