Really. Actual nightmares. I watched it a day late, after dutifully ignoring spoilers all day, and my reaction was still complete and unabashed hatred. I hadn’t even been watching the last season, really, though I did catch up on a few episodes on Monday. And I have no idea why I decided to ignore my usual rule of not watching series finales lest they leave me with that icky, empty sensation I always think of as the “Sunday feeling”—the feeling you get when you know it’s the end of the weekend and all the fun is over.
But this was so much worse. There are a thousand reviews out right now, written by people much more knowledgeable and eloquent and insightful than me, about why the conclusion of a nine-year-long series basically gave a giant middle finger to its fan base. But for some reason I still can’t stop going over it in my head and wishing it had been done differently—especially after having seen the beauty of what could have been in that fan-made video that absolutely nails what I wanted from the show. That’s how it should have ended. That’s what people wanted from the show: to see Ted happy, to see him get everything his over-romantic, pedantic heart yearned for for so long. It’s a comedy, for pete’s sake. Nobody wants realism, the cold splash of water over those golden-hued dreams that were the show’s, and character’s, selling point. And for those who argue that the ending was more realistic because it shows that not even love with “the one” can last forever, I say it’s so much more unrealistic to expect it to work out between two people who were together not just once but twice and realized they wanted fundamentally different things; to think that a man who let go of the woman he thought might be the love of his life over and over again because she continually left him for her career, his best friend, and a million other reasons would still believe they could be together decades and two children later—or that he’d still want her after all that; to believe any iota of Robin’s unhappiness stemmed from the fact that she wasn’t with Ted specifically rather than envy toward her friends and the nebulous, overarching fear of dying alone.
I actually can’t believe I care so much about this, but it’s such a tragic ending to a great show, simply because of how poorly conceived and executed it was. I want to go back in time and skip the real final episode, and instead just watch the fan video that brings to life what I didn’t realize I was hoping for all along. I know that life is messy, and ugly, and sad, and there are no easy answers and no real “happy endings.” That’s why we watch television shows—to escape the dullness and unfairness of real life, to give us faith (however temporarily) in things like destiny and epic love that never wavers no matter the circumstances. It’s a shallow fantasy, but a beautiful one, and one we all need from time to time. And if Ted can’t even get his happy story, in his imaginary life that’s written for him by someone else, then what hope is there for the rest of us?