You had one job.
All you had to do was have Schmosby cry during the toast, give one more big speech about life, have Tracy be touched by that speech, make a few jokes about other shows finales, have Robin and Barney stop by the train platform on their way out so they can play one more game of haaave you met Ted, do the scene with the yellow umbrella, have Ted give Tracy his boutonniere, and have a scene after the credits where Nick Fury asks Robin to join the Avengers Initiative.
And then leave the rest unsaid.
That was all you had to do.
...You didn't do that.
Now, maybe you're thinking, Nic are you just miffed because it wasn't what you expected to happen? And yes, that is a factor, but there are so many other reasons that I hate this finale.
The Eleventh Doctor's exit on Doctor Who wasn't quite what I expected and was slightly off-putting. But ultimately I got over it.
The ending of Chrono Cross wasn't quite what I expected and was slightly off-putting. But ulitmately I was okay with it.
The Arrested Development Season 4 finale wasn't quite what I expected and was slightly off-putting. But ultimately I enjoyed it.
The ending of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books wasn't quite what I expected and was slightly off-putting. But ulitmately I thought it was fantastic.
The LOST finale wasn't quite what I expected and was slightly off-putting. But ultimately I really loved it.
The How I Met Your Mother finale was so far afield of what I was expecting that I felt more deeply betrayed and disappointed than I've felt in a long time.
In the past 365 days, my favorite comic book threw away 20 years of continuity by rebooting its entire universe, two Doctor Who specials passed without any exceptional new Murray Gold music, my mother didn't get me anything for my birthday or Christmas, and I took a job at Wal-Mart...but THIS FINALE is far and away the single most disappointing event I've experienced in the past 365 days.
What really gets me is that this doesn't feel like the ending to the story they've been telling. One might call it a totally different story crammed into one hour. A story which, admittedly, could serve as a possible sequel to this one, but is still ultimately a very different story.
But even that label doesn't fit as well as it could. It doesn't feel like any story the writers set out to tell, but rather a trick the writers set out to play. It just reeks of an ill-conceived bait and switch, rather than an attempt to tell an entertaining story.
Maybe there are people out there who liked it, but this is just not what I look for in my entertainment. I did not enjoy it. I have no desire to watch it again. I don't even think it would be worth pirating.
How I Met Your Mother was a great story. It was the next evolution of the Sit Com format. It was a story about how people relate, how lovers find each other in this crazy mixed up world, how we grow and change over time, how we can help each other to be better through bonds of friendship and love, and how we eventually become our own doppelgangers. It was the story of a man who was lost in search of love, but glad to have friends to keep him sane. It was the story of a couple who loved each other more with each passing day and started a beautiful family together. It was the story of broken boy meets broken girl and they start a life together.
It was a twisting, turning road that led to the end, but in a weird way, it all sort of made sense. And Ted started the story with the night he met Robin because that's how he approaches a story. Like in "Lucky Penny" or "Right Place, Right Time." Ted traces his life's events back to their source. And so, if he hadn't met Robin, if he hadn't found that penny on the subway, if he hadn't buried the hatchet with Barney, if he hadn't proposed to Stella, if he hadn't invited Robin to that wedding, if he hadn't gone to a different bagel shop or bought charts from a homeless man, if he hadn't been beat up by that goat, if he hadn't dated Cindy, if he hadn't been too hung up on Robin to settle for anyone else, if he hadn't been at Barney and Robin's Wedding, and if he hadn't finally let Robin go...he would never have met the woman of his dreams.
And it all made sense. There were three stories and they all made sense. The story of how Ted's life led him to Tracy McConnell.The story of how Marshall and Lily started a family together. And the story of how Barney and Robin got married. That was the yarn being spun in How I Met Your Mother. The story was converging on that wedding and the picture became so clear that it got dangerously close to predictable, but it was okay because it was beautiful. It was legendary.
That was the story of How I Met Your Mother.
Last Forever was a story about how Barney and Robin's marriage failed. About how Barney reverted to a pathetic lifestyle and knocked up the 31st chick he banged in 31 days. About how Robin lost her courage, her husband, and her friends in the name of advancing her career. About how Marshall traded one year in Italy for five years of misery in yet another corporate law job. About how a group of friends fell apart. About how Ted spent 7 years procrastinating his marriage, in spite of two kids and repeated claims that this was the one true love of his life. About how he lost his wife after only 4 years of marriage, 11 years of knowing her. About how he came to live in his stories. And about how he found himself right back where he was 25 years ago.
"I want those extra forty-five days...with you. ... Because you died. ... But I still wouldn't trade away the rest of the seven years I spent pining after Robin and I'm actually trying to talk the kids into letting me take yet another run at her right now."
"Us and Bus Lady."
"I'm raising a daughter and the feds shut down the job that paid me 16 craploads a year, but I've racked up $30,000 of uninsured medical bills for symptoms I don't even have just to get you to eat an exploding meatball sub."
This episode is just driving me completely insane right now. I lost sleep last night because my brain would not stop deconstructing how wrong it was. It did not feel like the end of the story they were telling and it is not at all what I look for in my entertainment.
Naturally, I had to invent my own headcanon to reconcile and come to terms with the fact that this episode is in my head now. This was Robin's nightmare vision of the future. It's based on her fear that pursuing her career will always push men away from her. Her fear that Barney really does want kids. Her fear of losing Lily's friendship. And her fear that no matter what she does, she and Ted will end up right back where they were in 2005. That's my headcanon and I'm
sticking to it!
The writers just got married to the idea of pulling that football away as we came up to kick it and wouldn't let it go. Not to mention, they had to have written that no less than seven years ago in order to shoot the coverage for the kids, not allowing for the fact that their sensibilities as writers might change over time. And again, this does not feel like a story they set out to tell.
If this was the story they wanted to tell, then they shouldn't have told the other one. At the very least, they shouldn't have spent an entire season focusing on the damn wedding. If they wanted to tell this story, they should have spent all of Season 9 on spinning out that condensed hunk of crap that they forced into the last hour. Maybe then they could have given it a ring of authenticity.
But all they really had to do to make an entertaining episode of television...was just leave the rest unsaid.
But this wasn't a story they set out to tell; it was a trick they set out to play.
I'm not one to skip episodes when I rewatch things. I still watch "Reptile Boy," "Bad Eggs," and "Doublemeat Palace" when I go through Buffy. I still watch "Stage Fright" when I go through Dollhouse. I still watch "Expecting" and "She" when I got through Angel. I still watch "Fear Her" when I go through Doctor Who.
But I can vow here and now that I would sooner re-read the Buffy Season 8 comics than rewatch "Last Forever." And if you know me at all you know that I wound up violently disliking the Buffy Season 8 comics.
At least now I know how Barney feels when he watches The Karate Kid. This was the most haunting television finale it has ever been my displeasure to watch.
Some good did come out of it, though. I've set a goal for myself as a writer: to never write anything that is that much of a disappointment, that much of a transparent deception, that much of a dramatic departure from what came before. I may someday write something as unexpected, off-putting, and controversial as the LOST finale "The End." But I hope to never write anything so unwittingly under-thought as the How I Met Your Mother finale "Last Forever."