CBS sitcom bids farewell after nine seasons. (WARNING: Spoilers!)
Warning: Contains major spoilers about the final episode of CBS' How I Met Your Mother.
Perhaps it should have been called How I Met Your Stepmother.
In a one-hour finale that spanned 17 years, two weddings, five births, new jobs, a divorce and a death, CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother wrapped up its circuitous tale of five inseparable pals hanging out in a New York bar: Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Robin (Cobie Smulders), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Ted (Josh Radnor).
The final episode filled in the gaps between present day and 2030, when Ted finally answers the question posed in the series title to his adolescent children, with the biggest non-surprise of all: He winds up with someone you expected from the start.
The episode was full of revelations: After Ted meets the Mother (Cristin Milioti) at Barney and Robin's wedding, he cancels his planned move to Chicago, but she can't get married as planned because "I want to fit in my dress," she says, revealing a pregnancy. Five years and a second child later, they finally tie the knot.
Robin and Barney get divorced after three years of marriage, as Robin's hectic travel schedule as a now-hotshot TV reporter leads to friction with Barney. (Among other issues, his "lifestyle blog for the sophisticated urban gentleman" suffers from a lack of Wi-Fi at an Argentinian hotel. "It's never going to take off if I can't post today's boner joke," he says.) Two years later, Barney impregnates a one-night stand, and he bonds with the baby, leading him to re-evaluate his priorities. (It's unclear what happens with the woman.)
Marshall, giving up a judgeship so Lily can take a job in Rome, unhappily returns to corporate law, but later gets another offer to be a judge in Queens, and later runs for State Supreme Court justice. They have a third child.
And as hinted at weeks ago, the mother, whose name -- Tracy McConnell -- is finally revealed in the final minutes, eventually falls ill with an unspecified illness, leaving Ted to tell the story six years after her death, in 2030.
"And that, kids, is how I met your mother," Ted tells his two teenagers.
"Is that it? I don't buy it," says the daughter, played by Lyndsy Fonseca in a scene producers say was filmed in 2006. "You made us sit down and listen to the story about how you met mom? But mom is hardly in the story. No, this is a story about how you're totally in love with Aunt Robin, and you're thinking about asking her out and you want to know if we're OK with it." (Their on-again, off-again relationship dominated the series.)
At their urging, he does, showing up outside her apartment with a blue French horn, coveted by Robin, that has figured prominently in several episodes, including the 2005 series pilot.
And that, kids, was the end.
Immediate reaction on Twitter was tilted negative, with some viewers complaining the show betrayed fans over its nine-year run by leading them to expect wedded bliss with an unnamed mother who wasn't Robin, only to recouple them after all.
"This was the story we set out to tell and I'm excited we're getting to tell it," executive producer Carter Bays said earlier this month of an ending he and co-creator Craig Thomas say they'd mapped out from the beginning. "Not everyone is going to like it, but that was never the guarantee anyway."