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Worldly Distractions: How I Met Your Mother 9.23/9.24 - Last Forever


crazyforkate

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Well, here we are. After nine long years, we have reached the end of the road. In this episode, Ted meets the mother and the show ends its fantastic run. We all know what we came for, so let's get to it.

We begin at the beginning - September 2005. Ted has struck out yet again. Robin set him up with the girl, and Barney is outraged that "Roxanne" has horned in on his "Have you met Ted?" game. Clearly, this is a romance for the ages. Robin talks about how difficult the transition has been from Canada, with a dead-end job and no friends. They immediately offer to be her friends. Robin is "in the gang...for life", as Lily puts it. While she goes to get the next round, Lily makes the guys promise that no one will sleep with her - or at least not unless one of them marries her. Barney just smirks.

...and cut to his wedding eight years later. As he and Robin dance, the rest of the gang comment on how amazing this sight is. Marshall and Lily ask about Ted's move, and though he acts excited about it, you can tell that his heart isn't really in it. And the...across a crowded room...he sees...THE MOTHER. Opening credits.

Barney waves to the mother, recalling their emotional moment outside a drugstore, which she appears to barely remember. When he hears that she's single, he immediately summons the best man and brings back his infamous game - "Haaaave you met Ted?" However, Ted refuses, saying he has to leave right away. Stunned, Barney takes him outside. Knowing that this is the last time in a while that they'll be together, the five friends share an emotional goodbye. It's terribly poignant, full of in-jokes and sincere hugs. Barney's question - "Who am I going to high five now?" is most piercing of all. Ted makes him feel better by challenging him to "a high five to echo through all eternity". Challenge accepted. Mostly they just succeed in hurting each other's hands.

We cut abruptly to Ted, who is waiting at Farhampton train station and retelling his story to old ladies, Forrest Gump-style. The little old lady encourages him to go after the bass player, because "What if it was destiny?" Sounds like she should hook up with Ted instead - they think the same way. Ted shrugs it off, but the woman insists that it must be destiny - especially since the bass player is standing on the platform a few feet away, complete with yellow umbrella.

Ted continues to resist, as he is moving to Chicago in a day. We flash forward to the next day, where Lily and Marshall are unsure of how to navigate a Ted-less world. However, they don't have to struggle for long, because he's right in their booth at MacLaren's. When they ask why he's not in Chicago, he tells them blithely that he's "not doing that". He reveals that he met a girl. The move is off. Marshall and Lily chew him out for putting them through the emotional wringer. However, they agree that the bass player is cute, so Ted is forgiven.

He calls The Mother, over Marshall and Lily's protests that he should wait three days, and secures a date. Marshall wonders if he will get heartbroken all over again - but Lily is sure that something's different.

We go back to the train station, where the old lady continues to egg Ted on. She wants to know about his wedding plans, way ahead of schedule, but Ted is happy to oblige - he wants to keep things simple. Well, if he ever manages to talk to the girl first. We get a brief clip of 2015, where Ted is indeed planning his wedding, and things are decidedly not simple. Robin leaves to go get the next round, and Barney confides in Ted that he's fed up with their globetrotting lifestyle, and wants to settle in New York. The marriage is clearly starting to falter, but they put that aside for the sake of denial. The Mother runs in, clearly worried about something, and pulls Ted aside. She tells him they have to move the wedding - because she would like to fit into her wedding dress. Ted immediately gets what she's trying to tell him and is overjoyed at fatherhood, while Barney assumes that she's getting a boob job (and is probably even happier for them in that case).

We cut to May 2016, where everyone's gathered at Ted's fixed-up house. Everyone admires baby Penny. Marshall's miserable in corporate law, but is hoping for a judgeship in the near future. Robin and Barney have just come back from Argentina. A brief clip is shown of their trip, where they argue about their clashing lifestyles. They hide from their troubles with some drunk sex (which leads to the apartment mix-up seen earlier this season). Though they're still great friends, the marriage is kaput, which they have to face the next day. "I made a vow that I would always tell you the truth," Barney says, with a horrendous look of despair on his face. Back in Jersey, they tell their friends that they're divorced.

Everyone's terribly upset, of course, and the future of the group is called into question. Barney and Robin insist that everything will be okay, they'll continue as usual, and the breakup will not have to destroy the group. Barney points out that their group is drifting anyway, as Ted and The Mother live far away and Lily and Marshall are about to have their third child. Everyone's delighted at this news - which Lily points out is one of the reasons why they must stay together as a group of six. They agree to always be there "for the big moments".

