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In Defense of the How I Met Your Mother Finale

How I Met Your Mother Ron P. Jaffe/Fox

Someone who liked the How I Met Your Mother finale (John Boone) and someone who hated it (Jenna Mullins) debate all things Mother. Spoiler alert: This is filled with spoilers. Double spoiler alert: This is legen-wait for it-dary really long.

J.B.: Full disclosure: I'm the "in defense of" side of this debate, but I did have issues with the finale. I just didn't hate it. You, on the other hand, did not like it, right? Do you want to start with the mother of it all, or work our way to her?

J.M.: I not only didn't like the finale, but I felt quite insulted by it. And to be clear, the finale doesn't change the fact that I love the series as a whole. Let's just work our way to through the episode and start with the fact that Ted, the best man, left the wedding in the middle of the reception.

J.B.: Well, yeah. Ted is an ass. But we always knew that about him right? Oh, gotta book a flight to move the day after my friend's wedding. Don't people have brunch or a BBQ the day after weddings? Whatever, Ted is selfish. No surprise there. And it got us to the train station where we started jettisoning ourselves through time: 2015, 2016, 2017. Boom. Boom. Boom. I think that's my biggest issue with the finale. If you really break it all down, there was a lot of time that passed. Barney and Robin were (presumably) happily married for 3 years. That's not bad! But we just spent literally 23 hours of real time, our time, at their wedding, only to have them get divorced five real minutes later. It made it seem like the entire season leading up to this finale didn't matter (and maybe it didn't). I guess I'm not doing so great at defending this yet, huh? 

J.M.: Not so much, because that's also how I feel about Barney and Robin. Look, most devoted fans were told time and time and time again that Robin and Ted were not meant to be. They had an episode this season devoted to the fact that Ted LET HER GO. Literally, she floated away like a balloon. He let her go so he could let himself be open to finding his true love, the Mother. And Robin was marrying Barney, which was something fans have been waiting for since season three (even earlier, if you count the first time they played Battleship in season one). And you divorce them less than 20 minutes into the episode? I'm not so much mad at the fact that Barney and Robin got divorced, because sometimes love just isn't enough. But they didn't do it right. And that was when the episode really started to go downhill for me. I felt conned, because I fell in love with two couples over the past nine years (Barney and Robin, Ted and the Mother) and they were taken from me all too quickly.

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How I Met Your Mother, HIMYM CBS

J.B.: Especially because we've already done the Barney-Robin breakup. It felt like, "Oh, OK. This again. Sure." That was the most actually conned I felt in the episode, I guess. Only because we committed so much time this season to them. I would be fine with a divorce otherwise. People get divorced. HIMYM has always been an odd mix of really silly and then just too f--king real. We knew that the second there was an episode from Robin's point of view about "How I Met Your Father" and then it ended up being "How I Found Out I Was INFERTILE."

J.M. If we want to back off the negative stuff, I will say that Barney meeting his baby daughter slayed me. It was one of my favorite parts of the episode. That was actually when I cried the hardest, thanks in large part to NPH's facial expressions. You could actually see his entire world change in that moment, and when he tells her the same thing he told that random girl in the bar, it just felt so fitting. I was sobbing. Maybe I'm a sucker for daddy-daughter storylines, but I couldn't even see through the tears by the end of the scene. Robin couldn't change him, obviously. Finding his real dad didn't change him. Seeing his friends move through life, have babies, get married…that didn't change him. But having a daughter did. I really loved that ending for Barney.

J.B.: I loved that part too. Knowing this character, he didn't have a "The One" like Ted. It took having a daughter to change him. So he got a happy ending and Marshall got a happy ending (Fudge Supreme!). But maybe this is me just being a little too sensitive, but I didn't love what they did with the females of the group. Yes, I know the finale had to focus on Ted, but big and exciting things happened to Barney and Marshall. But Lily? She always wanted to be an artist and we cut to the future and she's just pregnant. Again. And again. Or just sad that the group couldn't stay together. Again. And again. I mean, I know family's important to Lily, but it just seems like they short changed her. Ya know?

J.M.: I agree with you. The men in the group got everything they wanted (Ted got it TWICE), while Lily was just pregnant and Robin was just...busy. Which is what she wanted, but she was obviously unhappy. Didn't she seem unhappy in almost every scene except for the final one?

J.B.: Yes! I thought maybe I was reading into it too much. But Robin couldn't "have it all." Ted got his career (look at that wonderful skyscraper!) and his family (the perfect wife, the perfect kids!), but Robin had to give it all up for her career. That was an actual scene! Give up your career or your husband! Sure, she got to travel the world and she always wanted that, but she seemed miserable the whole time? And then the ending, I read it as, she gave it all up and was back to being a crazy dog lady and just sad and alone with a horrible wig, waiting for stupid Ted to come save her.

