The Walking Dead

How much does a finale affect your perception of a television show? That is to say, does a poor ending retroactively taint all the time you've spent enjoying the series? When a show goes out on a high note, the series can more easily be remembered fondly as a whole. Shows like Six Feet Under and The Golden Girls wrapped up their stories in believable, tidy ways that left their audiences satisfied. Shows that have messier, more controversial finales can hang onto their reputations if the preceding episodes were strong enough; nobody will ever question the contribution that The Sopranos has made to the television landscape. But what happens when a show's ending undoes the work that was put into getting to the conclusion? No matter how fascinating people found Lost, its legacy is now one of maddening disappointment. At least it has good company, because How I Met Your Mother has now finally pulled into the station...whereupon it crashed.

I'm bummed that all my posts about How I Met Your Mother on this blog have been about my frustration with the series, because back before the Slice of Lime was started, this show counted among my favorites. There was no denying it was running on fumes by the end, but at least they got the opportunity to tie up all the loose ends, complete all the unfinished stories, and finally give both Ted's children and the audience the conclusion we were all awaiting. It was time to meet the Mother.

The vast majority of Season 9 takes place over a single weekend, during which Robin and Barney get married. That's a bold plan for episode structure, and it paid off. Given that the show is as much a comedy as a narrative, it was plenty amusing. Interesting and clever things were done once the Mother (Tracy, played by Cristin Milioti) entered the picture, such as an episode told from her point of view. So overall, Season 9 was far from a disaster.

But... Come on, you knew the "but..." was coming. First, let me issue a blanket SPOILER WARNING for the rest of Season 9, including the finale. If you haven't seen it yet, and would like to be disappointed in your own good time, stop reading now!

What on Earth was that piece of shit finale? OK, if you told me that within the show's universe, Robin and Barney discovered their marriage wasn't going to work, and that Barney would find happiness in fatherhood, and Ted met the woman of his dreams, but was only able to share a short amount of time with her before she got sick and passed away so that he and Robin would end up together, I could accept that. I could accept that IF the show had put any time into justifying those things. They didn't, though. We're not in the show's universe - we're in our own. And in the audience's universe, a wedding that was twenty episodes in the making (plus all the time spent on Robin/Barney in previous seasons) was undone in five minutes. All of Barney's character development disappears, and he regresses to Gross Barney until a magical baby with a woman who isn't even given the dignity of a name turns him around again. Ted gets married to Tracy, she lies in a hospital bed, and Ted is off to fuck Aunt Robin with his kids' enthusiastic support and a romantic gesture that has failed multiple times already within three minutes. Nine seasons of work. Nine seasons of stories and remembrances and false leads and hints and promises of a grand romance crumpled and thrown away in less time than it takes to scramble an egg.

Again, if they wanted to avoid the obvious happy ending that would pair Marshall/Lily, Robin/Barney, and Ted/Tracy, and go with a Ted/Robin ending instead, I could accept that (begrudgingly, but still). So it's not the concept I object to, but the monumentally sloppy, inexcusably poor execution. And in answer to my initial question, I'm afraid that yes, it does somewhat retroactively taint the show as a whole. I'm sure I'll still be able to watch and enjoy episodes like "Slap Bet" and "Swarley". I'll still get a giggle from the doppelgangers. But from now on, every time I watch an episode... Every time I see that blue French horn... I'll know how these characters wind up, and think about what might have been.

How I Met Your Mother - Season 9: C
How I Met Your Mother - The Series: B-


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