Warning: I am a diehard How I Met Your Mother fan who hated the way last night’s finale ended. So if you loved it, this recap may not be for you.
The episode begins with a scene from September 2005, right after Robin appears in Ted’s life and he awkwardly declares his love for her and scares her away. The gang is at McLaren’s, naturally, and Robin has decided that these guys are her friends. She heads over to the bar, and while she’s gone, Lily tells the guys that Robin is her new best friend and no one’s allowed to bang her. They can only sleep with her if they marry her.
Flash forward to 2014 and the reception of Barney and Robin’s wedding (not mentioned is the fact that both Ted and Barney slept with Robin plenty of times without being married to her). Ted’s at a table talking about how excited he is to move to Chicago (yeah right), but then he sees … The Mother!
No, this isn’t the moment they meet. We have to wait till the end of the episode for that. But Barney chats with her as she plays bass on stage, and he is the one who decides she’d be perfect for Ted. Only Barney would play wingman at his own wedding. He goes over to Ted and tries to convince him to play “Haaaaave You Met Ted?” but Ted says he has to go. To Chicago. Right then.
So everyone goes outside to say goodbye to him. Barney is upset that he won’t be able to high five Ted anymore, so they decide to have an epic high five. They slap each other’s hands with such intensity that the camera then cuts to them back inside, icing their palms.
Next we see Ted at the Farhampton train station with an older woman who seems to have taken him on as a surrogate son. He’s telling her about the Mother, and she decides they must be soul mates. She asks Ted if he would talk to the Mother if he had a sign that she was his destiny. He says he would have to. The lady points to the Mother, standing further down the platform under her yellow umbrella, and asks Ted if that’s her. Initially, Ted refuses to talk to her because in 24 hours his life will be totally different.
24 hours later, Marshall and Lily go into the bar, talking about how different things are now that Ted’s gone. Except he’s not. He’s sitting right there, at the usual booth, having a drink. He says he met a girl.
2015: Ted is talking about the really expensive wedding he’s going to have in a French castle. Barney and Robin are home from extensive international travels, and there’s clearly trouble in paradise, because they each say things are going great over and over again, less and less convincingly. Enter the Mother, who tells Ted they can’t get married in September because she wants to fit into her dress. Cue Barney assuming she’s getting a boob job. But the truth is obvious: baby Penny is on the way.
2016: The gang is at the Ericksons’ apartment to meet baby Penny. Robin and Barney discuss the status of their relationship by describing a recent scene in Argentina. They’re both tired of the traveling Robin has to do for work and fighting a lot. Robin offers Barney an out, and he says before he answers that he’d like to get drunk and have a lot of sex. Super class act, that Barney. They do, because Robin is equally classy, and then the next morning Barney tells her that he promised he’d always be truthful. Back to the apartment, where Robin admits that she and Barney are divorced.
WHAT? This is not okay. For starters, this entire season was building toward Barney and Robin’s wedding day. Now that’s all down the tubes. And more disturbingly, Robin is now back on the market, which means my faith that Robin and Ted were finally over is also down the tubes. They are not.
After a commercial break during which I alternated between stunned silence and loud complaints, we’re back to the apartment in 2016. Better news comes in the form of a third child on the way for Marshall and Lily. Robin promises they’ll always be together for the big moments, but we all know that’s not true.
October 2016: A very pregnant Lily suggests to Marshall that they need to move to a bigger place. As a sendoff for the apartment, they have one last rooftop Halloween party. Ted is still dressed as a hanging chad, and the Mother is adorably clad in a Gore-Lieberman sweatshirt. Robin is there, looking at Ted THAT way, and ignoring Barney, who is back to his old flirtatious self. So much for Robin making an honest man out of him. Robin leaves early, and on her way out she tells Lily that she’s no longer part of “the gang.” The gang is a married couple with kids who she never sees, her ex-husband hitting on women right in front of her, and the guy she probably should have ended up with (good grief) along with the beautiful mother of his child. We now realize that Robin is removing herself from the gang because she’s jealous of the Mother. I thought we were over this crazy cycle? We are not.
2018: Ted, Barney, and Lily are hanging out at the bar when Marshall enters to announce that he’s been offered another judgeship. This is a happy moment, because I thought Marshall’s willingness to sacrifice his career for Lily’s dreams was extremely admirable, and since they returned to New York he’s been in a corporate law job he hates. So this element of the finale worked for me. That’s what finales are supposed to do, after all. Wrap things up so you know your beloved characters are going to be okay.
