There have been few TV finale’s as widely anticipated as that of How I Met Your Mother. This says more for the notoriety of the show and its infamous title than its popularity. People wanted to know exactly how enternally love-struck Ted met ‘The Mother’ of the title – understandably.
But in the hours since the finale aired last night, the internet has been a very hostile place – mostly due to the show’s eventual ending which – gigantic spoilers ahead – was not to every viewer’s taste.
This was more due to the – some have been saying shoe-horned – epilogue following Ted’s utterance of the words: ‘And that’s how I met your mother’, than it was due to the finale as a whole. For the safety of people who are reading this but haven’t watched the episode and don’t want to find out what happens: let’s just say that the ending of the show has – in this humble viewer’s opinion – rendered the last three season’s of the programme’s storyline pointless as they were undone about 15 minutes into the finale and then continued to be undone following the ‘big twist’ we were promised in the last five minutes.
This ‘big twist’ has been promised by creators for the last few weeks and anticipated by fans for even longer.
They ranged from the far-fetched: Ted is telling the story to his children because he has Alzheimer’s and is participating in a kind of reverse Notebook situation.
To the really far-fetched: Ted finally finishes telling his kids the 9 year story of how he met their mother only for the audience to see two skeletons sitting on the couch. Ted needs to learn to summarize his stories.
To my personal favourite – as told by my boyfriend- : Ted is standing at the train station, about to meet ‘The Mother’ when Bob Saget (the narrator) jumps out of the bushes, shoots Ted in the head and gets the girl, finally finishing the story in his dulcet tones.
But ultimately the story anticipated by fans weeks ago – due to the most obvious foreshadowing in the world – turned out to be the one that was true, and it was this story that led me to realise that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays have been ripping off Charles Dicken’s all along.
****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***** (Doff’s cap to Major Spoilers).
It turns out that ‘The Mother’ (who will here-to-fore be known as Tracy Moseby) has been dead for six years since the story began (perhaps Ted told it to her first… We never did find out what killed her…) and the story that viewers have been patiently listening to over 9 years (I feel I need to repeat this fact as many times as possible) was in fact the story of how he loved Robin – and how he met their mother was merely a very good framing device.
I’ve had some very strong- frustrated Kermit the Frog-esque – feelings about this over the last few hours but I believe, after some healthy retrospection (and some screaming into a pillow) I’ve reached a plane of acceptance. (The things I cannot change and all that…)
Stories and anecdotes have always been a central aspect of How I Met Your Mother and they led me to an interesting conclusion: Thus brings me to the title of my post: How I Met Your Mother is not only a story made up of many stories – it is in fact a story that has been told before. 150 years before to be… somewhat accurate.
In the midst of my angst over a finale that killed it’s title character and re-established a relationship long thought dead – something occurred to me: How I Met Your Mother is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens semi-autobiographical work, David Copperfield. (without the childhood trauma and death of quite so many characters.) Especially when I began to think about just how many parallels exist between the two works.
For those of you who don’t believe me (and have forgotten the Daniel Radcliffe BBC miniseries) I have provided a summary to prove my point:
We have a hero who’s entire purpose is to tell his story: Ted and David Copperfield himself.
Who lives his life picking up friends and life lessons. Some of these are from friends such as his slightly off kilter lawyer: Marshall and Wilkins Micawber/ Mr Wickfield.
and his odd but child-orientated wife: Lily and Mrs Micawber
The parallels exist right down to Marshall/Micawber becoming a judge/mayor.
He also learns lessons in debauchery and gentlemanliness from his somewhat pervy best friend: Barney and Steerforth – although at least Barney got a happier ending.
Ted/David have had many opportunities at love, either through childhood sweethearts who are wild and adventurous, Victoria(okay that’s a bit of a stretch)/Emily.
or the steadfast best friend whom he has loved for years and years, his one true and trusted confidant: Robin and Agnes
(She even almost ends up with the pervy friend at one point!)
Ted/David has always been a believer in love but it has taken him a great deal of time to find it with the woman of his dreams. Suddenly he meets her: Tracy and Dora.
It’s out of the blue, but she is everything he has been looking for, gorgeous, witty, musical, and that little bit quirky. Ted/David has finally found his heart’s desire. But the story doesn’t end here. Because, life rarely ends where you think its going to, and sometimes the story keeps on going. (That and Dickens – much like the show runners of How I Met Your Mother – wrote in a serialised format, and it was in his interest to keep the story going for as long as possible.)
In this case the story continues and Ted/David have a few very happy years with the woman of his dreams. But suddenly, the worst happens and Tracy/Dora contracts a mysterious illness. Devastating Ted/David her life comes to an end – but not before she can give her blessing to Robin/Agnes (for Robin its with her invitation to the wedding, for Agnes on her deathbed).
Ted/David spends many years alone in solitude, doing nothing but writing/telling his life story. While he is away he keeps in touch with Robin/Agnes until one day a family member: Betsey Trotwood/The Kids encourages him to declare his love for Robin/Agnes.
The rest, as they say, is history. Although the ending reminded me more of Great Expectations than it did of David Copperfield.
I’ve yet to meet anyone, including myself, who was ecstatic about the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Not many seem to have felt it was worth the wait. Perhaps because, what Dickens got right, How I Met Your Mother got wrong, for the sake of a finale with ‘impact’ they left the story underwritten, and underdeveloped until the last possible moment.
If Ted was telling a story of how he loved Robin – even unconsciously – he could have given us a few more hints, rather than turning away from it at every moment. Especially after all the trouble the writers went to to make sure we adored Tracy.
Agnes and David were never by any means a sure thing – but their eventual love was something that is woven into the story without seeming intrusive and still packing its own element of surprise. In the end, the real flaw of How I Met Your Mother – something pointed out by a friend of mine long ago – is in the name. Because looking back over the 9 seasons, its not The Mother’s story, and nor – despite the Kid’s protests – is it Robin’s.In the end it was Ted’s, he much like Mr Copperfield, was the hero of his own tale, and maybe it should have been called that in the end.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” – David Copperfield, Charles Dickens