Some Thoughts on the How I Met Your Mother Finale

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

Kids, let me tell you a story……

Sometime back in 2006, I decided to take a chance on a show that a lot of people were very enthusiastic about. It’s not often that the critics that I respect and the general consensus of the general public are in agreement, but the consensus of both groups was that CBS’s How I Met Your Mother was worth my time. Though I thought the title and premise were a little silly, I got the first season on DVD to see what all the fuss was about and I was instantly charmed by the show. I devoured that first season and was quickly up to speed, watching the antics of Ted, Barney, Robin, Lilly and Marshall live with the rest of America. While many people were fascinated with the idea of figuring out the identity of the mother, that quickly became a non-issue for me. I was far more charmed by the story of five friends than I was in the ultimate resolution of the shows titular question. The cast has such great chemistry and the show was so funny and well written that I was enjoying the journey and wasn’t too concerned about the destination. The show was quickly becoming one on my favorite comedies on TV.

And then…..it all sort of changed. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that it happened, but the show started to go off the rails. It was subtle, at first, with a few uneven episodes somewhere in the 4th season that were not up to quality previous offerings. I initially chalked this up to age; the longer that sitcoms stay on the air, there is inevitable a period where the quality dips a bit as the series begins to run out of stories and some fatigue sits in. I was hoping that this was just a momentarily blip in the arc of the show. But as the season continued, the episodes did not improve. The characters that had been so well written were now shadows of their former selves. The writers appeared to be far more invested in the mythology that they created in the show and their constant focus on clues and misdirection became tiring. It was becoming harder and harder to become involved in any of Ted’s relationships when we knew from the beginning that none of these women were “the Mother.” The show paired Robin and Barney to great effect and then broke them up as quickly as they got them together for no apparent reason. By the time Jennifer Morrison turned up in the sixth season (and we all know how I feel about her), I was watching the show purely out of habit. But the combination of the horrible Zoe character and story lines that were not that funny (some by design, others not) was the ultimate death knell for the show for me. I hung on into the seventh season, but the episodes began to pile up on my DVR. It took this as a sign and just stopped watching, expecting to feel a little sad about abandoning a show that I had once enjoyed so much. Instead, I felt relieved that I was no longer forcing myself to waste my limited free time on a show that I had long since ceased to find any pleasure in.

I had not originally planned to revisit the show for its season finale; by this time, I knew the identity of the the mother (as did the rest of America) and figured that was all the closure I needed. But as the finale date drew closer, I began to sucked in to all the hype surrounding the end of a long running series. Lord knows that I hate to miss out on a pop culture phenomena and didn’t want to be excluded from the post finale chatter that was inevitably going to dominate the pop culture landscape the following morning. I was still on the fence until I watched the HIMYM cast on Inside the Actor’s Studio; I was reminded how much I enjoyed these actors and reliving some of the great moments of the show made me second guess myself. With so many delightful moments, had I misjudged the show? Perhaps I had been too harsh in my initial assessment and the show was not as bad as I remembered it to be in its later seasons. Nostalgia is a funny thing – it makes good things great and softens or eliminates your memories of the bad. So with an open mind and renewed affection for the show, I decided to watch the series finale despite having skipped seasons 8 and 9 in their entirety.

My mother raised me to believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding. I have no problem with saying not nice things. When it comes to how I felt about the series final of How I Met You Mother, I think my feelings can best be summed up by these characters from In Living Color:

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I have never felt more vindicated for abandoning a television show. Last night’s finale was seriously the worst. THE.WORST. Damon Lindelof may finally be off the hook for the ending to Lost, a finale that was disappointing but also made me feel actual emotions. By the time How I Met Your Mother ended, all I felt was rage which is pretty impressive given my total indifference to the show going in to the finale. I was still mad about it this morning.

