Monday’s final How I Met Your Mother episode is going to go down in the history books as the best wrapup to a series ever. It shows just what can be accomplished when the show runners really know where they’re going and plan it out in advance. It’s particularly impressive coming off of the worst season of the show ever.
The final episode was not the best sitcom episode ever. It wasn’t even the best episode that was a last episode of a TV series. That would probably be the final episode of MASH. (For that matter, almost every episode of MASH was better than pretty much any episode of How I Met Your Mother.) And yet, what sets How I Met Your Mother aside is that it’s the best finale ever.
I have never before seen an ending like that on any TV show. Twist endings are common, but that’s not what this was. It was a completely reasonable, plausible (and happy) ending that fit right in with everything that had gone before it, all the way back to Episode 1 eight years ago. It wrapped up all but one of the loose ends. Yet it completely shifted our understanding of just what was happening in the story in the first place.
What seemed like a gimmicky narration device (Ted telling the story to his kids) was in fact absolutely critical to the story; and the story we thought we were watching unwind over eight seasons wasn’t the real story at all. They gave us an ending I didn’t think was possible, but that everyone wanted. And three days later I remain amazed at how it all tied together in the end.