How I Met Your Mother is over, and there is now a hole in my heart. Probably for the same reason as there is in yours. Read on for my take, and inevitable spoilers.
In recent months, HIMYM has been getting some flack. This last season has been a bit different than previous seasons, for no smaller reason than it was approaching the finale, and the creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, clearly had an idea for what the last season would contain. First and foremost, it’s clear that they shot the final scenes with the two children who are being told this epic story way back perhaps as far as the first season, as they couldn’t get any older during the telling of the tale, and they didn’t. One presumes they shot a couple of options; I know I would have.
What follows assumes that you’ve already seen the episode, and, of course, that you don’t care about spoilers.
For those who were surprised that the eventual mother, Tracy, was dead the whole time, I don’t know what to tell you. That was one of my guesses early on, and it became more probable during this last season when there were subtle hints to that effect.
This article is mostly about the finale, though, and in a nutshell – I was disappointed.
Because the mother was treated so casually at the end. Here we were, with the woman who finally was the love of Ted’s life. We got to know her and like her. And yet, when she died, she was denied a goodbye. We got a bigger goodbye from Ted’s Chicago head fake than we did for Tracy dying, and since everyone in the “gang” seemed to embrace her, I don’t know why, other than not wanting to bring everything down, we didn’t get to see some kind of final goodbye from her. And considering how many times the show pulled on viewers’ heart strings, I fail to understand why that would be the reason.
What’s more, it didn’t seem like Robin ever really changed, so why should she get to be with Ted? What had changed that would make her any more ready for Ted than she had been? The only nod to that idea was her lament that she had missed the one chance to be with the man she “should have been with.” That’s pretty weak, when reflected against Tracy giving Ted two children, and actually being the love of his life that he had wanted all along.
And while the justification of “it’s been 6 years, so it’s okay to date someone, dad” prevents the character from seeming unfeeling, the truth is, we just learn that Tracy is dead before we are whipsawed into considering Ted might go back to Robin. Maybe the characters had six years, but for us the viewers, he might as well have called Robin outside the hospital room with the heart monitor playing one unending note.
To me, my main disappointment was that it could have ended exactly as it did, but with a much better handling of the elements they had decided on 9 years ago. If it had been me, this is what I would have pitched:
Robin and Barney get divorced. Robin realizes that she still loves Ted, and that’s the reason, despite all odds, that she has thrown herself into her work. She loves Barney, but deep down sabotaged their relationship because of her love for Ted. She rushes to Chicago, only to discover Ted isn’t there. He’s back in New York, because of Tracy. We see Ted and Tracy fall in love, and then Robin appears, ready to throw herself at him, but no; obviously, that isn’t going to happen. Robin does the right thing and doesn’t say anything. This is why she doesn’t come to any events.
The rest could go as it did, with the addition of a special place Ted and Tracy go for a romantic dinner on her birthday every year.
Except when it comes time for Ted to lose Tracy. Instead, Ted tells the kids why he told them the story. He wanted them to understand how loving she was. How hard it was to find her. And what her last words were, that he couldn’t tell them until he knew they were old enough to understand. Then, it turns out that he chose this day because it was Tracy’s birthday.
We cut to Tracy clearly ill. Ted is lovingly reading to her. She tells him that she knows she doesn’t have long, but wants him to be happy. Ted doesn’t want to accept it, but Tracy tells him: you’re allowed to find love again. We do not see this conversation resolved, nor do we see Tracy die.
His children tell him that they do understand, and that Tracy, their mother, was right. He is allowed to be happy, and they want him to be happy. Ted tells them “I am happy. I have you.”
We discover that Ted has a ritual. Every year on Tracy’s birthday, he goes to that special restaurant where they would go, and eats a meal alone in her honor. Only this time, Robin shows up. Ted is going to leave, but Robin stops him. She has a letter from Tracy, telling her to meet Ted here. Ted reads it with Tracy as VO. There is also a sealed note just for Ted, it reads, simply, “I really meant it.” with a drawing of a blue french horn below it. Tracy had made this while she was sick, and sent it to Robin through a friend (maybe Lily?), so that she would get it after enough time had passed.
Ted is sad. Robin hugs him.
And that’s it. We don’t know if they get together or not.
To me, that honors the love that we saw blossom between Tracy and Ted. It doesn’t throw away that emotion so quickly. And it gives Tracy ownership of the romance she had with Ted, and the opportunity to be the agent of one last bit of happiness for him. And most of all, it doesn’t imply that Ted was always in love with Robin. Instead, it gives him the chance to truly grieve, and we, the audience, get to see it.
It’s what I wanted from you, HIMYM. I didn’t get it. But in my heart, that’s what actually happened.
Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.