Way back when, in the ancient times of the early 2000’s, a certain show about a group of twenty-something friends living in New York City, was taking the world by storm; this show was of course, Friends.
At the peak of its popularity, Friends was averaging around 30 million viewers per episode, and when the show’s series finale aired on the 6th of May, 2004, over 52 million people tuned in to see the show off. With ratings like these, NBC, the studio behind Friends, were making more money than they knew what to do with. But when the show came to an end, they were stuck; “where do we go from here?”, they thought. “Who do we pass the metaphorical torch on to now?’.
Enter Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, two amateur screenwriters who pitched NBC their idea for a brand-new sitcom named “How I Met Your Mother”, which just so happened to also be about a group of twenty-something friends who lived in New York, but with a few quirks that made it different enough from Friends to really make it stand out. NBC loved it and immediately greenlit a pilot.
Fast forward 10 years to 2014
The show is now in its final season.
How I Met Your Mother saw amazing success over the following decade, amassing 9 seasons, and garnering ratings in the tens of millions. Everyone was betting on the show’s finale being a huge success…but then…everything started to go downhill…
The public were not happy with how the finale turned out, with critics citing it as one of the worst finales’ in TV history. There were people saying it tainted the whole show, and there were even online petitions to have it remade or recut! So yeah, not exactly the smash hit they were expecting.
So, the question has to be asked…what went so wrong? Well here at Scarlett Media, we’re going to go over 4 of the biggest reasons why the finale went horribly wrong, and why it ruined How I Met Your Mother.
#4: Jumping Through Time
Now How I Met Your Mother is no stranger to jumping about in time; due to the nature of the show’s recollective, memory-like/flashback structure, jumping through different time frames is inevitable. Sometimes it works really well for the show, delivering some great comedic moments and giving us some clues as to future plot lines. But sometimes it’s incredibly jarring. And the latter couldn’t be any more applicable to the finale.
The finale jumps around in time so much it’s as if I’m watching a bad time-travel parody movie. From Robin and Barney’s wedding, to 3 years later, to 15 years later. It’s kind of messy and distracts from the emotional moments that the show is trying to provide us with.
The finale probably would’ve benefitted from just being set during a particular time, or maybe two times at the very most.
#3: Robin and Barney
If you have watched the show before you’d know that the entirety of Season 9 except for the two-part finale, takes place in the 56 hours up to and including Robin and Barney’s wedding weekend.
The choice to have an entire season of plot lines and character development take place in only 3 days “in-show continuity time”, is certainly a bold one. And did it pay off? Well not exactly, but that’s not the focus of this particular point. What I’m talking about here is how poorly they handled Robin and Barney’s relationship.
The show made it explicitly clear on multiple occasions throughout the earlier seasons that on paper, Robin and Barney should not be together. But that’s what made this final season so interesting; the will they or won’t they of if they’ll actually go through with the wedding. And the fact they do eventually tie the knot is a great show of character growth and progression for both of these characters. When the show started, Barney was the sleezy ladies’ man who was scared of commitment, and Robin was the career driven woman who saw relationships as nothing more than a side thing that she shouldn’t devote much attention two. Seeing these two come together beautifully wrapped up 9 years of growth…
Yet they just had to go and ruin it by having them get divorced in the finale.
Although 3 years has passed in the show’s world, it’s only been 1 episode since the pair got married to the viewers. Having the couple break it off in the very next episode is the biggest middle finger to the audience who just spent the last 22 episodes watching the build up to their wedding.
#2: The Mother
One of the biggest things that fans of the show like to complain about is the titular character herself, The Mother, or Tracy as her name is revealed in the final few episodes; particularly how she is underused/overused depending on what side of the argument you’re on.
The entire show revolves around our protagonist, Ted, telling his children the story of how he met their mother. It is quite literally the core of the show. Yet the way they handled her and her character is interesting and controversial to say the least.
After 8 seasons of close encounters and hints at who the mother really is, we are finally introduced to her as Tracy in the final episode of season 8. We then see her periodically pop up throughout season 9 before we get a full-on episode focusing on her, titled “How Your Mother Met Me” , chronicling how her life ran parallel to Ted’s for the last 9 years (show any clips from the episode as they all relate to the script). It was a great episode! In just a single 24-minute episode, it made Tracy an established character, it gave her traits, we understood her backstory, and we became emotionally invested in her. And it’s that last one that’s key here.
They build her up for 9 seasons and give her a full episode…just to kill her off in the finale and reveal that a widowed Ted has been telling this story to his motherless children the entire time. Not quite the wholesome, romantic ending most viewers were expecting from this light-hearted, romantic sitcom to say the least.
But even still, a lot of fans would’ve likely been okay with this more bitter-sweet, melancholy ending if it wasn’t for our final point.
#1: Robin and Ted + Being Written into a Corner
Far and away the biggest criticism of How I Met Your Mother’s finale is the final 5 minutes of the second part of the two-parter. More specifically, how after all is said and done, Ted and Robin end up together.
So to recap the key plot points of the finale: Robin and Barney get divorced, Barney has a child with a unnamed woman, Lily and Marshall continue their life full of domestic bliss, Robin focuses on her career, and Ted ends up with his soulmate; we know she will later die of an unnamed illness, but the final scene is them meeting properly for the first time at the train station after the wedding…cool. Like said previously, a bitter-sweet ending, sure, but not insulting.
But they just had to keep going didn’t they! You know I’m starting to see a pattern here…
And this is the big oopsie that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas made with the show: writing themselves into a corner and setting themselves up years in advance.
We all know the “kids” in the intro of most episodes. The kids that Ted is telling his 9-year-long story to. Well Bays and Thomas realised way back when the show was in its second season that these kids aren’t going to look 15-17 forever; those actors would’ve been in their mid-twenties by the time the finale aired, which would’ve made having them portray teenagers pretty awkward. I mean at least they didn’t do what “It: Chapter 2” did and use CGI to make the kids look younger; yeesh. If they ever needed them to back for the finale, they would have to decide the fate of the show’s ending years in advance.
At the time, the relationship between Robin and Ted was popular among fans, so Bays and Thomas thought that they should end up together at the end of it all, bearing in mind we were still 7 years away from being introduced to the mother. By the time the finale rolled around, we had seen hundreds more storylines and years’ worth of character growth, and we’ve had plenty of characters come and go, including the mother.
But the show’s fate had been determined years ago. Of course, they could’ve always scrapped the idea but unfortunately for us viewers they went ahead with making the pre-packaged version where the kids tell Ted to go and tell Robin how he quote-on-quote “really feels about her”.
A lot of fans, myself included, think they should’ve just left it with Ted and Tracy at the station; a classic How I Met Your Mother heart-warming sentiment.
So those were 4 ways that the finale ruined How I Met Your Mother. Do you agree with our opinions? Leave a comment down below! We here at Scarlett Media hope you enjoyed.