I used to be a fan of “How I met your mother“. I wasn’t a viewer of the first hour, I just happened to drop into the show during its 3rd or 4th season. It was a fun show to watch, mostly comedic, sometimes tragic and sad, and always with an interesting kind of story-telling. Now that it has come to an end, we have met the mother – finally. I’m free at last.
Note: This text contains heavy spoilers. Don’t read it unless you have seen the final season, or unless you wish to be spoiled. You have been warned.
The last three seasons have been a long, weary thing to watch, and they lacked the creativity that I felt made the important part of the viewing experience. The early episodes were hilarious, intriguing, and they had a clever way of telling the story. I fondly remember the show where Barney participates in the New York Marathon, which was a story inside a story inside a story inside a story. Then, there was the Pineapple Incident, in which Ted wakes up with a hangover and no memories about the previous night. Being a bit of a detective, he tries to reconstruct what has happened to him using the various clues that he finds along his way (one of the clues is an unknown girl in his bed, another is a pineapple – one of these clues will stay unresolved forever). Probably everyone will remember the Playbook and the various ways of Barney finding his next best one night stand. And I should mention the “sandwich” that the characters eat, especially in the flashbacks to their college times. All these were great television moments – and hardly anything was left of that towards the end of the series. In many episodes of the final season, I didn’t even laugh a single time. Mostly, I was bored.
The only reasons for watching the last season were my curiosity about when, finally, Ted will meet the mother of his future kids – and about the mother herself, in person. During the previous 8 seasons, the show built up an image of a nearly perfect mother. And Cristin Milioti totally pays off. She does a fantastic job of being Ted’s soul-mate in each and every one of her scenes. I can’t think of another fictional character on a TV show that I have loved more that “the mother”. And neither can Ted: since we saw him in the course of 8 years searching for his perfect match, always believing in love and failing heart-breakingly: we could now see in the flash-forwards how happy he will be. They really are meant for each other and this makes me feel great about it.
Sadly, as Ted’s future daughter says, “mom is hardly in the story”. That’s a fail. I would have loved to learn more about her; every scene with Cristin Milioti in it raised the standards. I’m perfectly aware that good stories get fascinating because of some sort of conflict – and I actually don’t want to see the mother fight with Ted. But anyway, this is a point where the show didn’t even look into the possibilities ahead. Too bad. A short glimpse of what the writers were capable of was the marvelous episode called “How your mother met me“, where we get the back-story of the mother and the many near-misses of Ted meeting her years ago. Dear authors: when you were able to write this episode – why did you make me sit through Marshall’s road trip and Barney’s family issues? I’ll never understand.
The scenes that had the mother in them made me feel a certain magic to them. They still touch me when I watch them. Here are three highlight-examples:
The “Time Travellers“-episode, where Ted imagines he could travel back in time to be able to meet the mother earlier – even if it would only be 45 days earlier. He says he wants to spend those extra 45 days with her. And if he can’t have that, he’d even take 45 seconds until her boyfriend would arrive and knock him out. Josh Radnor, the actor playing Ted, totally nails this speech. In this scene, I can see a man who desperately loves his wife and who will give anything in the world to be with her. This is awesome acting and awesome writing.
Another highlight is the scene where Barney meets the mother in the episode “Platonish“, a couple of weeks before his proposal to Robin. Having been challenged, he tries to get her phone number, but she refuses and instead gives him the advice to pursue his happiness instead of random girls. He talks about being the best at his game, but she shoots him down with the remarkable line:
Do you wanna keep playing? Or do you wanna win?
This is his turning point, making him realize he will find his happiness with Robin – to which the mother adds: “This is going to take everything you have got. It will take all your time, all your attention, all your resources. This is the big one! You can’t be messing around and picking up girls in drug stores. You got work to do!” This is the scene that made me adore Cristin Milioti in this role.
Finally, the last scene where we see Ted and his wife-to-be together: the scene in which they first meet. The umbrella scene is perfect in every way I could ever hope for.
Possibly, no-one from the producer’s staff expected Cristin Milioti to be so very good. But then again, why did they raise her character to the heavens so very much? Why, in contrast, did they assassinate Robin’s character so harshly: transforming her into a puppet of other people’s feelings and intents (I have to think of the proposal scene and of the wedding rehearsal episode), making her strength and her will completely forgotten until the final episode when she started pursuing her career again?
In contrast to some others, I’m not so very sad about the final plot twist. Yes, it was unnecessary to let the mother die and let Ted return to Robin – but then again it was the producer’s idea from the first season on, and they had to film some ending with the kids in the right age. They could have made different endings of course, but then again: would the “perfect” ending have been among them? They couldn’t predict everything. But even considering their hands were tied this much, they should have taken this into account: they knew that Ted would have to end up with Robin. Then why didn’t they show us more of the mother to make it a bigger step for him to end up with Robin after the mother’s death? Why did they spoil the image of Robin and Ted together so rigorously? Why did they have Robin and Barney get married in the penultimate episode, following the amazing build-up that I mentioned above – just to have them divorced 20 minutes of screen-time later? Why didn’t they make me want Robin und Ted to be together?
Many bad decisions for a show that had passed its peak already. And too many bad episodes that just dragged the story longer and longer without any effect and without any good storytelling. There’s just one thing that made my day every single time: when the mother appeared on screen. Thank you, Tracy!