“Outside? Another yellow moon,
Punched a hole in the nighttime. Yes,
I climbed through your window and down the street,
Shining like a new dime.
The downtown trains are full,
With all those Brooklyn girls.
They try so hard, to break out
Of their little worlds.
You wave your hand? And they scatter like crows.
They have nothing that can capture your heart.
They’re just thorns without the rose –
Be careful of them in the dark.
Oh, if I was the one?
You chose to be your only one?
Oh baby! Can’t you hear me,
Can’t you hear me now?
Will I see you tonight
On a downtown train?
Every night? It’s just the same!
You leave me lonely now …
I know your window, and I know it’s late.
I know your stairs, and the doorway.
Walk down your street and past your gate;
And stand by the light at the four way.
You watch them as they fall;
They all have heart attacks.
They stay at the carnival,
But they’ll never win you back!
Will I see you tonight,
On a downtown train?
Every night? It’s just the same!
You leave me lonely.
So will I see you tonight?
On a downtown train?
All my dreams? Just fall like rain,
On a downtown train …”
-- “Downtown Train”, version by Everything But the Girl, the framing song to what might possibly be, my favorite single scene, in the history of televised, uuh, television …
Kids, I come here today, in an attempt to do the impossible: explain why the “How I Met Your Mother” finale not only was the perfect ending to this show … but why the final season – which even I will admit, at times, was borderline unwatchable – was the perfect way to end this show.
I am sure this is not going to be legen … wait for it … dary. I am sure nobody’s going to go High Infinity after reading this. But so be it.
This show meant what it did to me, right up until and through the final episode, because if there was one character on television I could totally and completely identify with, it was Ted Mosby. See, kids, I am the dreamer. I’m the idealist. I’m the idiotic 37 year old who still believes “The One” has yet to enter his life. And I’m the idiotic 37 year old who still believes that someday?
“The One” will enter my life, and it’ll be happily ever after – the white picket fence, a beautiful house in Brookside, and life will be what so many people describe as perfect. And not just will life be perfect; the initial encounter with “The One”, will be the single greatest moment of my life.
Here’s the thing though, that I didn’t get, until the finale reached its’, uuh, final scene.
That encounter may have already happened. You were just too stupid, to realize it.
And that’s why you thank God kids – every God that ever was, that ever is, and ever will be – when you meet someone, who understands that fact.
My tenth favorite moment from the finale?
The last time “the gang” is at MacLaren’s:
Marshall: “Hey! You kids!”
Robin: “Yeah, you didn’t sound a thousand there!”
Marshall: “Do you have any idea what happened here, in this very bar?”
Kid: “No. What happened?”
Marshall: “Just … all kinds of stuff.”
(cue the tears).
Before I get into why I loved this show, this finale, and (believe it or not) this final season so much (hint: Stevo’s gonna compare this show, this finale, and this season, to his real-life existence), let’s deal with the elephant in the room.
To those of you hacked at the finale? I get why. And I’m even willing to concede, that had the series ended as so many of you preferred, with the meeting of The Mother? I’d have been ok with it.
Because that scene was so epically amazing, so bleeping amazing, I have yet to watch it without crying. That scene – when Ted approaches The Mother on the train platform, in the pouring rain, as Everything But the Girl’s epic cover of Tom Waite’s “Downtown Train” plays? Jesus, it gets to me. Like Ted, I pray to every God that ever was, every God that is, and every God that ever may be, that I get just one – just one! – moment in time like that. Where I know that my destiny, my “one”, is standing there, and all I have to do, is approach, and just be me, just simply talk.
That scene, where he finally meets “The Mother”, is television at its most epic finest. If this is what we spent nine years building to? If that is what the grand destiny was? Then I understand why so many people hated this episode, hated this finale, and especially hated what this final scene was.
And this scene, this epic moment, that will probably have me reduced to a crying mess for the rest of my life*, if that’s what the series had ended on?
I’d have been pissed.
Because that’s not, what this show was about.
