!! CONTAINS SPOILERS!!
By now, the majority of people have established that the How I Met Your Mother finale was one huge disappointment of sloppy writing and the destruction of character development. By the end of the episode, the writers had let every main character down – especially the women.
We’ll start with Lily. The only redeeming part of the writing of Lily’s character in the finale is that she actually stays in character, acting as the voice of reason and seemingly the only person determined to keep the group together. But that’s about it. Nothing about Lily’s career is mentioned, and the audience have absolutely no idea what happened to her after Italy, except that she had a third child and finally sold the apartment. Throughout the entire finale, Lily acts as a supporting character, a role that she should never have been placed in.
The second female main character is the mother herself – Tracy. The reason why I have such a huge problem with how she is written is that up until the finale, she was presented as a shining beacon of hope in Ted’s life and the most important character on the show. All of that is destroyed in the space of 45 minutes.
The first blow to her character is the moment when Barney and Robin reveal they divorced. In season 9, we saw Tracy convince Barney to go after Robin and put everything he has into getting her back. Despite the fact that his subsequent plan is a complete manipulation, she is portrayed as the reason they’re together. Next, we see Tracy give Robin advice during her pre-wedding freak-out and this makes her not only the reason that they are actually together, but also the reason they make it down the aisle. Up until this point, she is depicted as someone who always knows how to help out others and set them on the right track. Yet the importance of these gestures is completely taken away when we learn that their marriage never even worked out.
On top of this, we don’t learn anything about Tracy’s career, her friends or her family (outside of Ted). Not only is this a repetition of how Lily is presented, but it provides her with next to no character development and treats her as the wife of Ted Mosby, not Tracy McConnell.
The reason her death is so terrible is that first of all, it is completely disregarded by every character and dealt with completely nonchalantly. But secondly, it means that Tracy is simply a plot device that allows Ted to have everything he’s ever wanted – kids, and Robin.
It was always going to be hard for the writers to live up to the expectations the audience had for the mother, but they were doing well up until the finale, where it’s basically revealed that the show was never about her, anyway.
Which brings us on to Robin. I’ll firstly address the destruction of her entire character development. In season one, we see a version of Robin who is alone in New York and focused entirely on her career. In the finale, we see the exact same thing. I am not at all bothered by Robin’s focus being on her career, but the show seemingly blames her for this, given it’s the reason for the end of her marriage, which then leads to her being zoned out of the group.
Not only does she go full circle, meaning that her life ends up exactly the same as it was 25 years ago, but we see nothing else from her except her rare interactions with the rest of the group. We don’t see her dealing with the problems brought up in the other eight seasons, including her infertility and relationship with her parents. And we don’t even see her deal with the problems created in the actual episode, like the end of her marriage or what her group of friends has become. The only decent scene we get from Robin is when she is telling Lily what the gang now means to her in the empty apartment, and then there is no further explanation of her issues.
The most significant part of the finale in which the characters failed Robin is the fact that she gets back together with Ted. I wouldn’t have minded this if we weren’t previously shown multiple episodes dedicated to Ted and Robin letting go of each other, admitting that they’re not right for each other and Robin accepting that despite the fact that Ted is a nice guy and the most sensible option, she doesn’t love him. The writers’ last minute attempt to convince us that she does in the form of her moment of panic before getting married (which was, quite frankly, out of character) is nothing more than an obvious recreation of her character in previous seasons and goes against her entire development.
When writing Robin’s character for the last few episodes, the writers’ seem to be confused by the difference between an action that is in-character, and one that is returning back to a past version of themselves. The difference between these two is Lily and Marshall dressing up in elaborate matching costumes for Halloween, and Robin walking through her apartment with five dogs. For Lily and Marshall, this is something they will always do because of the nature of their relationship. For Robin, this is something she supposedly let go of a long time ago. Ted is also one of these things, and pairing them together again completely undermines her character.
Lily, Robin and Tracy all deserved better endings than this. But all the How I Met Your Mother finale has proven is not only the writers’ ability to either dismantle the development of a character or to place them into a supporting role, but their inability to write women.
Categories: Feminist Criticism