Barney goes up to the bar to hit on a girl, and Lily gets really angry. She asks him if he’s changed at all. He says if it didn’t happen with Robin, it’s never going to happen. He’ll never meet a woman to whom he’ll want to say, “You’re the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours forever.” At the time, this feels pathetic to me, because I really thought Barney had changed. If he doesn’t think there’s any value in a committed relationship, well, we have words for men like that.
2019: Ted and the Mother are at Robots vs. Wrestlers (you knew that was going to make a reappearance) with Marshall, Lily, and Barney. Ted and the Mother are not married yet and now have a second kid. Barney tells everyone that he wanted to have a perfect month (a different woman every night, something in which I fail to see the comedy). It would have been perfect, BUT! He got #31 pregnant. Whoops.
2020: Ted is on the street explaining the GNB Building he designed to a young Penny. Robin appears next to them. She’s a famous world news lady now, who even has her picture on city buses. Ted and Robin hug like old friends. Later, he’s in the hospital waiting room with Marshall and Lily. Lily says a Robin sighting is more rare than a sasquatch sighting. Barney appears, and he’s still calling the mother of his child #31. I found that extremely unfunny. But what followed was very touching. A nurse calls Barney over to introduce him to his daughter. Her name is Ellie. He holds her, and the tears in his eyes are by far the most genuine, human thing we’ve ever seen out of him. He tells Ellie that she’s the love of his life, and everything he has is hers forever. This is legitimately sweet. While I would really rather Barney became an adult within marriage, at least he became one. And by all accounts, he now understands that every young woman is somebody’s daughter, and should be treated as such.
Later, at their apartment, Ted asks the Mother for her ring back. He says the statute of limitations has passed because it’s been five years since he proposed, and he needs to propose again. He asks her to marry him on Thursday. Thursday comes, and they’re all at the bar, because I guess that’s where they go before weddings in the city. Robin comes, and we learn that the Mother persuaded her to be there. The wedding scene itself is sweet. Just like Barney and Robin’s, there’s no sound, just Ted’s voiceover. He tells his kids that he knew on the day of their wedding that he needed to love their mother as well as he could for as long as they lived. He kept doing it when she got sick. UH-OH. Thanks for lying to us, Cristin Milioti.
At last, at last, at last, we’re back to 2014, and The Moment has finally arrived: Ted is going to meet the Mother! Everything about the last nine years has been leading up to this moment. And truthfully, it paid off. The meeting scene is adorable. Ted joins her under the umbrella, and in the space of a few seconds they realize all their connections to one another (architecture class, roommate, etc). They argue over the umbrella, and Ted points out that it has his initials on it, TM. You know what’s coming. Those are the Mother’s initials too. And we finally learn her name: Tracy McConnell. It’s a great scene. It’s the last great scene, because it’s all downhill from there.
Finally, it’s 2030 again, and we see the scene with the kids that was filmed way back in the first season. Penny tells Ted that this story was not about how he met their mother. It’s about how he’s in love with Aunt Robin and he wants to see if they’re okay with it (loud, wordless protestings rising in my throat). We find out the mother has been dead 6 years, and the kids love the idea of Aunt Robin being their new mom. Cut to Ted, standing below Robin’s apartment window, holding a blue French horn.
Okay. Here is my problem. The Ted-Robin thing is so tired. There have been variations of his childish, unrelenting love for her throughout all the seasons, and I really thought he had manned up and understood that love is not about being with your soul mate. It’s about making the person you end up with your soul mate. He really seemed to get that, and that’s why he didn’t push things with the Mother. He let the relationship come to him and unfold naturally, and he invested in and protected it. Bravo, Ted. So why are you regressing so completely, and going back to the person you couldn’t manage to hold onto no matter how hard you tried? I get that Robin’s growth and development dictate that now she’s ready for Ted, but I’m not satisfied with that because she was married to Barney. I wanted her to make that work. Plus, the whole thing shows an incredible amount of disrespect for the Mother. As a friend of mine so astutely commented to me, “himym really should have been called himymbrwtdyar – ugh.” If you need that spelled out, it’s “How I met your mother but really wanted to date your Aunt Robin.” And that’s absolutely what this became. Ted made so much out of how he’d let go of Robin and released her to be with Barney, but now it feels like the Mother was only ever a placeholder. She deserves way better than that, especially when she turned out to be such a cute, funny, quirky, perfect match for Ted.
That’s my rant. I know some people loved it, but from a writing standpoint, I think it’s a travesty. You cannot make a decision about what you want to happen to your characters years in advance, and then leave no room for them to grow and develop and surprise you with what they really want. I think the Ted of season 9 wanted the Mother. It’s a shame the writers took her away from him.