In the spirit of experiencing things so I can form my own opinions when there’s outrage afoot, I recently finished the entire 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother (yeah, where’s my freakin’ medal?). When Netflix launched earlier this year, I set about creating a super great list of stuff I hadn’t seen yet but wanted to, and highest on that list was finally catching up on the seasons of HIMYM that I had missed on free-to-air television.
Here in Australia, HIMYM was picked up by Channel 7, and instead of running the show from start to finish, they interchanged between the current season, and repeating classic episodes, which basically meant that I have seen at least six HIMYM episodes forty times each. It also meant that I didn’t see a thing after season 6, as the confusion made it pointless to try to keep up with whatever was actually happening.
I was spoiled for the ending, which I didn’t mind at the time because I genuinely didn’t think I’d ever go back to watch it all again. So I went into the rewatch knowing how furious, upset and betrayed many viewers felt. For some reason, I still needed to experience it for myself.
PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
I skipped quite a few episodes in the first three seasons, but by season four there were only a few repeated episodes and I decided to stick with the order so I could follow the major arc. There were quite a few people who said that HIMYM spiralled downwards after about the seventh season, so when I got to that point, I held my breath and waited for a notable dip. But I didn’t find one. I think the benefit of binge watching afterwards is watching a show evolve quite quickly, which, when watching week to week and having months between seasons, might not be as easy to track.
In any case, the drastic sinkhole I imagined HIMYM slipping into wasn’t wholly evident to me. I’m not really sure why so many people thought it went downhill – I just thought it evolved to match the changes in the characters. Sorry guys, you don’t stay the same shitty/weird/immature person over an 8-year period, it just doesn’t work that way. Maybe people missed the easy comedy that flowed in the beginning, maybe people were a bit sick of Robin crying in every second episode (okay, yeah, that did get a bit much). Or maybe people just wanted the same show without the characters changing, maybe they wanted the same crazy scenarios happening to The Gang forever. And I get that.
But Lily and Marshall had babies, and Barney and Robin attempted a serious relationship. Though much still stayed the same for Ted until BRobin’s wedding, when your friends circumstances change, so does their involvement in your life. I see some of the HIMYM fandom mirrored in Lily’s sadness in the final season – when they were all breaking away from each other. And again, I get that.
Where How I Met Your Mother really fell down for me though, was the pacing of the final (ninth) season. We had finally met The Mother – Tracy – and were slowly being introduced to her life with Ted, how she interacted with The Gang, and who she was as a character. And I really liked her. I thought she was spirited, intelligent, super funny and a great match for Ted. She was a winner who hit her stride immediately – I didn’t have to warm to her or come to try to accept her as Ted’s match, she just was the match from the get-go. But after eight seasons of build up, we needed more of her. Tracy needed to be the star of season nine, not Robin and Barney.
I guess though, that was the point. Ted may have been completely dedicated to Tracy once he’d met her (evidenced by the fact Robin was involved in his memories/the show far less often after that and therefore not as high a priority), but he spent more time telling his kids about one weekend, than he did about his whole relationship with their mother. And of course that leads into the kids’ reactions about going after Robin, and everything is lovely etc.
But it wasn’t enough, guys.
I read in a wonderful article posted shortly after the finale about the fatal flaw of the show’s pilot, which I completely agree with: the twist at the end of the pilot, where Robin is revealed as Aunt Robin, put an absolute end to the possibility of Robin being The Mother. But it was evident throughout the show that the writers wanted Ted to end up with her. So how were they going to go about getting their happy ending with that obstacle in the way?
They could have done the thing whereby they completely ignored the rule they set themself in the pilot, could have never called her Aunt Robin again, and could have rolled with the fact that they fucked up a little but course-corrected to manage the remainder of the show. But they didn’t do that. They continued with the Aunt Robin bit. Made us believe that despite everything, Ted and Robin weren’t meant to find happiness with each other. And in time, we began to accept it, because we could see reasons why it wouldn’t work. Then Kevin came along in season seven and made us rejoice with hope that Robin had found her man, and we would finally see some Mother action. Alas. Kevin was a bust (though for some pretty solid and heartbreaking reasons).
Then the showrunners wrote an entire fucking season centred around the weekend of Robin and Barney’s wedding, and though we still remained a little sceptical at first, by the end, their love and their marriage was believable. We also knew that Tracy was going to be at this wedding, and so even though Ted was still struggling (yes, in the final season) with his feelings for Robin, he did the adult thing and let her go. Even when she proposed running away with him, he stood his ground and reminded her why she was marrying Barney. He did all the things he should have done, and I gave him kudos for that because not 24 hours prior, he was on the beach wondering how to let Robin go off with his best friend.
And so an entire season/bazillion hours of the Mosby kids’ lives are taken up by every second of the Wedding Weekend and its many many details. But herein lies the problem: it was far too heavy on the Wedding deets, and far too light on the Mother deets. Where we needed to see Tracy and Ted grow and fall in love and deal with her illness, we caught snippets, flashes of scenes that were supposed to make us feel something. And all credit to Cristin Miloti, because dammit I did care about her. I just wanted, nay needed, more time with her to make her passing more meaningful. There is one flash of a hospital bed, and Ted’s voice providing all the exposition in the world and within 30 seconds, we’ve gone from YAY MOTHER to OMG DEAD MOTHER to YOU SHOULD ASK OUT AUNT ROBIN and it did not work.
AND HERE’S THE THING: it could have.
Were we given a fuller view, a stronger connection to Tracy, were we able to walk through her pregnancies and her health problems, were we actually able to grieve for her, maybe the Blue French Horn ending would have come off. I still strongly believe that the first half of season nine should have been at the wedding, because we needed to believe in BRobin, but the second should have focused on Tracy’s funeral. If we’d spent less time at the wedding of two people who loved each other but easily bailed at the first real obstacle of their marriage, and more time watching the relationship that is at the core of this entire television series, maybe the TRobin thing would have broken less hearts.
Then the writers wouldn’t have had to come out and say “OH BUT WE WROTE A REAL SAD SCENE AT THE FUNERAL IT’LL BE ON THE DVDS” (yawn), and maybe thousands of people around the world wouldn’t have felt so crazy-betrayed by the complete lack of emotional depth in the finale. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this post.
I actually think the ending was okay. I’m fine with Tracy dying and with Ted running after Robin. I was entirely bored with that fucking blue French Horn, but of course that was how it ends. The problem is how we got to that point. Cramming years worth of important information into 5 minutes just plain sucked. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a waste of time, but boy oh boy did that pacing ruin a near-decade of work. And considering that it wasn’t one of the weaknesses from any other season, I am incredibly surprised that it turned out to be the major downfall of the last one.
What a super bummer hey…