To make this easier and to keep my ranting somewhat focused, I’m going to break down my problems with the finale into 5 major issues (spoilers from here on out):

 

  • Barney and Robin’s divorce -You cannot decide to spend the entire span of the final season on Barney and Robin’s wedding and they have them divorced within fifteen minutes of the final episode. Nope. Try again. The creators are basically admitting that they wasted your time and nothing that happens means anything – and I say this as a person who didn’t even spend the better part of six month watching the buildup to this big event only to see it unceremoniously dismantled almost instantly. Perhaps if the whole thing had been better paced or executed more precisely it wouldn’t have been so infuriating. But how it played out, it felt forced and rushed and just very manipulative. It also made it very clear that the creators’ end game was always Robin and Ted, which I don’t think anyone was hoping for.
  • The last episode was WAY too rushed – Again, this goes back to their terrible decision to focus on a single weekend for most of the final season and then suddenly kick the show into high gear for the last 60 minutes. There were enough major life decisions and events in that finale to have filled an entire 22 episode season; because it all unfolded so quickly, none of the events were given any time to breathe or have any real impact. Seriously – in the course of the finale, Ted meets the mother, they have 2 kids, Robin and Barney get divorced, Barney becomes a dad, Lily and Marshall have their third child, Ted and the mother get married, Robin becomes famous, Marhsall becomes a judge and the mother dies. That is a hell of a lot of ground to cover and ultimately it was all done so rat-a-tat-tat that none of it meant anything. I’m assuming some of these moments were supposed to illicit some sort of emotional response, but by the time most of them unfolded everyone at home realized where this all was headed. The pacing was just dreadful – with ten minutes left in the show, I had no idea how they were going to wrap this all up.
  • Not enough of the mother – The one thing that I think the show did right in the final seasons was in the casting of the mother; Cristin Milioti is great and fit right in with the rest of the group. The series has been building up our expectations for the mother over the last nine years, highlighting how awesome she is and all that jazz. So for a show that’s called How I Met Your Mother, it was conspicuous how little of the mother there actually was in the finale. Ultimately, she was a huge MacGuffin for the story that the creators decided to tell; in the end, she really didn’t matter at all, except allow a story telling device. The moment when Ted finally met Tracy – the moment the entire series was ostensibly building to –  was sweet, but within minutes of that she was dead (we assume) and Ted’s kids were encouraging him to ask out Aunt Robin. It felt like a tremendous cheat. I don’t even really care that Robin was the ending in theory- though considering all the time that they showed Ted getting over Robin and Robin falling in love with Barney it didn’t feel authentic – but for God’s sake, give the mother her moment in the sun. I guess they didn’t think they could get a show on the air that was called Why I Want to Bang Your Aunt Robin Now That Your Mother Is Dead. And really – do we think that the main fivesome are going to be able to handle Ted dating Barney’s ex-wife? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. There will always be issues. Always.
  • There is no way Ted would wait so long to marry the mother – Yeah – this is a guy that tells people that he loves them on a first date, yet we are supposed to believe that it took two kids and 5+ years for him to make Tracy his wife? No sale. We have spent the last 9 years watching Ted showing what a grand romantic he is and his burning desire for a wife. And then he just doesn’t get around to making it legal? Do you even know your characters.
  • Most of the finale was pretty depressing – The first 30 minutes of the show were nothing but people be miserable. I get that life isn’t always fun and everything doesn’t have to end up with a big shiny bow on it, but this show is supposed to be a comedy. I don’t know that I laughed once during the finale. That is a problem for a comedy. There were attempts at jokes in all this nonsense, but they felt old and tired. A funnier finale and I may have been able to forgive some of the other flaws, but watching the How I Met Your Mother finale was nowhere near a pleasurable experience. It felt like work; the only joy I derived from it was knowing that my instincts to bail on the show were dead on. Watching this show again was like going back to an ex and trying to make it work. When I walked away, I should have stayed away.

I have basically nothing redeeming to say about the ending of the show. What is even more infuriating is that this is the ending that was planned all along – the final scene with Ted’s kids was filmed back in the second season (to avoid the issue of the aging of the actors playing the kids). This was always how it would end; I can’t even give the writers the benefit of the doubt that they came up with this on the fly and hadn’t thought the series through fully. This makes some of the choices over the last nine years all the more baffling. Their rigidity to this predetermined outcome was ultimately their undoing, in my opinion – they decided that Ted would end up with Robin (we presume – though I kind of like the idea of Robin rejecting him AGAIN and that Ted and the mother wouldn’t meet until the final episode and refused to budge on either, even when creatively that handcuffed them and resulting in an unsatisfying ending. Had they plotted this out better or introduced the mother earlier in the process, I could vaguely see how this all could have worked out. But the piss pour execution has soured me not only on the finale, but on the entire series. And there is no way in hell that I’ll even consider watching How I Met Your Dad (and so help me God if that show winds up being the story of how #31 meets Barney).

