How I Met Your Mother’s highly anticipated series finale aired last night, and fans took to social media with their utter dismay at the completely contrived ending, in which a series of improbable events occurred that completely negated several seasons of character development. Forget Barney’s love for Robin as a vehicle for his growth as a decent man. Forget Ted’s impressive self-realization in service of his closest friends. Forget Robin finally finding someone who allows her the independence to pursue her career. The writers’ need for the story to come full circle abandoned the best interests of most of the characters and wound up making the series feel more pointless than heartwarming.
I understand that they gave themselves a challenge, revealing Cristin Milioti as the mother long before the series finale, and thus needing to keep the ending fresh and surprising without the series’ driving reveal. Without voicing any further dissent, I’ve resolved to make it right, and I’ve imagined a new ending. A better ending, in my opinion, although I don’t feel that the bar has been set very high. Here goes:
“Kids, the wedding was a hit, and we had all had the night of our lives…” Ted and the gang are shown drinking from bottles of wine on the beach, in the moonlight, post-reception. Ted has just said goodnight to the new found love of his life, and in very Ted fashion, he’s agonizing over whether or not she’s “the one,” while the others beg him not to revert to prior mistakes. They’re sleepy, yet reflective, and this acts as a vehicle for a number of flashbacks of Ted’s past loves, highlighting his journey throughout the series. The crew lobs their usual comedic jabs while Ted insists, “I’m serious you guys, this time it’s different. I really can see my entire future with this woman.”
The conversation is interrupted by intermittent snippets of Ted’s night with Tracy, progressing the plot as he narrates to his children how he came to know her. It culminates with the two parting ways after a romantic kiss, and then a cut to the scene of his children on the couch. “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”
And then another immediate cut to Ted back on the beach, finishing up a story, as his friends appear sleepy and disinterested, “And that, my friends, is how I’ll tell my kids about this very night, when I met the love of my life, and you were ALL. WRONG.” He says this in his belabored, gloating voice.
Marshall remarks that he can’t believe his kids would ever care to talk to him that long, “Who do you think you are, Danny Tanner?” It’s a satisfying nod to the puzzling choice that is Bob Saget’s narration. Barney calls him a monster, citing it’s an especially cruel way to kill his children with boredom. He and Robin retire to their hotel room, and Marshall and Lily follow, leaving Ted in silence on the beach. He sighs heavily, and after a moment, the silence is interrupted by the bleep of a text message. We see the screen, the text from Tracy, mirroring his own sentiment, reading, “I’m probably going to ruin everything by saying this, but I can’t stop picturing my whole life with you.” A final shot shows Ted’s sincere smile, his eyes dewy, signaling his swelling heart. Roll credits.
Okay maybe it’s a little too cheesy; maybe the story, within the story, within the story is a little too meta. But at the very least, it allows all of our beloved characters the happy endings they’ve worked toward for a near-decade, foregoing the disintegration of everyone’s life and the unrealistic patch-up, all while reinforcing the Ted-ness (for lack of a better term) of the series. It’s sweet, and optimistic, and satisfying, just like the 207 episodes that preceded it.