After nearly ten years of teasing fans, How I Met Your Mother ended with Ted finally meeting his children’s mother. This wouldn’t be a series finale without a bunch of tear-jerking moments and Marshall, Lily, Ted, Barney and Robin had plenty of those in the conclusion to CBS’s long-running hit comedy.
The second to last episode of the series featured Barney and Robin’s wedding. The wedding was supposed to be the last time the group was together for a long time as Marhsall and Lily prepare to move overseas and Ted is about to relocate to Chicago.
The show has teased Ted’s inevitable first meeting with the mother (who as of the start of the episode still didn’t have an official name), showing us glimpses of their future. It’s also been heavily hinted that something bad might happen to the mother. A few episodes ago the mother said to Ted, “what mother wouldn’t attend their child’s wedding?” Ted broke down in tears after this statement and the mother had to console him, hinting that they both know she’s living on borrowed time.
How I Met Your Mother’s final episode started with a scene from 2005. The scene opens in McClarens where the group first met Robin as she had just moved to New York from Canada. Ironically, Barney was very rude to Robin when they first met and when Lily told him that the only way that he’d ever have sex with Robin is if he married her. Of course, 2005 Barney responds to this by saying, “Too rich for my blood.”
Barney plays the best game of “Have You Met Ted?” during his wedding reception, or at least attempts to introduce Ted to the future mother of Ted’s children. Ted refuses, saying that he needs to leave early from the wedding for Chicago.
In a move that sort of hijacks what is supposed to be Robin and Barney’s big day, Ted has a long farewell with the group. This is a teary-eyed farewell though what is questionable as to why Ted has to leave mid-wedding. Can’t he let his friends have their big day without making it about him?
The episode flashes forward to show Ted waiting for a train. The train is 45 minutes late and Ted questions whether he should head back to the wedding and talk to the beautiful bass guitarist in the wedding band. Luckily for him, the mother is waiting for the same delayed train.
Ted is hesitant about introducing himself to the mother since he is leaving for Chicago the next day. Fast forward a day, and it turns out Ted decided to not move to Chicago. He did introduce himself to the mother and asks her out on a date. Again the show jumps forward, and shows Ted planning his wedding to the mother when Barney expresses disappointment with how Robin has become a traveling reporter.
To offset these negative vibes, the mother tells Ted that they can’t get married because she wants to fit into her wedding dress — she then explains that she’s pregnant. Two years go by and Ted and the mother have a daughter.
Marshall also has some negative vibes coming from him, saying that he’s disappointed that he didn’t take the judge job before Barney’s wedding so that Lily could be an artist. He’s got a soul-sucking job in a lousy company and isn’t fighting for the environment like he always dreamed.
It gets worse from there though. Long-time HIMYM fans are devastated later in the same scene when it is revealed that Barney and Robin couldn’t settle their differences concerning Robin’s worldly travels and got a divorce within 3 years of married life.
In a move to lighten the mood, Marshall and Lily reveal that they’re having their third child. Moving forward to October 2016, Marshall and Lily decide to finally move out of the apartment they’ve had the whole series. They hold a final Halloween party on the roof, where Barney looks absolutely pathetic still trying to pick up young women presumably near the age of forty.
Robin can’t handle the Halloween party though. She doesn’t like watching Barney, her ex-husband, hitting on other girls and she still feels like she should have ended up with Ted. She can’t take seeing the two men she loved and how they moved on with their lives.
Barney, Ted and Lily are all at the bar again in the future. Barney tries to get them excited about a long night of drinking. Lily brings up how Robin isn’t really their friend anymore and doesn’t hang out with them anymore. Marshall comes in at this moment and announces that he got a job as a judge in Queens. The group celebrates but then scolds Barney for how he’s still trying to pick up girls half his age.
Barney confesses that he thinks that if he couldn’t make it work with Robin that he’ll never find a woman he can settle down with. After this the episode moves into 2019 where Barney tells Ted, Lily and the mother (who still doesn’t have an official name) that he achieved a “perfect month.” By “perfect” he means he slept with 31 women on all 31 days in a month but got the last girl pregnant. Barney is finally going to be a dad after being abandoned by his father as a child!
Barney is devastated by the fact that he’s about to be a father and drinks excessively all night.
Now the show moves to 2020 and Ted is showing his daughter a unique building when he runs into Robin, who has been traveling the world as a respected news reporter since her divorce from Barney.
Later the group (minus Robin) is with Barney at the hospital as his baby is about to be born.
Barney meets his daughter, Ellie, for the first time and immediately falls in love with her. He finally finds a woman that he can change himself for, and that’s his infant daughter. He says he’s willing to give her everything in the world, begins crying and kisses her on the forehead. This is probably the first positive moment for Barney throughout the entire episode.
Ted and the mother (still no name) finally decide to get married in 2020. They’ve been engaged for seven years and at this point fans must be wondering what the point of waiting so long was.
In a move that shows how much Barney has grown since having a daughter, he walks up to a pair of good looking women who ask him to take some shots at the bar with him. Instead of taking the opportunity to drink with these beautiful girls, Barney scolds them for trying to pick up a middle aged man in a bar.
This shows a full-circle transformation for the Barney character. After decades of treating women like garbage, sleeping around and hurting countless women’s feelings, Barney doesn’t want to be the man he used to be. He sees the error of his ways because he doesn’t want his daughter to be treated the same way or fall for terrible guys like him.
Robin walks into the bar shortly after this scene with Barney and greets the group. It’s a bittersweet reunion as everyone gathers to celebrate that Ted and the mother are finally getting married. At his wedding, Ted has a touching monologue where he tells his kids about how he tried to love their mother as much as possible every day. Then in another gut-wrenching plot twist, the show reveals that the mother eventually got terribly sick.
The show finally reveals the mother’s name was Tracy and shows Ted’s first conversation with her while waiting for the train. Ted concludes the episode by uttering the words, “and that, kids, is how I met your mother.” His children don’t buy the story though and reveal that old Ted (with white hair) still wants to date “aunt” Robin. This is a very hard plot change fans to digest.
Ted’s children reveal that the mother has been dead for six years and implore old Ted to ask old Robin out on a date. In his usual over-the-top fashion, Ted doesn’t just ask Robin out he goes to her apartment and gives her a blue French horn, hinting that they get together in the end.
As a long-time How I Met Your Mother fan, this ending was not what fans wanted. The majority of fans did not want Ted and Robin to end up together. Fans wanted to see Barney and Robin work things out, not see Ted’s wife pass away.
Not only that but the twist with Ted ending up with Robin made the entire “this is your mother” story irrelevant and pointless. The show fails to present the mother as Ted’s real life long love. It makes it feel like Tracy, the mother, was just meant to fill time and space until Robin was finally available for Ted. Fans have to be asking what the point of the entire show was since Ted just ends up with someone other than the mother.
Ultimately the only character fans wanted to see redeemed and receive a happy ending was Barney. Sadly fans didn’t get that, although Barney finally stopping his poor treatment of women and learning to respect them because of having a daughter was a nice touch. Still, this finale can’t help but feel like a low-blow to long-time fans. It delivered exactly the opposite of what fans wanted and surely will go down in history as one of the more controversial endings in TV history.