(*: for the record, there are four scenes guaranteed to make me cry, or at least claim the room is a lil’ dusty, every time I see them. (4) Ted and The Mother meet, “How I Met Your Mother” finale. (3) Juliet and Sawyer meet in the Sideways world at the vending machine, “Lost” finale. (2) Charlie reveals his greatest hit, “Lost” season three episode “Greatest Hits” Should probably note, (2) hits me more than all the others, combined. (1) Sipowitz promises to “take care of her” to Simone, “NYPD Blue” season six, the greatest episode of television to ever air, “Hearts and Souls”. (Pause). And gun to my head, Cory, Topanga, and Eric demanding Feeny tell them he loved them, only he refuses to, in the “Boy Meets World” finale, can get me a little verklepmt.)
“How I Met Your Mother”, at its core, was a story of five friends: Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall, and Lily. Five friends, all from different walks of life, all with different aspirations and dreams, all with different goals and ideals, all completely and utterly unique to each and every person.
Marshall was the moral center. He was the one who could be fair, objective, and when need be, brutally honest. He was the one who had an endless ability to forgive, to tolerate, to accommodate. He was the one who constantly set aside his desires, to let others get what they wanted, because all that truly mattered to him, was simply having that person in his life.
Until that time, he wasn’t, by refusing to tell Lily their plans to move to Italy for a year to pursue her dreams, was going to fall through, because he’d attained his dream, of being a judge.
Lily was the realist. She was the one who looked at reality, and saw it. And demanded that everyone else just simply what reality was. She also was “the favorite”, the one friend that, if you pointed a gun at everyone’s head and insisted they reveal who of the five was their favorite, would get said by four of the five. She simply put had no obvious, visible flaws that would turn someone off.
Until that time, she wasn’t, by hiding her pregnancy from Marshall and everyone else, for most of the final season (weekend).
Barney was … well, Barney. The playboy, the guy who never claimed to stand for character, for integrity, for doing the right thing. The guy who bragged about attaining “the perfect week”: seven girls in seven nights. The guy who thought with the head about three feet below his actual head. The guy who never claimed to stand for character, stand for integrity, or give a damn about anything other than pleasure in the moment.
Until that time, he didn’t, and he decided to set aside everything he’d ever been, to marry Robin, and become the one thing he never aspired to be: a “family man”.
Robin was the risk taker, the adventurer. She moved from that “banana republic known as Canada”, to take a job with a NYC television station. She moved to New York with no friends, no pretentions, no false motives. She moved to New York to grab life and ride it for all it was worth.
Until that time, she didn’t, by refusing to recognize who and what her destiny was, and settled for a life of semi-happy marriage, with Barney.
Then there was Ted.
Ted? Ted was the dreamer, the idealist. Ted was the guy who everyone on the outside, thought was the center of the gang’s universe, the guy who held it all together. The guy who made sense, and reason, and purpose, out of what “the gang” was. The guy who you knew, no matter what, would be there in the booth at MacLaren’s, until the end of time. The guy you knew you could call at 2:01am (because, after all, nothing good happens after 2am), and would not only answer the phone … he’d send Ranjit to pick you up, and take you to where you wanted to be.
Until he wasn’t that guy, and decided to leave it all behind, and move to Chicago to start over, because he truly, completely, and totally, could not deal with the hurt of seeing his best female friend, marry his best male friend.
My ninth favorite moment from the finale? Barney seeing his daughter for the first time, moments after she’s born, moments after he was celebrating “Not” Father’s Day, in the desire that the blood tests and DNA tests and paternity tests would let him truly attain the “perfect month”:
Barney: “You? Are the love of my life. Everything I have, and everything I am? Is yours. (Dramatic pause.) Forever.”
(cue the tears).
That, kids, is how we entered the final season. For eight years, these five friends shared everything life has to offer – the highs and the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies. The births (Marvin!) tied into the deaths (Marvin.), tied into the dopplegangers and slap bets and Robin Sparkles flashbacks and random “what are the (bleeping) odds” moments that make life worth living.
For eight years, these five amazing characters stayed true to who they were … until the season eight finale, when every single one of them, betrayed who they had always been.
