A series finale can be a tricky thing. Do you take the approach of The Sopranos, cutting to an ambiguous black screen? Do you wrap things up neatly in bow like Everwood? Do you end on a sad note like Friends, leaving the audience to speculate about everything beyond that one last cup of coffee? Maybe you have to go the Smallville route, bound your “no flight, no tights” rule until the finale. And there’s always the LOST option: go for emotional resonance without answering any viewer’s nagging questions. Series finales are tricky, which is why I’m willing to give Carter and Bays the benefit of the doubt with How I Met Your Mother.
As I see it, there are two characters from the show with strong narrative impulses as the series comes to an end. The first, of course, is Ted. He wants love, real love. And he waits what seems like forever to get it (and her name is Tracy). And then there’s Lily. What she wants the most (and you’ve seen this in her throughout the series) is for the group-of-five to be together forever. So viewers want Ted to be happy, want Lily to be happy. But you kind of know there’s a good chance that won’t happen. And if it does, it won’t last forever.
In fact, if there’s one thing How I Met Your Mother has taught me (insomuch as a television show can teach you something), it’s that the story never really ends. You get milestones. You get markers. And then life happens. It moves forward, falls in on itself, picks itself up, and goes on. That’s part of the beautiful frustration of it.
In the end, How I Met Your Mother is a lot like The Matrix series. It’s about a worthwhile and necessary battle. And there’s a reason for all of it, the good and the bad. But it’s like the Matrix within the Matrix, a kind of full circle device that both moves you forward and starts you over simultaneously. There’s a glimmer of more hope with HIMYM, though, with Ted older and wiser. But there are no guarantees.
The folks at Grantland posted a pretty solid reflection on the series. I don’t agree with everything the writer says (the same goes for the comments the article inspired). The writer does say that the theme of the series is failure as much as it is hope, and I can sort of see that. You can read the article here.
I suppose one sign of success for a series finale is how much it teases you to go back to the beginning to watch it all again. On that account, I think the finale works. For one, it does make me want to watch all of the final season over at a faster pace. And the last scene, of course, is a call-back to a key moment from the pilot, which is always a nice touch.
And so it turns out that there’s a bigger story being told than just “this is how I met your mother.” It’s a sobering thought, maybe even a painful one. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Ted Mosby, it’s that it doesn’t have to be defeating.
This is, I must admit, a horribly weak review for a wonderful show. It was a show about five people and their quirks and how those five people somehow transcended those quirks, if only for brief moments. The show did so many things right. It does make me wonder about how different life looks when viewed with a microscope (seasons one through nine) as opposed to a telescope (which the finale does). If anything, the finale had a real jarring effect that other time-distorting episodes didn’t. It is much easier to take when you look at the finale as two separate episodes.
I really liked the “end credits” of the main cast. A nice touch. Just had to say that.