As I glanced at my Twitter feed as work was winding down yesterday, I got concerned. The reactions to the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” were rolling in and they weren’t just negative, they were angry, horrified, and outraged. To paraphrase the comic book guy from “The Simpsons”: Worst. Episode. Ever.
I wasn’t going to not watch though. I jumped on the HIMYM bandwagon somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3 and loved the show from that jump. I was like Ted with a French horn to pledge to this sitcom, which found that balance between funny and poignant, and let me just say there is not nearly enough poignant on TV these days.
Most of the reason I gave the show a shot in the first place was because Alyson Hannigan, aka Willow from Buffy, was involved. I came for Willow, but I stayed for Cobie Smulders and for Robin. While I don’t identify with Robin the same way I do Liz Lemon or Veronica Mars, she is a female on TV I respect, which is something I can’t say for many characters in this alleged “Golden Age”. She was independent, but could still be feminine and attractive. She cared about her job, she could crack a joke, and she could be a guy’s girl and a girl’s girl. In other words, in Season 1, I hated Ted for choosing boring, lame Victoria over the awesomeness that is Robin.
My adoration for Robin waned in these later seasons, in part, because I never really bought the Robin and Barney romance and, in part, because she had become a bit removed from the chill Robin I had grown to love. Even so though, last week when she vented her wedding jitters to Ted and wondered if she had missed her chance with the right guy, I teared up. Robin may seem so down to Earth and career-driven, but I always loved how the show gave us a glimpse at the side she keeps from people that wants to be swept off her feet, that wants to have children, and that wants to be taken care of by someone. She may seem self-sufficient, but that isn’t because it is what she wants, it is because she has learned to be that way for lack of other options.
I think that is why I pretty much adored all but the last four minutes of the show’s finale last night. Yes, it was disappointing to learn Robin drifted from the group, but it would be insane if she didn’t. Her summation of “the gang” to Lily in the empty apartment was spot on. Robin isn’t going to sacrifice her self-respect and punish herself by watching the two major men of her life move on without her. Like I said, she is a girl who learned the art of self-preservation, and you’d destroy yourself trying to live all those years in a situation like that, even though it makes us sad as viewers.
I was okay with Robin and Barney quietly getting divorced, that made sense. I had grown to be okay with Robin and Ted not ending up together, especially once I got a glimpse of The Mother and how truly awesome she is. Yes, I thought they were a good match, but there are often times in your life where you think you’ve found the right person and, guess what, you’re wrong. I wanted Robin to find happiness though. I wanted her to find someone to be with or new friends or something. Instead, she spends a good decade of her life in purgatory with nothing to do but wait.
Most people are upset that the finale of HIMYM undercuts the lesson that Ted’s long period of waiting and near-misses was worth it because of what was waiting for him under that yellow umbrella. By pairing him with Robin in the end, it does somewhat feel like you are invalidating something. Some might argue this resolution invalidates the relationship with The Mother, but I am inclined to disagree. Ted’s monologue about Tracy that he tells his children, in which he told them he cherished and loved every minute of every day with her and knew never to stop loving her with all his heart was just the payoff I was hoping for in that relationship. He went through a lot, he felt like the right person got away several times, but in the end it was worth it. I don’t even mind that their love was cut short, as I’ve indicated here in these posts before.
What I do think it invalidates though is Robin, not to mention the relationship between Robin and Ted. We really are supposed to accept that Robin did nothing but wait around alone with her dogs for Ted to come back? We are supposed to be as invested in this relationship as we were in the pilot, even though we know about Tracy and how amazing she was?
I guess I should admit here that I can be a little judgmental when it comes to widowers. I understand that not everyone is like my mom and content to be alone. But being a widower and a divorcee are two very different things. A widower is no longer with the person they loved because they have no other choice, not because things didn’t work out. So, while I know many a widower who remarry and it certainly isn’t that they don’t love their new spouse, there does seem to be a certain amount of inequality in the spousal rankings that isn’t as present in someone who divorces and remarries. If you were Robin and saw what Ted and Tracy had, how could you agree to date this man for a third time? How would you not spend the entire relationship wondering how you measured up, wondering if you were just Plan B because Plan A died? In a way, it is like an even crueler thing to do to yourself than stay entrenched in the group.
I can understand why Ted, who get so lonely so easily, would try to win Robin back after his wife died. What I can’t understand is why Robin would agree. Yes, she had her doubts at the wedding, but that was something like 17 years prior to the rekindling of this relationship. If Robin, who always learned to get by on her own and act strong even though she may not have felt strong hadn’t moved on at that point, how miserable must those 17 years have been? I’m sure she dated other guys during that period, but if we are to believe that the thought was always in the back of her head that Ted was the guy, this is way more depressing than the fact she isn’t at McLaren’s with the gang twice a week.
So I pretend the last four minutes of HIMYM never happened not because of The Mother, though the show exceeded my wildest expectations, as did actress Cristin Milioti, whose scene with Josh Radnor under the umbrella was pitch perfect in every way, not because of Ted and his journey and what it meant to viewers, though I am partial to the reading that all his bad timing and close calls only made what he found with Tracy even better, but because of Robin, who deserves more than to be the afterthought, who deserves more than to wait for years and years alone and wondering if she did this to herself, and who deserves to meet her own happiness instead of relying on the unhappiness of someone else to make her life complete.