The How I Met Your Mother Theory We Hope We're Wrong About

We discuss and dissect an ending to the CBS series that is seriously bumming us out

By Jenna Mullins Oct 16, 2013 8:13 PMTags

We want to preface this article by saying that this is only a theory we are speculating on about How I Met Your Mother. Again, pure speculation. We have no idea how the series is going to end; we are only basing this theory on clues and how we read into certain episodes of the CBS comedy. If you are very wary of spoilers, we suggest you leave now. Everyone else, let's rap.

We're not sure how or when this theory popped into our heads, though a quick Alta Vista search tells us that this theory has been floating around for a while. It wasn't until we watched a certain episode of How I Met Your Mother's eighth season last week (we fell behind, OK?), that we really started to investigate this idea. And the more we thought about it, the more worried we got.

The theory we're talking about is that the mother is dead, and that's why Ted (Josh Radnor) has been telling his kids this long story about how he met her. Either she died recently and Ted is reminiscing with his children or she died before the kids were old enough to remember her and he's telling them about the mother they never really knew. We're sure there are a million little clues that negate this theory, but there are a couple of things to consider that make us nervous the show might end with that big reveal.

Exhibit A: The show's creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, have said time and time again that the ending of the show was decided early on and they never changed their minds regarding the series finale. The mother being dead is the kind of ending they could keep while still changing other plotlines in the series, such as when we meet the mother, if we see Ted date the mother, and so on. No matter how the journey changes, the destination can remain the same.

When we chatted with Bays in the middle of season eight about the series finale, he confirmed that the game plan has been altered and can continue to be altered, but certain things have never veered of course, like the ending.

"There's certain things as you create a show that over the years your expectations of what the show is going to be change and you write it differently and you change your game plan, and we've done that with a lot of things on the show but there are certain core fundamental things that we don't want to veer away from, and one of those is how the series ends. And with that in mind, this decision was made years ago and I don't think we've ever even shaken from how we want to end it," he told us. "I think it'll be a fantastic series finale. The series finale is kind of why we've done the show all along and whenever we do get to do that finale, we're very excited about it because I think it's going to be really heartbreaking, and sweet and wonderful."

Heartbreaking? There are many reasons a series finale could be viewed as heartbreaking, and the revelation that the mother has been dead all along is one of them


Exhibit B: The episode in season eight which led us to really think about this theory was "The Time Travelers." At the end of the episode, Ted imagines himself running to his future wife's apartment and giving her an impassioned speech about how he will meet her 45 days from now. Most viewers focused on the fact that we finally got an exact timeline of when the mother comes into Ted's life. But hearing the speech again raised some red flags. Here is a snippet:

"Exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet. We're going to fall in love and we're going to get married, and we're going to have two kids. We're going to love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away, but I'm here now, I guess because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them…I am always going to love you. Until the end of my days and beyond."

The fact that he wants those extra 45 days with her is kind of telling. Either he's just saying he wants all the time he can get with her because he loves her and has been waiting for her, or she was taken from him too soon and he wants more time with his wife now. And the line about loving her until the end of his days, well, that's part of traditional wedding vows, but it also sounds like a promise to the woman he loved and lost. Like we said, this speech can be taken a couple different ways, but we decided to take it in the most depressing context.

Some conspiracy theorist think that last line can mean that Ted is the one who is dead, but that's a theory to deconstruct another day.

Exhibit C: Where is she? We have seen every episode of HIMYM, and it's possible that we're wrong and missed something, but we don't believe the mother has ever been referred to in present tense in the flashfoward when Ted is talking to the kids. Not even a simple: "I better hurry this story up because your mother will be home soon." Sure, the show is called How I Met Your Mother, so the focus is always on the flashbacks and Ted's life before meeting her. But still, where is she in the present day that she never interrupts the story or is never referred to as in the next room or something? 

Finally, Bays and Thomas have hammered home the idea that this show is about Ted's quest for love, and not about what happens when he finds it. So they can conceivably get away with that ending because their show is about meeting the mother, and not necessarily about the mother. Does that make sense? Yes, the ending will be depressing, but when fans start screaming at Carter and Craig, they will offer that they always said their show was about this group of friends at this point in time and we shouldn't get too hung up on the eventual outcome of Ted's journey.

As we said at the beginning, all these theories can be debunked probably fairly easily, so take all our ramblings with a grain of salt. And this ending is very sad, no matter how much we're supposed to focus on Ted's quest for love. So we really hope we're wrong about this theory.

If you buy into this or you have your own evidence to support/bust this idea, let's hash it out in the comments below!

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