I’ve spoken before about getting obsessed easily – having grown up surrounded more books than people, I’ve grown really attached to fictional characters and situations. How I Met Your Mother is only one in the line of about ten Big Things. I know I started watching it around the time Season 7 was airing, as I was searching for something to fill the hole Two and a Half Men left in my heart.1 I’ve seen every episode more times than I dare count.2
Yet I went from watching at least a couple episodes a day to cold turkey a day or two after the finale. I felt betrayed (as I’ve previously expressed). Here it was – the show that taught me so much about the value of friendship throwing all of it away in 42 minutes. I was a lonely kid and always quite okay with that – until watching these five come through for each other, time and time again, slowly made me realise whatever you do in this life, it’s not legendary, unless your friends are there to see it.3
Breaking up that friendship in the finale was really harsh, but maybe more so for a highly emotional 18-year-old. Because as I slipped back into my own ways on the eve of exam season, unable to binge Brooklyn Nine Nine anymore because I knew the episodes per verbatim, and decided to finally accept Netflix’s suggestion to rewatch HIMYM, I didn’t feel angry anymore.
These characters should be allowed to grow, make mistakes, and have a life outside the gang. There’s some hard to swallow pills in the show: Robin and Lily were always treated with less love but since watching the Marshall-Ted-Barney dynamic was so much fun, I’d be annoyed when the women spoke up as it was usually in conflict with one of they guys. Barney really wasn’t a great person – his character development up until the finale was brilliant but painstakingly slow. Swarkles never were as great of a couple – but there were a lot of clues suggesting Ted and Robin should end up together.
On the whole, HIMYM gave us so much to love about it. Barney memes immortalised HIMYM as popular culture – I’ve still got a copy of the Bro Code.4 The show went beyond just a sitcom – Some of the storylines and jokes were absolutely ingenious.5 It’s a lot of fun to watch it, no strings attached (except for Weekend at Barney’s), and HIMYM is a masterclass in executing running gags. Most of these got really old by the end – the penultimate slap and emo Robin Sparkles – but by that point, it’s all about the nostalgia, so it’s fine. As I sat through 80 hours of this show in the span of about three weeks, I never regretted any of it. I was never bored. It’s big comedy, but you also really care about these characters.6 And at the ~14th rewatch of a show, you finally know which episodes you can straight up skip. On a more serious note, HIMYM still challenges me – are the memories I’m making now ones worth retelling in twenty years?
Maybe the lesson in the finale is that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Another hard pill to swallow, but that’s a pretty good lesson to take away.
Maybe it’s to not overthink sitcoms. That could be a good one. But I’m not going to lie, seeing Cobie Smoulders melt away at the end of Infinity War gave me a kick I never expected.7
Note: Before publishing this, I read a lot of opinions about the show and watched the alternate ending again, and there’s another reason I’m at peace with HIMYM. It’s because I’m in complete denial about the finale. And that’s okay. Thanks for reading!
1 As a sidenote, I feel like I should come with a disclaimer that throughout a very formative stage of my life, my idols were Charlie Sheen and Barney Stinson, which has left me with a deep fear of intimacy, etc. This has been a hard one to communicate to people.
2 Sometimes people say they’ve watched every episode of a show twice or three times as if it was impressive – for shows like HIMYM, Two and a Half Men, Parks & Rec, Brooklyn Nine Nine (yes, this behaviour is ongoing). . .I have literally seen every episode ten times or more. This is not a brag, god no. Imagine everything I could have achieved if I actually did something useful.
3 Barney Stinson, patent pending.
4 In a box in my dad’s basement. I’ll bring it to uni next time I go home.
5 Since I’m older than a lot of the people I know at uni, they’ve never seen HIMYM, and yesterday, in the throws of Liverpool getting smashed, I got to pass the slap bet off as my own joke. Thanks Marshall.
6 I think Ted said this to Klaus and Victoria as they were watching a sitcom about clean and cleaner Germans.
7 I resent Robin for what she did to Barney – probably not all that justifiably, but letting go is hard, okay guys?!?! I’ve made a lot of progress since 2014. Let me live.