The How I Met Your Mother finale quickly transformed into “How I Destroyed Nine Years Of Character Growth In Forty Minutes.” Warning: Spoilers.
Instead of proving that men and women can have meaningful, but non-sexual relationships, How I Met Your Mother decided to regress their main character nine years and cheapen every other character on the show. Well, you can’t say that they weren’t ambitious.
Inevitably, the key issue is in the show’s own title. It may have been called How I Met Your Mother, but it could have just as easily been “How I Met This Plot Device,” because that is all the mother (Tracy) turned out to be.
After building up this mysterious character, the series finale allowed Ted to use her as a vessel to have children (which Robin, as we know, could not give him). Her character then conveniently died, allowing Ted and his kids to start a new life with
Aunt Stepmother Robin. In a single stroke, How I Met Your Mother reduced two key female characters to objects for Ted’s gratification, with no agency of their own.
Another disappointment was the quick dismissal of the friendships between Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin that had once been so integral to this show. In revealing that this was really the story of “How Ted Finally Got Robin”, the showrunners destroyed any previous importance that they played on friendship. The friends are, now, seemingly only in the story because they related to Robin and Ted’s story. As individual characters, they do not matter.
Then there is the small issue of the finale simply not making sense. At no point has How I Met Your Mother demonstrated that Ted and Robin would, or could, have a healthy, happy relationship. In fact, it has proved the exact opposite – that after dating originally, these two characters only ended up together when they were at low points in their lives, or between other relationships.
The writers have even stressed that this was not an equal relationship, it was the product of Ted’s obsession. Although Robin has told Ted that she has moved on, it wasn’t until season nine that he was able to actually let her go. Ted realises that Robin and Barney share a love that he and Robin do not, and that he is clinging to the past. It’s a nice sentiment – but too bad none of that matters, because #TedandRobin4eva.
I hope that spending an entire season focusing on their wedding didn’t give you the impression that the writers were invested in the Barney and Robin relationship. After all, it now seems that Barney was simply a plot device to push Robin to the realisation that she actually wanted Ted.
In the How I Met Your Mother series finale, Barney was reduced to a shallow incarnation of the character he has grown to become. He even brought back the Playbook – a huge leap backwards for his character. And then he was conveniently saved by the birth of his child (a child named Ellie, and whose mother neither gets a name nor a face).
Barney was not the only character to suffer a major regression in the finale. How I Met Your Mother has demonstrated on countless occasions that Robin’s commitment to her work was a key component of her character, but not the only component. Yet, in the finale, it was Robin’s job that destroyed her marriage, turned her into a cold, two-dimensional shadow of her former self, and alienated her from her friends.
Marshall and Lily managed to escape this character annihilation, but only because they were hardly shown in the finale. Maybe we should be grateful for the small things.
Robin was alone, until Ted saves the day. Ted, who is now conveniently free from his plot device wife. Ted, who has obsessed over Robin in an unhealthy way since season 2. Ted, who now has everything he wants – and it only came at the price of destroying three characters we love (and ignoring the other two).
I used to love How I Met Your Mother. But “How I Destroyed Nine Years Of Character Growth In Forty Minutes”? I am not a fan.