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What was How I Met Your Mother about?
If you took the title at face value, you’re one of the (many, many, many) disappointed fans following Monday’s series finale. Yes, Ted met the Mother, but their meeting ended up being beside the point.
(Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the HIMYM series finale.)
As Ted’s teenage kids point out in the final minutes of the show, if this story was supposed to be all about their mom, then their dad is the world’s worst storyteller. It wasn’t really about the Mother; it was always about Robin. The show’s creators might have had you thinking that this final season revolved around Robin and Barney’s epic love story, but just like the show’s last 22 episodes (with a few exceptions: “How Your Mother Met Me” and “Gary Blauman,” notably), that premise never really rang true.
In 2006, How I Met Your Mother laid out this thesis: Robin is the dream woman who isn’t ready for love, and Ted is the hopeless romantic who only has eyes for one girl. That’s not to take away from his relationship with
the Mom Tracy McConnell, who was tailor-made for Ted Mosby. She was immediately ready for Ted’s brand of sappy, dorky, starry-eyed love, and wore driving gloves to boot. She kept him from leaving New York. She made him the father he was meant to be. But then she got sick.
Meanwhile, over nine years, Robin turned into so much more than just someone’s dream woman. She became a flesh-and-blood person with skills (she’s a cigar-loving sharp shooter), secrets (she was a Canadian teen pop star), and sadness (she’ll never be a pole vaulter). And even though her marriage to Barney ended after just three years, Robin learned to love and finally understood what she missed out on with Ted. While she didn’t interfere with Ted and Tracy’s love story, she did, painfully, remove herself from their friend group when it became too hard to stand on the sidelines.
Fans have speculated for years that the Mother wasn’t alive in the present day, which is why Ted is even telling his kids the story of how they met. So where does that leave Ted? Would the show really kill the love of Ted’s life and then roll the credits? It didn’t need to end that way for Tracy, but with Ted’s soul mate out of the picture, it only makes sense to reunite him with his dream woman — and Robin is finally in a place to make Ted’s dream a reality.
This isn’t a perfect ending; the ground covered in the finale could have filled an entire season instead of being crammed into a single hour. (We haven’t even gotten into Barney becoming a dad, Marshall and Lily having three kids and leaving their treasured apartment, and the many perfectly placed callbacks to nine seasons of inside jokes.) But a straightforward, fairytale ending for Ted and Tracy wouldn’t have served viewers, and it would have been beyond boring. The story Ted tells the kids, and the series itself, is about the gang — Robin included. I would gladly sit down and watch a full spin-off about just Ted and Tracy. But in this series? In the deviously titled How I Met Your Mother? It has always been Robin.