Note: The following review contains full spoilers for the final season and series finale of How I Met Your MotherIn all honesty, we should have seen it coming a mile away. It was painfully obvious for anyone paying attention for the past nine years. While there were many bumps on the road, and the journey may have stretched on a little bit longer than usual, we’ve inevitably reached the conclusion to How I Met Your Mother, and I somehow couldn’t have predicted how it all went down. If it wasn’t painfully obvious by the note just a few inches from this sentence, this review will contain spoilers for the swansong to CBS’ long-running hit comedy, and I want to give you ample time to click away if you haven’t seen the ninth season in its entirety.
Now that you’ve had your chance, I can continue. We here at Free4Geeks.com have adopted a no-spoiler policy for our reviews because we feel that most people read reviews for suggestions on a film, game or television series they have yet to experience, but in this case, I feel the need to make an exception. It would be nearly impossible to review this season without being able to fully discuss the last hour of the shows 9 year run. That’s owing mainly to the fact that this show has shrouded it’s premise in an air of secrecy for nearly that entire time, only introducing the titular character of the mother, who we now know is named Tracy McConnell.
As you are no doubt aware by now, the final season of How I Met Your Mother takes place over the course of a long weekend, leading up to the marriage of Barney and Robin, and over the past 24 episodes, showrunners Craig Thomas and Carter Bays managed to weave an intricate web of happenstance and chance meetings, giving each of the main characters on the show a chance to meet and interact with Tracy, helping to alleviate the fact that this woman would become the inspiration for Ted’s retelling of his adult life to his future children, despite being barely involved in the story to this point. It was nice to see how each individual member of “the gang” met Tracy, and how the dynamic of their friendship could possibly have played out over the following decades as she and Ted grew old together.
Most importantly was Ted’s relationship with his future wife. While the two didn’t officially meet on-screen until late in the finale’s run time, we were thankfully treated to a smattering of moments that showed just how special their relationship was. Over the nine years of the series, Ted has easily become the most worn down character, and much of that is due in large part to the inability to make any of his relationships feel authentic. Even the biggest relationship in his life, his love for Robin, never felt real to me, which is probably thanks to the fact that at the forefront of my mind, I knew that she wasn’t the person Ted would inevitably end up with. It’s because of that, though, that the few moments we did get, including the episode “Gary Blauman”, which focused on the insanely sweet first date between the couple, were more heartfelt than any moment Ted had in the series.
I feel I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, here. The final season of How I Met Your Mother may have been leading to this meeting, but it wasn’t alone in that goal. The season as a whole did a wonderful job of wrapping up the series in a nice, nostalgic bow. Flashes forward in time would give us a glimpse of what Marshall and Lilly’s life in Italy would be their three children and even managing to bring back Chris Elliot in the role of Lilly’s father. A fight between the couple added some much needed drama in the otherwise storybook life that Marshall and Lilly had enjoyed in the shows more recent seasons, and of course the wedding drew plenty of attention to Barney and Robin’s lives, including finally finding out Barney’s long-con at work and what exactly he did for a living.
However it doesn’t end in a fairy tale romance for Barney and Robin. Throughout the course of the series finale we learn that the couple has a rougher time making their marriage work in the face of Robin’s dedication to her career, which drags the two all over the world and further away from their life in New York and their friends. The two divorce just three years after their marriage, and Robin begins to drift apart from the group, much to everyone’s lament. Thankfully, this isn’t as bad as it sounds, though. Even though, for a time, Barney falls back into his old ways, tricking young girls into sleeping with him, he shows what is perhaps the greatest character growth in the series when it is revealed that he accidentally gets a young woman pregnant, and despite his best efforts, eventually becomes a father. I’d always assumed Barney would eventually meet the love of his life, even if it wasn’t Robin, but the moment you realize that the girl he’d give it all up for was his daughter was touching and tear-jerking. Well played, Bays and Thomas.
The finale itself had plenty of sight-gags that turned into call backs which reached as far back as the first year the show aired. It was all to serve the greater purpose of emphasizing just how great a detail Ted had gone into when telling his children the story of meeting their mother. It turns out there was a reason for that. As many fans had been predicting for some time, Ted didn’t simply decide to sit down one day and tell this story to his children on a whim, there was an emotional catalyst, as well as a reason Tracy hadn’t been seen, even in the future segments, to this point.
That reason should be painfully obvious by now, Tracy got sick some time after she and Ted, already having brought their children into the world, finally tied the knot in 2020. Through a small montage of family photographs, some better executed than others, Ted recalls the final years of Tracy’s life, and the happiness she brought him. The moment was touching, but it also brought a stark realization about the show, a glaring weakness that has long since bothered me. These moments were told through Josh Radnor’s voice, not Bob Saget, even though to this point it had been reverse. The decision to use Saget initially seemed like a good idea, and he provided a ton of funny and touching moments, acting as Ted’s future self, but the decision never really made sense. Ted wasn’t suddenly going to sound entirely different just because it was 20 years down the line, this wasn’t some sort of Wonder Years situation, where the story took place in Ted’s childhood. There was no reason for him to sound like an entirely different person when recalling the days he was a younger adult.
That irksome tidbit aside, the closing moments of the show were heart wrenching, but poignant, as they led up to the real reason Ted started telling this story in the first place. We learn from his daughter that this takes place 6 years after Tracy’s death, and as his kids have expertly sniffed out, the reason for the insane detail Ted went into was because this was all his way of asking for his kids permission to date again, and specifically, to date Robin.
It’s the only part of the final episode that didn’t hit a home run with me. As previously mentioned, I never bought into Ted and Robin as a couple, and though the final moment was a nice callback to the first episode with Ted appearing at Robin’s door, once again holding the blue French Horn he stole for her on their first date, it felt a bit like two steps back for Ted to end up with her in the end. The only thing that saved it was how important Tracy’s role in Ted’s life clearly was. She never played second fiddle to Robin, which is easily how this result could have felt. Instead, Ted was able to return to his past love with the full knowledge that for every second they were together, his wife was the center of his world, and could never be replaced. This was the note that absolutely had to be hit in the last episode of this show, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.
I’m still not sure I’m sold on Bays and Thomas being able to catch this lightning in another bottle with their planned spin-off, How I Met Your Dad, but I’m willing to give it a shot, based on how the final season played out. As it stands, How I Met Your Mother goes down as one of my favorite sitcoms ever, and the final season gave it a relevant and emotional send-off. And with that, I’ll leave you as Barney Stinson would want me to, with the highest of fives…