Jason Segel told CNN it would be the best series ending ever — except, he said, for the long-running Newhart series finale. You know, the one in which Vermont innkeeper Bob Newhart got knocked out by a flying golf ball in the late ’80s, and when he woke up, he was in bed with his ’70s sitcom wife Suzanne Pleshette and the whole ’80s series was a dream. That would seem to point to a surprise ending for How I Met Your Mother — maybe the “surprise” ending that’s been discussed endlessly in social media for days and which show creators danced around at the recent PaleyFest …
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!
Zipping back to the wedding of Robin and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Ted (Josh Radnor) says his goodbyes to the gang after the ceremony, because he’s leaving the next morning to move to Chicago. (You buying this? Me neither.) At the train station, Ted strikes up a conversation with a Crazy Old Lady who tells him the beautiful girl (Cristin Milioti) he keeps running into and thinking about — who played bass at the wedding — is his destiny. Ted scoffs, then discovers the girl is standing a few feet away, under a yellow umbrella.
And so begin the Dark Years for the gang — a little late in the life of the series. Ted does not move to Chicago, having met The Mother of His Future Children. Marshall (Segel) hates his job and regrets that he turned down a judgeship for Lily’s (Alyson Hannigan) sake. Ted is saving money for The Perfect Wedding To The Mother of His Future Children, who announces she cannot get married in September, as planned, because she will not fit into her dress – a nod to The Dick Van Dyke Show era of TV when the Broadcast Decency Police would not allow the word “pregnant” to be spoken on-air.
Moving forward to Barney and Robin’s three-year anniversary, they are miserable and, during a trip to Argentina, she asks him if he wants out of their marriage. Extra points if you saw that one coming about two seasons ago. They get super drunk, have sex, and divorce. Lily despairs that the gang is breaking up. Ted and The Mother Of His Now 1 Child are living in the suburbs, and Marshall and Lily are expecting No. 3. It’s now Halloween 2016. Lily is hugely pregnant; Marshall’s boss has taken to calling him three words that mean “vagina” per day; Barney’s picking up women in front of Robin; Lily’s still yammering about how the gang must never change and always stay together; and Robin insists “the gang” is now a married couple she never sees because they’re about to have their third child, she has an ex-husband who hits on women in her presence, and the guy she should have ended up with who is happily married to The Mother Of His Child. Lily admits that sounds kind of bad. That’s Another Clue.
Two years later, the gang is still together, except Robin, who is traveling the world and every day looking more like Christiane Amanpour. Zipping forward to 2019, Ted and the Mother of His Now 2 Children still aren’t married because Ted is still obsessed with having The Perfect Wedding, and Barney — who set out to shag a different woman every night for an entire month — has discovered that No. 31 got pregnant. Continuing the downward spiral, Barney’s baby (it’s a girl) is born, and he tells her she is the love of his life — the baby, that is. No. 31 is never mentioned again.
It’s now five years since Ted proposed to The Mother Of His Now 2 Children and they still haven’t tied to knot, so he proposes again, to refresh her memory. This time he agrees to get married that Thursday, which rolls around and, while the gang is in the bar on the way to the ceremony, Robin arrives, so the gang really is back together for the big day. And from that moment, Ted tells his children, he knew he had to love their mother as much as he could for as long as he could – even “when she got sick.” We see Mom in a hospital bed. Those web reports were true: Mom’s a goner. Flashback to Ted and Mom and Crazy Old Lady at the train station when Ted discovers The Mother of His Future Children shares his initials (her name is Tracy) and they have been sharing an umbrella for years without knowing each other — finding it here, leaving it there. Only, of course, she’s dead — and we have learned it’s virtually impossible to pull off a surprise ending to a comedy series in this age of social media. Surprise TV Series endings apparently are dead — like Tracy.
“So that’s it,” Ted tells his kids. They don’t buy it any more than we do. The kids tell Ted the whole story has been about how totally in love he is with Aunt Robin, which is what we’d suspected all along. The kids say they are OK with it because they love Aunt Robin too — and Mom has been dead six years. And, as we say goodbye to Ted, he’s outside the apartment of Robin and her three dogs. And they all live happily ever after.