Screen: CBS

How I Stuck To The Plan Regarding Your Mother, With Disastrous Results

How Mother-y was the rage-inducing finale?

Have you ever been so sick that you knew the only way you were ever going to feel better was to vomit and vomit and vomit until there was nothing left in you but weakness and hope?

For those of us who've stuck with How I Met Your Mother for nine seasons, going into the one-hour finale was a lot like facing that toilet bowl. We knew it might hurt. We knew things might get ugly. But we also knew that no matter how bad it got, that by the end of that hour, we'd finally be free of obligation, free of this need to see how this whale of a Ted Mosby tale finally paid off. Or if it paid off. Or if it pissed off.

Mostly it pissed off. I'm not among those who's going to rage at this ending. You have the entire Internet to mob it up, and better critics than me to explain why exactly the finale didn't work and how the show's structure and history may have backfired.

So, instead, I'll just talk about what actually happened. We were right. As was hinted at so blatantly a few episodes ago, The Mother, whose name is actually Tracy McConnell, is dead by the year 2030. In fact, she died six years before that. And in a jarring, best-they-could-do exchange between graying Future Ted (who sounds nothing like narrator Bob Saget) and the actors shot as teens eight years ago, the kids figure it out before Ted does. Tracy wasn't in the story very much at all, they have noticed, and Ted is actually trying to tell his kids that he's in love with Robin and wants to be with her, even if he doesn't quite realize it himself. Do the kids mind? Hell no.

Ted decides to call Robin. On a phone. A telephone. In the year 2030. What the hell, 2030; people don't even make phone calls in 2014, or did you not notice!? Ted changes his mind about calling and goes in person instead. And he makes a grand gesture, showing up in front of Future Robin's lonely apartment building with the blue horn. Robin cries. "How I Met Your Mother" appears in a stark title card on black before closing credits featuring the actors when they were younger (all except for Cristin Milioti, who appears as her present-day self).

I's not great, you know? It negates so much of the show's past and promise, that we were going to get an ultimate romantic wish-fulfillment story. Ted can't ever find the love of his life and, in the end, he got two. By Season Nine it was unclear if Mosby even deserved one. But as I've been saying all season, Milioti was such an inspired choice and top-notch performer as The Mother that we should have seen much, much more of her, instead of a bogus wedding that would end in divorce three years later and serve only to kill time and check off some plot/continuity boxes. And so much of the show has been about telling us that Robin is not right for Ted, that they've outgrown each other, that it never would have worked, that they weren't meant to be. We're not wrong for believing that, HIMYM; it's what you told us, specifically.

Yes, the ending is a miscalculation, a bad one, but I would argue that the bigger mistake was the wedding-as-a-season format, which deprived us of more time with Tracy and Ted and pushed this ultimately pointless love triangle of Barney, Robin, and Ted to the point where we didn't care about it at all anymore.

Which is not to say that, vomit metaphor aside, there weren't things to like about the finale. The show is frustrating, but it always has its bright spots amid the clutter and the clamor. The less said about the Barney and Robin divorce, or about Barney's transformation to 40-something daddy-issue lech, the better. But the moment when Barney, having knocked up Miss 31 of his 31-night series of conquests, meets his baby daughter almost makes up for it. Neil Patrick Harris perfectly captures what it's like to meet your child for the first time, and it's brilliant. But it's surrounded by so many regressive Barney character beats that only the performance saves its plausibility.

Other things to like: Marshall's beyond-corny "Fudge Supreme" judge joke; the true-to-life sense that your circle of friends is drifting apart with age that so devastates Lily when she realizes it's happening; Ted and Barney's ultimate high-five (also negated by Ted's decision not to move to Chicago after all); Marshall and Lilly's apartment-closing party, keeping with the goofy costume-party tradition; parents wanting to get home at 9:45 PM instead of 2 AM; Barney's "Jay Nacho" playbook scam; Ted's proposal; and his life-with-Tracy snapshots.

And then: that scene. The moment at the Farhampton station, under a yellow umbrella. It's perfect. It's wonderful. It's sweet and romantic and inevitable, without a false note. It's also enraging. It makes you focus on what this season could have been and all the scenes we lost in favor of bullshit bachelor party poker and a scrambled eggs contest over a lengthy wedding weekend. Yes, that really happened in Season Nine.

It's exhausting to be angry, to dwell on a bad move, to mourn the loss of a love that once was, a person who is no longer the one you knew. Something changed, and the show we ended up with was not the one we wanted or expected or deserved. Things got jumped and didn't come together cleanly like they should have. That doesn't mean we can't remember the good times we used to have, before we got older and life proved so unfair sometimes.

That's all I have to say beyond the Show-O-Matic checklist below, the last for the season and the last for this show. Thanks for sticking it out with me. As a bonus, here are three alternate ways I would have ended How I Met Your Mother:

How I Met Your Mother('s Clone): "Kids, guess what! Your mother is back! I just unpacked her from the shipping crate and applied life jelly to her translucent body. She'll be ready in about 30 minutes. Let's clean this house before she wakes up!"

How Your Mother Pulled Through: "Kids, help me celebrate your mom's birthday as a six-year survivor of that disease we thought she was going to die from. Hey, have you kids heard from your Aunt Robin lately? No? Well, that's perfectly fine, then!"

How I Met Your Mosby: "Kids, I thought about cloning your mother, but that would be creepy and wrong. So I cloned myself, instead, as a female Ted Mosby. Kids, meet Tess Mosby, your new mother and my new lover. It's going to be weird at first, but I think I'll be happiest with myself for the rest of my years."

If only, right? So how Mother-y was the long-awaited series finale of How I Met Your Mother?

Mother-Y Element Present?
Ted Still Pines For Robin...Or Does He? For nine seasons and the rest of his life, yes he does.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding The wedding's over, but the cold feet remain. They get divorced three years later. Womp womp.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Many were covered in the last episode. We're going to say the reappearance of the Cockamouse counts because nothing even matters anymore.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive Marvin gets a second sibling, but he's offscreen for all that drama.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson (Wayne Brady)? James is long gone.
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother (Cristin Milioti) Ted meets The Mother, finally, at the train station, and it is just about perfect. And surrounded by much that is less than perfect.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding They don't seem to be at the wedding reception. Maybe they got tired of all this, too, and went home early.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit Ted bores his adorable daughter with facts about the GNB building he designed, and makes way-too-elaborate wedding plans for a wedding that never happens in a French castle.
Public Transportation High Jinks Future Robin is famous enough to have her face on the side of a bus.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College No, this episode is about looking forward, no matter how horrifying that may be.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro "Downtown Train" plays when Ted meets Tracy at the Farhampton station, and "Heaven" by The Walkmen plays over Ted going to Robin and the end title credits.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney Before fatherhood transforms him into a doting dad (hey, welcome to the club!), Barney revisits The Playbook and has sex with 31 women in 31 days. But where he actually says something crass is once again suggesting (back in 2005) that Robin and Lily might be up for a threesome.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" A "Legend...ary!" on a night when Barney makes the gang stay up way past everybody's parenting bedtimes and Marshall finds out he'll be a judge after all. Judge Fudge.
Retro Video, Instructional Tape, Book, Or Other Multimedia Project Starring Or Created By One Of The Main Characters (Robin Sparkles, Barney As A Fake Astronaut, Etc.) The Playbook returns, with new entries including "The Mannequin" and "The Jim Nacho."
Slap Bet No, but pretty much the entire internet wishes there were two slaps left: one for Carter Bays, one for Craig Thomas.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup No; in fact Barney turns down a ménage right before Ted's wedding.
9 / 16
56 percent break-shit Mothery betrayal and bitterness and bile. The four Bs, basically.
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