How I Met Your Mother: Don’t Let the Finale Ruin the Rest of the Series

I was reading Vulture today and in Margaret Lyon’s Stay Tuned column, she gave advice to someone named Alex who just finished Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother and after hearing that the finale was awful, asked if it was worth continuing to watch the show. Margaret felt so burned by the finale that she said no, stop watching. I disagree.

I was burned by the finale too. In fact, I wrote essentially a dissertation on it and my feelings have not shifted. But I think if I was talking to anyone that was unsure about committing to the full series based on hearing bad things about the finale, even though they loved the first season, I would suggest that they try to sample some of the best episodes of the following seasons. For HIMYM, there are solid episodes throughout every season – even the later years where it gets weird and the tone changes.

My suggested viewing of HIMYM is all of season 1. Hands down, a solid and lovely season that withstands multiple viewings.


I’ve limited my list of favorites from the rest of the series to my top 2 per season, plus a bonus episode (or two). I think beyond season 1, seasons 2 and 4 are worth watching in their entirety but if you’re going to take a sampling approach, try these:

Season 2:

  • Slap Bet
  • Swarley
  • Bonus:It’s a tie! Showdown & Lucky Penny

Season 3:

  • How I Met Everyone Else
  • Spoiler Alert
  • Bonus: The Bracket

Season 4:

  • Three Days of Snow
  • The Front Porch
  • Bonus:It’s a tie! Woooo! & Naked Man

Season 5:

  • Duel Citizenship
  • Robots vs. Wrestlers
  • Bonus: Girls vs. Suits

Season 6:

  • Bad News
  • Legendaddy
  • Bonus: Hopeless

Season 7:

  • The Best Man
  • The Magician’s Code
  • Bonus: Ducky Tie

Season 8:

  • The Final Page
  • The Time Travelers
  • Bonus: Something New

Season 9:

  • Unpause
  • How Your Mother Met Me
  • Bonus: Last Forever

And now I write thousands of words about the “How I Met Your Mother” series finale…

I will preface this with the disclaimer that I know some people won’t understand why I care at all about what happened on a TV show. I recognize that it is only a TV show. These are not real people. I was not involved creatively in any way so I realize that I have no say in the outcome. The series is over and there’s nothing that complaining about the ending will change.

I get that.


I do care. I care about pop culture. I care about TV. I especially care about TV shows that I have been committed to watching for 9 years. That I have stood by consistently, even when others were trashing the quality of the show in recent years. While I loved “The Office”, I stopped watching regularly when Steve Carrell left and essentially missed almost all of season 8 until I came back to watch the final season. I never stopped watching “How I Met Your Mother”.

Not when Marshall got mugged by a monkey.

Not when Ted was dating Zoey, who was the worst.

Not when Lily was the loudest chewer in the world and loud chewing is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard to me.


Not when Barney was awful, the million times and ways he’s been a horrible person.

Not when Robin floated away like a freaking balloon. (Yeah, that actually happened.)

No. I watched all 200+ episodes and enjoyed the show like… 93% of the time. A solid A-.

And then this final season happened. [If you’re reading this and you haven’t watched Season 9 or the finale, I will be discussing them at length so… SPOILER ALERT.]

And while many had misgivings about the structure, I tried to give it a chance. I appreciated the times we got to see the Mother. I enjoyed getting the chance to work out issues between all of the characters leading up to Barney and Robin’s wedding. I truly felt the connection and the bond between Barney and Robin and was thrilled to see them walk down the aisle. I was brought to tears by Marshall and Lily’s relationship time and time again. I felt by last week’s episode that all loose ends had been tied and all that was left was for Ted to officially meet the Mother and everyone to live happily ever after.

That’s not what happened.

This is about to get super long and super analytical. You’ve been warned.

There have been theories for years that the Mother was dead. I hoped they weren’t true, although it made some sense behind explaining why this long story was being told. Recent episodes have hinted at wanting more time, used the past tense when speaking about her and included a teary conversation that alluded to an illness. I should have known it was coming. But I didn’t want it. I wanted the creators of the show to be faking us out. They wouldn’t make us fall in love with a character and then kill her off, would they?

They did.

And here’s the thing… I might have been okay with it. Sad, yes. But knowing that Ted met the love of his life and seeing how perfect they were together was wonderful. I wish we could have spent more time with her. Hearing him talk about their time together was beautiful. And like I said, it makes sense that he would be spurred to tell his kids this story due to her passing.

