How I Met Your Mother was never a story about the mother. If you thought that it was going into the finale, you stopped paying attention after reading the title. It was the story of “the gang,” a group of friends with relationships that mirror those many of us have in our lives–the happy, but not perfect, pair; the on-again, off-again couple with fundamental problems they sometimes overcome, and the serial-single who can’t quite find love by some, but not all, fault of his own. They mirror relationships in our lives and may even define us personally not because they are fictionalized ideals, but rather because they are mostly realistic. For this reason, we shouldn’t have expected anyone to ride off into the sunset nor complain about the lack of a happily ever after.
Marshall and Lilly are unique in the final season in that they faced their primary trial pre-finale. No two people on this show are better suited for each other than these two, yet they almost broke up (again!) They overcame their trial, rightfully so, because , yes, they love each other, but also because the character of Marshall was built on valuing family over all else and Lily’s second pregnancy shifted her responsibility away from the career she felt she needed.
Barney is a womanizer. He’s responsible and loyal to those that matter to him, but those people are rarely women. Yes, Barney almost changed, but a lot of people almost change. How many people do you know truly change that much, that permanently? I wouldn’t expect Barney’s newfound traits as a father to last either. He’ll likely be a decent dad when he has the kid and go back to womanizing when he’s free–anything else wouldn’t be true to character. Barney and Robin made a sorta sense as a fling. It made less sense as a relationship. It didn’t make any sense as a marriage. To this I ask the female readers, who’d marry Barney? Robin eventually realized that it shouldn’t have been her.
Robin is the woman who doesn’t know what she wants or what is good for her. This personality trait is apparent in her actions throughout the series and understandable considering her upbringing bouncing between divorced parents, raised as a boy, and gaining child stardom. If you need evidence, check how most any child pop star turned out. The finale turned the happy ending on it’s head for almost every character, but the final scene is a new beginning that is more likely to end in happiness for Robin than any other decision she made on the show.
The finale was about Ted finally finding the happiness he always wanted, then finding it again. Unfortunately, Tracy dying was a prerequisite for that second shot at happiness. I won’t argue that her death was a bummer. This was the writer’s Kobayashi Maru–their no-win scenario. They had to make Tracy likable enough to be a believable mate for Ted, then they had to get rid of her to fulfill on the show’s true destiny. Ted and Robin had to be. Like the kids say at the end, why begin the story with Robin? Why do eight seasons worth of stories with only references to roommates and umbrellas? Because the story was Robin’s. How I Met Your Mother began with Robin, followed the gang’s journey with Robin, and it was always going to end with Robin. Tracy had to die, not for a twist, but for the fulfillment of the show’s implied promise.