(Warning: The following posts contains spoilers from the SERIES FINALE of How I Met Your Mother, up to and including the final scene of the series. Proceed at your own risk!)
I’d followed How I Met Your Mother since its early years and was always enchanted by the show. Granted, the whole mystery of how Ted actually met the mother could be tedious, but the show never took itself that seriously, which, incidentally, I would argue was the fatal flaw of Lost and why that show’s finale didn’t work. That’s why, when HIMYM pulled its final, premise-undermining twist, I was impressed that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays had the guts to pull a real shocker, even if the final reveal wasn’t as clean as it could have been.
The reason the ending worked for me is, like the daughter said, the mother was barely in the story. If you just plopped down on the couch and starting watching HIMYM, you’d probably have the same observation: show about the mother who isn’t there? What’s up with that? Ted, the classic overthinker, is the kind of guy who would sit his kids down and tell them eight years of history to work up the courage to ask one girl out. So that serves the overall arc of the show.
But the ending could have been better with more context. It is fair to look at the ending and say (as many have), “If Barney and Robin got divorced after three years with no kids, how are Ted and Robin going to make it with Ted already having kids?” Some more context could have helped, like saying “Robin moved back to New York two years ago and doesn’t travel as much as she used to. She’s shown much more interest in Ted’s kids since their mother has died.” There’s a ten-year gap between the last Robin sighting at Ted and Tracy’s wedding and Ted asking Robin out again, when Ted and Robin are now in their fifties. A lot could have changed, and that should have been made clear, in order to make the twist more palatable.
This leads to the real problem of the finale, and that is of Barney and Robin’s divorce after a mere three years of marriage, after three seasons’ worth of buildup to their marriage. Honestly, the produces should have killed Barney at some point in the future if they wanted to bring Ted and Robin back together. It would have been sad, but it would have been better than negating all the growing up Barney did for two years, only to knock it down and build it back up in half-an-hour
But in a way, HIMYM finale is just the way life is, for better or worse. People fall in and out of love, and in and out of lives. Just because Ted is asking Robin out in the future doesn’t mean that he was in love with her all the time he was married to Tracy. He’d still be with Tracy if she was alive, but she died. Ted moved on, and at his age, he can marry a woman who was just a friend.