But what I don’t understand is —

If she died in 2024, that means that Penny was 9 and Luke was 7. By 2030, when they are 15 and 13 (which btw… neither of those actors look 15 or 13), I feel like they would want as much information about their Mom as they could get. Wouldn’t they be eager to hear a story that promises to be about their deceased Mother? From episode 1, these kids looked bored to tears and didn’t want to be there. Verbatim from the pilot episode:

Narrator: Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story. The story of how I met your mother.

Son: Are we being punished for something?

Narrator: No.

Daughter: Yeah, is this going to take a while?

Narrator: Yes.

So, are these the worst kids in the world who don’t care about their dead Mom? Their reactions throughout and their reaction at the end was so callous and just… wrong. Who are these alien children who came from ‘in love with love’ Ted Mosby and the whimsical female Ted, Tracy? To finally get to the part of the story where Ted talks about their first meeting, first date, wedding and her passing away and to respond with, “Is that it? No, you’re totally in love with Aunt Robin.” IS. BANANAS.

Just off the wall stupid and I want to throw those kids in the garbage.

Here’s what’s worse: Ted agrees. Ted agrees that he should pursue Robin AGAIN (for the 20th time?) even though….

1. He has been repeatedly telling his kids that Robin hates children and once broke an engagement because she didn’t even want to consider adoption. She wants no part of being a mother so – totally great way to get your kids on board with a new parental figure as they’re going their tough teenage years without a mom.

2. The past handful of episodes this season were spent hand wringing with Ted still thinking he had feelings for Robin and everyone talking him out of it, Ted talking himself out of it, Ted talking with Robin the night before the wedding and letting her go by watching her FLOAT AWAY LIKE A BALLOON (I still can’t get over the fact that this happened). All of that happened to establish that finally, FINALLY, FINALLY Ted was over Robin. And this was absolutely confirmed and sealed with Robin having cold feet before the wedding and Ted turning her down. Absolutely. This cycle has happened so many times that I feel it was beat to death. Any people who were still rooting for Ted and Robin were just masochists. Why root for a team that the creators clearly were steering us all away from? How many times did we go down that Ted still has feelings for Robin road and how many times was it crushed?

Robin consistently chose her career over love. Why is that going to change? Why would I have any feelings that the ending is a happy one with Ted repeating patterns from 25 years ago, which as a man in his 50s, a father of two – now just looks sad? I know how this story ends because I’ve seen it many times before. Ted wants a family. Ted now has a family. Robin doesn’t want a family. Why would that be different now? Did they show us any indication of that kind of growth or change in her character? No.

To spend an entire season of a show at the wedding of two characters who you make get divorced in 20 minutes of the finale? Lame.

Yes, people get divorced. I know that is reality. But you know what? “How I Met Your Mother” isn’t about reality. It’s about dopplegangers and musical numbers and catchphrases and Billy Zapka and Robin Sparkles. If the creators knew they were going to kill off the mother – why did they have to build so much other darkness and sadness into the finale? The death of the titular character that we have all grown to love is enough.

Here’s the only way I would have better accepted the Mother being dead and Ted pursuing Robin again… If the entire last season was restructured to cover one year every episode to cover the time between 2013 and 2030. Cover the wedding weekend in one or two episodes. They could still jump around and flash back and forward like they do but show, don’t tell.

Show us why Barney and Robin got divorced. Her traveling for work? That one minor disagreement we witnessed? Not good enough.

Show us more of the time with Ted, his wife and children.

If you want to sell us on Ted and Robin getting together in the end, show us some kind of indication that they have maintained a connection, despite the fact that she almost didn’t come to his wedding ten years prior. Show us that they have been communicating. Show us one of those family dinners when ‘Aunt Robin’ comes over and interacts with the kids. Convince me that Robin isn’t going to be an awful potential stepmother and has grown as a character in any way.

Or is the point that they all regressed? Is that what we’re supposed to take from this?

Moving on.

The only characters I was happy with in the finale were Marshall and Lily. With the exception that again, whoever is in charge of continuity is the worst and their hair/appearance varies greatly in what we saw last night vs. flash forwards we’ve seen in the past, I’m glad that they lived happily. I would have liked to know if Lily was still working in the art world while she was popping out all these kiddos and where they ended up moving (back to the house in Long Island?) but things seemed good with them. I even liked the small silent moment where Marshall gives Lily money right before Ted gets married, finally paying off the bet they made that Ted and Robin wouldn’t end up together. Presumably, Lily won. Robin didn’t pass the ‘Front Porch’ test. Tracy did. Of course that all went to hell in the end.

