I’m about to say something very unpopular and I accept the consequences: The more I watch season nine of How I Met Your Mother, the more I love it. While there are many many many thematic reasons we could discuss as to why, since it’s February I’m just going to talk about the falling in love of it all, which of course means… (dun dun dun)… I must address the The Big One.
Come on. Of course the whole story was about Ted and Robin. I mean, COME OOOOOONNNNN. OF COURSE the whole story was about Ted and Robin! For Swarley’s sake, the first episode ended with, “and kids, that’s how I met your aunt Robin.” I’m just saying, if you felt blind-sighted by the ending it’s your own darned fault.
Now, I know you wanted more of The Mother. So did I. But really, the point of the show was never How He Met The Mother; it was more like, What it Takes to Meet The Mother. Or, as I’ll be exploring here, Why You Can’t Be Barney Stinson and Still Get Everything You Want Especially Not The Mother (they’ve rejected my letters to change the title in re-runs. I can’t imagine why). So let’s talk about Barney. Spoilers ahead. But also some dang solid wisdom nuggets, so I dunno you decide.
Barney is a magician. Literally (and you’re welcome for using that word properly). It’s why we love him– he’s flashy, scheming, deceitful in the best way possible and every guy ever (maybe even the ladies, I shan’t speak for you) wishes we could be him. Or at least be able to admire his work as we sit at a booth at Maclaren’s (sigh… that’s The Dream). That said, it’s not like the writers were exactly being subtle about who and what he is. He’s a fantasy. A clever deception. He’s legen- wait for it-
Point is, aside from being an actual STD statistic, Barney and his lifestyle– really just everything he is– is really all just magic. It’s pure fiction. Fantasy. Farce (sorry I couldn’t stop). It’s all about the glitter and smoke, which sure is fun but you will inevitably find that love isn’t– strike that, love can not be a magic trick. I’ll continue that thought later; for now, if we can accept who and what Barney is, we can see the brilliance with which his character plays a role in both Ted and Robin’s lives.
There’s a storytelling concept called “Red Oni, Blue Oni” where two people/groups with opposite characteristics and personalities are linked together in some significant way. Obviously it’s an easy way to generate story content via various conflicts and resolutions. I’ve never seen this concept played out more brilliantly than in HIMYM between one Barney Stinson, and… (drum roll please)… Marshall and Lily.
Think about it: Barney is perpetually a bachelor, Marshall/Lily are the show’s best couple. Marshall/Lily have only had sex with one person (each other), Barney less so. Marshall/Lily are usually responsible and goal-oriented, Barney doesn’t even have a legal job. As yin is to yang, as the USA is to Canada, so are Marshall and Lily to Barney Stinson.
Now, of course one of the themes of the show is true love is found on the Marshall/Lily side of life. Which is why both Ted and Robin find varying degrees of success in love as they lean toward either the Marshall/Lily side of the behavior spectrum or the Barney side. It’s how their respective characters progress throughout the show: ebbing and flowing between various Marshall/Lily and Barney phases.
I know you know what I’m talking about, because there was a time when you wanted Ted and Robin to be together. Remember? The first couple seasons, before either had gone through their “Barney” character arc? That is, before each of them became fantasy-land caricatures of themselves. I’m simply submitting to you that the last episode (which I’ll admit should probably have been a whole season of itself) is finally a time when both characters are past their Barney phase, a time when both characters have grown out of their fantasies and have moved past the magic tricks and have waited for the smoke to clear and the glitter to settle and in the end have realized that in a real world with real people, they really do love each other, and kind of always have. Remember, not even Barney could be Barney forever.
I can hear your brain already being mad at me: what about Ted and Tracy? Wasn’t she supposed to be all that nonsense for him? The answer, my unnecessarily rude friend, is yes you are quite right. And while I’m with the rest of world in wishing we had a whole 9 other seasons with Ted and Tracy, you may be surprised to realize how much of them we actually got. Check it out:
Episodes 21 and 23 (season 9 of course): Ted and Tracy meet and go on first date
Episode 2: Ted and Tracy back at the Farhampton Inn, 1 year later
Episode 8: Ted proposes on top of the lighthouse, 2 years later
Episode 23: Tracy announces pregnancy, also 2 years later
Episode 23: Robin/Barney divorce, Halloween party, 3 years later
Episode 15: Tracy goes into labor at the Inn, 4 years later
Episode 24: Ok so Tracy isn’t technically in this one, 5 years later
Episode 24: Ted and Tracy at Robots v Wrestlers, 6 years later
Episode 24: Ted and Tracy get re-engaged and married, 7 (possibly 8) years later
Episode 18: New Years Eve and New Years Day, 8/9 years later
Episode 19: Ted and Tracy run out of stories, 11 years later
Episode 24: Tracy dies, 11 years later
I mean, come on. Even though I have no idea what happened to year 10, that’s just cool. Granted, these are just snippets, mere sentences in a story of which we’d all rather have chapters, but it’s still pretty dang clever. And when you put it all together, you find what Lily pointed out in part one of the finale…
Tracy really was different. First of all, she met everybody else before meeting Ted. And, like, was a magical guru of fixing things in every instance. Also her relationship with Ted wasn’t based on some sort of drama or glittery event like every other woman in his life. Plus she was the only woman to never care about Ted’s history with Robin. No, Tracy was exactly the solid, real, romantic yet steady woman Ted was finally ready to meet after all those years.
So what went wrong?? Hopefully by now, even if you don’t like it you can admit it makes sense for Ted and Robin to be together in the end, just as it made sense for Ted and Tracy to be together for as long as they did. So why was it so hard to watch?
Well, first of all there was this
And oh just Dear Prudence no
But mostly I think it was just too short. We barely had enough time to like Tracy, let alone love her. Which left us incapable of properly grieving when she died. We didn’t get to see Robin grow out of her Barney phase and back to a place where we’d want her and Ted to be together, and we didn’t get the six years after Tracy’s death to be able to move on with Ted. No, by the time that infamous final scene comes around, we’re just starting to feel sad for everyone involved. I’m just saying, if we’d had at least one more season to flush out everything that was crammed into the two-episode finale, I guarantee most people would have been ok with it all. I mean, the whole thing really is circular and poetic when you think about it.
Well, that’s what I got. For fear of ending this awkwardly, though, let me finish my thought from earlier, AKA what season nine is to me. Really, it’s a summary; season nine is a reminder to us that as much fun as fantasies can be, love isn’t a magic trick. Love is steady dedication and it’s never giving up and yes it’s romance and spark but more than that it’s being a partner in the hardest and most rewarding thing mankind has yet to discover (although cookie dough is a close second). Anyway, that’s the lesson Ted and Robin both had to learn: all you can do is make the best choices you can to be the best person and friend you can be, and hope to the highest power you can think of there’s someone out there doing the same thing and that by some miracle your paths will eventually find a way to converge. If you can’t wait for it to happen I can’t blame you. It’s hard and up until the end almost completely fruitless. Just remember, even though “love doesn’t make sense… we have to keep doing it, or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do.”