By TIFFANY CHAN ’15
On Monday, “How I Met Your Mother” (HIMYM) aired its 208th and final episode.
After airing for nine years and as many seasons, “How I Met Your Mother” is something of a cultural institution. It follows the story of Ted Mosby, an architect looking for love in New York City. Although the frame of the show is future Ted Mosby telling his children how he met their mother, the show ultimately tells the story of a group of friends living in a big city. We have come to love the five-member gang of Ted, his lawyer and best friend Marshall, Lily, the kindergarten teacher and art connoisseur, Barney, the flamboyant playboy and Robin, the object of Ted’s affection. We’ve watched as each of the characters transitioned from late-adolescence into adulthood and dealt with all the road bumps along the way. Their colorful personalities have given us innumerable catchphrases, adages and inside jokes throughout the years.
While it was initially met with great acclaim, the show seemed to decline in quality from seasons five through seven, lacking its former spark. Although entertaining, the show had strayed too far from its original premise. “How I Met Your Mother” showed viewers Ted’s long line of hook-ups instead of telling a good story. It was difficult not to lose patience with his completely ineffectual search for his soulmate. No one in his long string of ladies connected deeply enough with him to be plausible candidates for the Mother. The viewers could only question how any of the stories would contribute to the original objective of the show: to tell us how Ted Mosby met his soulmate. For eight years, the show left the Mother’s identity a mystery, and fans had to guess which one of the countless female guest leads could possibly end up being the future Mrs. Mosby. This led many to wonder if the show had been drawn out for too long.
Even the last season seemed off to a slow start, despite the Mother’s reappearance that gave fans hope for a strong finish. The last season told the story of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend over the span of twenty-two episodes. While there were a few flashforward sequences in which we saw Ted and the Mother interact as a happy couple, the first half of season nine still seemed stagnant. The show has always been negotiation between slapstick comedy and good storytelling.
However, in the first half of the last season, it seemed that the balance fell strongly in favor of the former. For long-time fans of the show, things felt off kilter. The gang was far from their usual haunt MacLaren’s, and Marshall was separated from the group due to the actor’s scheduling conflicts. It was as though the writers had to resort to ridiculous gags in order to keep viewers entertained. Furthermore, while fans desperately wanted to see Ted and the Mother in their bliss, the fact remained that within the chosen storyline, we could only have limited exposure to that at best and still maintain the integrity of the story. Nonetheless, the show seemed to hit its stride with the second half of the season as the gang reunited in Farhampton just in time to celebrate Barney and Robin’s wedding.
It has been incredibly satisfying to watch each of the characters develop over the seasons. In 208 episodes, the writers have been able to give the characters more depth than is usually seen in sitcom characters. For nine seasons, we have gotten the opportunity to see the character grow through all the laughs, tears and yes, even the slaps.
We have seen Marshall and Lily endure their share of ups and downs together and become a stronger couple because of it. We have seen the emotionally unavailable Robin let herself fall in love, in the fairytale style that she used to disdain. We have seen the playboy extraordinaire Barney shed his bravado and try to chase after something authentic. And finally, we have seen Ted become a man worthy of meeting the Mother. While Ted believes from the first season that he is more than ready to settle into a serious relationship, the audience can see over the course of the following seasons that there is still a lot for him to learn before becoming husband material. Furthermore, I am grateful that the writers introduced the Mother with a season left to go so that we could have time to feel like we know her and make sense of why she and Ted are perfect for each other.
All jokes aside, the show has always been able to maintain a level of sentimentality that is unique for a sitcom. While shows such as “30 Rock” and “The Office” thrive on acerbic wit and biting one-liners, “How I Met Your Mother” has always seemed to try to maintain a sense of authenticity. Because the show is from the perspective of Ted looking back on his escapades, there is a certain distance between the viewers and the action of the storyline. The audience knows that Ted eventually gets everything that he wants, even if it was not on his own terms. That knowledge has been a talisman of sorts as we watch him struggle to find “the One.” The mishaps and mayhem of the show, while over the top at times, were based on the writer’s own experiences. The viewers have always been able to take comfort in knowing that everything turns out in the end but also in the fact that “How I Met Your Mother” is anchored in truth.
Perhaps this is why the show has resonated so much with younger audiences. In a time of rapid life changes and uncertainty, “How I Met Your Mother” argues that in the end things will turn out alright. It argues that no matter what life decides to throw your way, you will always be able to make it through if you surround yourself with wonderful companions — platonic or otherwise. And frankly, that’s one of the most beautiful truths that we have.