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Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted (Josh Radnor)
Journal Entry

A new beginning from within an ending

A week ago, five of my friends passed away. I don’t mean they died – I mean they passed on into that great TV network in the sky.

The long-running CBS series “How I Met Your Mother” went off the air March 31 after nine seasons with a finale that left a lot of jaws on the floor. The framing device of the show had always been that Future Ted was telling his teenage children the story of, well, you can guess from the title. But what we learned in the decades-spanning finale is that in the future, the mother has been dead for six years. No happily ever after for central character Ted Mosby, at least not with her.

As a long-time viewer of “How I Met Your Mother,” the finale left me going through the stages of grief. Like many of my fellow fans, I skipped over denial and went straight to anger – outrage, even. Outrage that the creators had known this whole time the mother was dead (some scenes for the finale had been filmed as far back as Season 2) and had strung us along; outrage that after years spent becoming invested in the wedding of Ted’s friends Barney and Robin, it turns out their marriage was a short-lived mess; outrage that we still don’t know where that damn pineapple came from next to Ted’s bed in a Season 1 episode creatively titled “The Pineapple Incident.”

Why would a sitcom inspire such anger? When I watch a television show, I watch a television show. If you don’t know what I mean, you probably aren’t like me. You don’t buy the DVDs as soon as they come out; you don’t go to online communities and parse the latest episodes and search for spoilers on the next one; you can’t recite not just lines of dialogue, but entire scenes.

Yeah, I’m That Guy ... and That Guy was grumpy. (Kids, you don’t want to grow up to be That Guy. People think That Guy is super weird.)

But after a week of reading online critics blast away at the show’s creators, I rewatched the finale and arrived at acceptance. During my anger, I had asked myself why I wasted nearly a decade on a story that was going to undo itself at the end, but what I realized is the reason I liked “HIMYM” so much was because of the twists and turns – you never knew what to expect.

The final reveal of the series wasn’t just that the mother is dead. As Future Ted’s kids suss out, the story he’d been telling wasn’t about how he met the mother at all, rather it was his way of working through his feelings for Robin – feelings they wholeheartedly support. Now with some distance from my anger, I’ve come to appreciate this as a near-genius move.

From the first episode, there had been something undeniable between Ted and Robin. They flirted, dated and broke up, but the spark was always there even as she prepared to marry Barney. Now that we are armed with the story behind the titular story, it’s almost as if viewers have nine seasons of a new show to watch. Many scenes take on a whole new context knowing the true motives of Ted’s story. He found a great love with the mother; after mourning her, he’s finally ready to have another.

And That Guy is ready to watch the story of “How I Met Your Mother” unfold again with a fresh perspective.

Corey McMaken is copy editor for The Journal Gazette’s Living section.