After nine seasons, “How I Met Your Mother” finally ended the most protracted father-children conversation in history — as some have already noted, a little too late to escape with its creative dignity entirely intact. Nevertheless, the one-hour finale reinforced the sense that this was a show willing to take chances, and one that at its best deftly mixed melancholy and sentimentality with — finally — how to reach happily ever after.
Written by series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and directed by Pamela Fryman, the closing chapter regarding Ted (Josh Radnor) and his idealistic search for love — as pal Marshall (Jason Segel) put it, always going “way too big too soon” — capped off what Ted described, with a gift for understatement, as a “really long weekend.” But he finally found the elusive mother (Cristin Milioti) to those bored-looking kids, which, in an unexpected twist (and SPOILER ALERT if you have yet to watch), wasn’t the end of the story.
So in an ambitious if not fully successful hour, the producers followed the central quintet (and Ted’s plus one) as they navigated their way through the 2010s — complicated by “life and jobs and kids” — and a bit too hastily, the ’20s.
Somewhat appropriately, the series came back to its key characters, zeroing in on the relationship between Ted and Robin (Cobie Smulders) that often felt so right in season one. Still, it took a whole lot of fancy footwork to get from where the episode began to how it wound up, rather hastily hopping over a huge chunk of story to reach the point where the older Ted can be granted, with the blessing of his kids, a second shot at happiness.
For many, the emotion of the hour will overcome such nitpicking, and there was certainly a lot of heart in it — the best moment in that regard coming from Neil Patrick Harris, when the skirt-chasing Barney finally comes face to face with the woman who will actually change him, his baby daughter. That said, this is one of those episodes where it probably helps to be either hugely invested in the series or to have drifted far enough away that some of the leaps won’t feel quite so jarring.
Of course, “How I Met Your Mother” isn’t really gone. Beyond the episodes playing in syndication, CBS — which used the finale to help launch “Friends With Better Lives” — is developing the other side of the coin, “How I Met Your Dad.”
As stated at the outset, what felt like an inordinately well-cast comedy with a clever gimmick when the show made its debut had probably outlived its expiration date, but the ratings justified keeping the show around while CBS sought to conjure a worthy successor — TV’s version of the circle of life. As a bonus, the network had the multi-talented Harris as a ready-made host for events from the Tonys to the Emmys.
All told, the finale, like the series itself, was fine, if not, alas, legendary. But hey, unlike some of the shows that have come and gone while Ted searched for his dream girl, it certainly beat a slap to the face.