Ten years ago, How I Met Your Mother introduced Ted Mosby to the world. At the time, he was a hopeless romantic looking for the future wife of his dreams. Flash-forward to nine years later, and Ted’s married to the wife of his dreams — but then she gets sick and dies. Talk about a downer.
Some viewers weren’t happy when this happened in the show’s series finale, and they especially weren’t happy when Ted finished telling his kids this long-winded story of how he met their mother, only to race off to Aunt Robin’s apartment to rekindle their romance. That disappointment made sense: After sticking with the show for nine — nine! — seasons, it would have been nice for all of Ted’s conquests to actually lead him somewhere concrete. And they did, just temporarily. It wasn’t the pay-off many wanted.
But there’s a way to make that ending more digestible: by cutting out the body of the show and just watching the pilot and the one-hour finale consecutively for a combination that together makes a rom-com worthy of the big screen (or, at the very least, worthy of a slot in, say, ABC Family’s weekend schedule). Here’s how:
1. The finale begins with a flashback — to right when the pilot left off.
Smashing together the first and final episodes wouldn’t normally work because one of the benefits of a TV show is that time passes over the course of its story — lots of it. And that, of course, happened in HIMYM, but its finale conveniently kicks off with a flashback to when Ted first introduced Robin to the people who would become her best friends and, for Barney, her husband. This especially works because Lily, Marshall, and Barney haven’t met Robin yet by the time the pilot ends, so the finale picks up quite literally where the first episode left off.
In the flashback scene, they sit around their booth at MacLaren’s, and Lily demands that the only way either Barney or Ted can sleep with Robin is if they marry her. To Lily, that’s the only way she can see a hook-up between her new best friend and her old ones not damaging everyone’s relationships. The next time we see all of them, they’re at Barney and Robin’s wedding — and time continues jumping throughout the final hour until we see an older, widowed Ted gleefully repeating history and standing outside Robin’s window.
2. Ted has not one but two meet-cutes.
His first one is with Robin: He sees her from across the bar, then Barney eventually pushes the two together by asking her the age-old question, “Haaave you met Ted?” He tries to do the same thing with Ted’s eventual wife, Tracy, years later, but Ted ends up meeting her all on his own (well, all on his own after some nudging from a particularly nosy woman at the train stop) underneath a yellow umbrella in the pouring rain.
3. All of the characters grow — personally and professionally — throughout the course of the two episodes, so there aren’t any huge narrative gaps.
The first time Ted shows up at Robin’s doorstep, he’s nearly scared away by her barking dogs until his friends (sitting in the cab outside her apartment building) encourage him not to give up. But by the time he shows up to her apartment decades later — again, with the blue French horn in hand — he doesn’t shy away. He calmly stands outside until she pops her head out the window. New Ted is confident.
As for Robin, the pilot already established she’s dedicated to her work. Hell, she ditched potentially (okay, definitely) hooking up with Ted after their chemistry-filled first date so she could cover a story last-minute. That decision proves she’s all about her professional endeavors first, and that hasn’t changed by the time she’s married to Barney — in fact, she’s even more committed to her work now that she’s a successful news anchor: They decide to divorce in the middle of one of her many business trips she’d been dragging Barney along on. Turns out her work-first attitude worked in her (professional) favor.
4. Lily, Marshall, and Barney are the definition of quirky best friends.
Every rom-com has the best friends who act as the protagonists’ sounding boards. In HIMYM‘s case, there were three: Marshall, Lily, and Barney. Marshall and Lily are the stables ones, Barney is a womanizing mess, and Robin and Ted are about in the middle of the two extremes. This is true of the entire series, but the pilot and finale alone effectively highlight these characteristics so that their happy endings — Marshall’s a judge, Lily’s a beaming mother, and Barney’s a new dad who hasn’t totally put his sex-crazed past behind him — actually make sense as plausible milestones for them.
5. Conflict brings the main couple closer together.
Robin gently rejects Ted at first after he blurts out “I love you” after knowing her for, oh, one day, so there’s that. Then she marries Barney. Then she and Barney get divorced. Then Ted gets married. Hooray! But then his wife dies after getting sick. Romance isn’t romance without some adversity, and Robin and Ted encounter plenty of it throughout the course of the two episodes.