J.M.: Exactly.

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How I Met Your Mother Ron P. Jaffe/Fox

J.B.: Let's just get to the poor, dead mother and "How I Met Your Step Mother." Lay it on me.

J.M.: I figured that this might happen last year around October, when I was doing my own HIMYM catch up. I did a whole story on it. I had evidence. But I remember thinking while writing it that there was no way they would kill off the Mother in the end. It just felt too...shocking for shocking's sake. But it happened. And we didn't even get to see Ted and the Mother together as much as fans probably wanted. A photo slideshow?! C'mon. And here's another thing that really breaks my heart. As annoying as Ted is/was, he didn't deserve to lose the mother of his children and love of his life. He's been heartbroken and left at the alter and all-around emotionally beat to hell. Sure, Lily called him "emotional resilient" in the episode, but this resilient? I just felt like Ted didn't deserve so much pain. Even if he did have 11(?) years with Tracy. That was another thing that really broke my heart.

J.B.: I'm OK with what happened with the Mother (shout out Tracy, but just going to keep referring to you as the Mother). It's just another instance of the time passing too quick via editing. If you follow the dates, they had a good decade-plus together. The show is called "How I Met Your Mother" and  their actual meeting was everything I wanted it to be. Cute. Sweet. It lived up to nine seasons worth of expectations, which is insane. I thought it was going to end there too, and then I realized I still had 4 or so minutes left in the episode.

J.M.: I loved the way the mother and Ted met. That was actually very satisfying. Their witty repartee, which would seem cheesy on any other TV show, made me smile until my cheeks ached. I love the talk about the umbrella, and that moment where they both realized, 'oh, maybe this is something.' Big ups to Josh Radnor and Cristin Milioti. They had wonderful chemistry. 

J.B.: So maybe you don't hate the finale as much as you thought you did?

J.M.: But if Ted and Robin didn't work out all those times before, why would they work out now? When Lily saw Ted on the phone with the Mother right after the wedding, she said this was different. He was never like that with any woman, Robin included, which is why Lily took notice. But that's who he's with in the end? Like a kick right to my heart's groin.

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How I Met Your Mother CBS © 2014 Fox Television

J.B.: I'll tell you why I'm OK with Ted ending up with Robin: Because the whole show focused on "The One," "The One," "The One," but there's not just "The One." People can have more than one major love in their life. The Mother was perfect for Ted because she was made perfect for Ted. When you have 9 seasons to build one character (Ted) and then one season to build his perfect match (The Mother), it's easy. She literally was just female Ted. And good for him, he got "The One," so that was his sitcom ending. But then his "real life" (or whatever) ending is that you find someone you love, you find someone you like spending time with, and you settle down together. Robin doesn't collect stamps and like Ren Fairs, but she and Ted have love for each other. Why shouldn't they end up together too? It's kind of an easy out, in that he got everything he wanted, but I also think that it is interesting to shoot down the idea of "The One" and see these two very different, but equally loved, women in his life. But I want to ask you a question: Did you feel surprised by the finale? Or was it what you expected?

J.M.: Here is the reason I think I felt so insulted by the finale: the three things I didn't want to happen happened. All three of them. Robin and Barney splitting up, the Mother dying and Ted ending up with Robin. So while the outcomes didn't shock me, I was definitely taken aback that I was let down so much. I was surprised in that way. Not in a "twist ending!" sort of way. What about you?

J.B.: I was genuinely surprised. I was, the-credits-role-and-I-sat-staring-at-my-TV-and-actually-screamed-"WHAT?!"-outloud surprised And I think that's why I liked it. Because no finale is going to please everyone, but most people go into the finale thinking, "Oh if this and this and this and this happen, I'll be happy and the show will be this perfect little thing that I can always have." But to me, that just seems kind of...boring. If you get this and this and this and this, it's just like, "Meh. Yeah, knew that'd happen." But here we got everything we knew was going to happen—Ted met the Mother! Ted and the Mother were so in love—and then we got some surprises. I want my TV to surprise me!

J.M.: It's probably partially my fault that I was so let down. I went in after nine seasons of investment with an "Oooo, this better not happen" fist-shaking mentality. There were certainly enough moments to make me happy. I guess when I boil it all down, the ending tasted bitter because I never really liked Ted and Robin together. And that's a personal opinion, so I can't really effectively proclaim HIMYM's finale to be a failure. Except I am, because I'm still mad about it. DEAL WITH IT.

J.B.: I will deal. It's been a pleasure. See you at How I Met Your Father? Maybe?

CLICK NOW: See how HIMYM ranks among the best and the worst finales of all time!

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