Warning: I'm going to spoil the crap out of this, so if you haven't seen the finale, don't read this.
So How I Met Your Mother has finally come to an end after 9 seasons and all questions have been answered. We saw how Ted met the mother, found out her name was Tracy and that she subsequently died and now (re: the future) Ted is moving on... with Robin. Why do I feel like I've been dicked around for 9 years? And what happened to Bob Saget?
Don't get me wrong, it's been a fun ride getting here. The thing that kept me coming back wasn't to find closure on how some guy found his baby-mama. HIMYM was a funny show with great characters and a level of humor rarely seen in sitcoms. It has left its mark. But like Seinfeld, another genius comedy from the previous decade, fans will always be at odds with the finale.
Here's the thing... the finale does make sense. The entire series was always focused on Robin's love life, just as much as Ted's. At times their romantic lives intertwined and at others they deviated. But even in the second to last episode Robin had to come to terms that Ted was no longer going to be there and she had a new life. So in this regard, the finale made sense.
The problem is that the focus of the entire show was how Ted waded through years of disappointment and ended up meeting this amazing woman who was perfect for him in every way... a woman who would make that journey meaningful and worth the price. But then we find out this happy ending only really lasted around 12 or 13 years... and then Ted's wonderful wife and soul mate died. I understand that we never know what life will hand us; one day you have it, the next you don't. I also get that there is the whole "living life to the fullest" aspect of life. Ted did find his perfect women and spent 13 wonderful years with her. No matter how short, it was the life he always wanted and deserved.
On the other hand, television isn't supposed to be reality. Even at its most gritty and realistic, life seldom wraps up neatly. There isn't always a coincidence or miracle to push things along. Life, in of itself, is never as clean cut as a storybook. Movies and television are supposed to be fantasy... an escape. Whenever some show creator writes what amounts to a bad storyline or ending and tries to defend it with the whole "that's life" line, I have to retort that as a storyteller, it is your job to weave a yarn that is pleasing to people. We know life can suck, that's why we turn on the TV to begin with! This doesn't mean that there should always be a happy ending, but the ending should match the story. If Breaking Bad ended with Walter White abruptly getting hit by a bus, it would have left a sour taste in everyone's mouth.
That is the point here really... the sour taste left in our mouths. We didn't need to know the mother dies a little over a decade later. We didn't need Ted to return to Robin's open arms. It fits the story, but not in a pleasing way. It doesn't justify the long focus on Barney and Robin's relationship, the spending all of season 9 on their wedding weekend... just to find out that three years later they get divorced. That's where that "dicked around" feeling sets in. As Ted's children pointed out, his long story wasn't about the journey to meet their mother; it was asking their permission to move on with Robin. The whole show was a lie, even the title! Granted, if the show had been called "How I Hooked Up with Robin" it would have lost it's mystique.
TivoGirl woke up this morning with the clearer realization that Tracy's life kind of sucked. She had lost her previous love, suffered a long grieving period, finally found her new soul mate and then died. Maybe that's ignoring the idea of finding happiness in every day, but my wife does have a point. Everyone else's life turned out okay. Barney found the love of his life upon holding his newborn daughter. Marshal and Lily had 3 kids and he became a judge. Robin became the success she always wanted to be. There was a fairy tale quality to How I Met Your Mother. It presented the idea that everyone has a true love and some day you will meet that person and all of the crap you had to deal with to get to that moment would have been worth it. Fans expected the fairy tale ending, not a bitter dose of reality.
In the end, I think I would have preferred Jason Segel's idea for the finale. Ted says "And that kids, is how I met your mother." Then the camera pans over to the window to reveal a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
(seriously, what happened to Bob Saget?)