How I Met Your Mother was a great show. That's just a fact. For a decade, the show and its marvelous cast provided us as a viewing audience countless opportunities for laughs, great character moments, and life lessons through Ted Mosby's search for the love of his life. Though it took most of that decade to finally meet the proverbial "Mother" of the show's title, the ending of the show's eighth season (after dozens of tantalizing hints) gave us the first appearance of Tracy McConnell, Ted's destined wife. After waiting so long, we were finally meeting The Mother. The next season promised a satisfying conclusion to the epic journey.
But there was one problem: The ending sucked.
Sorry if I offended any Season Nine apologists, but it's long past time to face facts. The final season of [How I Met Your Mother](series:200728) fell spectacularly short of what the show deserved, providing little more than a few good moments, a couple of chuckles here and there, and the most emotionally stunted ending I have ever seen.
****Needless to say, spoilers follow.****
Season nine begins right where season eight left off: Marshall is on his way to Barney and Robin's wedding (still not having told Lily about accepting a job as a judge), Lily is anxiously awaiting his and Marvin's arrival, Barney and Robin are having major last-minute wedding jitters as the date approaches, and Ted, as he so often did throughout the series, is just sitting around, a pathetic, heartbroken loser, passively observing everything happening around him. Through the course of the season, we see each of the characters meet Tracy (played by the highly underutilized Cristin Milioti), the bass player for the band playing at the wedding. And, honestly, this is where the biggest problem in the series--yes, the whole series-- arises.
Of the season's 24 episodes, 22 take place over one weekend.
That's right, instead of focusing on completion of the main character's journey, the show's writers choose to focus on three days that soon become fairly irrelevant (more on that later). Up to this point, we have seen seasons, even episodes, taking place over weeks and months (a few even take place over years). The decision to spend almost the entirety of the last season on three days was a dreadful way to conclude the series.
What that decision led to was an ending that felt rushed. In 22 episodes, we saw three things happen: Ted met The Mother, Marshall and Lily fought about Marshall's secret and Barney and Robin got married. At the end of the day, that's what we saw get accomplished. For crying out loud, there was an entire episode that was told only in rhyme, and didn't really make any significant contribution to the story. Want to know what happened in the show's last two episodes?
Over the last forty minutes of How I Met Your Mother's 4576-minute runtime, we witness the following:
- Ted meets Tracy
- Ted decides not to move to Chicago
- Ted gets engaged
- Barney and Robin get divorced after three years of marriage
- Robin confesses she still has feelings for Ted and cuts herself off from the group.
- Ted and Tracy have babies
- Barney goes back to his womanizing ways
- Barney gets a woman pregnant
- Barney, though apprehensive, embraces fatherhood and loves his daughter
- Ted and Tracy get married
- Marshall runs for the State Supreme Court
- Tracy becomes terminally ill
- Robin reconciles with the group and gets on friendly terms with Barney
- Tracy dies
- Ted gets approval from his children to go after Robin
- Ted steals the blue french horn, goes to Robin's apartment and calls her out to see him holding it up.
End of entire series.
And those are just the highlights. We also find out what happens in the lives of a bunch of minor characters, some of whom only guest starred in one episode.
I guess, in short, the ending of How I Met Your Mother does the marvelous series before it a disservice by spending 90% of its runtime telling 10% of its story. If the sole purpose of the series was to simply get around to showing Ted actually meeting Tracy, then I suppose it achieved its goal. But if the writers, actors, and director wanted to give viewers a satisfying end to the journey of the well-developed characters whom we had come to love, then they woefully failed.
So how do we fix it? If we could go back and give these characters the sendoff they deserved, what could we do?
I have a few ideas.
HOW TO FIX HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Spend No More Than Three Episodes on The Wedding
There is simply no reason that Barney and Robin's wedding should take 22 episodes, especially since it ends in one. All of the important things that happened in that part of the story could have been resolved in three episodes, even two! To fix How I Met Your Mother, start by cutting out the fluff and delegating no more than three episodes to the eventually broken union between Barney and Robin.