Each of them headed to the biggest weekend of their lives, utterly and totally refusing to be, what made them great in the first place.
Something, had to give.
My eighth favorite moment of the finale: a flash back, to one of the earliest moments the gang was together, when Robin tried the “Have You Met Ted?” one-liner, to Barney’s disapproval …
(robin) And worst of all, I literally have no friends.
(everyone else) (looking around at each other with a “this chick doesn’t get it” look)
(marshall) duh, no! You have four friends! Sitting right here!
(lily) And once you’re in? You’re in for life!
When this final season started, all five friends relationships with each other, were broken. All five were not who they were, for the previous eight years. Marshall was hiding the truth about his future. Lily knew the truth about Ted, but not only agreed to hide it from everyone else, she hid her own truth about her and Marshall’s future, from everyone – especially Marshall. (Hence the “Kennedy Package” running gag with Linus all season.) Barney and Robin blindly entered into a marriage everyone – including themselves – knew would end in failure. Hell, they spent the entire wedding weekend doing nothing but fighting with each other, and questioning what they were doing.
But the biggest betrayal of all was from Ted, who was just going to up and leave without saying goodbye. His departure after the wedding reception would truly be departure – from Farhampton, from New York, from “the gang”.
When every person in a relationship fails to do right by everyone else? The relationship will fail, every time.
Unless something intervenes … to end the deception, fraud, and outright lies.
My seventh favorite moment of the finale: Barney, when Robin gave him the three-year exit ramp, to get out of the marriage with no regrets. “When we got married, I only made you one vow. And that was to always tell you the truth.” And thus, the end game for the episode, and the series, was launched.
That’s what this ninth season was about. It took way too damned long to get there, figuratively (stretching the wedding weekend out over a full season), literally (Marshall and Marvin and Daphne’s side show trip getting to Farhampton), and relationally (see my sixth favorite moment of the finale below).
This final season was about how one person saved the relationships these friends were destroying, because they were too ignorant of their own actions, their own problems, their own falsehoods, that they couldn’t save themselves. How one person, through simple act(s) of kindness or decency that many of us would view as a “what are the bleeping odds” moment, but ultimately throw it away and dismiss as a “what are the bleeping odds” moment, brought these five friends together again. And that person was Tracy McConnell.
(As a public service to anyone who stone / drunk / accidentally stumbled onto this post: I do not believe in “what are the bleeping odds” moments in life. Everything happens for a specific reason. There is no such thing, as coincidence. I love that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays (“HIMYM”’s producers), share my view on that.)
She literally delivered Marshall to Farhampton, giving him and Marvin a lift to make the final five miles to the Farhampton Inn. She helped deliver Lily to the Farhampton Inn, via the train ride out. She was the one who convinced Barney what a special thing he had with Robin, and how stupid it would be to throw it away. She was the one who stopped Robin from fleeing the ceremony, by convincing her to take “three deep breaths. Sometimes, three deep breaths, changes everything”.
And ultimately, she brought Ted what he thought he was seeking: The Mother of his children. Personally delivered to him, by Tracy, on the platform at the Farhampton station.
There’s a key word in the previous five paragraphs, that people upset / irate / ready to march on Carter Bays’ house with nooses and pitchforks, conveniently ignore. If that one word wasn’t in the previous five paragraphs, I’d be carrying three nooses myself right now. (Since, after all, I do personally lynch “Triple Noose donkey” at every Chiefs home game. And yes, it is a denver bronco mascot strung up to die, piñata style, by not one, not two, but three – three! – nooses. I feel like a 2am infomercial: “arrive early and I’ll let you add a fourth noose at no additional charge! Just pay shipping and handling!”)
One word, that changes everything, and not just explains why the “Mother” finale was perfect … but the final scene was legen … wait for it … dary.
(old school game show host voice) The password is “thought”.
And the only one – the only one! – who truly knew the password …
… was The Mother.
My sixth favorite moment of the finale: Lily’s toast to Ted and Tracy, at MacLaren’s, the morning of the wedding.
