Monday, March 31, 2014
How I Met Your Mother: "Last Forever"
Quick Review: At long last, Ted finally finishes his story.
Episode Synopsis: In the series finale, Ted tells his children the conclusion to the tale of how he and their mother finally became a couple. -tvguide
Spoiler Alert. Of course, this series began with a spoiler. It's even the title of the show. You know how it ends, so why should I bother with a spoiler warning? Am I irrationally clinging to tradition? Am I trying to make my reviews seem more important than they are? Do I really like writing in bolded, red font? Perhaps. But the truth is that all we know is the end result: Ted meets The Mother. We don't know the "How" part of the title, not completely. And if there's one episode you will forever curse yourself for getting spoiled on, it's the one you've waited nine years to see. And be careful with those curses, the last thing you want is to accidentally turn yourself into an undead horror forever cursed to stalk the night and consume the flesh of the photogenic. That would definitely put a crimp in your social life.
Full Review: Slap bets. Robin Sparkles. "Kids..." Sandwiches. The goat. "Hello!" Star Wars. GNB. "You son of a bitch." The Pineapple Incident. "Suit up!" "Marshall's my best friend." Crazy eyes. Dancer's hip. Doppelgangers. Bigfoot. The Bro Code. The Playbook. Robots versus Wrestlers. "I can jump that far." Puzzles. Tantrum! "500 miles." The Slutty Pumpkin. "Challenge Accepted!" The Mosby Boys. Canada. Minnesota. The Blue French Horn. The Yellow Umbrella.
Longtime fans of How I Met Your Mother know these references by heart. It's the reason we've let Ted string us along as he tells his long, meandering story chronicling his and everyone else's sex life. We've fallen in love with these characters and their little world, and spending time there was like hanging out with old friends. That's why the show's premise worked; we knew we were getting strung along, but it was an enjoyable ride. We also believed that the ending would be worth it.
It may be unfair to judge a show by it's final episode, and that might be the case with most other sitcoms. This one, however, is cut from a different cloth than a standard sitcom. It was built on the promise that the final episode was worth the wait, that all 200+ episodes before it were simply setup to an amazing payoff. From Future Ted's very first line in the pilot, we knew it would end here, when he finally meets The Mother.
Love or hate what came after, but this moment was perfect.We always knew since the beginning of season three that it had something to do with that yellow umbrella. Now we find out that their first real conversation was an argument over whose it was originally. What begins as a cute argument over whose name the initials T.M. stand for turns into a profound moment of realization that both of them were right: this umbrella passed through both their hands, and now, for the first of what will no doubt be many times, it's shielding both of them from the rain.
I adored everything about that moment. It was understated, cute, and allowed Ted to be romantic, sweet, and passionate without being his usual self. Ted and Tracy, it's so weird to call her by an actual name, have immediate chemistry as they banter. Clearly, she is a match for Ted and will be for the rest of his life. This is the moment we've waited to see since day one, and as far as I'm concerned, it was worth the wait.
Except, as we learned tonight, the story didn't end when he met her. Life isn't all a buildup to one singular moment. That one moment leads to other moments, which lead to other ones. Tonight we saw all those other moments that happened after Ted met The Mother and learned her name: Tracy McConnell. We saw Robin and Barney get divorced. We say Marshall and Lily have at least one more child. We saw Robin become estranged from her friends as she became a worldwide sensation. We saw Ted and Tracy eventually tie the knot two kids later. We saw Barney become a father. And we saw Ted lose the love of his life.
And, as Ted's kids point out, we learned the true meaning of this story. While yes, it was Ted telling his kids about meeting their mother, it was also about another woman, the women he met when he began that story: Robin. It was always about Robin, Aunt Robin to the kids. Love it or hate it, more on that in a moment, Ted never got over Robin. He tried to let her go so many times, tried to move on with his life, but she was never out of his thoughts, not ever.
It makes sense when you go back to that first episode. Ted tells a beautiful, romantic story about meeting this woman and falling head over heels in love with her, only to reveal that this woman was Robin. "I thought this was about mom?" asks Ted's daughter, Penny. It turns out that, no, it was never really about their mom. It was about trying to move past losing their mom and, in his usual Ted-like way, bring up the idea of Robin.
And so finally, twenty-five years after first meeting her, Ted shows up on her doorstep. Robin, again with an apartment full of dogs, sticks her head out the window to see who's causing all the ruckus. And there she sees Ted, trusty Blue French Horn in hand, bringing it full circle. That's how it ends, and for the first time in nine years, we have no idea what's going to happen next.
So, is this a good final episode? Does this episode justify the long, meandering, often inappropriate story? Do we finally get the payoff we've been waiting for? I can see that a lot of people will hate this ending. Not everyone was on board with Ted and Robin, and I was not shy about Ted's constant obsession with Robin when I felt that we could have seen him being someone other than a lovesick puppy.