Give Tracy More to Do
Not only is Cristin Milioti a talented actress and singer, but the entire series is quite literally named for her character. And yet, we only see her a few times throughout the entire series, including her sparse appearances in the final season. This show is about Ted meeting the woman he eventually marries, and we get to spend about twenty quality minutes with her before she dies. After you spend no more than three episodes on the wedding, spend the next 18 episodes portraying the courtship, marriage, and tragic end of Tracy and Ted's time together. Let us as an audience fall in love with Tracy the way Ted does. We want to see all those precious moments; the announcement and birth of their first child, seeing that child grow, stolen moments at the lighthouse, Tracy becoming an irreplaceable part of the HIMYM family. We want her to become ingrained in our lives the way Stella, or Victoria, or Zoe did. For goodness sake, BlahBlah made more of an impression than Tracy.
Show the Decline of Barney and Robin More Gradually
Because of how rushed the final two episodes are, Barney and Robin's divorce comes completely out of nowhere and is pretty glossed over. We don't receive any buildup, any signals that the relationship is going South, other than foreshadowing received in the million episodes covering their wedding. We get to see 22 episodes of their wedding, one episode of their marriage. There's absolutely no genuine impact in their divorce. After spending three or less episodes on the wedding, spend even three minutes per episode, for four episodes, showing the decline of the marriage. Even with twelve minutes showing the decline of the marriage, we'd get more of a sense of why it didn't work than we did with the original ending.
Wrap Up Marshall and Lily's Story Neatly and Nicely
Of all the stories told in the ending of HIMYM, Marshall and Lily's is the one I have the least amount of problems with. Lily plays a substantial part in the stories of Barney, Ted and Robin as it is, and Marshall gets a couple opportunities to show us again that he's a great guy. But even with that, their story, like all the others, feels painfully rushed. Let's see them raising their kids, the stresses and triumphs in Marshall's congressional campaign. We've spent so much time with them, and it's great to see their story end well, but it would have been nice to see a little more of it.
Stretch Out Robin's Arc
Robin Scherbatsky, as revealed in the last two minutes, is the true love of Ted Mosby's life. And, honestly, that is fine. Tracy's death would have made for great drama had it been less abrupt, and Ted finally being able to really go for Robin makes sense and brings the story full circle. But one minute, we see Robin divorcing Barney, and then, literally in the next scene she's in, admitting she still loves Ted. Did she ever love Barney at all? And before we really get into these feelings, she up and leaves, and doesn't come back for a long time. This story would have been much more effective if we could see Robin struggling with Barney having moved on so quickly. Or if we could see her agony at seeing Ted with the woman who makes him so happy, realizing how big of a mistake she has made. Seeing more of Robin's inner turmoil looking back at her life would have made her emotional arc, as well as the end of the story, more affecting.
Give Tracy's Illness and Death More Impact
All we're told about Tracy's death is that she got sick and died. Then we immediately move on to Robin. Not only do we receive next-to-no time with Tracy during her life, but her death is relegated to one and a half scenes, and then basically glossed over. We get no time to see Ted grieving over his loss, no time to see any healing, any catharsis whatsoever. We see him lose the woman he's searched for his whole life and then he immediately moves on to his second choice. What does that say about his relationship with Tracy? Yeah, his hair greys a bit, but because we're on such a time crunch we can't see any clear sign that her death had any lasting impact. Tracy's death should take two episodes, minimum, and Ted should take however many episodes remain to recover, which should be the focus of the episodes. If we see that he really loves his wife, and that he is lonely after her death and in need of companionship, then his pursuit of Robin doesn't seem so shallow, and we have more reason to root for it.
Keep the Good Stuff!
The actual events in the arc of the episode are actually really great. Ted and Tracy's romance had the potential to be epic, and Marshall and Lily got the happy ending we always wanted for them. Robin got a second chance at love, and Barney's first moment with his daughter is the most moving thing about the entire ending. In bare essence, there's a lot of great stuff in the final two episodes, but the way the last season is played out, the good stuff is needlessly crammed together and stripped of its impact, while also somehow padded by superfluous fluff.
MY ALTERNATE FAREWELL SEASON:
- Episode 1: Everyone arrives at the hotel for Barney and Robin's wedding weekend. This takes place over a couple of days, where we see Barney ecstatic over seeing his parents in the same place, but conflicted when he realizes they aren't going to be together. Marshall has to explain to Lily that he accepted the judgeship, which makes Lily angry. Ted tries to mingle with women all weekend, but doesn't have much luck.