October 2016. Marshall comes home to a very pregnant Lily. They decide that they have way too many people in their small apartment. They throw a goodbye/Halloween party, which Robin attends, though it's implied that they haven't seen her in a while. Unfortunately, Barney happens to be there too, along with Ted, still dressed as a hanging chad. (To bring us up-to-date on the costume's origins, we get a clip from the Slutty Pumpkin episode.) The Mother is dressed as a Gore/Lieberman voter to go along with it. Feeling left out, Robin leaves. She runs into Lily in the apartment. When Lily prattles on about "the gang", Robin immediately destroys her misconceptions - she sees a married couple who have no time for her, an ex-husband, and Ted, whom she "probably should have ended up with". Though they'll still be friends, they can never go back to the old days. Both women end up in tears. Robin leaves her friend, standing alone in the apartment.

Forward to 2018, where Barney, Lily and Ted continue to hang on. Barney has taken a total anti-"settling down" tack, painting such people as losers, even though his friends number among them. He wants to have an awesome night, but Ted and Lily need to get home to attend to their kids, so it's about to end long before Barney has planned. Lily mentions how much she misses Robin, but Barney bans all talk of sad things. Marshall arrives with big news - he's gotten the long-awaited judgeship. They wind up staying out to celebrate until 1:45, though the differences in their lives and priorities are quite marked. Barney waxes eloquent about friends who become family, but is quickly distracted by - what else? - a beautiful woman. Lily tries to talk him out of it, but he insists that his failed marriage indicated that he could never settle down. He wants to keep having good times, forever. They let him go.

The next year, Ted, the Mother, Marshall and Lily do their annual trip to Robots vs Wrestlers. Marshall asks Ted when they're going to finally get married. Wait, they're not married? They say they've just never gotten around to it, plus Ted still has dreams of the perfect wedding, no matter how much he denies it. Barney shows up, drunk and upset. He proceeds to tell "a sad story".

In order to achieve a "perfect month" (a different girl each night) Barney made a new playbook and set out to manipulate every woman in New York. He achieved his goal, but at a terrible price - he got the last one pregnant. His friends are stunned and kind of smug about it, while Barney is terrified. He was about to enter his "Clooney years", but now it's all ruined. His life is over.

We move forward to 2020. Ted shows Penny the GNB building, bragging of its architectural brilliance. They happen to run into Robin, who is riding high as a news anchor. In what looks suspiciously like a hospital waiting room, Ted recounts the incident to Lily and Marshall. They complain about Robin's distance, especially in light of another "big moment" about to happen - though as Marshall points out, it is the love-child of her ex-husband, so maybe she can skip this.

Barney comes out, having skipped out on the delivery room because he was about to puke on his suit. He's still waiting on a battery of DNA tests, so that he can still get in a last-minute "Not a Father's Day" celebration, but genetics are not on his side. The nurse tells him he has a healthy daughter, and though he resists meeting her, his friends literally shove him into the room. Presented with baby Ellie, he still tries to play the cool guy, but his facade cracks. "You are the love of my life," he tells her, choking back tears. "Everything I have and everything I am is yours - forever." Excuse me while I tear up a little myself. The moment is played absolutely brilliantly by NPH. Seriously - it works.

Ted tells The Mother to give him back her engagement ring. After five years, he says, engagements wear out and a re-proposal is needed. He proceeds to ask her to marry him, again, and she accepts, again. The wedding is on Thursday. We cut to the wedding day at MacLaren's, where Ted wonders if he's rushing into things and Barney can barely stay awake. "Baby no sleepy - Barney dying." His friends tease him, telling him that they have to stay out until three AM. Barney's a totally committed dad and everyone's thrilled, but at the sight of a pretty girl, sleep-deprived or not, he's still out of his seat in a second - to warn her about making bad decisions. That's right, guys - Barney Stinson is officially Settled Down.

The group stares in awe at this spectacle, but they are suddenly distracted when Robin Scherbatsky enters the bar. They all have an emotional greeting. Robin congratulates everyone on the good things in their lives, which she has mostly missed. Barney reflects on how happy he is with his daughter. Marshall announces he's running for State Supreme Court. When Ted points out that Robin turned down the invitation, she reveals that The Mother persuaded her to come. The bride herself appears, all decked out and ready to go. She takes a photo of the five friends in their favourite booth, just the way they are at middle age.

