The Ending Of How I Met Your Mother We Really Wanted

Few TV series finales have disappointed a fandom quite like the ending of “How I Met Your Mother.” The nine-season show had amassed a massive fan base by the time it entered its final season, and fans waited with bated breath to finally see the moment they’d been waiting for all these years: how Ted met the mother of his children. Yet, in the last two episodes of a 208-episode series, the writers upended the story’s entire premise and defied the expectations of fans and the show’s very title.

Don’t break up the gang.

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Fans have myriad issues with the “How I Met Your Mother” finale. However, the objection that almost everyone can agree on stems from the fact that it breaks up the gang. We begin the first episode of the finale with a flashback where Lily tells Robin that once you’re in the friend group, you’re in for life. Yet the final two episodes show the gang drifting apart and failing to truly make time for each other — especially when it comes to Robin. The friends’ promise to be there for the big stuff (Robin’s successful journalist career qualifies) gets thrown by the wayside. Instead of feeling nostalgic, this plotline is just an upsetting bummer.

Set up the final season traditionally

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If we’re honest, we can all admit that the 9th season is a bit of a mess. Let’s face it: The issues in the finale don’t even start in the finish. The timeline is all over the place, and the writers set the whole season up with the kind of avant-garde story structure that would typically be reserved for a single experimental episode of TV. Between repetitive storylines, clunky transitions, and focusing most of the season’s events on the minutiae of a single weekend, it’s certainly not how fans wanted to say goodbye to nine years of a beloved show.

Keep Barney and Robin together.

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What’s worse than setting an entire goodbye season around the events of a single wedding? Breaking up said the couple in the final two episodes. If Barney and Robin could make it work in the last two episodes, the season’s setup wouldn’t be as infuriating. The breakup comes out of nowhere after the never-ending wedding plotline: The moment feels just as forced as the time the writers visually explained Alyson Hannigan’s pregnancy by entering Lily into a hot dog eating competition. You’re not fooling anyone.

We need more time with the mother.

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We know that the writers planned to kill the mother off all along due to the kids’ reaction getting filmed all of the ways back in Season 2. We could have spent much more time seeing her and Ted as a couple with that farewell in mind. Instead, we get scene after scene of random hijinks at Barney and Robin’s wedding. There are a few intermittent scenes and a random montage of Ted and Tracy, but it’s just not enough.

Let the mother live longer.

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Ted waited a decade for his happy ending, and fans waited along with him, anticipating the moment that he’d get the forever that he dreamt about for so long. However, he barely gets that same amount of time with her as the time he spent waiting. Okay, yes, that’s life. We get it. However, fans may have been able to stomach Tracy’s death if it were two decades into the future rather than one. Instead, the entire plot feels like a cheap ploy to hook up the show’s most toxic and incompatible couple. And given how likable and incredible Tracy is (honestly, you can do better than Ted, Tracy), her relatively immediate death makes everything much worse.

How about not killing her off at all?

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So, why do so many fans hate the “How I Met Your Mother” finale? Oh, just the fact that the creators built a series around the one event of Ted meeting the love of his life only to pull the rug out from under the audience at the last second. By making the series about a couple that failed to work for nine years, “How I Met Your Mother” gave fans one of the biggest finale slap-bets to the face in the history of TV. Through Tracy’s death, the writers render the mother useless, as she only exists to tell someone else’s story. And that story doesn’t even make sense.

Make different character choices or forget about Ted and Robin.

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If the creators were hell-bent on having Robin and Ted end up together, they should have made different choices for their relationship. Ted and Robin are a toxic couple from the moment Ted says “I love you” on the first date until he almost blows up Robin and Barney’s wedding. These characters outgrew, ending up together long before we spend an entire episode watching Ted let his feelings for Robin go with an unsubtle metaphor as he releases a red balloon.

The kids need to say no way to Ted dating Robin.

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Why are the kids so on board with Ted dating Robin? Their father offered them an endless supply of stories about how wrong he and Robin were for each other, yet they’re gung-ho about him going after her. We learned a long time ago that Ted isn’t exactly the most logical guy, but the kids should be a bit more clear-headed as to why this is a bad idea, given that Ted just provided them a loaded arsenal of objections to this union. At least one of them should argue that Ted and Robin failed to make it work multiple times, for a good reason, and their unceremonious recoupling will lead to the same situation she had with Barney. This disaster almost ends the friend group.

The kids need to be angry.

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The kids should be furious that their father spent ages vocally lusting after another woman when he was supposed to be telling them the story of how he met their deceased mother. Imagine spending hours, days, months, or even possibly years listening to your dad tell the story of the mom you lost when you were a kid. But oh, wait. He was telling you about how someone you think of as an aunt was his true love all along, and your mom features for only about twenty minutes of the story. That might be a little upsetting, right? It’s wild that the kids don’t tell Ted off at this moment.

Breakup post-mortem episode featuring Ted’s greatest hits

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Ted Mosby may claim he’s a nice guy, but tell that to Natalie. Remember Natalie? She’s the girl he breaks up with on her birthday — twice (and once on her answering machine). The way that Ted comes off as rosy even when he’s the worst makes it abundantly clear that he’s an unreliable narrator. Can we even trust a single thing we see in the show? The story blatantly sets itself up for doubt in moments where Ted misremembers something and then corrects himself or forgets the proper order of events. And while we have tangible proof that those instances make Ted’s story fallible, the way he comes off as the hero wouldn’t be believable even if everything happened exactly the way he tells it.

Let Lily be successful.

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Throughout “How I Met Your Mother,” we watch Lily abandon her aspirations for everyone else. Whether it’s Marshall’s dreams of becoming an environmental lawyer or their plans for having kids, Lily rarely gets to have her passions because she’s too busy fixing the lives of adult friends who act like children. Toward the beginning of the series, Lily fails when she leaves to study art — and everyone blames her for crushing Marshall when she goes to follow her dreams. Because of that, she never truly tries again. And while we see her keen sense of art land her a job with The Captain in Rome, we never really find out where that leads.

Don’t rush Barney’s character growth.

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Barney deserves complex and evolving character growth that matures over time, not a quick Band-Aid fix to justify the show’s end. The birth of Barney’s daughter changing him into a more compassionate (and less misogynistic) guy is excellent, but it needs to happen slowly and not get thrown into fans’ faces out of nowhere. Having Barney go from rejoicing when he thinks the baby’s not he to immediately falling in love with her is unrealistic — as is him changing everything about himself the minute he becomes a dad.

Have a backup plan

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The series finale might not be such a contradictory mess if the writers weren’t married to the ending of the mother dying and Ted asking out Robin. Sometimes, your show outgrows the intended conclusion, and honoring the growth of your characters celebrates the story.

End it where it began

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Instead of the Ted and Robin cringe-fest at the end of the show, writers could have ended the show where they began — at the booth in MacLaren’s with the whole gang in attendance. Rather than spitting on the mother’s grave and using her memory to hook up Ted and Robin, the team can spend a few reverent moments sharing stories about the mother. And maybe then they can gently suggest that Ted move on (but not with Robin). Barney can do one last “Have you met Ted?” for old time’s sake and leave the possibilities open.

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