But now that I've seen the ending, everything really comes together. The kids were right, this story was always about Robin. After all, that final scene with the kids was filmed way back in season 2. Once they got that footage locked down, they were pretty much committed to the story. The Mother was always going to die in 2024. Ted has always been telling his kids this story six years after his wife, their mother, died.
Now I see why Ted spent so much time talking about him and Robin. Now I see why he heard more about Ted's love life than his career. Because this story wasn't really about Ted telling his kids how he met their mother, it was about him trying to move past losing her and think about the possibility of falling in love again. It was about Ted trying to mend his broken heart by revisiting the past and thinking about what the future might hold. And, like any good dad, it was seeing if his kids would be all right with him dating again. But not just anyone, their Aunt Robin.
Sometimes you have to read a story twice for it to make sense. You read it the first time to know how it ends. You read it again to appreciate everything that brought you to the ending. This final episode does just that. Now that we know the reason for Ted's story, why he's really telling it, we can re-watch the series and understand what's really motivating this story.
Back to my original question. Is this a good final episode? In my opinion, yes, this is a fantastic final episode. It was funny, sentimental, heartbreaking, full of great callbacks, and, of course, we finally got to see that one moment we've been waiting for, how Ted finally met The Mother. Now, I would have preferred that Tracy pulled through, as I wasn't exactly rooting for Ted and Robin to get back together.
However, I respect this show for what it did, knowing where it wanted to go and sticking to it. That's why this episode rings so true, why Ted's meeting with The Mother, Tracy, is just right. Why that final shot with Ted and the Blue French Horn is the last thing we see. Because this was the plan all along, and no matter what roads the show traveled before now, this was always the destination.
But it's not just the destination, which is important, but it's also the journey. This final episode took us on a wild ride spanning seventeen years. And we finally got to see what I'd wanted since The Mother first bought her ticket to Farhampton: Tracy as part of the gang. We also got plenty of callbacks, from Robots versus Wrestlers to money changing hands between Lily and Marshall. (Which will no doubt change hands again, making Marshall the final winner of that bet.) I loved Judge Fudge, Ted's hanging chad costume, and the cockamouse. Just because it was the last episode didn't mean the show forgot what it was.
In fact, that amazing scene with Ted's kids, Penny and Luke, also helped bring everything back full circle. It's easy to forget that they weren't just stock footage at the beginning. They had plenty to say about Ted's stories, and I'm so glad they got one last chance to have a say in what happened next. After all, it was for their benefit, why shouldn't they be the ones who encouraged their father to try his hand at love again.
But there's one thing this episode didn't have. There was no Bob Sagat voiceover as Future Ted. It was always a dramatic conceit, having an older, deeper voice as the narrator, and I do like how the show didn't try to have Josh Radnor try to sound like Bob Sagat.That would have just been silly. Instead, Radnor got the honor of finishing the story.
Time will tell whether this episode belongs in the pantheon of the all-time great final episodes. I know a lot of people will love it, as I do, as we recognize how these perfect moments don't last, and life moves on with or without our consent.While it may seem cheap to spend so much time building up The Mother, not to mention Barney and Robin's wedding only to have them end, sometimes that's what happens.
Yes, I wanted Ted and Tracy to have a happily ever after until they were old and grey, and I was rooting for Barney and Robin. But I respect the show for not ending with a fairy tale but rather being more grounded in reality. At least Ted got to finally meet the love of his life and spend some good years together, and now he has a chance at love again. It's not perfect, but nothing is. But it's good and it feels real.
Now, I also know that a lot of people will hate the fact that The Mother dies and Ted winds up with Robin. I get that, because I can see how that feels like a cheat. The Mother was the best thing to happen to the show in a long time, and a lot of fans aren't going to like investing in a character only to lose her. People are going to come away from this episode with very different opinions. But no matter what, we're going to be talking about and arguing about this episode for a long, long time.
We're never going to see another show quite like How I Met Your Mother. It was one of a kind, and this final episode just proves why.Despite it's flaws, despite my complaints over the three years I've reviewed it, I am going to miss this little show that could. Many of us doubted that a show would be able to sustain such an outlandish premise, "a love story in reverse." Yet here we are, nine years later, watching a show that did exactly that.
Final Episode Breakdown
Best Final Episode Moment: Ted meets The Mother, Tracy McConnell.
Second Best Best Final Episode Moment: Ted holding the Blue French Horn while Robin gazes down at him.
Best Final Costume: The WhiteWhale
Best Final Nickname: Supreme Fudge
Best Final Dawning Realization: Yes, Ted, you did teach Econ 305.
Best Final Callback: The Yellow Umbrella
Best Final Radnor Narration: "And that, kids, is how I met your mother."