The ending of last night’s How I Met Your Mother was brutal. The show often uses Ted Mosby as a way to communicate something about the single life: it comes at it from almost every direction and isn’t afraid of going from humorous to heart-breaking in a moment. If Ted got a report card for the episode, it would have given him all As, but not necessarily of the succeeding kind.
The crisis of the episode began when all of Ted’s friends Abandoned him for different life concerns. Turns out that “Wrestlers versus Robots” wasn’t as high on everyone’s list of priorities when children and wedding plans are at play. Life does that, of course, but knowing that doesn’t lessen Ted’s feeling of abandonment. And because that abandonment is more systemic than personal (in a truly weird way- things change; his friends’ feeling for Ted don’t), it leads to a weird kind of Alienation. It creates a kind of deficit that pushes Ted further away than his friends might even realize. And yet that doesn’t mean that Ted is completely removed from everything from what has become his “previous” life. He makes the rounds, visits all parties, tries to be present. The difference is that those around him demand his Attention without any hint of reciprocal Affection. Those who have been a source for his sanity don’t have the emotional capacity to reach much beyond their present moment. And so that leaves Ted feeling very, as imaginary Barney told him, Alone. But it’s a tragic kind of alone (maybe a uniquely 30-something alone?) because as the episode ends you realize that Ted has become a victim of Abstraction: unable to be fully present to the moment at hand, Ted has found himself trapped in the world of ideas and imagination. He’s having conversations within conversations, and all of them in his mind. It’s almost the only way he can process what’s going on around and in him.
But Ted is a romantic, and so he doesn’t end the episode without a fight. Unfortunately it’s an abstract fight, and one of the last things we see before the credits roll (and you get the Three Tenses [pictured above] singing) is Ted walking away, probably the most dejected he has been portrayed in a long while.
Abandonment. Alienation. Attention without Affection. Alone. Abstraction. Those are six As for sure. They are marks that are never easy to take in life. Ted handles them well, and we handle them well for him, because we know how his story ends. But being alone in a world that has moved on, which is what last night’s episode captured perfectly, is no easy thing. Believe me: I’ve been trying for the last year. So as difficult as an ending as it was to watch, it was also a knid of blessing.¹
For a more coherent and plausible review of the episode, this one over at Entertainment Weekly will suffice (plus the author adds another A term into the mix).
¹ Thanks for to “White Blank Page” from Mumford & Sons for their connection of affection and attention.