(lily) OK, a toast. To all of you at this table, I love you all so much …
(robin) Let’s move on to the second part.
(lily) OK. To Ted …
(ted) Don’t say it!
(everyone) EVELYN MOSBY!
(everyone) (laughs all around)
(ted) (pure sarcasm) Thank you for that!
(lily) A man with more emotional endurance, than anyone I know. It was a long, difficult road. Thank God we FINALLY got here!
I have a few very good friends, I have always compared the “MacLaren Five” to, with whom my life hasn’t exactly been friendly lately.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “The Family” these last few weeks, especially as two members of said family, prepare to welcome their first born later this week.
Truth be told, it’s our current dysfunctional relationships, that made this final season of “HIMYM” mean so much to me. And it’s why I loved this finale so damned much.
Because if these five (granted, fictional) friends can get as “eight ways from Sunday” f*cked up as they were entering the season, due to so many mistakes made by all of them in season eight, if these five can wind up as screwed up as they did, and still survive, and ultimately thrive, why can’t “The Family” recover?
My fifth favorite moment of the finale: Robin stating the obvious to Lily, at the Halloween / Farewell To The Apartment party: “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 their 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”!”
An expression, I have said myself, way too many times, the last two years.
The first two thirds of the season, I’ll grant the critics, was mostly filler. It did feature some “wait, why am I watching this?” moments, never more so than the ridiculous scrambled eggs competition between Barney’s mom and Robin. (Hang on, I need to freshen the glass of shiraz, just thinking about that regrettable scene.)
But it also featured some great moments. The proposal at the Lighthouse. The final weekend before Penny’s birth. (Or was it Luke’s? I think it was Penny’s. Or maybe it was both, across two episodes? I’m too damned lazy to research that.)
It also featured what, for me, was the single most “oh hell no! I’m just … about … out … of … this … show … in … five … four … three …” moment of the season, the end to “Unpause”, when Lily storms out after an argument with Marshall over their future, and flees the Farhampton Inn.
Perhaps if Lily had taken The Mother’s advice, and taken three deep breaths, the episode wouldn’t have sucked like Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office.
But if she’d taken three deep breaths? Then the last semblance of friendship with “the gang” doesn’t collapse, the foundation doesn’t get rocked to its core, and The Mother can’t do, what she was destined to do.
Beginning with the following week’s episode …
… “How Your Mother Met Me”.
My fourth favorite moment of the finale: Ted and the old lady at the train station.
(ted) You know, I rushed out to make the train … which is now 45 minutes late.
(old lady) This lady with the bass guitar. Was she pretty?
(ted) Yeah. She was beautiful.
(old lady) Well, go back and meet her!
(old lady) Well, what if it was destiny?
(ted) Lady, it’s been a really long weekend, I’m moving to Chicago tomorrow. (Pause). I can’t really talk destiny right now.
(old lady) Okay.
(old lady) (taps ted on the shoulder).
(ted) (disgusted) Yeah.
(old lady) What if the universe, sends you a gigantic sign, that this woman was your destiny? Then would you talk to her?
(ted) (disgusted) Yeah, sure. I mean, I guess I would have to.
(old lady) Okay.
(old lady) (taps ted on the shoulder again).
(ted) Where is that train?
(old lady) Can I ask one more question?
(old lady) This girl with the bass guitar? Is that her?
(cue pic below):
(old lady) OOH! That is her! This is so exciting! Go talk to her!
(ted) Just be cool, lady! Damn!
The 200th episode, “How Your Mother Met Me”, may actually be my favorite episode of this series, believe it or not. Seeing all the near-misses from the Mother’s point of view, after seeing all the near-misses from Ted’s for nearly nine years, was a really neat narrative.
But in that episode? Bays / Thomas signaled the end game. Because the Mother lost who she thought was “The One”, her boyfriend Max, in that episode. Just as Ted would lose the one he thought was “The One”, Tracy, in the finale.
The Mother had to lose Max, to meet Ted, and embrace her destiny.
You will never convince me, that The Mother, on her wedding day, didn’t at some level realize, her soon-to-be husband, and father of her two children, that his destiny, wasn’t Aunt Robin.
