Ok, so first off, I want to reiterate the point of I Have an Opinion. It is my goal to with every review I write share both my critical, objective thoughts on a piece of entertainment. This review is going to be a review on the quality of the final season of How I Met Your Mother. Not only that, I also try to make sure you, the readers, get my personal views as well. I have worked hard to be able to separate both from each other, so that you get a sense of a true objective review of a film or show or music, but also my own personal tastes on whatever it is I am reviewing. Why do I reiterate that? Mostly because this is a long review, and the two view points I strive to see everything throw twist and turn throughout it, much like my Batman review as my objective criticisms and my own personal distaste for the film share the stage.
Also, I understand this is a topic that has been talked about a whole heap, just 4ish months ago. But despite all I have heard, I did not finish watching this season, as my CBS app did not work properly, and I was going to buy the DVD anyway to finish my collection. I was especially interested in getting the DVD as there was going to be an alternate ending to the ... let's just say controversial ending of the series.
For a quick overview, this show is about a father telling his kids the stories of his hay days, including all his many relationships, seemingly most importantly the relationship of he and his wife, the titular Mother. Season 9 focuses on the 72 hours before Robin and Barney's wedding, as the unlikely couple that won over the hearts of everyone watching as we saw two very injured characters find growth and healing with each other.
Season 9 is ... ok, let's do it like this. Ignoring the finale, Season 9 is probably the most perfectly crafted finale season of a sitcom I have ever seen. Every single memorable joke from the past 8 years of the show are brought back in some way, shape, or form, as well as calling back almost every old character they could bring. Not only that, but they craft brand new jokes and characters that all stand out among the best, including a wonderful the Mother who is instantly likable and I would be very surprised to hear someone not falling in love with the character, or at least her actress. The plot is as convoluted and mixed up as most seasons, which is par for the course, though there is actually a lot of long running plots that make an appearance in early episodes and get paid off later. Really, truly, this season (barring the finale) is the most perfect season of a television sitcom I have seen from episode one of the season to its penultimate showing.
The finale ... ok, in my opinion, the finale is actually an epilogue. You see, most sitcoms end on a very simple scene: the characters have a finale meeting, bittersweet or actually sweet, and then a protagonist looks back onto the now empty set and shuts the door, giving us as an audience almost literal closure on the show. Closure itself means not tying up every loose end, but leaving the audience with the characters at a place we can feel confidant their lives continue on from, finally happy or at least at peace with their major obstacles we watched through the show's run.
How I Met Your Mother's epilogue is the exact opposite. The penultimate episode indeed gives the closure, for the most part, and the opening of the finale finishes us off, at least some. In my mind, How I Met Your Mother is perfect right at Barney and Robin's wedding. But ...
You see, at the end of season 2, to use the two kids that are part of the "storytelling" mechanic they incorporate most episodes, to use them for the finale, they went ahead and filmed a sequence. That sequence is ...
ARG this is so frustrating to talk about!!
Barney regresses completely until he knocks up an unnamed and unseen woman all so he can become a father which is what finally changes him, even though we watched him change over the course of SEASONS of development. That's right, she is referenced as "Number 31" and we never see her. Great character work, guys. That was sarcasm, by the way. Robin's character turns to a complete shrew that she apparently was always meant to be. And even worse, the moral of the show, which at first seemed to be "hey, you met a girl you instantly fell in love with, but she has nothing in common with you, and no matter how much it hurts, being with her is wrong, and you need to wait for the right one," now reads "hey, you know that person you fell in love with instantly but has nothing in common with beyond how much you FEEL like you love them? Totally just wait around and eventually you'll get them, despite the fact you have nothing in common!" Wish fulfillment garbage! As a friend said, this ultimate ending just comes across as fan fiction, and should have stay relegated to it.
Not only ALL OF THAT, but they kill off the Mother offscreen where we see not a single character's reaction to her death, even though the point of the episode is "the big moments in our friends' lives." AND Ted and the Mother's relationship ends up being just a torrid and tedious affair as they get engaged and never get married, just constantly getting knocked up until they are together for seven years. Yeah, the Ted you sold us on for nine years, that's what he would have done, definitely.
How I Met Your MOTHER is not about that, it seems. And like I said above, they knew this from season 2's finale on. They dragged this show on for seven more seasons, teasing relationships and other women and other connections and character growth that ALL gets reneged because they had already filmed the finale to the entire series AT THE END OF SEASON 2!!
Let me put some perspective on you for that. If other shows came up with their finale at the end of their second season instead of growing organically:
- In Friends, Chandler and Monica would never have ended up together
- In Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will would have never made it to college or changed his life
- In That 70s Show, Eric would never have struck out of college and grown up to finally be a man teaching in Africa, let alone Kelso growing, or Hyde for that matter
- In Just Shoot Me, we would have never found the incredible chemistry between Elliot and Mia, and the show would have retained its focus on Mia instead of the ensemble show it became
Making a decision that early in the process KILLS the process. It allows for nothing to grow organically in writing, as you are forced to get to the finale pre-planned.
But wait! You see I said at the beginning that there was an ALTERNATE ENDING! That was the big thing I was excited about, because as you can guess from what I wrote above, there was a LOT of backlash for the broadcast finale. So much that the creators announced not a week after it aired that there would be an alternate ending to the series on the DVD. And what was that alternate ending? It was exactly the same, except the offending five minutes that reference the Mother's death (which is not the problem, it is the fact that we never SEE IT so it has no meaning and is merely presented as a convenient way to get rid of the character so Ted and Robin can get together), the filmed segment with the kids as they give Ted permission to go get Robin, and then Ted getting Robin. Yeah, all the changes to character development, all the lackluster jokes, all the bad storytelling, all of that stayed. They just chopped off the final five minutes.
How is that ALTERNATE?! IT IS THE SAME ENDING?!!
This ending baffles me. It, in all honesty, almost completely ruins the entire show, as the showrunners never meant a single ounce of the character work and development they did for seven years of the show. Luckily, audiences have a very VERY powerful ability ...
Art, of all kinds, can be divorced from its creator. You can enjoy Ender's Game without agreeing with its racist creator. You can enjoy Elmo without endorsing his puppeteer's unfortunate misconduct. And you can watch and enjoy nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother and just do as they did, and cut off the offending sequence by never watching the finale.
I mean what I said before, Season 9 is one of the best crafted, most hilarious sitcoms I have ever seen, possibly the best in terms of paying off jokes, storylines, and character plots. I would just suggest you never, ever watch the final episode.
There is a lot here that I can talk about. And after talking with a roommate, I think ... no, I KNOW I will have to come back to this show or at least the conceits I touch on at the end.