- Episode 2: The day before the wedding, Marshall and Lily have their big fight about Marshall's dishonesty, which leads to Lily walking out and heading to The Captain's, where she makes a big discovery. Ted reveals to Barney that he still has feelings for Robin, which makes Barney angry, even though Ted assures him that nothing will come of it. Marshall and the gang go out looking for Lily, who reveals that she is pregnant, taking it as a sign that she and Marshall are meant to be together forever. Tracy arrives in her room, where Ted hears her playing the song on her ukulele.
- Episode 3: Robin and Barney have their separate freak-outs before the wedding, worrying that it's not a good idea for them. Ted gives Robin's locket to Barney, which convinces him that Ted wants them to be together, and that he should marry Robin after all. Barney and Robin go through with the wedding, after which Ted announces that he's moving to Chicago. Barney realizes that he's met the bass player for the wedding band, and suggests Ted go for her, an offer Ted declines. Ted says goodbye to his friends, but hurts himself giving Barney one final high-five, slightly delaying his departure.
- Episode 4: Ted meets Tracy at the train station, where (with the discovery of the shared Yellow Umbrella) he realizes they have been on a collision course for years. They spend the weekend together, getting to know one another in the aftermath of the wedding. A few days later, Ted surprises Lily and Marshall at MacLaren's, announcing that he won't be moving to Chicago, reason being that he has met a girl.
- Episode 5: Barney and Robin come home from their honeymoon and meet everyone--including the newly introduced Tracy-- at MacLaren's. Tracy and Robin hit it off well, and Barney thanks Ted for everything he's done for him, in helping him win Robin back and get his life together. He also tells Ted that he really hopes it works out with Tracy, as they seem like a great match. Marshall gets settled into his new job as a judge, feeling it fit like a glove.
- Episode 6: Barney starts up a blog teaching gentlemen on the internet how to live, so that he has something to do while he's traveling with Robin, her career taking her all over the world. Ted and Tracy have their first real fight, which Ted takes as a bad omen because, in his experience, fighting leads to breaking up. Lily reminds Ted that he helped her and Marshall through their biggest fights, and she intends to do the same for him. Ted comes back to Tracy and apologizes for his role in the fight, and she admits she's not without fault. But she's committed to making the relationship work because she realizes how special it is.
- Episode 7: It is 2014. Barney, distracted by his job and his blog, decides against accompanying Robin on one of her trips, which hurts Robin's feelings and causes her to question her trust in Barney. Ted and Tracy move in together, and Ted gets a contract designing a luxury apartment building, with a payout that would set the two of them up for a few years. Marshall is ecstatic when he and Lily hear about a new scientific discovery: Blattamis Rodentus, otherwise known to Marshall and Lily as The Cock-a-Mouse. Marshall can now tell their two children a new story; How he and their mother discovered a new species years before scientists did.
- Episode 8: Ted and Tracy volunteer to babysit Marshall and Lily's children while Marshall and Lily go out of town for their anniversary, which results in a weekend of pandemonium for Ted and Tracy. Lily suffers separation anxiety, being away from both her children for the first time in a long time. Marshall tries to distract her by any means necessary, even calling Ralph Macchio to come hang out with them. Ted temporarily loses Marvin at a street fair, and throws himself and Tracy into panic mode looking for him. After too much time, he finds a crying Marvin being comforted by none other than a now-married Victoria. Ted and Victoria catch up, and she asks if Marvin is Ted's child. Ted explains the situation, and before too long, Tracy and the other child show up on the scene, where she and Victoria meet. Before they go, Victoria tells Ted that he would be a good father. When they put the kids to bed, Ted tells Tracy that he wants children of his own.
- Episode 9: While doing a story on an undercover gambling ring, Robin gets abducted by a branch of the Chinese mob. Barney tries to offer obscene amounts of money to get her back, but is then offered the opportunity to win her back in a Chinese card game (the same one which he played in Atlantic City). To even the numbers, Barney convinces Marshall and Ted to play the game with him. Ted, completely unable to comprehend the game, quickly loses, but because of a bizarre technicality, he is allowed to be replaced at the table by Tracy. The game continues, with Marshall and even Barney defeated. In a surprise turn of events, Tracy, who has figured out the game, defeats the Chinese gangsters, winning Robin's freedom.
- Episode 10: It is 2015. Ted takes Tracy on a trip to Farhampton, where he takes the opportunity to propose to her at the lighthouse. While they're on their trip, Barney tries to put his foot down about Robin being away so much, which of course upsets her, as she's just about to go out on another job. Marshall and Lily discuss having another child.
