How to Win and Lose at Series Finales


Unless you just avoided social media and entertainment this past week or you just don’t care, you may have seen that How I Met Your Mother ended this week after nine years. You also probably saw that the series finale had very mixed emotions from viewers ranging from “Great!” to “WORST THING EVER”.

Series finales are tough to do. How do you end a show for good after it has become loved and adored by millions of viewers? It’s really hard to try to answer every question, wrap up ever story line, or make everyone happy. Should you cater to the fans and give them what they want or do what you as the creator/writer wanted to do from the beginning?

Disclaimer: I’m one of the few who did like the series finale of Lost. I felt like that needed to be said.

I’m one of those people who has issues with continuity. I realize that sometimes it is hard to keep track of everything that happens. But what I don’t understand is when writers (of books, movies, and TV shows) just ignore everything that happens in the past and just tries to write around it and pretend it never happened. I’m not talking about a remake or a reboot. I’m talking about kids disappearing halfway through the show only to show up in the finale like it never took place.

There are the shows that end up getting cancelled way before the creators intended it to. Sometimes it’s right in the middle of a story line that leaves major cliffhangers. Other times the show gets cancelled abruptly and the last episode is not a farewell episode at all and is pretty bland. An example of the latter is the series finale of Full House. Sure Steve comes back in a cameo appearance but the rest of the episode doesn’t tie up series loose ends (Will Danny ever remarry? Will Jesse and Becky stay in the house forever? Why is Michelle still there?) and just leaves the viewers thinking that next year everything will be the same. Except there wasn’t a next year. There have been series finales when it turns out everything was just a dream (St. Elsewhere, Newhart) and ones where it turns out to just be a backdoor to another series (Andy Griffith Show). Then there’s the series finale of M*A*S*H which is the mother of all series finales because everyone and their mother in the US was watching it as its STILL the most watch series finale in history, and until Superbowl XLIV, the most watched television broadcast show in American history.

Let me give two examples of what I thought were good series finales to me.

1) Breaking Bad – As someone who had only started (binge) watching in the last few weeks of the show, I hadn’t been invested for a long time period as others from the beginning. But still there was great anticipation for how everything was going to play out. And as the weeks kept going by, the shows creators and writers managed to fulfill every thing I could think of. By the time the end credits rolled, I was completely satisfied. I did not need a spin off, I didn’t want to throw my remote at the TV, I was able to be like “Yes, this is how its done.” Loose ends were tied up, questions were answered, what I wanted to happened did, there was pretty much no other way it could have ended. Well done. Yes there’s going to be a prequel but the story is essentially done.

2) The Office – I was a big fan of The Office, until Steve Carrell left the show and then I stopped watching for several years. To me, Michael Scott WAS the show and without him, it wasn’t the same. But when the series finale came, since I had invested several years into it, I tuned it. And it was lovely. Even though I didn’t know who some of the people were, even though I didn’t know what some of the subplots were about, even though I still need to update myself with my favorite characters’ lives, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even cried. I felt that the writers realized that old fans were going to return and made the episode a good bit of nostalgia mixed with the current trajectory of the show. (They even added in David Brent!) And it was a great sendoff and good closure.

Basically it’s like when I close a book. If I am satisfied with the story and I don’t need more, when I feel like I can let the characters or their legacy live on without more episodes, without spinoffs, or even a prequel, then that’s when the show has closed out for good for me. It doesn’t have to end happily. People do not even need to be alive. But I don’t want to see sloppy writing or rushed events or to play with the viewers’ emotions just for the sake of ratings or other things.

And in my personal opinion: How I Met Your Mother did not have a good series finale. I did not enjoy it. I’m not going to argue with you if you liked it. I’m not going to try to convince you to NOT like it nor are you going to be able to convince me on why I SHOULD like it. For me, personally it hit a little too close to home. You can read here about my love for the show. Basically I started watching it because I was in a Ted/Robin situation and I had to find a way to distract myself when things didn’t go as I planned. And it kept mirroring my life and I grew heavily invested in the show and the characters’ lives. To me the ending was basically the creators fulfilling a slap bet with me and delivering one to MY face. And the best part? There are so many people who felt the same way.

You can argue against me all you want and completely disagree with me and that’s fine. It’s not going to change my mind. It was a personal experience and we’re all going to think differently. But I’m just going to state why it was not good for me.

Barney and Robin get divorced within 15 minutes of the show’s opening. We just spent AN ENTIRE SEASON having their wedding shoved down their throats. We were forced to witness this wedding hour by hour. WE INVESTED TIME IN THIS WEDDING. Only to have it casually end as soon as the broadcast starts. I’m not denying that this doesn’t happen in real life. But I’m thinking the only reason why the wedding weekend lasted so long was because the writers weren’t sure that Season 9 was going to happen at all, and when they were granted the opportunity they had to find some way to milk it out. And so they did, forcing the viewers to become emotionally invested in something and then just act like it didn’t matter at all.

Ted finally meets the mother. And it was glorious. I loved their meeting. It was everything I wished it would be. Except. They don’t get married for 5 years, even after two kids. In what world, does Ted Mosby NOT marry the mother of his children? Don’t tell me that Ted finally learned what love really is. No. If you love someone, you will want to commit to them and marriage is that. And PLUS: during the episode “Trilogy Time” in 2015 while Ted is holding baby Penny, HE IS WEARING A WEDDING RING. It’s not that hard to go back and check on this!!

The mother dying. Honestly I’m ok with this. It’s sad and I would have loved a happy ending but it happens. No, what my issue is we never see Ted mourn. We grew to love the mother with the mythology and build up over the years and then Cristin Milioti was just fantastic. But we never see get to really see Ted with her. Had the show done it right, I feel like we would have at least had time to process and then not gotten our hearts stomped on and be forced to accept that….

THE MOTHER WAS A RED HERRING ALL ALONG. The show has always been how Ted and ROBIN were meant to be together. Because in the last few minutes, we find out that Ted has basically told the story to his kids and it’s really asking their permission to ask out “Aunt Robin” which the kids give because “Mom was barely in this story!” (The scene with the kids was taped before season 2. So all along they were going to kill the mom and have Ted end up with Robin. I despise this. I feel like they forced themselves into this.) The entire series we’ve been so sick and tired of Ted and Robin, will they, won’t they? Because Robin made her decision. She has shown over and over that she only wants things when she can’t have them. Robin is the girl every guy dreams of. No emotional crisis, drinks Scotch, smokes cigars, loves sports, and is super hot. In this sense she is perfect for Barney. But that even couldn’t last. Ted was willing to be everything she wanted and needed and she still didn’t want him. So he FINALLY lets her go. They made Robin LITERALLY float away. Ted meets the mother.

Tracy (the mother) is basically the woman who gave Ted kids because Robin could never do this. Yes, she is the perfect woman for Ted but not the love of his life. Ted is a suburban dad with two teenagers. Robin is TV anchor who travels, lives in the city by herself, with 5 dogs and is independent. Is she really going to drop all that for Ted’s life? Ted has been holding onto a hope for Robin ALL THESE YEARS. I got out of this, “Hey! That guy I’ve been in love with for years that I keep waiting and hoping on? I’m going to let him go literally and figuratively. Then I’m going to meet the guy who is going to be the perfect guy for me. And we will be happy for a few years. And then he’s going to die. But there’s a happy ending because I will still get to end up with the first guy!”

I have other issues but I will leave you with this Buzzfeed post which other than number 14 (mixed emotions? no, I know how I feel) is exactly how I view this situation.


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