The Series Finale of How I Met Your Mother is over. A lot of people are pissed:
#HIMYMFinale “kids, i am going to tell u the story of how i managed to escape the friendzone after 20 years”.
— ANGRY AUDRY (@louisthatso) April 1, 2014
And that’s funny. Most people were just haters. “Haters, would you just!…okay!?” The predominant gripe has been that this finale made the show all about Ted and Robin, that it should have been titled something like How I Met The Woman I Want To Be With Now That Your Mother Is Dead. While catchy, that’s wrong. This was a great finale because it stayed true to itself, just like all the characters did, especially Ted Mosby.
Stephen King compares the job of writer to that of an archaeologist. To summarize his viewpoint, a writer is trying to bring a preformed thing from obscurity to public attention. The analogy works even better from the vantage point of the consumer. An archaeological artifact is a small window into an entirely different time and civilization. It’s a fragment of a much larger world, and with few exceptions, that’s exactly the way stories let us look into their imaginative worlds.
208 episodes is a lot of time to spend with characters, but it all adds up to less than four days of real time. If you want this show to be true to real life, that’s an important fact to remember. A lot of life happens in these unwatched margins. Does it seem weird to you that the kids aren’t emotionally enraptured by how Ted met their mother? They’re teenagers who have been with Ted their whole life. They’ve heard the stories. They’ve seen him living alone, and they’re not shocked about the big reveal that their mother is dead. We’re all egocentric, so confusing the show and the story is simple, but the show was called How I Met Your Mother, not How I Met The Mother of My Children. We were always the show’s audience, but we were never the story’s audience. After waiting for 9 years, the word “Your” ended up being way more important than the word “Mother”.
Completion is the biggest fallacy pitched in most finales. Even the tightly-packaged Breaking Bad finale left us with some unanswered questions (What happens to Jesse? Did Hule ever leave that hotel room? Will Walt Jr. ever enjoy breakfast again?), and that was a show that told us it was a completed story. HIMYM was almost finished after a few seasons, revived, then dragged out all the way to season nine. It never had the luxury of being complete. Instead, the writers had to keep brushing away more dirt from the artifact. They had to keep showing you more and more of the fantasy world that these New Yorkers encompassed. And it was a fantasy, Barney alone proves that.
In the end, Ted probably did marry Robin (“The only way either of you are having sex with her is if you marry her.”) But the story we were actually being told was of the emotionally resilient Ted Mosby. Maybe we wished his life was even more fantasy because the real stuff isn’t as fun. We watched him fail. A lot. We watched him struggle to find himself by looking for completion in others. But we mostly just watched him keep on going. That’s what real people have to do. And in the final moments of the show, they took us back to the show’s one prevailing sentiment, the undying romanticism of a human soul (forever enshrined for Ted by a blue French horn). And honestly, to give that romanticism a complete finale would have been the biggest betrayal of the show’s true star.
“Love doesn’t make sense. You can’t logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it, or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in.” – Ted Evelyn Mosby