Fans were divided over the controversial ending of the long running sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Sudhish Kamath defends the show
Last week, How I Met Your Mother, the Friends of this generation came to an end after nine long seasons. Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) who started telling his teen kids about how he met their mother in Season 1 (2005) finally finished his story.
Spoiler Alert: The fact that the titular mother (Cristin Milioti) turned out to be a red herring for a love story involving Ted Mosby (Radnor) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) did not go down well with many fans. Many disgruntled viewers called it the worst ending ever.
Many Indian fans were disappointed because they didn’t see an obvious ending coming. Probably because most of them started watching it only over the last five years — after the series became popular and started playing on Indian TV — when the show was well into its second act of making us believe that Robin was going to end up with Ted’s best friend Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
Most Indian fans caught up with the first four seasons in weeks and then watched the rest of the five seasons over five years. Which means they had all invested longer time in the Barney-Robin relationship than the Ted-Robin romance whose depth was well established in the first four years of the show.
Public memory is short. In the very first episode of the series, show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas establish the fact that the sitcom had an unreliable narrator (“And that’s how I met Aunt Robin”). Josh Radnor recently defended the show’s ending saying, “the title was always a bit of a fake-out” and that misdirection was part of the show’s DNA.
Besides, early followers of the show, including this writer, always knew that the ending was shot at the end of the first season because the show-runners knew the teens would be in their 20s by the time the show ended. Long before the Robin-Barney angle was introduced into the show.
The nature of American TV is such that you really cannot be sure how many seasons/years the show would last. Unfortunately, the show went on for at least three years longer than it should have. As the makers kept stalling, even the most loyal fans began to run out of patience after the fifth season simply because we were sure that the show was going to end with the resolution of the Ted-Robin romance.
The only reason Ted and Robin couldn’t be together — was not because they did not love each other — but because Ted wanted kids and Robin wanted her career more. Given that Ted is telling the story to his kids, it was safe to assume that he’s telling this story in a convoluted way because he wants his kids to know about his feelings for Robin in the present day (Year 2030). Structurally, there was no way the audience was going to care for a character introduced only in the last episode/season after having invested in a larger, deeper love story from Episode 1.
At the end of Season 2 in an Episode titled ‘Something Blue’, we learn from Ted that Aunt Robin “did eventually go on to live in Argentina, and Morocco, Greece, Russia, even Japan for a little while.” If this was true, there was no way Barney was even in the scheme of things — the guy is just too awesome to be tagging along with her like he has no life of his own.
Barney and Robin were never going to be happy together as established in the episode titled ‘Rough Patch’ in Season 5. The biggest clincher was at the end of the episode titled ‘No Pressure’ (Season 7) when Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) have “Future Bets” about Ted and Robin ending up together. Marshall’s money is on Ted-Robin. Robin tells Ted she didn’t love him and Ted for the first time (or so he tells his kids) stops clinging on to the dream of ending up with her. When practical Lily asks believer Marshall to pay up at the end of the episode, Marshall says “Not Yet”. Obviously, Ted’s best friend and Future Judge, would know best.
The makers had spent the last three seasons building up the Robin-Barney wedding. There had to be a big twist. Robin believed that the key to her heart was in the locket all along the Season 8 finale titled ‘Something New’. Ted helps her find the locket — the metaphor for her secret hidden in plain sight — that Robin was never sure of Barney.
The show was always about three kinds of men — the committed (Marshall), the commitment phobic (Barney) and the guy yearning for commitment (Ted). Any other ending would’ve changed what these characters stood for. We are who we are. And that’s what makes us see what we want to.
How I Met Your Mother satisfied and celebrated all ways to love — stay committed (Marshall and Lily), have fun for as long as you can and move on (Barney and Robin), you lose and find love that lasts forever (Ted and Robin).
There couldn’t have been a better end.