Tuesday, 1 April 2014

How I Met Your Mother: The Last Forever [SPOILERS]

Do not read below the image if you haven't seen the final episode of How I Met Your Mother yet, because I will be spoiling from the get go with this review.

Barney and Robin are divorced, The Mother is dead, and this was probably the most depressing Sitcom finale of all time. And I loved it. To put it simply and to borrow from a great band: It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

After the near interminable Wedding weekend, the series finale of How I Met Your Mother set out to tell a very different story. A story which would fill in the years from 2013 where we last left the gang right up until the kids are sitting on that sofa in 2030. And my oh my does The Gang go through a one hell of a rollercoaster in those years.

The first blow is that Robin and Barney's marriage simply didn't work. Robin's career and Barney's womanising personality simply do not mesh - and when the couple reveal that they have divorced, it comes as a gut punch to not only Lily (in a superb performance throughout from Alyson Hannigan, in what might be the best she's ever put in over the 9 year run of the show), but to the audience at large. We have spent so many years building to this wedding (and indeed an entire season with the wedding itself) and so for the writers to make the decision to end it all was a bold choice, but one which would set up what was to come. It is Barney's comment that "this isn't a failed marriage, it's a great marriage which ended after 3 years" that softens this initial blow as we believe that perhaps they can move beyond it.

After this we jump forward to Marshall and Lily moving out of The Apartment. It's a moment which is reminiscent of Friends' famous final scene, but which the writers again cleverly turn on its head. Instead of a moment of 6 friends hugging and laughing, we see Lily and Robin argue and are left with Lily sobbing in the empty room. The Gang is dead, and Robin is moving on. They are setting us up over and over again for the tragedy which is to come, taking the happiness away so that when the worst blow comes it is at least half expected. The writing is perfect, and the sobs the scene is looking for are absolutely delivered - from this point on if you don't have your tissues ready then you're going to be a mess.

I have read elsewhere that people had some serious issues in seeing Barney's character go back to his old ways after what happened with Robin, but for me this was the final stage in his evolution. It was there all along - with Robin he learned to love, but simply wasn't ready, or mature enough for what was to come. Remember he had only just gotten over Quinn the Stripper when he and Robin got together. It was hardly the most well thought out relationship, and was the proof that what the show has suggested over and over is true: Love is the most important thing, but it's not the only thing. Relationships are about building to a place of mutual respect, and Barney simply couldn't do that yet. But speaking as someone who has just had his first daughter: That is a moment of true clarity and a moment which truly defines you as a man more than any relationship you will ever have. That is the push Barney needed to move beyond himself and truly grow in a way he never could up until that point.

And then finally after 9 years of waiting: we reach the moment we've all waited for. Ted and Tracy McConnell are on the railway platform and they're laughing and joking about the Yellow Umbrella and this is perhaps the only way this scene could ever have been written. Its beautiful and funny and exactly what it should have been. And then the final bell tolls. We flash through all the important moments they shared until finally we reach the hospital. Everyone who had ever guessed that The Mother would be dead are correct. It's something that I had really hoped wasn't going to happen, because I genuinely believed it would be a depressing and dark way to end the show. I was wrong. Ted's story comes to a close in a poetic and utterly beautiful way. The writer's stuck to their guns and used the scene they shot 8 years ago and it fits and by god I'll admit it: I laughed out loud when the kids both just call Ted out on the real reason he's been telling the story. I was so ready to hate it that when it actually happened it was simply excellent.

I understand that what happened was polarising, and I understand that it isn't going to be for everyone, because there were lots of ways this could have played out - and I think I could have probably guessed for years and never come up with the episode we got, but all in all The Last Forever was not about simply Ted and Tracy, it was about giving us the future of every single one of the characters we have come to know and love, and its about how no matter what the journey, and how we get there: Love is what we do best. Whether that's the love of father and child, the love of man and wife, or most importantly the love shared by a group of friends who no matter what: will always be there for the big moments.