- Episode 11: The gang, sans Tracy, meets up at MacLaren's, where they discuss wedding ideas. Marshall tells everyone of recent news he received, that he is being replaced by a more experienced job and will soon be transitioning back to being a corporate lawyer. Robin gets up to get drinks, and Barney confides in Ted that his and Robin's marriage is struggling because of Robin's constant traveling. Ted promises Barney that endurance is worth it in the end, and will make him stronger, which Lily and Marshall back up completely. Robin comes back and everyone presents their own outlandish wedding scenarios to Ted (Marshall proposes the idea of live light saber duels at the reception). Tracy arrives and reveals that the wedding will have to be postponed, because she is pregnant.
- Episode 12: The year is 2016. Everyone meets up at Ted and Tracy's apartment, where they welcome the couple's new baby. Marshall is miserable at work, yearning to return to saving the environment. Barney and Robin announce that while they were in Brazil together, they realized that their marriage had suffered too much, and decided to get a divorce. Everyone is shocked, but the mood is lightened when Barney puts together the pieces of the puzzle that Lily is pregnant with her third child.
- Episode 13: Five months pass, and Marshall and Lily begin the process of moving into a house. But before they leave the apartment, they plan one last rooftop Halloween party. The gang helps them pack their stuff over the next couple weeks. All the while, Robin is having a hard time seeing Ted and Tracy together. She's trying to be friends with Barney but it's just not working. At the party, Robin can't bear to see Ted and Tracy anymore, nor can she stomach seeing her ex-husband having moved on so quickly and already trying to hook up with girls again. She confides in Lily that she can't be there for them anymore, because of unresolved feelings for Ted.
- Episode 14: The year is 2018. Barney invites everyone out for another legen--wait for it... dary night on the town, but Ted and Lily don't want to stay out late. Ted talks abut life as a father of two, as he and Tracy welcomed their second child into the world in 2017. Marshall shows up later and announces he'll be replacing a retiring judge out in Queens, which prompts celebration. Lily, upon witnessing Barney hitting on a woman, scolds him for regressing into his former self. He pleads with her that if he couldn't make it work with Robin, he wasn't cut out for marriage. She leaves him to his business, taking pity on him.
- Episode 15: The year is 2019. Ted, Tracy, Lily and Marshall are at Robots vs. Wrestlers, where Barney arrives and says he completed a perfect month (getting laid every night), but the "bad news," is that he got a woman pregnant. He laments this development. A couple days later, Ted is showing his daughter Penny the GNB building, which he designed, when he runs into Robin, who's now a famous news reporter. This is where she gains the title, "Aunt Robin."
- Episode 16: The gang awaits the delivery of Barney's child. They recount stories of their own experiences having kids, but the stories scare Barney even more. Finally, he is called in to meet his daughter, Ellie, who, though he's apprehensive at first, he holds and whispers that she is the love of his life, and that everything he has and is will be hers. Ted sees this tender moment and is inspired to go home and re-propose to Tracy.
- Episode 17: Ted and Tracy make plans to get married that same week, frantically throwing together a wedding and guest list. They try to invite Robin, who politely declines. Later, they are getting drinks at MacLaren's before the wedding, and Barney scolds two young women for dressing inappropriately, and sending them home to tell their fathers they love them. Lily is impressed by this sudden change in Barney, attributing it to his new role as a father. Everyone is surprised when Robin shows up, where it is revealed that Tracy convinced her to come. Robin reconciles with the group, and Ted and Tracy are married.
- Episode 18: The year is 2020. Marshall announces his plans to run for the State Supreme Court. Robin accepts a permanent anchor job at her station, and Barney is still having a rough time adjusting to parental life, but loves his daughter more than anything. Ted, after scoring another big design job, comes home to tell Tracy, but finds her crying. She reveals that she has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and that she's been given an estimated two years to live.
- Episode 19: The year is 2021. Tracy struggles with illness, as Marshall wins a seat on the State Supreme Court, where he is confronted with rulings about environmental regulations. Lily and Robin are supportive friends to Tracy, and helpful in raising the kids while Ted tries to take care of her. Barney tries to be there for Ted as well. Tracy, crying late into the night, tells Ted how awful she feels that she won't get to be a mother to her children, to which Ted replies that no matter what happens, she will always be their mother.
