Back in high school, I had an awesome best friend. A lot of my friends thought we’d end up with each other, and I’m sure thoughts like that crossed both of our minds briefly. But we had different belief systems, life goals (and on the important stuff, to boot), and a completely different life trajectory. I couldn’t and wouldn’t ever have changed said trajectory for someone else, lest we both become disillusioned with the result. So we parted ways at the end of high school, and I eventually moved across the country and found a fuller love that didn’t require that extreme level of compromise. I love Justin – and he changed the way I view love. I know that I could never go back to an old flame for that very reason.
So when, like two or three episodes of How I Met Your Mother back, Ted finally let Robin go and we saw her float away like a balloon, I was ready. “Finally!” I thought, “A show that’s going to show life how it is! No more Ross-and-Rachel tropes! No more ping-pong! No more arresting or undoing of character development! This is it!” (Spoilers ahead) I knew that the mother would probably die from all the little hints that they laid out. I did. But with Robin and Barney finally getting married, I thought that they couldn’t leave Ted hanging that badly. So I thought maybe she was in the hospital, going up against steep odds with a potentially life-threatening procedure, and it would end with the two of them reunited or something. But nope… they spent nine years purportedly telling the story of how Ted met his soul mate, probably 45 minutes total showing us what purported soul mate is really like, one whole season building up to Robin and Barney’s wedding, and then it was all over within ten minutes. I mean all over. Robin and Barney got divorced within three years, the mother died, and then her children basically are just like, “Good thing mom died so that you can get back with your true soul mate Aunt Robin!”
A lot of fans, I guess, are happy that Ted and Robin ended up with each other. A lot of fans are pissed that the mother died. But this is what bothers me: you spend three or four seasons developing, say, Barney by having him realize that maybe he really can love only one woman at a time. He does these giant, grand gestures. He passes on his Bro ways. And then within minutes, that character development is chucked out the window and he reverts to the same guy we saw in the beginning. Oh, and then has a baby, and supposedly that’s going to change him. Hmph. We’ll see. Given that if nine years and a marriage to the only woman he ever really loved couldn’t at least make a dent in his Bro ways, maybe the thrill of a baby won’t last either. After all, there are plenty of invalid dads. Another character: we see Robin’s feelings for Barney are deep if not confusing to her, and she consistently picks Barney over Ted. She fed him a speech of her own feelings toward him for him to say to Nora, just so that he could be happy. She got over her trust reservations with him. Ted and all their friends were convinced of their compatibility/”meant-for-each-other-ness.” Ted accepted that he lost and was not right for Robin. And then all of that reverts, again, to basically square one of the first episode. She suddenly can’t compromise work for him. They struggle so long just to get married, but they can’t fight to stay married – not even for three measly years after NINE.
No one really learned or grew. And maybe that’s comforting to some viewers, because they’re still pining over that girl or boy that got away, and they want to think their life will give them everything they want. Because they don’t want to think about how letting go – really letting go – can help you to grow and become even happier in life. They want to be told that they don’t need to make changes because they’re great as they are now, and the universe will cater to their current status quo of awesomeness. But we’re living organisms. And living organisms change. We don’t always get it right the first time. The first time we think we’re in love, for example. Sometimes, we don’t even know what love is like. And rarely do we ever know who we’re going to marry until we meet that person randomly, in the middle of our life, and it changes everything.
If I had to sit through and listen about how my father had really been in love with someone else for twice the span of my entire life, and his entire relationship with my mom, I’d be pissed. And I’d be annoyed that my father was such a pansy that couldn’t let anything go.
I’m all for tragic endings. Sure, kill her off. Have Ted weep as he talks about it. Have his children console him in that, heck, they were born. And then have him tell them that you never see where life goes, and you never know who you’ll end up with, and maybe you don’t know that person now. But if you’re smart, and if you let go of the distractions, you’ll recognize that person when he/she enters your life, and you shouldn’t waste a second of it – especially not pining away after someone else who just was not as compatible.
That’s how I would end that story. Because I didn’t tune in to be bored to tears re-watching an over-used TV trope (will they? won’t they? Oh! Of course they will!). I tuned in to watch a story about a beloved mother of two children and how Ted’s entire life prepared him to meet her.