When a drum roll drags on for nine years, most people lose interest in the reveal. This is the unfortunate case with CBS’s How I Met Your Mother. Ted Mosby spends nearly a decade telling his children the story of his first encounter with their mother, making the less-than-appropriate choice to relay each one-night-stand, summer fling, long-term girlfriend, rebound girl, supposed soul mate, meaningless hookup and fiancée along the way.
Fans of popular television shows often debate how long any particular series ought to run—some wish for their favorites to continue on for years like soap operas, regardless of quality, while others argue a great show leaves its viewers addicted, craving one last hit. Seinfeld and Breaking Bad left before peaking. Lost did not. How I Met Your Mother faces an unusual predicament because the show’s premise revolves around the introduction of a single person whose reveal necessarily means the end of the story.
No other show’s fandom has wished so strongly for each season to be the last.
Up until recently, the series has managed to maintain a fairly high level of quality, injecting storylines with fresh humor and ensuring Ted did not stray too terribly far from his mission to find The One. A handful of trivial plot holes can be found and some once-funny jokes have been worn—wait for it—out, but the story has constructed intricate story arcs and kept a strong pace, always building toward the exciting reveal of Ted’s future wife. Back-stories have surfaced, relationships have altered, characters have matured. The occasional filler episode has always been followed up with a hint about the mother’s identity.
The trouble began in the season eight finale when the mother was unveiled to the audience. Though the creators’ reasoning for revealing her character at this particular moment is unknown, one can assume it was meant to build suspense and garner viewers for the final season. If only the show’s social media manager had not revealed her identity on Facebook within minutes of the finale’s East Coast airing, spoiling it for thousands of viewers. If only the reveal had been half as dramatic as Ted’s romantic moments with non-mothers. If only the reveal did not severely limit the direction of the entire following season.
The final 20 episodes take place over a single weekend—Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. Engagements, pregnancies and family deaths play out over months in earlier seasons, yet the show’s grand finale season gets restricted to 48 hours. The first nine episodes have already treated viewers to more filler than a carnival corndog. Gone are the elaborate inside jokes, the catchphrases, the slow-building moments of serendipity on the sidewalks of New York. The humor and heart that made the series a modern Friends have been replaced by forced scenarios and irrelevant storylines.
One week, Robin engages in a contest with Barney’s mom to determine who can cook better scrambled eggs. The week before that, an urban legend surfaces about the hotel room Lily is staying in. A poker game with Tim Gunn and repeated run-ins with an overly-personal hotel clerk also feature prominently in the season. Meanwhile, no meet cute for Ted and Mother.
As of last Monday, Lily has shared cookies and conversation with the mother on a bus, Barney has received advice from the mother in a drugstore, and Ted continues to wallow in his single-man funk, still unaware of his future spouse’s existence. Thankfully, important plot points like Barney swallowing actual lucky charms and Ted’s mother’s boyfriend getting stranded beside the interstate receive ample screen time.
One of the most unnervingly unnecessary story arcs of the season is Marshall’s never-ending road trip to Farhampton, the wedding destination where every other character has been since September. For viewers who were not the slightest bit agitated by John Candy and Steve Martin’s innumerable setbacks in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Marshall’s troublesome trek might prove enjoyable.
For everyone else, the storyline grows tiresome. Marshall squabbles with his driving companion, a disagreeable woman played by Sherri Shepherd, and he regrets a text he sent to his wife. That is it. For nine episodes. Back at Farhampton Inn, Lily drinks too much, and Barney and Robin fear they might be distant cousins.
Ted continues to panic that he will end up alone.
Fans of How I Met Your Mother have begun voicing their disappointment with the season on the show’s Facebook page. Top comments range from “This season is literally too stupid to insult,” to “If they don’t bring the effing mom in again soon I might riot,” to “It’s all garbage.” The amount of anger expressed at the current season’s failings—though extreme and often inarticulate—is a testament to the show’s quality. Viewers would not feel so upset now if they had not truly enjoyed previous seasons. Angry viewers are invested viewers.
Shoddy storylines aside, the mother herself is wonderful. Finally, viewers know the woman who left her yellow umbrella at the bar on St. Patrick’s Day, the woman who sat in the economics class Ted mistakenly lectured, the woman who gave birth to the two incredibly patient children sitting on the couch and listening to their father’s drawn-out story.
The mother is played by Cristin Milioti, best known for her performance in Broadway’s Once. She comes across as a less pretentious but equally nerdy female version of Ted. A smattering of How I Met Your Mother fans have expressed disapproval of Milioti for the role, arguing that she is a disappointing choice after the roster of celebrity-cast girls Ted has dated—Carrie Underwood, Katie Holmes, Rachel Bilson and Mandy Moore, for instance.
True, Milioti is relatively unknown outside of the theatre world, but her lack of recognition does not make her unsuitable for the role. If anything, casting a woman whose face does not appear in tabloids or ProActiv commercials lends a realness to the show. Ted Mosby is fictional and his search for his soul mate is scripted, but his story has been adopted by thousands of viewers.
For better or worse, Ted’s persistent optimism has encouraged similarly single and searching young men and women to hold out for The One. His ending up with anyone other than a modest, flawed woman like Milioti’s character would steal the show’s genuineness and its relatability along with it.
Even though the series’ quality has faltered and its development has stagnated, seven episodes’ worth of possibilities remain. Yes, played out jokes and irrelevant storylines are below the show, but viewers must pick themselves up by their red cowboy bootstraps and ride the series out. If the show proves anything like Ted’s love life, a resilient turnaround is on its way.