I seem to remember a time when “How I Met Your Mother” took its sweet time. Way back when, it was a fun, occasionally touching, frequently daffy show that reveled in convoluted but rewarding flashbacks, hilarious, beside-the-point in-jokes, and tangents a plenty. In this, its final season, HIMYM distorted time even further, stretching a single week into a couple dozen episodes. Sadly, the show had run out of comic steam long before the days leading up to Barney and Robin’s wedding began. Tonight’s series finale tightly compressed time, squashing decades of life-altering events into an hour of temporally and tonally awkward television.
I consider myself among the lucky ones: Because I gave up watching the show sometime last year, I amassed no expectations as to what this episode might hold. I was neither heartbroken nor driven to Twitter with outrage. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how much life grist was crammed into this last chapter. This is a show where, once, every date, every career choice, every decision of note to a thirty-something was the subject of, at least, a debate over beers at Maclaren’s if not twenty-two minutes of small screen time.
In this last hour, though, a marriage fell apart, multiple children were born, nonspecific illness claimed a youngish woman’s life, somebody went grey, somebody got famous, and some other, startlingly well-adjusted children granted their father permission to date someone they still considered to be their aunt. Sadly, none of it felt particularly compelling or resonant. (That it wasn’t funny was par for the course by now.) In fact, the events of the finale felt like a series of contrivances created to bring the main characters to an inevitable conclusion that probably should have been avoided.
The name of the show is “How I Met Your Mother,” so, eventually, She had to come into the picture. But, if you ask me, all Ted had to do was meet her. The pair's eventual domesticity and the tragedy that followed need not have been a part of this story. (For that matter, Barney's grounding was also non-essential.) The best sitcoms escape the gravitational pull of their initial premise. HIMYM was ultimately about the time of one’s life – in this case, the thirties. Anyone who has lived through those years knows darker, different, possibly funnier times may follow. Those years should probably get their own show.