'How I Met Your Mother' & 'Lost' Finales Have Way Too Much in Common
It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. That's a profound and wise philosophy to live by, but when your television show is quite literally (yes, literally, Ted, literally) about the destination, the same rules don't exactly apply. Case in point: the dumbfounding series finale of How I Met Your Mother . For years our narrator has gone through the trouble of giving us painstaking details and clues to lead us to meeting the mother of his children and his future bride. It's the title of the show, for god's sake. But instead of giving us time to actually get to know the mother (whose name turned out to be Tracy, by the way) or bask in the joy of their long-awaited meeting, we are instead rushed through her life (and eventual death!) just so that Ted could wind up with Robin again.
Look, I'm not saying that life and love isn't messy and complicated and heartbreaking and that something like this couldn't happen, but I'm saying it is creepy and bizarre that a man would spend more time and effort describing his ex-girlfriends from his 20's and glazes over the major details of his children's deceased mother while telling their great love story. It felt like a cheap cop-out and one that will have me arguing with other TV fans for quite some time. Will it tarnish the memory of the show for you? Did it matter that the ending negated the whole series up until that point? Sound familiar? Yep, we all went through a similar thing when Lost ended. That love-it-or-loathe-it conclusion left some fans seething with rage (present!), while others argued that it was perfect, and deep, and you just didn't get the meaning of life, man.
Strong, varying opinions aside and non-linear storytelling structure aside, the finales of Lost and How I Met Your Mother are actually pretty similar in a few other ways, too. (I'm not the only one who sees it.)
The Red Herrings
One can only assume that the entire drawn-out Barney and Robin nuptials were a red herring for how this story would actually conclude. If we were going through all of this trouble to make sure that Ted and Tracy meet, and Robin and Barney have their happily ever after, it would have to end up that way, right? Wrong. In fact, pretty much everyone except for Stella (who lead Ted to his professor gig) was a red herring (or, in this case, yellow umbrella) when it came to meeting the mother. In the end, it really relied on Barney and Robin getting married, and even that wound up being a bust. There's a lot of moving pieces involved when it comes to fate, but the unexplained pineapple certainly wasn't one of them. Speaking of unexplained, well, everything: the countless red herrings in Lost. The numbers, the polar bears, the smoke monster. Even when they were "explained" within the world of Lost, in the end, none of it really mattered.
Yes, the entire show was an analogy for the mysteries of life and death, but there were a whole lot of bells and whistles and four-toed statues (read: clues and mysteries that often lead obsessive viewers nowhere) to come to the conclusion that, in the end, it's all about the people you love and you just spent a hell of a lot of time following dead-ends.
The Ridiculous "Dead the Whole Time" Theory Actually Pans Out
I'm still angry at Lost for plenty of reasons, but the culture of theorizing shows to death (literally, Ted, literally) may be its legacy, and its worst offender. (It's the very reason why people overanalyze very straight-forward finales like Breaking Bad and dissect them beyond reason.) Lost was a show structured on keeping you guessing and looking out for clues to get to the "big picture", but then, so was How I Met Your Mother. Eventually the trope of "They were dead the whole time!" is bound to come into play.
But, it can't be that, right? That's too convenient and too simple a solution. That's as unsatisfying as, "It was all just a dream!" And as much as the creators of both of these fan-centric shows tried to play it off that, no way would it be as simple as that, our show is so much more layered and complicated, that's exactly how it panned out. Plenty of Lost fans figured out "they're all dead in the end" scenario pretty early in the game, as did How I Met Your Mother fans connecting the dots that Tracy would eventually die, leaving Ted a single man again.
Outstaying Their Welcome
Six seasons isn't exactly an overstayed welcome, but when a show never reaches the spectacular heights of its first season like Lost did, it can sure feel that way. But How I Met Your Mother, which started to stall out around Season 6, most certainly did. Both of these shows could have come to their conclusions a hell of a lot sooner than they did (especially if they always had these particular end games in mind) and saved us a whole lot of time and wasted energy.
If people are willing to stick it out with your story, no matter how long it might be and how many ultimately pointless twists you might throw in the mix, you should still aim to make the destination as satisfying as the journey once was.
Images: CBS, ABC