'How I Met Your Mother' Series Finale Review: "Last Forever"

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CBS

How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 recalls its 23rd and final episode of the final year in “Last Forever,” as Ted finally completes the story of how he met the eponymous mother, detailing the history of his closest friends' lives after Barney and Robin's wedding.

Last week’s ‘How I Met Your Mother’ installment “The End of the Aisle” saw Ted revealing a surprising secret in his attempt to calm Robin down before the wedding, while Barney turned to Marshall and Lily for inspiration in writing his last-minute vows. So how does the latest episode bring the series to a close?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 episode 23, series finale “Last Forever”!

Back in September 2005, Lily insists to the gang that she wants to keep the newly-met Robin a part of their group, and she’ll only allow Barney or Ted to get involved with her if they marry her. Back to the wedding reception, Ted finally sees the mother playing bass up on the stage, as Barney awkwardly reminds her they’d met some time earlier. Barney becomes seized by the revelation she would be perfect for Ted, but Ted insists he has to leave the wedding and begin his move to Chicago, for which Barney takes everyone outside.

Ted says his goodbyes to the four before heading out, sending off Barney with the highest of fives, the “high-infinity.” 45 minutes later at the rainy train station, the old woman on the bench questions Ted if the bassist at the wedding could perhaps have been a sign from destiny, though Ted isn’t in the mood to discuss it. No sooner does the woman pose the idea however, does she point out that that destiny seems to have brought the mother to them, just down the platform.

The next day, Marshall and Lily contemplate dealing with Ted’s absence from MacLaren’s, only to find him sitting there, having turned down the Chicago job on account of meeting the mother. Marshall laments that Ted always moves too soon, but Lily sees from the way Ted talks about the mother that things will be different. Flashing forward to 2015, Ted plans his lavish wedding with the Mother, though she surprises him with the news that they’ll need to put off a wedding until after her pregnancy.

In 2016, the gang gathers at Ted and the Mother’s suburban home, Marshall and Lily having returned from Rome, as Barney and Robin reveal that her job constantly taking them abroad has led to an amicable divorce. Both insist there won’t be any taking sides between the friends, as the talk quickly shifts to Lily’s third pregnancy, and Lily insists they always make a point of being together for the big moments in their lives.

Later on that year, Marshall and Lily throw a rooftop Halloween party to commemorate finally trading up the famous apartment for something more spacious, but Robin quickly grows uncomfortable by the sight of Ted and the Mother, along with Barney picking up women. Lily attempts to stop Robin from leaving the party, but Robin points out that they can’t all hang out together the way they had in their younger years, and need to let certain things go. By 2018, Barney still attempts to keep the gang out late nights, before Marshall reveals that he finally attained another judgeship. Barney’s womanizing ways have Lily question if he’d grown at all in the years they’ve known him, but Barney believes settling down simply isn’t in his nature.

In a 2019 match of Wrestlers Vs. Robots, Barney glumly reveals to Marshall, Lily, Ted and the Mother that he spent 31 days working on a “perfect month” of womanizing conquests, only for the last one to end up pregnant. The following year, Ted shows his daughter the GNB building and runs into Robin for the first time in years, despite her face appearing on billboards in every direction. Later on, the gang waits with Barney for the birth of his daughter, and his detachment immediately shifts upon laying eyes on his baby girl, Ellie.

Some years later, Ted and the Mother finally decided to follow through on their long-overdue wedding, with even Robin putting in an appearance. Marshall announces his bid for the Supreme Court, while Barney’s womanizing past has shifted toward wanting the women in bars to take better care of themselves and call their parents. Ted remembers how incredibly lucky he’d been to have the emotional endurance to make it all the way through a long and winding road to the Mother, and through the illness of her later years. Back in the past, Ted finally introduces himself to the woman at the train platform, sharing her umbrella as they realize both they and the item have an intimate history together through the years. The mother even finally gives her name, Tracy McConnell.

Ted finally completes the long-winded take to his children, though they rightly point out that the mother was barely in the story. Instead, they suggest that he told them the story to justify getting back with “Aunt Robin,” something they heartily endorse six years after their mother’s death. Relieved, Ted opts not to call Robin to ask her out, but rather return the blue French horn from outside her building, as he had years earlier.

OUR REVIEW:

So, that happened. Look, for as long as the series has gone on, we’d known that the mother herself was always intended to be more of an intangible idea of Ted’s search for the right woman, while the series itself focused on the dynamics of its core four characters. And thus, the Mother would never become the true focus of the story, especially as the very pilot of the series focused on Ted’s interest in Robin. It’s a long and winding tale that doesn’t really have anything specific to say about the titular relationship, but rather to remind us that time goes on, and things change.

So yes, the mother died six years ago, and the kids eagerly push him to reunite with Robin, who divorced Barney only three years after their wedding. Barney himself has a daughter with a relative stranger that finally changed his womanizing ways, Robin distanced herself from the group over the years, and Marshall and Lily are, as always, Marshall and Lily. The details themselves don’t really matter, nor do any of the major cameos or recurring jokes (although some of the better gags from the years at least get shout-outs), as the ultimate message we’re left with is that people will change, major milestones will come and go, and life will carry on.

Is that any way to leave fans who have followed the series through nine (sometimes painful) seasons? Time will tell, and we expect the creators knew they’d have a polarizing end on their hands. The journey mattered far more so than the destination, and nine seasons worth of memories from a strong core group easily eclipse anything we might have come to expect from “Last Forever”’s future-hopping narrative. The moments that matter land, particularly Ted’s actual meeting of the mother, and some of the difficult decisions Robin finds herself making over the years.  Admittedly less successful was Barney’s somewhat bleak future, which certainly called back to the nature of the character, but felt a bit oddly disjointed from the other four (or five, now).

And that’s it, really. It’s weird, somewhat expected, full circle in its own way, and emotional enough to tie a proper closure around the long tale. We’re grateful for the memories, but the finale itself may need a bit more time to stew before we can really gauge if it was all worthwhile.

Well, what say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’’s final installment, “Last Forever” justify Ted's nine-season tale? Were you surprised to learn the mother's fate, and see Ted end up back with Robin as a result? Give us your thoughts in the comments, as we dissect the surprising ending in the coming days!

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