There’s no other way to say it: that was a terrible finale. I’m glad that those actors now have the chance to go off and do other things. I’m just mad that I wasted an hour of my life getting sucked back into this garbage. At least one final issue was resolved – the last remaining slap from the Slapsgiving bet was apparently reserved for the audience.

What did you think of the How I Met Your Mother finale? Do you agree with me or did you think it was satisfying? Sound off in the comments below.

 

Some quick thoughts on the Breaking Bad series finale

*****If you haven’t watched last night’s Breaking Bad finale, you may want to skip this post until you do if you care anything about spoilers*****

 

I have been kind of obsessed with Breaking Bad since its pilot episode; while some series it takes a few episodes – or even seasons – to find its rhythm and its voice, Breaking Bad seemed to do that right out of the gate. After that first hour, I knew that I was going to be on board with the show for its duration, barring some unexpected dip in quality or storytelling. That is somewhat unusual for me, as I usually see promise in pilots and decide to give a show a chance to grow, rather than fully committing almost immediately. When it came to the adventures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, I was a total ride or die chick. I had full faith in creator Vince Gilligan and his fantastic cast.

Last night, Breaking Bad came to an end and the story of Walter White was completed. After so many terrible series finales of other shows (Lost – I’m looking squarely at you), it was a relief to have a show be able to stick the landing and provide satisfying closure to multiple story lines. After weeks of putting the viewer through the emotional wringer, there was finally some closure: the Nazis and my boy Todd got what was coming to them, as did Lydia and, most importantly, Mr. White. The White family appears to be taken care of, with Walt discovering a way to get the money to them and by giving Skylar something to bargain with to extricate herself from her legal troubles. Jesse survived, finally freed from his actual and metaphorical slavery to meth. The emotional scars for many of these people will last a lifetime, but pretty much every storyline over the course of the series came to a close. As the series faded to black, there weren’t a lot of unanswered questions. It was all tied up in a neat little box.

However, I’m beginning to think that it was all a little too neat.

Don’t get me wrong – I really liked the series finale; my initial reaction was one of fist-pumping and saying how awesome it was. And parts of it absolutely were awesome. But upon sleeping on it, this morning I awoke to the same nagging concern that I chose to ignore in the excitement of watching it all unfold last night: it all unfolded a little too perfectly. After weeks of Walt’s plans all going to hell in a hand basket, everything that he needed to go his way last night ultimately did. He pulled off intimidating Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz, the gunning down of the Nazis and the poisoning of Lydia pretty much without a hitch and on his own (minus the much appreciated minor assist from Badger and Skinny Pete). It was emotionally satisfying, but I don’t know that it was particularly earned or in keeping with the series overall. Was it immensely satisfying to watch: yes; but in hindsight it mostly seemed pretty predictable and anticlimactic (though I didn’t see the bit with Elliot and Gretchen coming – I completely misread that one). Perhaps that was simply the finale that we needed after years of being on the roller coaster that is Breaking Bad. I just wish that it was all slightly messier.

Some other thoughts:

  • Did anyone ever go get Huell? Or is that poor bastard still sitting in the “safe house” waiting for someone to tell him it is OK to leave?
  • I wonder what life holds in store for Jesse. It’s not going to be easy for him, regardless of the short term joy that he had escaping.
  • I’ll admit, when I ordered my coffee this morning and asked for two Splenda, it gave me pause. I will now forever be worried that someone is slipping me Ricin.
  • Stevia can’t be happy with its association in the series.
  • Walt finally admitted that he used family to justify the real reason he did all this – he liked it. That was huge.
  • As much as I enjoyed Todd and his sociopath-ness, I am glad that Jesse got some revenge for Andrea’s cold blooded murder.
  • “Cheer up, beautiful people… this is where you get to make it right.” Never before has such a positive message sounded so terrifying.
  • I liked the series coming full circle, with Walt wearing basically the same outfit in the finale that he did in the pilot.
  • AMC almost ruined the finale with all the ad breaks. TOO MANY COMMERCIALS!

These are minor quibbles – ultimately I was very happy with the finale and while I might long a bit for a somewhat more ambiguous or less pat ending, I totally respect the story that Gilligan set out to tell and the choices he made. This was still an excellent finale and made me OK with one of my favorite shows going off the air. Thank you to Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and everyone else associated with the show for giving viewers such a gift these past five years. Breaking Bad belongs in the pantheon of greatest shows of all time. In the end, despite my criticisms, the cast and crew of Breaking Bad gave us an A-1 ending.

What did you think of the finale? Sound off in the comments below.