If you didn’t like Monday night’s finale of How I Met Your Mother, you’re definitely not alone. Many people on social media and even TIME’s James Poniewozik weren’t crazy, to put it mildly, about the series’ ending. And they make some fair points! The final episode did rush to cram in a lot of life events; not just for Ted and the Mother, but also for Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily. After the series’ meandering and somewhat disappointing final season, that was a real shame.
Yet the sheer outrage at the finale’s final minutes — which revealed that in 2030, Tracy, the Mother, had died years ago and Ted’s kids thought he should be with Robin — seems out of proportion for a series that’s been leading up to this outcome from the beginning. (Quite literally, in fact, as the show’s creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had the ending planned in the series’ early days.)
Still not convinced? Here are three reasons why we all should have seen this particular finale coming:
1. TV history basically told us to expect this. Like Friends and Sex and the City, HIMYM always drew a huge part of its emotional thrust from the on-again, off-again relationship between two central characters. Judging from the show’s predecessors, after seasons of will-they-won’t-they-end-up-together tension between Ted and Robin, it was all but guaranteed that their romantic outcome would come full circle. Sure, we knew from the pilot episode that Robin wasn’t the titular Mother, but we also knew that Ted never stopped loving her. Why else would the series have spent nine years grappling with it?
Just as Ross ended up with Rachel and Carrie ended up with Big, Ted was bound to end up with Robin as almost every season of HIMYM indicated that first love carries heavy weight. And just as some grew tired of the “we were on a break” storyline on Friends and others insisted Aiden was the love of Carrie’s life on SATC, not everyone was going to be happy with the Ted and Robin reunion. But you can’t really argue that it wasn’t well-trodden TV history.
2. Despite the title, the show has never really been about the Mother. If it had been, why would it take eight whole seasons before we even caught a glimpse of her — and then almost a whole final season before we even learn her name? Many have made the point that the focus of HIMYM has never been the love story between Ted and his future wife. Rather, it’s been about his relationships with his friends and the emotional journey he needed to make before he was able to meet the mother of his children. As delightful as Cristin Milioti has been this past season, the audience’s attachment to her doesn’t come close to its attachment to the show’s five central characters. Though it might have felt sweet and satisfying if Ted and Tracy (the Mother’s real name) had lived happily ever after with their children Penny and Luke, it would have also rendered Ted’s past life — and the story he’s been telling up until now — largely insignificant.
3. The show has always thrown surprises and unexpected twists at the audience. From the very first episode that set up Robin as the possible Mother, only to have Ted, circa 2030, reveal “because that, kids, is the true story of how I met your Aunt Robin,” HIMYM has been riddled with twists and fake-outs. From episodes told multiple ways from the POV of multiple characters to long-game plot points that resurface unexpectedly (we’ll miss you, Slap Bet), this is a show that’s always kept us guessing. By the end of the first season, viewers knew that even the show’s title wasn’t to be trusted — Ted wasn’t just telling the story about how he met his children’s mother, but what his life was like before that point. It’s true the finale did include so many twists and turns it was likely to cause whiplash. Yet, if the show had just wrapped everything up in a neat little bow with a straightforward finale — without any significant twists or turns — it would have rang false for much of the audience, who had been waiting for one final romantic surprise.
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