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"What do you mean?" he asked. "There's like seven episodes left." I explained that, just as Ted (Josh Radnor) is shown to be ready to move on when he finally lets go of Robin (Cobie Smulders)—with some of the most cringe-inducing CGI ever—I was ready to move on from the show. I insisted that was all the ending I needed because the show has always been more about the setting up of the dominos than it has been about their inevitable fall. Ultimately, I was kind of right, but for the wrong reasons.
If you watch the show (or happen to be online), by now you know that the series finale, "Last Forever," was either perfection or a huge letdown, a betrayal or a recapitulation, but definitely loaded with surprises. First, the Barney-Robin wedding that painstakingly unfolded this season leads to divorce; then Robin becomes a globe-trotting reporter, and Barney's arc makes him a scoundrel again and then a father. Lily and Marshall have three kids and a judgeship (well, Marshall does). And Ted meets the mother, impregnates the mother, marries the mother, loses the mother, finally finishes telling his kids how he met their mother, and then . . . ends up outside of Robin’s window with the repilfered blue French horn.
Cue the "pa-pas" and "da-das" from the theme song!
Now, I don’t think HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas "ruined" the show for me with this ending, but I still felt a little cheated. Because I was right about "Sunrise"—it was basically the finale. Most of the episode's flashbacks show Ted desperately trying to track down Robin's locket in an attempt to win her back (even if he can't quite admit that to himself). Robin isn't included in the list of "Ted's Top 5 Girlfriends" because, as he puts it, "there’s only one," and it’s her. Bob Saget-as-Ted narrates, "If you love something, you can never let it go or it’s gone forever." And even though Robin floats out of Ted's reach at the end, she does so to The Bangles' "Eternal Flame." So, Ted loves Robin (the most)—the end.
And that ending, whether romantic enough or not, makes sense. The show's format was nonlinear—sometimes we got the moral before the story, with flashes forward, back, and sideways. As viewers of this show—which, if nothing else, taught us to weather the storm for the sunshine—we assumed that an old flame would be extinguished when a new one was lit. But, as viewers of this show—which, if nothing else, showed us how long and winding the road to love is—we also should've seen that twist coming (but credit given to folks who called the "the mother has been dead the whole time" storyline way back in 2010).
Final observations/callbacks (come on, it's a series finale!):
—I always thought Lily and Marshall were smug jerks. The fact that the finale showed them settling up on their bet (from the "No Pressure" episode) about the outcome of the Ted-Robin relationship confirmed that sentiment.
—Maybe Ted is Marshall, at least, from the episode “Double Date”: Marshall admits that he can only fantasize about other women if he first imagines Lily's death due to some mysterious and terminal illness.