Podcast Supplement: The Zero Hour in which the Mother is Met

Ben Adams and Matthew Belinkie recap the finale of How I Met Your Mother in a special podcast supplement. Spoiler Alert for HIMYM.

Ben Adams and Matthew Belinkie recap the finale of How I Met Your Mother in a special podcast supplement. SPOILER ALERT.


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14 Comments on “Podcast Supplement: The Zero Hour in which the Mother is Met”

  1. Hollow_Oak #

    An alternative reading:

    What if the show is about how Ted met the mother, and it’s only Ted’s narration of the story that’s about wanting to try and get back together with Robin. “How I Met Your Mother” is rife with examples of unreliable narration, experimental story telling, and things not being what they seem. HIMYM has been preparing us the whole time to look past the literal reading of the finale and recontextualize it with respect to the broader narrative.

    From Ted’s perspective, he’s six years removed from the death of his wife, and hasn’t really gotten over it. He’s finally ready to move on, but can’t do it alone. Thus, he puts his kids in a position to help him by giving him the external push he needs.

    From the Show’s perspective, the story of how Ted met the mother consists of Ted’s entire life. The entrance of the the story is when Ted meets Robin, but through various nonlinear story telling devises we’ve seen from Ted’s childhood up to and past the death of the mother. As Belinkie says the show has been about the journey Ted needed to take to be ready to meet the mother. But, it’s also been about how meeting the mother changed Ted, as we can establish by contrasting the view points of the Ted the narrator with the view points of season 9 Ted. This also adds impotence to spending an entire season on the days before Ted meets the mother. So, we have a solid understanding of the place Ted was in just prior to meeting the mother.

    If you’ve been watching the show carefully, you know that every new love starts out with a blue french horn, or an evening with no names, or a 2 minute date. But, very few of them end well. The end of the show is not Ted getting back together with Robin and living happily ever after, it’s just him beginning again. Considering that Robin is the object of Ted’s affection here because of her ties to his nostalgic remembering of his twenties, I give it six weeks.

    TLDR: Ted’s an unreliable narrator, and the twist ending reveals only Ted’s ulterior motive not the show’s.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      “The end of the show is not Ted getting back together with Robin and living happily ever after, it’s just him beginning again. Considering that Robin is the object of Ted’s affection here because of her ties to his nostalgic remembering of his twenties, I give it six weeks.”

      I think this is right! But I also think the story is presented to us in such a way that we’re supposed to imagine them happily ever after. The whole thing feels like fan fiction from somebody who REALLY REALLY wanted Ted and Robin together and was willing to suspend all disbelief to make it happen.


      • Hollow_Oak #

        Sure, sure.

        It’s a bit like the first few seasons were on the trajectory to this finale, but in the last 3 they got so far afield it was impossible to get back.

        Side Note: I also felt like a hug opportunity was squandered to have the flash forwards with the mother this season appear in reverse chronological order.


  2. Dr_Demento #

    For me, the most striking part of the HIMYM finale is how awful it was to Robin. Not only does she lose Ted originally, but she also loses Barney just three years into their marriage. Now, this would be bad enough, but Barney does end up eventually settling down, and the reason he does it is because he has a child. It is strongly implied that Barney does not have real feelings for #31, and it isn’t entirely clear where she is in the picture down the road. However, the truth is that Barney finally settles down when he gets the one thing Robin can’t give him. I remember putting my hand to my mouth when Barney first talks to his daughter, and wanting to punch something when I thought about what that would mean to Robin.

    If I found the finale unsatisfying (which I’m not sure about yet, I haven’t had time to digest it), then it wasn’t because the mother was dead (the writers did an amazing job with her, but this show made it 6 seasons without her, she really was expendable). It was because of how Robin was treated. They took just about everything away from Robin over the course of finale, and I just don’t know if a blue french horn is going to cut it for me.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      I always respected that Robin was a woman who didn’t want kids, and that remained consistant over the years. She had moments of doubt but she never really repented and got all maternal (right?). But man, she PAID for that choice. (I think it’s safe to say that the writers of the show had very different attitudes towards family.)


