I think the part of the HIMYM finale that I’m the most upset by is how they ruined the promise of the relationship between Ted and The Mother, something we’ve been building to for nine years. It’s literally in the title. When we first see Ted in the pilot, he’s young and a hopeless romantic who believes in the idea of love but has no understanding of what true love is. He’s latches on to the instant attraction and chemistry with each new girl and throws himself into the relationship head first. Marshall literally sums it all up in the finale when he says “Why does he keep doing this? He meets them, he likes them way too much and goes way too big too soon and ends up blowing it. I can’t take this anymore. He’s fallen in love so many times.” It’s all about the speeches and big romantic gestures but it always falls flat because Ted falls in love with the idea of these women, not the women themselves. He doesn’t see them as individuals with hopes and dreams and desires and insecurities and flaws. He projects what he’s been searching for onto the women and then over time, the scales are lifted from his eyes. That’s when he starts to see the real woman underneath and he often runs screaming in the opposite direction. We saw it first with Robin, then Victoria, Stella, and Zoe. All these women were important to Ted and I’m sure he had genuine feelings for them, but his brain was always searching for the fairytale romance that he’d imagined for himself, full of the signs and destiny and little coincidences that he always thought would lead him to the one.
The Mother’s own story also goes along with this theme, especially throughout “How Your Mother Met Me.” She’s basically introduced as someone who already had her one great love story with Max and now isn’t even sure what the future holds for her. She breaks up with a great guy because while she knows she needs to move on, she also knows it’s not going to be with him. She goes to Barney and Robin’s wedding with an open heart, but also zero expectations. Ted walks into the wedding in much the same place. He’s ready to move forward with his life in Chicago and he passes on his first chance to meet The Mother even though, at first glance, she has so many of the qualities that Ted’s always said he wanted in a woman. Ted’s been trying too hard and caring too much all along and that’s his fatal flaw (also one of the things that makes him so endearing as a character, but that’s a separate post). So of course, he finds the right woman at last when he finally gets out of his own way by just being real instead of trying to force a romantic encounter. Through their first conversation, we find out just how much the fates had been conspiring all along to bring them together and how they found each other at precisely the moment when both of them are finally ready for real, grown up love and all the complications and messiness that come along with it.
And if the story had just ended there, it would have been a beautiful story. It would have showed incredible character development for Ted and paid off the natural, easy chemistry that Josh Radnor and Cristin Milioti have together. I even thought some of the little glimpses of their future together were nice and seemed to fit the theme of adult, imperfect love. I liked that they showed the Mother getting pregnant in the midst of planning the fairytale wedding (of Ted’s dreams, let’s be real) because it’s realistic and could happen to anyone but also because it fit the theme of Ted’s dreams vs. reality. He spent years trying to find a wife and then it took him seven years and two children before he got to officially tie the knot, in a casual Thursday wedding that was the very opposite of his grandiose plans at the start.