On March 31, 2014, the 2-hour series finale of How I Met Your Mother was released, finally revealing the true identity of what is perhaps the longest-awaited titular character in television history. The show’s ending, however, quickly proved to be just the one diehard fans hadn’t waited nine seasons to effusively embrace.
To the uninitiated, How I Met Your Mother may have seemed to be just the awkwardly-titled, temporally-confused, genre-blending Friends rip-off that some critics have portrayed it to be. But to those who had dutifully followed the romantic foibles of Ted, Robin, Barney, Lily, Marshall – and, eventually, Tracy – the show itself was a dear friend. And to these loyal viewers, the show’s conclusion was all the more betraying.
I won’t further balloon the online glut of literature regarding the show’s failure to satisfy its fans. I’m not going to summarize the series and its final episode. To the aforementioned uninitiated, if any of you are out there: please consult Netflix before proceeding with this article, because the topic I’m about to tackle is the final piece of the How I Met Your Mother puzzle – the newly-released alternate ending.
When the finale was released five months ago, series creator Carter Bays good-naturedly promised disgruntled fans via Twitter that an alternate ending had been considered, and would be released on the season 9 DVD. Although the DVD, according to Amazon, isn’t scheduled for release until September 23, 2014, the ending has been leaked on Vimeo. It includes nothing that wasn’t already featured in the original finale, but makes some favorable exclusions, namely: the death of “The Mother”, and the implied getting-together of Robin and Ted after her death. These two aspects of the original finale constituted the two final twists of the plot line – although fans had long speculated that the Mother’s death was the reason Ted was telling the story in the first place.
But their removal from the alternate ending by no means resulted in a boring finish; rather, it was exactly what fans wanted, and packed an emotional punch – one of pure, TV-fan love – equal to that of the original, anger-inducing conclusion.
It begs the question of why the creators chose to air the original ending in the first place, and the answer lies in the conflicting nature of the two genres of which Mother pioneered a blend: romantic and situational comedy. This is an aspect of the show that has given rise to other conflicts throughout its history; the exhaustingly on-again, off-again relationship of Robin and Ted, like the use of the more controversial ending for the show, is a direct result of the fact that sitcoms – and TV in general – due to their episodic nature, demand plot twists and turns. Rom coms, on the other hand, nearly always necessitate a happy ending.
Do I mean to suggest that the series creators – or producers, or CBS – purposefully chose the controversial ending to infuriate fans into buying the Season 9 DVD in order to see the ending they really wanted?
Indeed, I do – and this view isn’t even vaguely conspiratorial when one considers how vocal a fan base HIMYM has had throughout its nine seasons. The ploy is called “knowing your audience”, and Mother’saudience has certainly made itself known. Over the course of the show’s sometimes-bumpy history, fans have constantly taken to the internet to whine when their beloved characters didn’t get the story lines they deserved.
But there is another question raised by the alternate ending, and a more important one: why is such a simplistic, expected conclusion to the show’s long road the one fans wanted most to see?
The answer can be sound in one of the most memorable quotes from Ted in the episode preceding the season finale:
“In the end all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we’ve got. Because love is the best thing we do.”
Though the majority of the show focused on the happenings of a group of friends, its framing narrative was just what the title implied: the drawn-out, beleaguered love story of how One Guy met his “The One” in six billion. That is, the woman-he-wanted-to-spend-the-rest-of-his-life-with-and-mother-of-his-children, “The One.”
It could have been the story your Dad, or Uncle, or Grandfather told you a million times before.
The love stories we hear in real life aren’t often too extraordinary.
But that’s because the stories don’t make themselves extraordinary.
The love does.
How I Met Your Mother, at its core, was loved because it was just another ordinary, extraordinary story of love.
And even though critics eventually considered the framing Mother plotline to be a gimmick that the friend-centric comedy no longer needed, the fans continued to see its merits.
It was at times agonizing in its sitcom-stretched duration, and at other times a respectable generator of truly hilarious zingers. But overall, How I Met Your Mother was beloved for the relatability of its love story – and the fans’ positive reactions to the less-than-extraordinary alternate ending prove it.
The alternate ending signals the prolonged end of an era for HIMYM’s most enthusiastic fans.
And the final song of the finale – wisely retained in the alternate ending – echoes their sentiments:
“Remember, remember … all we fight for.”
The alternate ending is exactly the ones fans fought for – and because of it, How I Met Your Mother will be a show they won’t easily forget.
How I Met Your Mother – Alternate Ending (Official). Vimeo. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://vimeo.com/105404677>.