Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Things End

WARNING: This post contains How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) finale spoilers.

Last night was the series finale of a fantastic show, How I Met Your Mother. My husband is a die hard fan, faithfully watching every season and then watching it again on DVD and again on Netflix. He prides himself on besting our friends in HIMYM trivia and picking out the little inconsistencies on the show. I have enjoyed the series over the years, although I have certainly had moments of shaking my fist at the television or walking away to get a snack when the story line just wasn't holding my attention, and I could write full length essays on theme, characterization and symbolism. But that isn't what this post is about. It's about endings. And last night's finale has created a social media storm worse than the ending of LOST.

To break things down: The show is supposed to be about how Ted meets the love of his life, the mother of his children, whose name we learned last night is Tracy (although those of you paying attention during season one already knew that). After they finally meet, fall in love, and take an uncharacteristically long time to get married (Ted is a hopeless romantic), we learn that Tracy dies and their children want dad to move on (after six years) and hook up with Aunt Robin. The woman he spent most of the series pining over and then dramatically let go. The woman who married one of his best friends. Was the love of Ted's life really Robin? After his big "I don't love you like that anymore" speech in last week's episode, why would the writers end with Ted going back to her? If this was the plan all along, shouldn't they have called the show something different? I felt unsatisfied. The moments where he first sees Tracy, first speaks to her, gave me stone cold chills. It reminded me of the first moment I saw my husband. We were in high school at the time, but I knew when we met that he was the love of my life. After dating for a while, then going our separate ways and ultimately finding each other again, you would think I would applaud a story line that brings two people back together. But it just felt wrong to me, and I feel like it would have been better to leave things hanging in the unknown. End the show with Ted and Tracy under the umbrella. I don't want to think about her dying. I don't want to think about Robin and Barney breaking up or Marshall and Lilly traveling through their lives together and growing apart from everyone else. I don't want to think about how sad it is that you have amazing friendships that become more and more difficult to maintain when life gets in the way.

After the episode ended, I started thinking about other books and shows that take me into the future of the characters and their lives post-novel/series. This may not be a very popular opinion, but I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AFTER IT ENDS. To me the fantasy begins with Chapter One and ends with The End. I want to close the book and imagine how things went after that. But cliffhangers make people mad. They want closure. Why? We often go through life without it. When I broke up with the last guy I dated before getting back together with my husband, it was ugly. We went on a road trip, got in a fight in a parking lot at three am, and then I drove him to the bus station. The end. Never saw him again. I've had friendships fizzle out and leave me confused and hurt. No closure. It stinks. But it's life! Should television and literature reflect that? Or help us to escape from it?

As I approach the last chapters of my book, I am conflicted. I have always known how I wanted it to end, but what if the characters have other plans? And do I have to resolve everything? It is meant to be a snapshot, not an epic tale. But I want people to read the story and enjoy it. What makes us love or hate an ending?

No amount of shaking my fist at the television is going to change how the writers ended HIMYM. They obviously had that ending in mind during the early days of the series, because Ted's children look the same. Was it done to create an internet buzz? The show is trending everywhere today. Is a controversial ending a surefire way to gain popularity?

My husband just sent me a text message: "I liked the finale. I actually thought it made a lot of sense." He's the expert, not me. And maybe it appealed to his inner romantic. The one who came back to me after almost marrying someone else. Perhaps I need to loosen up, but I know I am not the only person who struggled with last night's ending. People were angry. But it is time to move on, and hope that 70's hair is not going to make a comeback in 2016.

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