Post Show Recaps

HIMYM Finale – Top 5 Endings

Full disclosure, team: I’m not a lifelong “How I Met Your Mother” fan. I had caught the occasional episode here or there, but it wasn’t until June 2013 that I decided to hunker down and do a full-scale binge watch. I had done pretty big binges before – but never eight seasons of a show in eight weeks. And my, it was a lovely experience.

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There are, and have been, a lot of great sitcoms. I’m not about to say that HIMYM fills a gap left by shows like Seinfeld, or even the more apt comparison in Friends. But I will say that I wrote HIMYM off as being another lowest-common-denominator CBS cog – and I was wrong. Though at times problematic, it’s intelligent, highbrow comedic storytelling, and that’s basically the beginning and end of what I look for in scripted television. Is it my favorite sitcom of the last 10 years? No (that would be 30 Rock), but it’s not bad. We live in a world with a lot of bad television, so I think it’s important to appreciate the gems, even if they are less than perfect.

It seems as though binge-watching HIMYM gives one a different perspective on the show as a whole, though. I learned this because I was excited to begin watching season nine on a week-to-week basis – my first mistake. My eight-week character study of Ted and friends suddenly came to a grinding halt when I was treated to isolated 22-minute blocks punctuated by superimposed laugh tracks. What happened to the show that I spent all summer falling in love with?

The show probably didn’t change all that much, but it’s a little easier to get through an average-to-bad episode (personally, I have little patience for the sexual escapades of Barney) knowing that another was only minutes away. And even with the missteps of this season (Sherri Shepherd – please just be Angie Jordan), there was something that kept me hanging on:

I need to know what the heck is going on with The Mother. It has haunted me – and all of us – since the first episode. Why did I sit through an episode of Marshall explaining how he was mugged by a monkey if not to get a little closer to finding out about The Mother?


The Slap

We’re just three episodes away from what’s supposed to be a fulfilling finale episode. And I’m wary – in all the television that I’ve watched (a lot – and I actually mean that), fulfilling series finales have been few and far between. However, I’ll have faith – creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have been pretty forthright telling us that we’re going to be seeing something that they’ve planned from the beginning. So what could the ending to HIMYM possibly be? I’ve outlined five potential conclusions that won’t make me feel like my last nine months – and your last nine years – have gone to complete waste.

  1. The Mother dies, everyone is sad.
    In an interview last week, Cristin Milioti said in very vague terms that this probably isn’t going to happen – even though it was heavily hinted at in the episode “Vesuvius.” However, I choose to believe it completely! It gives Bob Saget’s conversation real stakes. Isn’t there something truly Shakespearean about a whole narrative ultimately ending with tragic death? I love it.
  2. Happily ever after, everyone is happy
    The Mother was just being super weird when she discussed her early demise, or is possibly a hypochondriac, but everything else in the world is okay! Teddy Westchester gets his dream life, the kids are pretty much fine with being told a 104 hour story; Mom will pop in offering cookies, and the show ends with the family sitting down to watch a Greta Gerwig film.
  3. Slap Bet is a metaphor for the apocalypse
    One of the few storylines we have yet to tie up is the famous “slap bet” – Marshall’s eight slaps to be doled out to Barney at his leisure. We’ve been promised a final slap – and what better way to tie up this universe by that slap being the “last slap” in our faces as well?
  4. All Survivor parody
    The most real HIMYM moment for me (of course) was when Lily talked about Survivor Guilt – when your significant other has to work late on Wednesday and you watch Survivor without them.  With a recent episode of The Millers hinging entirely on a Survivor bit, could we anticipate these last three episodes will at least have some Survivor references? We still have to defend the franchise from NBC, after all.


    Brian Cranston

  5. How I Met Your Mother seamlessly transitions into Full House reboot
    Full House is one of the more unfulfilling series finales – Michelle falls off her horse, gets amnesia, and recovers with no implications. DJ goes to prom with Steve. The Full House finale is a perfectly fine episode of television, but doesn’t have any sense of culmination. I’m picturing Ted and the Mother honeymooning in San Francisco, and during a picnic lunch near the Golden Gate, we pan to see the Tanner family throwing Frisbees and playing with Comet. Ted’s voice morphs into Danny Tanner’s voice, and we all learn a valuable lesson about family and friendship.

Is How I Met Your Mother a (had to do it) legendary show? Maybe – maybe not. But it was something new, original and creative – even if we forgot it was from time to time.  I’m certainly excited to see how it ends.

How do you think Ted and friends will fare in the final three episodes? Let’s talk in the comments below or on Twitter @taylorcotter.

  • RHAP Recapper

    No wonder you remember all these details! I’ve watched it the old school way, as it’s aired, and forget everything til they remind me. Of course I would LOVE to see #5. Also, I believe you meant to say “…it’s important to appreciate the gems, even if they are ‘Less than Perfect’ starring Sara Rue, Andy Dick and Chuck.”

    • taylor

      Thanks, recapper! I almost made a Sara Rude joke and decided against it – I should have known you are my people.

  • claytonspivey

    my dream ending is simple ted talking to the kids and you pan back and ted turn
    s into bob saget. kingda like the full house thing. something simple like that. 🙂

    -Jessica F.

    • taylor

      Jessica using Clayton’s account – you guys are a real Ted + Marshall.

  • Scott

    Started watching in season 2 and just got done with a full re-watch of the first 8 seasons (and blogging about it) – and you’re right, binge watching changes things. I definitely liked seasons 7 and 8 more the second time around. While I definitely see the beauty in the storytelling for #1, I just can’t believe that’s going to be the “reward” for an extreme loyal audience that has hung in there for 9 years. The “Mother is dead” theory was out there since late season 8, and the writers have been known to troll with stuff like that in the past – hoping that’s the case here – that they both thought she was dying in 2024, but we’ll find out by 2030 that she’s recovered from whatever it was. I’d have a hard time with the notion of Ted getting that one last punch in the gut on the way out after everything he’s been through.

    • taylor

      That would be really sweet, but a pretty complex storyline to start and end in three episodes. I definitely agree that the lifers won’t be super happy with that ending!

      • Scott

        I don’t know – they are going to have to resolve the stuff from “Vesuvius” somehow, and I don’t know that it would take them any longer to deal with the fact that she had been sick and recovered than to deal with her death. It’s not like we’re getting every detail in the future timeline.

        The piece of the storytelling at the end of “Vesuvius” that I’ve kind of latched on to (and I fully admit my bias in not wanting that to be the ending) is that they paralleled the allusion to her death with Ted moving to Chicago in the “present” and the gang not knowing when they would all be together again as the “moment so intense you just leave it unspoken”, and we obviously know Chicago doesn’t happen.

        I’ve come to terms with the possibility of the tragic ending, so I won’t hate it, I just hope they’ve got a better one 🙂

        • taylor


  • jpanhorst

    Great job Taylor! I have a feeling we will be getting the happy ending version, with a slap mixed in somewhere!

    • taylor

      Thanks JP!

  • Sarah Freeman

    Fun to hear your reaction. I started watching the series in fall 2012, and caught up to the repeats of season 8 over the summer. Since I’ve not seen any of the episodes more than once and a lot of the subplots didn’t stick in my head, I’ve assumed that this is why I have enjoyed season 9 more than most of the long term fans seem to have done. Unlike, say, friends, where I would watch each season at least twice before the next one aired, and some of the early episodes I watched repeatedly because I loved them so much (my TV habits were definitely different back then). And with Friends, come the final few seasons, I felt the characters I knew had changed and become caricatures of themselves.

    I haven’t felt that with HIMYM. I still like all of the characters–there are things that bug me, such as the way the whole gang treats Barney’s sex-life as naughty but amusing rather than an actual criminal problem. (Though I adore the *character* of Barney.)

    This past season has been doing something very ambitious–it’s not unusual to see a sitcom do high-concept episodes, and HIMYM has had a bit of a reputation for them in the past, but having a high concept season is a big gamble, and I think in some ways, it would have been better suited to the penultimate season, so that we have the comfort of another season back in the bar to wind down afterwards. At any rate, high concept episodes tend to be either very good or very bad, and that’s how this season has felt for me–some of it I’ve loved, but we’ve had plenty of episodes which have been a struggle to get through.

    I suspect season nine will be more interesting all in one burst. You could watch the entire wedding weekend in ‘realtime’ as it were. (And I’m sure that very soon some website will host a HIMYM marathon one weekend, starting each episode at the day and time indicated at its start.)

    • Scott

      This season was actually a “Plan B” of sorts. They weren’t sure if there was going to be a season 9 (due to getting all the stars to commit to it, not due to a potential cancellation) until midway through last season. I think both seasons suffered for it, in different ways. I don’t think they would have ever drawn up a final season, for instance, in which Marshall spent half of it separated from the group, but Jason Segel was the last one to commit to the final season and they had to work around his other projects.

      • Sarah Freeman

        I wasn’t aware of that (I was avoiding HIMYM press stuff to avoid spoilers.) Explains a *lot*.

      • homertownie

        The show really fell off halfway through last season. I think the writers must have jumped ship. It is a hallow shadow of its former self this season.

  • Roberto

    Maybe Marshall misses the last slap, barely touching Barney on the nose.

  • Matt Geoghegan

    Everytime someone talks about HIMYM ending, I cry

  • Great job on this! I read your article right after watching tonight’s episode, so your comment on the slap bet really made me laugh. Like someone else said here, I’ve been watching weekly since season one. I barely remembered 1/2 the characters they brought back for last week’s parking-lot retrospective.
    Has anyone else floated the idea that it’s not the mom who dies in the last episode, but Ted? Morbid, I know, but would explain a lot!

    • taylor

      Thanks Rich! I thought tonight’s episode had a lot of fluff, but was overall happy with it’s direction. Glad that we’ll have the last hour solely (?) focused on Ted!

  • AlexKuntz


    This really seems to be a case of “we promise we weren’t making it up as we went along” gone badly. That was a fine finale after the second or third season. In the early parts of the show it really did seem to be about Ted and Robin’s romance. But as the show went on and on, the characters started to evolve naturally – beyond what the writers anticipated. It became more about letting go and moving on. The writers filmed the scene with the kids years ago and had to shoehorn it into 60 minutes; of course it isn’t going to feel genuine now. It’s really really disappointing. I think the thing to take away from it is to let your characters take the show where it naturally wants to go. As counter-intuitive as it seems, having a master plan from the start really hurt the legacy of this show.

  • taylor

    Everything is the worst.