A couple of weeks ago, I read multiple posts about the theory that the mother on How I Met Your Mother is dead at the point when future Ted is telling his children the story. (If you are a fan and have somehow avoided this theory? Congratulations…)
I was not, and am not, okay with this.
Part of what’s fueling these theories, apart from clues and odd moments in the show, are the tweets and posts and comments from cast members regarding the series finale. Cobie Smulders, apparently, said in an interview that she “immediately started weeping” after reading it. Alyson Hannigan tweeted a photo from the table read, consisting of her script surrounded by used tissues.
Today, I read an article on TV Guide.com titled “Does it Matter if the Mother is Dead?” The authors thesis is, of course, that it does not.
I am not okay with this.
I was okay with the finale of Six Feet Under being what it was, because this was a show about death and mortality. I was fine with the end of Breaking Bad, because really…how else would a show like that end? But How I Met Your Mother is a sitcom, and at its heart, a love story. A romantic comedy, if you will. I have certain expectations from a story like this. Yes, the show has had moments that were heartbreaking and poignant, but ultimately, I will feel betrayed by an ending that tears Ted’s true love away from him…one that we have all waited SO LONG to meet. (and don’t even get me started on how I’ll feel if that happens and it leads to him somehow ending up with Robin after all. No.)
In the aforementioned article, the author says, “…sitcoms tend to feel forced to wrap up with a neat bow and rainbows and kittens because God forbid what would’ve happened if Rachel never got off the plane…”
She got off the plane.
Yeah? So what? I will fully admit with zero shame that I would have been upset and disappointed if Rachel hadn’t gotten off the plane. As I said, these are romantic comedies. In a romantic comedy, Rachel gets off the plane. In a romantic comedy, the mother doesn’t die.
I get that there’s a place for tragedy. I do. I get that people don’t always get to live happily ever after, and that in real life, loved ones die. But I respectfully disagree that all of our art needs to reflect reality. I know where to go for reality; I want stories that offer hope. I want Ted to get married and raise his children and grow old with the woman he loves. I want Ross and Rachel to find their way back to each other and finally make it work. I want Harry and Sally married and talking about their wedding cake at the end. I want Lloyd and Diane holding hands on the plane, heading off to England ready to defy the odds against them. I want Westley and Buttercup literally riding off into the sunset together.
Wuv. Twoo wuv.
And I just don’t get what’s so terrible about that.
I don’t know if this has always been the case, but there seems to be this persistent idea that what makes for good writing is subverting expectations. (In this case, the expectation that the audience expects Ted and the Mother to have the happy ending I described above.) There’s also a persistent idea that the best love stories are the most tragic ones. I’ll bet you aren’t surprised by this, but most of the time, I kind of hate tragic love stories.*
I’ll never let go, Jack…
(Side note…don’t you dare even try to bring up Romeo and Juliet. If you think “tragic love story” is the point of Romeo and Juliet, well…that’s a whole different rant.)
My bottom line is this: we have enough heartbreak and sadness. In this sea of portrayals of bleak desolation, of horror, of darkness, of anti-heroes, and of tragedy, this show has been one of my bright spots. Over the course of this season, I have fallen in love with Cristin Milioti and her beautiful portrayal of the mother, and I have forgiven Ted for his past douchebaggery. Over the course of the past nine seasons, I have laughed and cried and loved with these characters…
Is it really to much to ask for it to not break my heart at the end?
*I still harbor some resentment over the way the movie Once ended. Seriously, ask my husband.