'How I Met Your Mother' finale: Burning questions answered
SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read — or click — any further if you haven’t seen tonight’s cliffhanger-filled season 7 finale of CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother! There are major spoilers below in this post.
But for those of you who have seen the episode — and are looking for behind-the-scenes scoops about last night’s hour-long season finale — read on for a post-mortem chat with series co-creator and co-executive producer Craig Thomas. Here, Thomas spills details about why Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) chose the bride that he did; what’s next for Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), now that the baby has arrived; why Ted (Josh Radnor) rekindled an old relationship; and where the future lies for Robin (Cobie Smulders).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Barney is going to marry Robin! How long have you known that it was going to be Robin? A long time — or was that a recent decision?
CRAIG THOMAS: We’ve known it for a few seasons. We’ve known it for a while. Shooting that moment felt really emotional actually. It was like, “Wow, this has been an idea scribbled in our secret notebook for years.” Actually shooting that moment — and knowing the importance of that moment and what’s going to come from that in Season 8 — was powerful, when you consider how it informs the ultimate end of the series. It all sort of hit me — and all of us shooting it — at once. It felt very emotional shooting it.
Then why did you torture the viewers?
It was funny when we broke up Barney and Robin a few years back. We always knew this year would bring a relapse between them, where certain things would seem done, with Robin moving on to somebody else and Barney moving on to somebody else. Ultimately, we wanted to do this magic-themed season finale of season 7 that we called “The Magician’s Code: Part One and Two.” We knew we wanted the episode to feel like a magic trick with this crazy, breathless bit of misdirection at the very end where Barney proposes to Quinn in the episode. So we see Barney Stinson get on bended knee and propose to someone — which is shocking enough as it is. Then, a couple minutes later in the show, we flash forward and we see Robin is the bride. It’s a huge bit of magical misdirection that we want people to tune into season 8 to see how we got there. We love telling stories in crazy ways in How I Met Your Mother, so we’re jumping ahead and showing you the ending and we’re going to show you how we get there.
Right. And also how that affects Ted and his journey?
Exactly. That’s Barney’s future wedding day. That’s who he’s marrying, and eventually, we’ll get to that day and show you the story of that day. They’ll be some tricks up our sleeve on that day, too. We’ve known for a while that we were gonna have Robin be the bride.
Is there anything larger, grander behind the decision to bring Victoria (Ashley Williams) back — or is that just a distraction for Ted for a little while? Can you say much about whether or not she’s going to have much of a role going forward?
In season 8, there will be an arc of Ted with Victoria. To run off with a bride on her wedding day, you’ve taken out a pretty big responsibility. If you’re Ted Mosby in that situation, that is not to be entered into lightly. We will see that Graduate moment. At the end of the The Graduate, we’re like, “What now? What happens? We’re running away from this wedding and what do we do now with this?” Ultimately, we know that Victoria is not the mom. The audience knows that because he met the mom on Barney’s future wedding day. Ted Mosby living his life, moment by moment, doesn’t know that. We look at Ted and Victoria and Victoria coming back around as that last big door that has to close to move on to the mother chapter. I think a lot of people have that. A lot of people — before they really finally settle down, especially as people get older and they feel like it should have happened by now — they go back to somebody from their past.
Yup, you do one last crazy thing before you find the one and only, or so they say.
Exactly. That’s what this is for Ted. He’s always had that gnawing suspicion. This season we saw him go back to Robin and have her say, “No, we’re not going to do this again. I want to be friends.” There’s one last unplayed card, Ted feels — one last, legitimate contender. Maybe it should have been Victoria and he has to go back there. In many ways, this whole series has been Ted’s evolution to get him ready to meet the mother, and one of the last big things he has to do to complete that hero’s journey is figure this thing out with Victoria, even if it’s not the answer. We know she’s not the answer, but we’re going to see Ted need to wrestle with that and need to close that last door before finally being in a place where he’s really, truly ready to meet the mother. Victoria’s going to play a really significant role. Yes, the audience knows she’s not the mother. But I think there’s something very relatable and true about that last person you went back to before you found the one. Who’s that person that you had a sneaking suspicion that it could have been them? You go back and you revisit that and you realize, “No. That wasn’t the answer.”
It makes perfect sense, and Victoria was a really popular character.
She was a popular character. Ashley Williams and Josh Radnor have this great chemistry together. They always seem real and emotional, and they’re funny together. We just thought, if you’re Ted Mosby and you’re getting into your mid-30s ,and you feel like you’re not meeting the right people, you would absolutely convince yourself that you already know who you’re supposed to marry. We’ve seen him do that with Robin and once it’s not Robin, hell, it must have been Victoria. Victoria is the one I screwed up, and I should go back there and that’s the one. I have to make it work. Ted the planner — Ted the overthinker — would definitely think that. It’s so true to his character. We’re going to see him convince himself that he must have already met her, and he’s got to go backwards to get her. But it turns out, that’s not right. Ted still has to move forward to meet the mother. He’s going to learn that and then we’re going to see him do it.
Let’s don’t forget Lily and Marshall in this equation. Looking forward from the end of that episode for them, what’s next for them with the new baby?
We really see them at the beginning of parenthood. They’re very tired, beleaguered parents, and they actually set up a rule, which I think is a very real rule for parents. They lay something down that a lot of the parents in our writers’ room really liked and related to, although we made it up. Ted’s coming in and talking about some new girl he met on the train. “I’m texting with her. What should I text her back?” Marshall and Lily cut him off and say, “Dude, we’re responsible for a whole other human life now. You can not come to us with any issue unless it’s an eight or higher.” He keeps trying to bring up all these little dilemmas from his life because Marshall and Lily have always been like his parents, his advisers. They keep cutting him off like, “I’m sorry. We have a baby. Dude, it’s got to be eight or higher.” He keeps on bringing stuff up and they keep on going, “Eight or higher, bro. Eight or higher, bro.” All this crazy stuff ends up happening in the episode that very much rates an eight or higher, and Marshall and Lily get a little sucked in to some of the issues that are happening because, in this episode, they’re definitely a couple of perfect 10s, as far as issues that wind up occurring. Even Marshall and Lily in their early parenthood get sucked into the drama, too. You’re very much seeing Marshall and Lily having this baby and learning how to be parents. It’s very sweet. We see the moments that the gang meets the little baby whose full name is Marvin Wait For It Eriksen. Barney picks the middle name.
And it’s just very sweet. It’s very moving. It really does feel like this little sixth member has been added to our gang, and it has been added to the How I Met Your Mother family. It’s just very sweet seeing the gang meet this baby. I think viewers will be moved seeing that. I know we definitely were. We’ve been waiting for Marshall and Lily to have a kid for all these years. Seeing them becoming parents, there’s something very sweet about it. They look exhausted and beleaguered but very, very happy. Jason and Aly are really sweet playing that. You can’t help but be very, very excited for these fake people — Marshall and Lily — who I for one love as if they’re real people. There’s just huge mysteries, huge cliffhangers, huge plot twists but also just a lot of joy in the finale.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky