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Unfortunately, How I Met Your Mother's ending was its downfall.
How I Met Your Mother was a sitcom that brings you places, and it keeps things fresh. Even when Ted's going through the same motions with Robin or with another girl, not only does it continue to be entertaining; it keeps you invested. How I Met Your Mother benefits from a kind of story technique that no other TV or film I can think of uses in the same way: it's all a flashback. Occasionally we see a flash-forward in a sense, but from the first moment until the end we're watching Ted tell his kids a story. This can be used for comedy (Robin's old man boyfriend from Season 3 Episode 9, or Ted's girlfriend "Blah Blah" from Season 3 Episode 5), but more importantly it can be used to drive the plot. From the title alone, we're given the ending before the show has even started. We know Ted is going to find the mother of his kids; his "one true love"; his destiny, as he sees it himself. This gives the audience a unique relationship with the characters they're watching. It's dramatic irony at its finest. No matter the person Ted is dating, we know it's not who he's going to end up with. No matter what ups or downs the show presents in Ted's life, we know how it's going to end. In season 9, Ted announces he's moving away from New York to Chicago. Despite this, we're frequently watching as he gets closer to meeting his future wife. Despite the conflict we see from Ted's supposed departure, we know it just won't happen. Throughout the show, all nine seasons, How I Met Your Mother accounts for this. Tension is built with the other characters - we know where Ted will end up, however the future of Marshall, Barney, Lily and Robin are all undecided. This is another unique take on a common technique such as dramatic irony, as we're only knowledgeable on Ted's future.
The problem is, in the space of the final two episodes, How I Met Your Mother throws everything out of the window. Ultimately, the ending could be called a lot of things. Realistic. Maybe even heartwarming in a strange roundabout way. However, the way I see it, the ending ruins the rest of the show. They took nine seasons to get to where they wanted to bring us to - however, there were some core themes and emotions that drove the show. An important theme was love and its meaning. Throughout the whole show, we see that, while Ted is certainly infatuated with her, Robin is just not the girl for him. It never works out for them and you begin to think, towards the end, Ted realizes that Robin isn't "the one". Hell, he admits it. Multiple times. He doesn't run away with her from her wedding. He doesn't pull some crazy stunt. Marshall pays Lily for their bet, signaling that it's finally set in stone that they're not going to get together. And yet, at the end of the entire show, we find out that this story is being told after Ted's wife is dead. The woman the show has been leading us towards this whole time - the love of his life, the mother of his kids, the woman he wished to grow old with. It's terribly unfortunate, it's bleak and it's downright tragic, until the final shot we're left with is Ted pursuing Robin yet again. It's framed to be cyclical - the final shot directly mirrors the shot from the first couple episodes where Ted waits outside of Robin's apartment in the rain. However, this "finale" ruins the entire idea the show was built upon. One of the fundamentals from the get-go you understand from watching "How I Met Your Mother" is that Robin is not the girl Ted will end up with. She's just not. She's "Aunt Robin". So to show Ted pursuing her yet again, after everything that has happened, not just throughout the seasons but his life with his wife and his kids, it's like painting a beautiful painting only to suddenly decide to cover it in white paint. All of that work, all of that build up, all of the established work is just thrown out of the window and you're brought back to the drawing board.
I have to say that I would've been happier had I not seen the final two episodes of the show. An entire season is spent within Robin and Barney's wedding, and despite the ups and the downs, seeing them commit to each other was beautiful. Robin, who was poised to never get married and Barney, whose main distinguishing feature was that he was a single man who hits on women, finally committing to each other shows that people grow up, people change. There were many heartfelt speeches about love (mostly from Ted) and they all made you really believe in these characters and their love. Then, in the space of two episodes, Barney and Robin get divorced, Robin ostracizes herself from the gang and misses important events, Barney has sex with 31 women in 31 days and Ted's wife dies and he goes back to pursue Robin again, a woman with whom it is drilled into our heads that they are not meant to be together, they aren't meant to end up with each other. The only happy ending comes from Marshall and Lily, as Marshall becomes a supreme court justice and they're expecting their third kid. I get it that the show is meant to be cyclical - it starts the same way it ends for the characters. However, this makes the entire journey totally devoid of meaning. It's a lot of things, you could even call it realistic. Maybe it's wrong to expect a perfect happy ending from a simple love story. However, in my opinion, the emotional investment I felt in the characters was lost when they were given this inability to change. The hope you're made to feel for their futures is lost when you're given the harsh reality that Barney will always be single and Ted will always chase after a girl he is not meant to be with.
What would I rate How I Met Your Mother?
From Season 1 Episode 1 to Season 9 Episode 22 - 4.5 stars out of 5. No sitcom is without its flaws, whether from the genre itself or its own personal flaws. However, How I Met Your Mother delivers romantic, heartfelt moments and hilarious moments together to deliver a journey for the characters. By Season 9 Episode 22, you really feel as though the characters have grown. They've found their happy ending - and you're happy for them. The journey is long, however How I Met Your Mother does not fail to entertain. Even though it takes a while to meet her, the journey leading up to meeting her gives that final meeting importance and it carries more weight than many sitcoms can ever give to any important moment.
For the entire show - 3 stars out of 5. All of that said, the final two episodes ruin almost all of the above. The show isn't entirely destroyed, of course, and I would still recommend watching it - it brought me a lot of entertainment. However, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it the way I wish I could because the ending takes away a big part of what made the journey wonderful.