They sit together for a while, and Marshall drunkenly tells some young men about all the wonderful things that happened in this spot. Many emotional toasts are given. That same day, Ted and the Mother are duly married. I wonder how they managed to get a church, flowers and a nice dress on such short notice. Ted tells his kids all about the difficult emotional journey he had on the way, which was really not that difficult if you think about it, but I'll let that slide. He reflects on love, and how much he fought to keep it going, because he knew that with the Mother, it would be the most important thing in his life. We get a montage of photos throughout their life together. But nothing lasts forever - not even the good times. Ted tells us that the Mother got sick, with the same vague disease that kills all sitcom moms. Considering the short time they had, it makes him even more glad that he had the courage to approach her on that night long ago in Farhampton.

We go back to that night, where the Mother lets Ted share her yellow umbrella. They talk about all their missed connections - Ted's Econ class disaster, the Mother's friendship with Cindy - and eventually argue over whether the umbrella is Ted's or the Mother's. He points out that they have his initials, TM, but she says they're hers, standing for The Mother Tracy McConnell. They make lots of "TM" jokes. Eventually, they figure out what happened on St. Patrick's Day in the club. Now, against all odds, they've found each other again. The train arrives, and everyone's fate is decided.

Old Ted, who is not Bob Saget but a grayed-up Josh Radnor, concludes that "that, kids, is how I met your mother", the words we've waited for since 2005. However, Penny is skeptical that it's the whole story. What, so endless meandering about slutty pumpkins and maniacal sea captains and that time Barney had a fake family wasn't enough? She points out that Tracy was barely in the story, and it was less about her than about Robin. Ted clearly still has feelings for her - and the story was just a roundabout way of asking for permission to move on from his wife and date his old flame again. He denies it, and grounds both kids for good measure. Wait, what even is this. Ted dating Robin, again? And they thought of this far enough back to film it when the kids were still young? Seriously?

The kids give their permission, since the Mother's been dead for six years, and even encourage Ted to go forward. In fact, they're excited about it. He picks up the phone, but decides it's not enough. We see Robin walking into her apartment (accompanied by several dogs), where she is interrupted by a buzz at the door. She looks out the window. It's Ted - holding up the blue French horn. She smiles. Fade to title, then credits over old clips from the pilot. Holy Christ, they looked so young. 

I would have said this finale was great, up until the last five minutes. And much of it was. Barney and Robin getting divorced was a surprise, but when you think about it, there were indications throughout the season that they were iffy as a couple, especially in the last few episodes. Throughout, they never seemed madly in love or willing to look at the long-term. I'm impressed the show took this route, to be honest - it's a lot more interesting than simple wedded bliss. Many loose ends were tied up, and the finale gave us some good resolutions for our leads, with funny details along the way. Barney's redemption through his daughter was beautifully done. Marshall and Lily, well, ended up exactly the way you'd think Marshall and Lily would end up. The gang drifting apart was realistic, and addressed quite thoroughly by the writers.

Where the finale stumbled badly was the main twist - the Mother's death and Robin's return as a romantic interest. Now, the first isn't too bad. Many fans predicted it after the hints in previous episodes. They addressed it badly, however, throwing it in as a sort of casual incident - "Oh, yeah, and then the Mother died, ho-hum". After such a long build-up, to throw the Mother aside felt like a massive cheat. In the end, it came off as a painfully obvious path to Ted's eventual reunion with Robin. All along, the show seemed to be going in a different direction, demonstrating how Ted moved on. To throw in this new romance as a tacked-on ending played as very bizarre, and I can understand how fans felt betrayed. It was especially strange when the episode made such an effort to portray Robin as drifting away, with no real explanation as to how she came back into the circle. The fact that the kids seemed so gung-ho also felt out of place (and as a side note, I'm impressed that they managed to keep it secret this long). If it had been handled more delicately, with further buildup, perhaps it might have played better, but they way it unfolded did the twist no service.

A lot of people are calling this the worst finale on TV, or at least wholly unworthy of the show. I don't think I'd go that far. It did do a lot of good things, took some gutsy moves, and provided much of the closure fans wanted. Its biggest risk, however, fell completely flat, mostly due to lack of proper buildup and too much deviation from the perceived main point of the show. Where it did well, though, it soared - and reminded us of the great group of people we grew to love. Though the quality of the show has declined in recent years, there is a reason we all tuned in, season after season. I'm sad to see it come to an end, and very glad to have followed it along with you. Goodbye, HIMYM, and thank you.

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