Friday, September 12, 2014

The Writer's Struggle: Finale Edition

Warning: How I Met Your Mother finale spoilers ahead. 

Nowadays, it's a rarity for a television series finale to be seen by the masses as well done. Every devoted fan feels that they know these characters better than the writers and it's unfortunately become the norm for fans to feel betrayed by a show's finale. "They didn't stay true to the characters," "There's still matters left unanswered," and "Well there goes countless hours of my life that I'll never get back," are just a few of the things that will hit the internet seconds after the episode airs. Come to think of it, I don't even know what the last finale was that didn't receive backlash. But I can tell which has received backlash (to put it super gently): How I Met Your Mother.

And here come the spoilers. That thing you've been waiting for all season, Barney and Robin's wedding, finally happens. After being married for approximately 3 minutes of the episode, it is revealed that they end up getting a divorce. If that didn't make you cry, they decided to kill the mom, who in retrospect was so insignificant to the story that I can't even remember her name. Then, jump to the narrator's timeline where Father Ted Mosby is telling kids how he met their mother, his children encourage him to go to Robin's house and start things up again. So he does. And they reunite. And the story of how he met their mother was no longer all that important. Cue the backlash.

It's easy to see how anyone who has watched all nine seasons and 200+ episodes of the sitcom can be upset about this. Let's be real, the finale was specifically designed in a way that people who watched every episode would hate the ever-loving crap out of it. They were compelled to care far too deeply about major plot points that ultimately didn't matter, and about couples who ultimately did not end up together. They had the rug pulled out from under them in the last five minutes with a gut-wrenching bait and switch. No one likes to be made a fool. I mean, the show ended up being about the very thing the producers insisted it was not in the beginning. "Ted will not end up with Robin," they said. We were fools to believe them. HIMYM fan or not, we've all been there. We've all felt the emptiness of an unsatisfying finale. We've all felt betrayed by a finale. But let's take a step back and look at it from an artistic standpoint. These aren't your characters. These are the characters of the creators and writers. And at the end of the day, they're just trying to tell you the story they set out to tell.

So who's to blame? The network. While the finale is garbage to dedicated viewers, it's actually a beautiful ending if you skip over all the meandering plot lines that caused you to care about bullshit that didn't matter at all to the story they intended to tell. I can tell you this confidently, because I speak from experience. This summer, I watched the very first episode and the very last episode to discover that the writers were onto something brilliant if only network television didn't feel the need to drag out every show they can. I like to call it the curse of American network television. It's a nasty cycle that goes like this: show has success, network milks it for every last morsel of ad-revenue-generating programming (domestically and overseas), the brilliant creative vision the writers began with gets lost in the bullshit, viewers get screwed over and turn into angry haters, writers go down in history for having failed their fans. But how does the network get the writers and actors to sell their soul? Come on, it's the entertainment industry. It's no secret the HIMYM actors were receiving a pretty large check by the last season.

But back to the brilliance of the HIMYM creators' concept: In the very first episode, nine years ago, we saw a guy meet a girl, feel an instant connection, and then decide they couldn't be together because he wanted kids and she didn't. She wanted to travel the world. Remember how long we rooted for Ted and Robin to be together? Well (here comes the brilliance) ultimately they got everything they had wanted in that very first episode. He got his time to have kids. She got her time to travel. And in the end, they got to be together. Also, it's kind of a cool message that you can have more than one great love (one being the mother, another being Robin). It's a beautiful story. And as a fellow writer, I respect (but disagree with) their decision to stay true to the story their initially set out to tell.

So I'm not asking you to let go of your anger and hatred for the show's finale. Your anger and hatred is justified after getting invested in multiple story lines that meant nothing. Just maybe consider re-placing your anger where it actually belongs: at the network, and away from the writers.

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