The HIMYM Dilemma From A Writing View
April 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Ok, so we all know that How I Met Your Mother ended this week. After 9 years of watching, the show’s loyal fans finally got all their answers. And while some were quite satisfied, most of the fans were left confused and angry. Was this show really supposed to be called How I Met Your Stepmother??
Personally, I’m a little torn on my opinion of this ending. On one hand, it’s a tidy roundabout finish – it ties up the story, and it’s nice to think that your first love can come back. On the other hand, I was disappointed. I felt that Ted’s character had grown throughout the series and actually evolved beyond Robin. I was excited to see him find true love with someone new and felt a little robbed by the mom being more like a long montage than anything else.
But personal feelings aside, let’s take a look at this strictly from a writing structure point of view. A good story obviously has a distinct beginning, middle, end. A good story has foreshadowing, repeating patterns or symbols, compelling characters that not only draw you into their world, but become so familiar they are a part of your world. A good story, like life, often has various twists and turns, bringing us down a different track and always keeping us on our toes.
Does HIMYM have these things? Yes, it most absolutely does. Everyone can point out the repeating themes of Ted’s quest for love, his big gestures, his dogged & determined romantic side, the blue horn, the slap bet, The Playbook, The Bro Code, and “Legendary” moments – the list could easily go on. Every character was on a journey and we knew their love and loyalty for each other was what always carried them through. They grew up together. They grew together.
The creators have stated they knew their ending from the very beginning and the story across the seasons show that. It always came back to Robin. That blue horn periodically made an appearance. We knew the mother herself was not a major part of the story. The story was really more about Ted’s journey. Not only his journey in finding the mother, but his journey in finding himself and growing up in the process.
So does the fact that he eventually ends up with Robin anyway, blue horn in hand, make sense in terms of story structure?
Well, yes, it does. Life, like stories, have repeating themes. Robin is one of Ted’s themes for sure. The story came full circle and everything was tied up. There were no other questions left to be answered. Except for perhaps the question of how the future of Ted & Robin would work this time. Yes, Ted already has the kids, so that solves that problem. But Robin is still a famous world reporter that has to travel all the time. Ted is much more of a responsible homebody than Barney ever was, plus he has kids. So if it didn’t work for Barney, why would Ted & Robin work any better considering the difference in their lifestyles?
But that wasn’t the point of the ending. The point was the story coming full circle. It may not have been the most satisfying ending that fans were looking for, but that’s life too – it’s not always a clean, satisfying end.
Could it still have worked the other way? Could Robin have stayed just Aunt Robin and Ted ended his dialogue with, “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”? That could have been followed by a montage of some snapshots and/or “home videos” before a fade to black. The End.
Yup – that could have worked too. Maybe it wouldn’t have brought the story to a complete full circle like ending up under Robin’s window again, but it still would have worked well with the themes because Ted evolved. He learned from his on-again off-again relationship with Robin. He found out what really mattered to him and what the kind of love was that he needed in his life. What the mother of his children should be like. And even if she still ended up dying, it would be ok because he has learned over the last 9 years that it isn’t just about the end result – it’s about the journey, the story itself. It’s about the adventures, the people you meet along the way, and the knowledge you gain. The happiness and life in general that you experience is what makes up your story, not your ending. In the end, he knew that’s what it was really all about. Not just mom, but what made up the path leading to mom. That was his story all along (with or without Robin).
Yes, that ending could have worked too.
But then, if that had been the ending, everyone wouldn’t be talking about it so much, would they?
What did you think about the ending of How I Met Your Mother? Did you like what the creators decided to do? How did you feel it fit in terms of a writing technique?