- Episode 20: The year is 2024. Ted sits by Tracy's death bed, where she assures Ted she will always love him, and Ted assures her of the same. Tracy dies. In the wake of her death, the gang tries to comfort Ted, who politely asks only to be left alone with his kids. In the weeks and months following, he struggles to be happy, feeling lonely and a bit helpless. One night, Penny tells him that they haven't spent a lot of time together lately. He asks what they want to do, and she guides him into the living room, sits him down in front of the TV, and turns on Star wars. Ted puts his arms around his children and watches with them.
- Episode 21: In the year 2030, Ted, having moved into his house in Westchester County, sees his children entering the teenage years with Lily and Marshall's, and Barney's not too far behind. He's a successful architect, Marshall has been elected to the United States Senate, Lily is the principal of the Elementary school, and we still don't know what Barney does (that's right, I want that to never be revealed). His son comes home one day and complains about a girl at school that he likes. He says, "Son, I'll have to tell you and your sister sometime about how I met your mother." The son asks to hear the story then, but Ted says he wants to save it for another day.
- Episode 22: Barney feels protective of his daughter as Valentine's approaches and boys in class are taking notice of her. Marshall argues passionately in a case involving the preservation of the Cock-a-Mouse. Ted goes out with the gang one night, without Robin, who is doing a news broadcast, for the first time in a long time, and talks about feeling lonely. Marshall relates to Ted through a story about Marshall's mom after his dad died. He tries to assure him that it gets better, but Ted is hard to comfort. While he's up getting drinks, Lily comes over, hugs him, and tells him that, for what it's worth, he's the best father his kids could ask for.
- Episode 23: Barney invites Ted out for a drink, just the two of them. He says "Ted, I am gonna teach you how to live." Ted declines, saying he doesn't want to have a one-night stand. Barney assures him that's not what he's talking about, and wants to help him find something meaningful... and that may or may not involve picking up chicks in a bar. Ted begrudgingly accepts, but finds that a middle-aged widower has a hard time finding luck in the bar scene. He goes to sit at the table alone. Barney soon joins him, and tells him that he's too good to settle for being alone, and that he should never accept life without companionship as the hand he was dealt. Barney leaves to go have a one-night stand.
- Episode 24: The gang gets together for drinks, all five of them, at MacLaren's. They all talk about their kids, their lives, and what they feel comes next. Marshall and Lily are considering moving to Minnesota, Barney is content to... still be Barney. Robin has adopted another dog and is looking at potentially being a network executive. Ted sits back and just listens. After drinks, Robin asks Ted if he'd join her for dinner. The two have dinner and talk, he walks her home, and goes home himself, feeling better than he has in a long time. "Narrator Ted" finishes the story, and his children help him to realize that he has feelings for Robin, and convince him to go for her. A soulful, upbeat indie song starts playing, and Ted is running down the streets of Manhattan. He stops in the restaurant where he and Robin first went out, steals the titular Blue French Horn again, and runs to Robin's house, where he calls her from outside. Robin comes to the window and sees him, standing there, holding the Blue French Horn, and smiles.
How I Met Your Mother was a landmark. It had a great cast, engaging writing and defined television comedy for a generation of viewers. But I speak for a lot of people when I say that it ended very poorly, trying to cram 90% of the story into 10% of the show.
There are a couple silver linings here, though. First of all, we can still go back and watch our favorite moments with the gang. The initial slap bet is just as funny as ever, the death of Marshall's father is just as tear-jerking as the first shocking time, and "Let's Go to the Mall" is just as hard to get out of your head. Just because the destination was underwhelming doesn't mean that we can't appreciate the extraordinary journey that came before.
And then of course there is what we have actually done here. We can use what we are given to create our own ending to this story we love so much, give our characters the sendoff they deserve. It may eventually result in some bad fan fiction, but it's worth doing to get our own closure, isn't it?
And then, at the end of the day, as good or bad as our endings may be, we do have an actual alternate ending to the show, which I personally think is better than the one we got.
There are alternate endings all over the place. Some are official, some are unofficial. Some are good, some are bad. But that's not really the important thing. The ending of How I Met Your Mother is a testament to how much we grew to care about these characters and the journey they embarked on ten years ago. The reason that a lot of fans voiced disappointment over the ending of the series is because they felt shortchanged, because they wanted a better and more fitting finale to the stories of these characters they had grown to love. But, as I mentioned earlier, How I Met Your Mother will never really go away, and we can keep the memories of the terrific program with us forever.
Isn't that what good television should be about?