My first reaction after reading about the How I Met Your Mother finale was that I thought it made a lot of sense. Not all of it mind you (for reasons which will soon become clear) but the central conceit that found Ted, with blue french horn in hand, back at Robin's doorstep rang true. The problem with that? I haven't watched the comedy since somewhere in the middle of Season 4. In fact, when I tried find out exactly when I abandoned the show it was tough to pin-point because the events of the episodes that made me stop watching had pretty much all faded from memory.
I had seen Josh Radnor's lead dating Sarah Chalke but when reading synopses to catch-up, I found myself asking, 'who the hell is Stella?' So you can see where I'm coming from. However, I also don't want to project that I'm somehow better than the show because I was as big a fan as anyone for the first three seasons. I still own them on DVD. I love 4 of the 5 members of the cast. (Sorry, Radnor.) So, that's where I'm coming from. Why was it important to contextualize my relationship to HIMYM? Because it highlights the real problems that lie at the heart of the terrible finale... that I still have not watched and probably never will.
Is it fair to call "Last Forever" terrible without having actually seen the episode? In the words of T-Bone from Arrested Development, 'oh, most definitely,' but my main argument against it in a way requires that I keep my no HIMYM streak alive. And, if you recall, I know everything that happened because I read about the finale. Fine, I did watch the end of the finale, since that's also fairly important if I'm going to purport that the (big) finish worked.
You see the problem don't you? The finale's central conceit doesn't take into account anything that has happened over the last five (and a half) seasons. That's over half its existence. Even worse, it treated the events of those years as inconsequential. A bunch of 'stuff' to be discarded so the creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, could retcon what they had built in order to make it fit back into their original vision. Parts of the finale were taped eight years ago! Eight. Talk about closing your mind to the organic life that is television.
If Greg Daniels and Mike Schur stuck to their original guns with Parks and Recreation, Leslie would probably still be chasing Mark Brendanawicz and Andy would have been gone after the first (ill-regarded) season. This isn't a film (or mini-series) with a finish line in sight. It's alive. In the world of sitcoms, you're doing pretty much everything you can to avoid the end and that means altering what you originally thought was going to happen. The moment that Barney and Robin's relationship was more than just a one-night-stand, it was time to rechart the course. But they didn't and that's why the (very) end works for me and not fans who have stuck around the last five years.
Imagine that Barney reacted to his first night with Robin the way Barney always reacts. No emotional attachment. The tryst still causes a rift between the two and Ted but only until his 'near death' experience (near the end of S3) and proposal to Stella. Yes, I know who she is now. Season 4 could be largely the same, minus the Barney and Robin relationship, and we finally meet the mother as Ted grieves in the rain about his broken engagement. The audience should be charmed by her but don't get to know her for more than the end of that episode as well as the following one where she could meet rest of the HIMYM 'family.' Robin leaves soon after and cue the finale with much more reasonable flash-forwards and Ted outside her apartment. It then had always been their love story.
Like I said, if you never watched Seasons 5-9 and ignore all the ridiculous storylines related to those years, the finale of How I Met Your Mother was perfect. Give it a try, the first 4 (okay 8) are on Netflix. I hope How I Met Your Dad learns from this and grows along with its show.