Thursday, 3 April 2014

What I Learned From a Disappointing Series Finale

On Monday, the sitcom How I Met Your Mother came to its nine season conclusion.

I have thoughts.

There will be spoilers.

You have been warned.

I have so many thoughts that it took me 4 days to marinate on them and untangle how I really felt, what is applicable, and what isn't. I'll skip something things, gloss over what I didn't mind because all in all, I only have one huge sticking point.
First of all, let's get two things out of the way.

Thing number 1: I love Robin/Barney.

Thing number 2: I HATE Ted.

I remember the exact moment I hated Ted. It was in the episode "Something Old", where Marshal and Lily are packing up to move to Rome and want to throw away an old bean-bag chair, but Ted fights them on it for all the memories it contains. Said chair had been with them since college. But here's the thing, Ted.

IT'S NOT YOUR CHAIR. IT WAS NEVER YOUR CHAIR. And I know it wasn't the chair itself that was Ted's issue, it was what the chair symbolized but to me, it just came across as yet another instance where Ted whines and complains until his friends rearrange their lives to make him feel better. From then on I decided Ted was a sentimental man-child and I just continued watching the show for his friends.

Even though I hated Ted, I still wanted to see him happy. Even cynical me likes every now and then to see love conquer all and he believed so hard in love that I wanted it for him.

While the writers and the actress might have over-written The Mother a little too perfectly, a little too on-the-nose, I did like her a lot. She was talented, caring, warm, funny without being quirky or a Manic-Pixie-Dreamgirl. I did find her perfect for Ted and the group. It was right. ("Number 31, a beautiful name, is it French?")
And I actually didn't mind that she died. They loved each other, they had a life, they had kids.

I also didn't mind that Barney and Robin divorced. They tried, it didn't work. I didn't even mind Barney back-sliding into his womanizing ways, mostly because all the other characters pointed out how sad it was.

What I had a problem with was the last 3 minutes.

I hated how the kids basically said "Dad, go bone Robin. Psh it's been 6 years since mom died." and then him appearing at her window with that damn blue French Horn.

Here is why I hate it: I understand they recorded the ending to the entire series back in season 2 when they feared cancellation and wanted to put a clean ending on the series. I understand that. But by sticking to the same ending they envisioned in season 2, they invalidate all the growth any and all characters went through in the time between season 2 to season 9.

HOW many times had Ted let go of Robin or vice-versa? How many times has Ted realized crazy stunts don't work on Robin? It was clear Robin at least wasn't the same person she was when the stupid horn trick might have worked, and that Ted wants a version of Robin from 15 years prior.

It was sad, cheap, and did tremendous disservice to all the characters. Only Lily and Marshal came out of the finale completely unscathed.

But, the finale was something that I, personally, needed.

The night before the episode I was working on Project C's re-write and I was pondering a character who we meet early in the story, then see again later under completely different circumstances. They are a different person. The way Project C's re-write is going, those circumstances will never happen, and I was reluctant to let it go.

Now, thanks to the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, I understand the true meaning of Kill Your Darlings. The creators of HIMYM had a vision, a set story they wanted to tell with a nice neat dream ending, character development be damned!

I will not do that. Project C 2009 is not Project C 2014. I will respect my characters. I will follow their personal growth. I will keep them in character without keeping them in boxes. I will burn the remains. I will learn from the past and from things that should have been better than they were.

Thank you, HIMYM. Thank you for the laughs the lessons, and the example of what not to do.

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