THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS BLOG. DON’T READ IT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE FINALE.
“Aunt Lily wasn’t wrong. It was at times long, difficult road. But I’m glad it was long and difficult. because if I haven’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, as long as I can, and I can never stop loving her, not 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, 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.”
Or was it UN-classic Schmosby? So many people are talking about how the characters weren’t true to themselves, how the writers valued big emotional stunts over good storytelling. They hated how the story between Ted and Tracy didn’t have more screen time, and how their one interaction at the train station was the only thing that felt genuine. This is just what I’ve heard from other blogs and seen from Twitter. Here are my explanations for why there was such a polarizing effect from the final episode.
Before I jump in though, you need to understand something about storytelling. Ted is the author of this story, so the stories he chooses to tell and how he chooses to tell them are INCREDIBLY significant. Ok, so here we go:
1. The characters didn’t develop.
We spent 9 years watching these characters grow and develop, almost always seeing them in their “real time” environments, i.e. when it was 2007 in real life we were watching them in 2007. We connected with at least one of the archetypes and that kind of became “our character”, and no matter what happened we always rooted for that person. We loved everyone else too, because all the characters together usually made “our” character happy. That’s what sitcoms do, they help us slide into the roles of the characters even if everything they do isn’t what we would do. People felt like the characters “blew up” (thanks for giving language to this, Chris) in the last episode, meaning all of their character development in the previous episodes of the season were tossed aside for their traditional, typical roles. Particularly, Barney went back to being a womanizer and Robin went back to being unable to commit.
What I think: I both agree and disagree with this. Some of the characters did indeed blow up, heading back to their previous archetypes, Barney being the prime example. But I think there was a reason for that. We all wanted Barney to change permanently for Robin, to show us there was a different side of him. But, he wasn’t able to do that, because in reality Barney never changed. No woman could ever make him change, even Robin. He made promises before he was about to get married, just like all married couples do. “I’ll change who I am, I swear. No more this, no more that.” But the harsh reality is that people don’t always change, even when they promise they will. What finally caused Barney to change was the birth of his daughter, and as every father knows, nothing causes change like being responsible for another life. Yesterday, a friend told me that since the birth of my daughter three months ago, that I “look more grown up.” I understand why Barney changed not at the hands of any lover or woman… but by the eyes of a baby girl. And I, personally, loved that moment.
2. Ted was still in love with Robin.
I’ve been seeing “How I met the woman who I loved more than your mother” and “How I was in love the whole time I was married to your mother” and things like that all over the Twitterverse (Twittersphere? Tweeterdome?). People hated how it felt like Robin was actually “the” girl and Tracy was just the runner up. Ted’s wife was the one who got there at the right time and captured Ted’s heart. For so long, we wanted the love story to culminate in how Ted met Tracy, but we didn’t “wind up” with that.
What I think: Ted was not in love with Robin while he and Tracy were married. In fact, you see them interact even when he and Tracy are married. They don’t flirt, they don’t reminisce about times they used to be together… they just see each other, he tells the gang, and that’s that. You see, when Ted met Tracy, he fell in love with her instantly. They had the spark, they both knew it, and all of their past melted away. Tracy even said under the umbrella that she just knew. Every scene of Tracy and Ted together is perfect in every way. The reason is because that’s how Ted sees it. Remember, Ted’s telling these stories from memory, and he doesn’t always tell them exactly the way that they happened. He adds flair, exaggerates, forgets certain details, adds the details in later… And that’s what he’s doing with Tracy. He’s framing them in such a way that the stories are perfect. He doesn’t tell stories about them fighting or breaking up or being mad at each other. He paints a fairytale picture of his wife, because as he’s telling the story 6 years after her death, he’s telling it as a fairytale that ended too soon. His “one” was now gone. Ted was completely in love with Tracy, but that story ended. In telling the whole story, he remembered how much he loved Robin before he met Tracy… and wanted to try to love again.
3. Tracy Died.
I don’t think a single soul liked this part of the show. Everyone was upset that it wasn’t played out and that she wasn’t given more screen time or explanation as to why she was sick or why she died, some even going to far as to call her a “macguffin”, a plot device to frame the story of Ted and Robin.
What I think: I didn’t like that she died either. It was sad. I understand that everyone is upset with the writers for “making” her die, but that’s just the thing. People, even people we don’t want to, die. The fact that she got sick might be a plot device, but I think that’s just the way that life goes. See, Ted isn’t telling the grieving tale of her death, because he’s already grieved. It’s six years after she died when Ted’s telling the story, so as much as we want to hear the story of his wife’s passing, we have to remember that he’s telling the story to his kids. They know the story of how their mom died; they were there. They have already dealt with and moved on from the tragedy. It’s not that the writers put any less importance on the event than they should… it’s that Ted wouldn’t go into details about the way in which Tracy died with his kids, who were present for that event. The kids would’ve already heard all the stories pertaining to their mother as they were growing up because Ted (and Tracy) are storytellers. So Ted sums those parts up, knowing they’ve already experienced it.
4. The ending felt contrived.
This goes back to #1. People don’t like Ted’s character being disingenuous for going back to Robin, because they felt like he was actually in love with her the whole time when he should’ve been in love with his wife (see #2). The Blue French Horn was predictable. Robin wouldn’t have appreciated Ted doing that, and people hated that it felt like the story was all about Robin, not Tracy.
What I think: This is exactly what was supposed to happen. I kept hearing that it meant that Ted was in love with Robin the whole time, but I disagree. Ted was in love with his wife (see #2) but it’s been six years since her death. Ted was ready to get back into the romanticism of life, because that’s who Ted is. He’s always been hopelessly romantic, and his story is a way of justifying to himself that it’s ok to try to be with Robin. After all, they had been through so much together, but the timing was never right. Robin even said, “If you have chemistry, you only need one other thing.” To which Ted replied: “What’s that?” “Timing”, Robin answers. Ted knew they had chemistry. And after six years, it’s ok to remember something you once had. It doesn’t mean that he and Robin were in love the whole time… it means they had history, a history that might be able to work out. Ted needed to try again, because that’s who Ted is, at his core. He always tries, always makes a big show… even if it might not work out. And at this point, something already has worked out, run its course, and finished. The viewer shouldn’t punish Ted for wanting to love again. We’re supposed to be excited for him, because he’s moving forward. And I think that’s what Tracy would’ve wanted for Ted… for him to be happy.
All in all, I think we have to remember that this is a story within a story and that Bob Saget… Uhh, I mean, Ted Mosby is the storyteller. When you look at everything through his eyes, it all makes sense. It would’ve been a different show if it was “How Ted met Robin” or “How Your Uncle Ted met his wife.” The point of the show wasn’t to display the relationship between Ted and Tracy. The point was to show that Ted had moved on and was ready for another relationship… with Robin. But he needed to know that his kids would be ok with it, so that’s (unconsciously) why he told the story in the first place.
And if you don’t like that ending? That’s fine. But I did. Ted did exactly what I think his character would’ve done. And it made me happy.