The “honorable mention” moment of the finale: Ted’s departure from the wedding, culminating with the “High Infinity”.
(ted) A high five, to echo throughout eternity!
(barney) Yes! And within that high five, will be all the high fives, we’ve ever high fived!
(ted) And all the high fives, we ever possibly could high five!
(barney) A high infinity!
My third favorite moment of the finale: when Robin arrives at MacLaren’s on the morning of Ted and Tracy’s wedding.
(ted) you RSVP’d no.
(robin) Yeah, I did. But someone pretty persuasive, talked me into it.
(enter “the mother”).
“How I Met Your Mother”, at its core, is ultimately about the family we choose. It’s about friends we love irrationally. It’s about those moments in life, we look back on, and love the hell out of them, because 92.45% of the people who would hear about those moments, would think “what the hell? Why was that important”, and the 7.55% of us who get the meaning, get to enjoy a part of life noone else does.
No show ever more brilliantly captured that, than “How I Met Your Mother”. We don’t get to choose our blood relatives. And let’s be honest here – other than Marshall’s parents, none of the “MacLaren Five” had a family life we’d endeavor to enjoy. Ted’s parents gave him Evelyn as a middle name. Barney’s parents were a trainwreck. We didn’t meet Robin’s mom until two hours before the wedding. I’m not sure we ever met Lily’s. (Could be having a brain fart here, but don’t recall them.) And even Marshall’s folks, we lost his father in season six, and his mom was Psycho Grandma by the end of season eight.
More to the point, though, is this.
“How I Met Your Mother” is about the life we choose to live. We can embrace each other, or reject each other. None of us are perfect. We all f*ck up. We all make mistakes. Every single major player entering the final season, had failed the friendship. All of them, simultaneously. And yet, they all pulled through, they all ultimately made it work.
Because that’s what family does. Makes life work.
Makes life worth living.
This show hammered that point home, in a way I wish I could. For nine years, it gave us slap bets, it gave us “Have You Met Ted?”, it gave us the “Perfect Week”, and ultimately the “Perfect Month”. It gave us inside jokes, random one-liners, it gave us moment after quote after “wait, what?” pause, that only a true friend, could ever understand. “HIMYM” captured what life for people my age (and I am 37 … although unlike Matt Foley, I am not divorced, I do not subside on a steady diet of government cheese, and I sure as all hell do not live in a van, down by the river!), is like, is about.
It gave us Robin Sparkles. It gave us Dopplegangers. It gave us middle names like Evelyn and Waitforit. It made us laugh. It made us cry. It made us … us.
And life is no different for us, if we’re being honest, than it was for our parents at our age. Some people find their perfect match, and live life to the fullest. Some people struggle and scrape to survive. Some people luck into life’s lottery. Some people rock suits; some of us rock khakis.
It was legendary.
Never more so, than in the last eight minutes.
To quote from another show from another network: “that’s what she said!”
My second favorite moment of the finale: the final scene – an exact replication, of the close of the pilot, twenty five years later. Ted, outside Robin’s apartment, after she finishes walking her five dogs, and he pulls out the blue French horn, to win his way inside:
And cue the “wait … what the hell?” responses.
Because just like those of you who hated the finale, and especially how it ended?
I understand why. Because in the interest of full disclosure … how you would have ended it?
Is my favorite scene.
Not just from the final episode, but possibly in television history.
I literally start bawling like a newborn baby, the moment Ted finally gets to the point. (See, kids? Another reason I’m like Ted: I ramble, yet think I’m being concise and to the point!)
To The Champ and The Chica, I wish you nothing but the best. I could not possibly be happier for you, for the arrival of your son.
Friendships? Can be mended.
Because family? Endures forever.
If this show taught me anything, it is that. Jesus, if the last seven months of my life has taught me anything, dealing with my parents’ health issues, it is that.
And you are family, still. At least to me.
Congratulations from the bottom of my heart … on forming your own, that will no doubt be legen ... wait for it ...
My favorite scene from the finale: