'How I Met Your Mother' series finale recap: Finding things
WARNING: If you haven’t seen tonight’s series finale of How I Met Your Mother, you’ve probably already been spoiled by Twitter. But in case you haven’t, there are spoilers in this article. So don’t read if you don’t want to know what happens.
Friends, we’ve been told an incredible, nine-year story — the story of how Ted Mosby met the Mother of his children…
then the Mother died and he ended up with Robin because she divorced Barney three years after they got married. Seriously.
Look, I would have slap bet on the fact that the series finale of How I Met Your Mother was going to have twists and turns and reveals. But I feel like I was just hit by a bus, Barney-style.
It will take me days, weeks, and possibly years to sort through the this finale properly. Maybe I’ll write a book called How I Met My Manic Depression. Until then, let’s get on with with this recap business.
Fittingly, we began the episode with a flashback to September 2005, when some girl from the third-world banana republic called Canada (literally never heard of that place…) tried to steal Barney Stinson’s wingman, Ted Mosby. This Canadian was named
Roxanne Robin. She was fresh to New York, fresh to the art of wingmandom (it’s a word) and looking for some friends. Luckily, she had found herself in the right booth, in the right bar, in the best city in the world. “Once you’re in, you’re in for life,” Lily told her with a smile. Only rule, warned Lily to her dudes: “Robin’s my new best friend. Nobody bangs her…There’s only one way I’d let one of you have sex with her…The only way you’re allowed to hook up with her is if you marry her.”
Flash-forward to the wedding, where Barney and Robin were freshly hitched, and Ted was trying to make a clean getaway because his move to Chicago was still a thing. But making a clean break from Barney wasn’t easy. For one, Barney was convinced that he had a great girl for Ted to meet. One last game of Haaaaaave You Met Ted?, he said. But Ted had to go, so Barney decided they had to say goodbye properly.
They stepped outside for one last gathering of the bar gang. It’s been a “major pleasure,” said Ted to Robin, with a salute. (Of course.) Lily bawled her eyes out. Heck, I bawled my eyes out. And Barney? He shared with Ted a high-five that would echo throughout eternity. A high-five that contained all the high-fives from the past and all the high-fives that could ever possibly take place. One epic, hand-injuring high-five called a High Infinity. It was worth it.
With that, Ted set off for the train, where we know his journey took a major turn. Only the actual moment — Ted’s first conversation with the Mother — was not something we’d see right away. In fact, we’d really have to…waitforit.
Instead, we jumped to 2015, where Ted was discussing with Robin and Barney his plans for his wedding to the Mother. It involved a hot air balloon. And a castle. Because, Ted. All extravagant affairs were put on hold, however, when the Mother barged into the bar with urgent news. She couldn’t marry Ted in September, she said — by then, she clarified, she wouldn’t fit into her dress. Yup,
she was getting a boob job she was pregnant.
At this point, Barney and Robin were well into their married life, and, we learned everything was great. Really, great. No, honestly, it was great. Except not at all. Much of their troubles stemmed from the fact that Robin was traveling a lot for her job and Barney was struggling with the distance. Part of me wanted Barney to man up and deal with his wife’s success. Another part of me…no. I’m lying. There was only that part. Barney had evolved or should have. Their issues were simply a bump in the road. They turned out, however, to be a tire-popping pot hole.
Months later, the gang gathered to meet Ted’s new daughter and update each other on their lives. Marshall was once again working in corporate law and miserable, Lily was pregnant again (Barney was the first to notice) and, oh yeah, Barney and Robin were divorced. Not getting divorced. Already divorced. Done. For good. I’ll admit it: I was crushed. But more on that later.
Plot-wise, this divorce changed everything, and what followed were easily some of the hardest minutes of How I Met Your Mother I’ve ever watched.
You see, after Barney and Robin divorced, despite their promise to stay in touch and be there for the “big moments,” as Lily described them, things changed.
Newly single-again Barney reverted to his playboy ways, but to those around him, the old tricks had loss their charm. Additionally, seeing Barney hitting on women and Ted with his beautiful wife proved too much for Robin. In a confrontation with a very pregnant Lily in the empty apartment during a Halloween/Farewell Apartment party (yes, she and Marshall decided they had to move), Robin admitted that the “gang” was no longer a “gang” she could be around. “Do you know who the gang is to me, Lily? Here’s what the gang is: The gang is a married couple who I never see anymore about to have a third kid, it’s my ex-husband hitting on slutty cops right in front of me and it’s the guy I probably should have ended up with with the beautiful mother of his child. Who in their right mind would call that group of people ‘the gang’?”
Lily took that statement exactly how I did in the moment — friendship over. But that wasn’t the case, Robin swore. “We’ll always be friends, it’s just never going to be how it was. It can’t be. And that doesn’t have to be a sad thing.”
Except it is. And Robin just Daggered my heart. (Pun intended.)
Lily stood in her white whale costume in the empty apartment, stunned, with tears streaming down her face. Dead mother included, this was the worst gut-punch of the hour.
But here’s where, in reflection, I’ll admit that Robin was right: Things can’t stay the same forever. They aren’t meant to stay the same.
For proof of that, we needn’t look further than Barney, who in the minutes that followed, seemed to move backwards in every way possible. As I mentioned, we saw him up to his old tricks, but when I realized he’d made a Playbook 2: Electric Bang-a-loo, that was just sad. (Lily pointed that out, too.)
Until this point, I think the gang had been on board with Barney “being himself.” In fact, in an earlier scene, Barney claimed “Look, I know there was a time when I seemed like I was capable of going the distance. But if it wasn’t going to happen with Robin, it just wasn’t going to happen with anyone. I’m never going to be the guy who meets a girl and from the first time I see her is just like, ‘You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours forever.’…That’s not me…Can I please just be me?” Judge Marshall claimed he’d “allow it.” Because what was the alternative?
The thing is, Barney ate his words in 2020.
Months earlier, Barney, per his Playbook 2, attempted something called “The Perfect Month” — a sequel of sorts to his “Perfect Week.” The point of this grand plan? To sleep with 31 women in 31 days. Unfortunately for Barney, he apparently only practiced safe sex on 30 of those 31 days. No. 31 got knocked up.
He was not happy. In fact, he was kind of a jerk about it. He denied paternity, claimed his life was over, blah blah. Over the years, we’ve tolerated and, honestly, come to love Barney for the slimy dude he could be but only because we thought that at his heart was as big as his…nevermind. I don’t like where that was going. In the moments leading up to the birth, though, I didn’t like the Barney I was seeing.
The beauty of Barney — and, really, Neil Patrick Harris — is that he always knew how to reel us back in. This was no exception.
Barney walked into the delivery room, guided by a nurse, and laid eyes on baby Ellie. And it’s safe to say that’s when everything changed for Barney Stinson. “You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am, is yours. Forever.”
At first, I was peeved that Barney knocked up a random woman whose name we don’t even know. But I came to realize that this is reality. Sometimes the couples you want so badly to live happily ever after, don’t. Sometimes you have a baby with a person you don’t love but you love that baby more than any person you’ve ever known. And sometimes the biggest changes comes in the tiniest packages.
Robin wasn’t around for the birth of Barney’s daughter. We really shouldn’t have expected her to be, as Marshall pointed out, because that would have been awkward. The absence of Robin, nevertheless, was felt. And as a fan, it hurt. Together, Marshall, Lily, Robin, Barney and Ted have weathered personal failures and terrible losses. They’ve shared and lauded each other’s great successes and happiest moments. But seeing them fractured as a group, as a collective was, frankly, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen on this show.
Robin did rejoin the gang, though. It took a while and a special call from the Mother, but she showed up on Ted’s long0delayed wedding day and apologized for missing “a couple” of big moments. All seemed fairly quickly forgotten. But I guess that comes with the life membership to any gang worth its salt.
Ted’s wedding to the Mother was decidedly lower key than it had initially been conceptualized. After seven years and two kids with the Mother, it was more of a formality than anything else. Because every long, difficult road has an end.
“If I hadn’t gone through Hell to get there, the lesson might not have been as clear. You see kids, right from the moment I met your mom, I knew I have to love this woman as much as I can for as long as I can and I can never stop loving her even for a second. I carried that lesson with me through every stupid fight we ever had, every 5 AM Christmas morning, every sleepy Sunday afternoon, through every speed bump, every pang of jealousy or boredom or uncertainty that came our way. I carried that lesson with me, and I carried it with me when she got sick. Even then in what can only be called the worst of times, all I could do was thank God, thank every God there is or ever was or will be and the whole universe and anyone else I could possibly thank that I saw that beautiful girl on that train platform and that I had the guts to stand up, walk over to her, tap her on the shoulder, open my mouth and speak.”
That’s when we saw Ted meet the Mother…whose name is Tracy McConnell. (Nailed it.)
The story didn’t end there, though. Well, Ted’s narrated story did. But his story — the one of Ted Mosby — didn’t end until Ted’s children encouraged him to see the crystal clear truth in his own tale. He loved Robin. By that point, Ted’s wife had been dead six years, and his children gave their blessing for him to have his second shot at happiness with a woman who has always meant a lot to him. So Ted, being Ted, decided to act.
Over at Robin’s apartment, where she entered wrangling five dogs, she heard a person buzzing from below. She walked to the window and saw Ted, holding a blue French horn.
Earlier in the episode, the Mother told Ted that “it’s funny how sometimes you just find things.” And she was right — finding things is great. Losing them sucks, though, and I do believe that when the Mother died, Ted lost the love of his life. But, realistically, I don’t want Ted to spend the rest of his days dwelling on loss. I’d rather he find happiness again — even if he has to stand outside its window and wait for it to come down.
Marshall: A certain delicate flower cried all night in the shower.
Lily: …and I was pretty bummed, too.
“Who am I going to high-five now? I’m being serious. What if I see a pack of lions fighting a tyrannosaurs? Or, better yet, what if I see boobs? — Barney
“Just be cool, lady, damn.” — Ted to old lady on the train platform
Barney: That last girl — No. 31…
Mother (Tracy): That’s a pretty name. Is it French?
Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall, and Lilly remind us all of the joy of slap bets