    • An Inside Joke #

      That’s also part of what bothers me about a Ted/Robin pairing at the end – Ted has kids. Even if we imagine a “happily ever after” scenario at the end, there’s more to being a mother than giving birth, and becoming step mom to a pair of teens isn’t a minor feat. In order for this happy ending to work, Robin still has to give up her desires and become a mother, even if not through biology. I don’t think this is the message the writers intended, but the whole series seems to have a subtext of “you can’t be happy if you don’t have children.”


      • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

        That’s a very good point! I think in HIMYM’s wisest moments, it was upfront about the hard truth that you can love and want someone desperately, but they are not right for you. They will NEVER be right for you. Robin and Ted fundamentally wanted different things, so they would always be good friends but they could never share a life together.

        Now maybe at the age of 50, Robin is ready to be a step-mother to grown children. I’m sure the creators would say the whole POINT of the finale is that things change and you never know what the future will bring. (Although if that’s the point, bringing the entire series full circle to Ted and Robin is a strange way of making it.)

        But even if we’re meant to accept that middle-aged Ted and Robin are going to be a thing , man, what baggage! She was friends with the deceased ex-wife that she will never measure up to. Ted was the best man at her failed wedding. If there was ever a man who needed to move on with a clean slate, it’s widowed, soon to be empty nester Ted Mosby. Trying to recapture the magic of the blue french horn is just sad.

        The only way this ending works is if it’s supposed to be a depressing portrait of a lonely man giving up the last of his dignity and common sense to try and relive his happy youth. And I don’t think that’s what they were going for.


  3. Joseph Mason #

    What really pissed me off with the final season is that they made it all about Barney and Robin’s wedding for to divorce in the final minutes of the show. That left a bad taste in my mouth.


  4. BastionofLight #

    I want to thank you guys for releasing this supplement. The finale left me with a lot of mixed feelings, and listening to you overthink it provided me with much-needed catharsis. You are the best!


  5. Peter Tupper #

    The text of Ted’s story is “how I met your mother”, while the subtext is his off-and-on relationship with Robin, but the sub-subtext is Ted’s belief that that’s what life is about: you meet somebody, you fall in love, you get married, you have kids, you build a home. Everything you do prior to that is aimed towards it. Heterosexual monogamy and the nuclear family are the telos of life in your 20s, or so Ted believes. Despite the grind of dating and various other life changes, Ted sticks to it, and eventually meets The Mother. Case closed. Story over.

    Except six years later, he’s newly single and trying in a very roundabout way to get his kids’ permission to date again.

    Arguably, HIMYM ends on the note that people don’t change: Ted will always be a hopeless romantic, Barney will always be a horndog, Robin will always be a free spirit. Even things like weddings, marriages, kids, etc, don’t change that. Ted’s narrative has survived the loss of his wife and the mother of his children, so that even though now he’s older and a father, he’s come right back to where he started: a single guy looking for love in the big city. That we don’t get any hint of how it goes with Robin shows the power of that narrative in Ted’s life; he’s still trying, regardless of outcome. Whether that’s inspiring or discouraging is up to the viewer.

    Admittedly, it is a bit of a bait-and-switch to present a TV series premised on that widely-held narrative, and then say, “No, the story DOES NOT end with a wedding and they lived happily ever after.” To rupture the happily-ever-after narrative, we have to show that Ted’s life does not end with The Mother. We must defy genre expectations.


  6. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    OMG YOU GUYS, I JUST REALIZED SOMETHING. You know how I was puzzled that Bob Saget is the narrator, because why can’t Ted narrate his own stories? What possible meaning could that have?

    Do you guys remember the premise of Full House?



  7. John C #

    This is, obviously, four years late (I’ve been going through the back-catalog), but as someone else who didn’t quite enjoy the finale (and it reminded me of a few other problems with the show that aren’t worth talking about), I wanted to mention what I thought would have been the best possible ending, feasible just by throwing out the footage of the kids.
    On the train platform, Ted’s voice-over says “so, kids, that–” interrupt him with whatever meet-cute nonsense they cared to go with, and “–that is how I met your mother.” Recycle the audio of the kids asking “what!?” in disbelief and roll credits.
    In other words, I wanted it to be the nine-year-long callback to “oh, we met in a bar,” which sort of fits the way the show enjoyed being a little bit frustrating. Maybe a post-credits Ted saying, “oh, you wanted to hear how we got to know each other…?” leaving the story open to continue.


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