Least favorite Marshall moment: That odd, “Hey, you young kids, a lot of things happened in this bar” speech that could have been poignant but just fell flat because the dialogue wasn’t there. It would have meant more if he had just talked to his friends at the table, not tried to engage with some rando’s to say nothing.

Favorite Marshall moment: Judge Fudge/Fudge Supreme

Least favorite Lily moment: She’s a mother. She’s a woman who has been pregnant 3 times. To hear Barney disparage the mother of his child and for her to not say anything and instead, joke around and be callous… I thought that felt way off.

Favorite Lily moment: Watching her emotional reactions in every scene. Real and made me teary eyed.

Least favorite Ted moment: A tough call considering that ending made me want to break my TV. But I think it would be the fact that (even though the show has clearly had him wearing a wedding ring in flash forwards to 2015 in the past) he made excuses and in this alternate universe timeline of the series finale, didn’t marry the mother of his children for 7 freaking years. During Robots vs. Wrestlers, when he tries to blame her, saying she wants something fancy like a castle and she light-heartedly says, “I’d get married tomorrow at a White Castle”… that’s sad. Super douche-shay Schmosby.

Favorite Ted moment: The train platform. That first conversation and when he finally met Tracy. If the show had ended right there, I would have been much happier.

Least favorite Robin moment: Everything? She was kind of the worst in this episode. Bailing on her marriage, bailing on her friends, getting horrible haircuts…

Favorite Robin moment: It was nice to see how successful she was in her career. I’m glad she had dogs again at the end. (Anyone going to remind her that Ted is the one who made her get rid of her dogs the first time around?)

Least favorite Barney moments: His character regression. Asking his friends to accept that he’s a sad 40+ year old man, still trying to run plays throws away everything that happened to him over the past few seasons. The relationship he built with his father; the lessons he learned from Nora and Quinn; the total honesty policy with Robin… moving from someone who swore to never get married to someone so eager to walk down the aisle that it’s hard for me to believe that only three years into that relationship, he’s willing to give it all up because Robin works a lot? Seriously? (And p.s. Barney, if the hotel doesn’t have wi-fi, use your damn smartphone to get on the cell network and update your blog.) Hearing the way he talked about #31, the mother of his child, was vile. The way he condescendingly talked down to and shamed the girls at the bar after he became a parent wasn’t showing growth – it was just showing that he’s now misogynistic in a new way.

Favorite Barney moments: His excellent delivery of his many catchphrases and callbacks. The moment he almost pulls a “Have you met Ted” between Ted and Tracy. His speech and the look on his face when he speaks to his daughter for the first time.

Overall, I think I just feel like the last few seasons have been for nothing. If they were always going to come back to Ted and Robin, why did they revisit the well so many times and sully that relationship for almost everyone? Why did they cast an amazing Mother that everyone wanted to see more of? Why didn’t they offer us any insight into what life is like for Ted and Robin after the mother dies and just jump to this insane conclusion?

It’s not impossible to make a good series finale. I think that “The Office” did a great job of using their final season to lead to a finale that made sense for the characters, brought joy to viewers and wrapped everything up. It was emotional. It was funny. Not everyone turned out perfectly (see Kelly and Ryan, being irresponsible and abandoning and husband and baby) but it was handled in a humorous way. The “HIMYM” finale was overall dark and heavy and tried to cram too many things into one episode that should have instead played out over several episodes this final season.

As the recapper on Vulture brilliantly wrapped up her review of the final episode:

“In the spirit of How I Met Your Mother’s meta-narratives, the show went on for too long, just as friends try to make their youth together to last forever. The series has mirrored milestones and growing pains in my life, and probably yours too, and I wish I was as thrilled by the ending as the beginning, but I’m grateful that so many episodes stand up to multiple, multiple viewings.”

That’s what I will take away. I will still watch repeats on Netflix and DVD. I’ll revisit ‘Slap Bet’, ‘Three Days of Snow’, ‘Okay Awesome’, ‘Swarley’ and so many other episodes again and again. Moments like this made me love this show:

But I just feel sad that the series ended on what I feel is a bum note.

Read more about the HIMYM finale from professional writers who can probably say things a lot more eloquently than I can: