A Piece of My Mind: How I Met Your Mother’s (Impossibly?) High Expectations

How I Met Your Mother aired its penultimate episode this Monday, wherein Robin and Barney actually made it down the aisle, pre-wedding tantrums notwithstanding. And, with that, the big conflict of this season has found resolution. We still have one episode left – the hour long, series finale – and we still don’t know exactly how Ted meets The Mother (who, at this point, remains nameless), nor do we have any answers to, I don’t know, about a million questions the show has left open-ended (thankfully, an intrepid Buzzfeeder rounded up the 51 most important questions). This show has been frustrating, complex, and, in its best moments, incredibly rewarding for its loyal viewers, which makes its fans wonder – can the big ending possibly live up?

After nine long seasons, the final one should have been joyful and nostalgic – a loving ode to what the series has always really been, which is a story about five people who can’t live without each other – but what it’s mostly been is irritating. Remember that yellowface episode that anybody thought was even a little bit okay? Remember Marshall’s interminable road trip, and the rhyme scheme episode that finished it (note to the HIMYM writers: hiring Lin-Manuel Miranda still isn’t going to make an ENTIRE RHYMING EPISODE WORTH IT)? Remember how this season has kept trying to shove Robin and Ted back together, over and over? Remember when Robin flew? Saying this season has been “uneven” is a ridiculous understatement.

Where Carter and Bays have succeeded in this final season, however, has been filling in the blanks. The mythos of the Mother had to be covered at some point, and “How Your Mother Met Me” was a beautiful half hour, giving us the Mother’s last nine years in a nutshell (and giving the lovely Cristin Milioti a chance to really shine). The real problem is that there are still so many blanks to fill in, and most of them will be left empty. At a certain point, I almost feel like I’m watching Lost all over again. (WHAT ABOUT THE FOUR TOED STATUE?! WHY CAN’T WOMEN HAVE BABIES ON THE ISLAND?!? COME ON, GUYS!!!)

But this past Monday, the writers seemed to close the door on Robin and Ted (we can only hope), which they actually accomplished by having Robin beg Ted to run away with her before her wedding. And, thank God, the second she said that was the second Ted gave up on her. I’m not thrilled that it had to come about this way, but whatever. Robin and Barney got married. They really, legally, actually, did. Everyone was there – Tim Gunn, Gary Blauman, Patrice, whom nobody asked – and it was legendary. But what now?

And then there’s the issue of the Mother. This show has been bone-achingly sad, at times (Marshall losing his father, Ted being left at the altar, Robin finding out she’s barren), but overall, it’s a hopeful love story. It’s about searching for the one you love, and for Ted, about finding her when he’s at one of his lowest points. But let’s be realistic – it’s starting to really seem like, in the future, Bob Saget timeline, the Mother is already dead. Remember that episode where Ted and the Mother run out of stories and quietly cry at each other across a table when the Mother wonders “what kind of mother would miss her daughter’s wedding?” Yeah. (Cristin Milioti, when asked about it, would only say “that’s insane,”, which is kind of an amazing way to dodge that question.) Some people think that the Mother will die, something will happen to Barney, and Robin and Ted will end up together after all. If that’s the ending we get, I’m just warning everyone, I can’t be held accountable for my actions.

But really, beyond the Mother being dead, or Robin flying off into the sunrise, or finding out what Barney does for a living, How I Met Your Mother has led up to one single moment – the moment where Ted, well, meets the Mother. At the very least, that will happen next week. We’ll all get that moment, and then it will have happened, and we’ll know how he met the Mother. That being said, this show has always been about so much more than that. I want to know if Barney and Robin adopt kids, or maybe a ringbear. I want to know if Ted keeps teaching, and if The Mother keeps playing with her band. I want to know if Marshall and Lily ever come back from Italy, and if their parents get married (which, incidentally, is a twist that I found to be completely gross in Drive Me Crazy, and I STILL find it gross today). I want to know what the deal with the fucking pineapple is. I probably won’t get answers to most of those questions.

I guess that has to be okay, but expectations are sky-high. This is a show that’s ultimately a giant piece of mythology, and most of the puzzle pieces aren’t going to end up in their rightful place. (Unless… that’s the puzzle.) This season missed a lot of opportunities to do that (and took some of them, too – we did get a montage of where all of the secondary and tertiary characters ended up), so I have to ask myself if the finale will make some of the same mistakes. But, like Ted, I’ll remain hopeful, even if Ted’s optimism about love can be one of his most annoying character traits. How I Met Your Mother has to end, and it’s going to leave behind a lot of questions. Let’s just hope the big ones get answered.

I’ll be writing another piece after Monday’s hour-long finale, so check back in next week for my thoughts then!

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