Before we watch tonight’s final episode of How I Met Your Mother, I would like to make a prediction about the fate of the Mother. Obvious spoilers ahead.
Now for the past 8 (9?) years, we’ve been following along with Ted as he describes the epic journey of how he met the mother of his children. For quite a while, we all assumed it was just Ted being Ted, a very long winded story teller that gets lost in the journey of his own story as he recants it to his children. But through the years, and especially in the later seasons, there have been a number of subtle, and not so subtle, cues as to the fate of the Mother.
The Mother is dead.
It’s quite a shocking thought, but it’s a thought that makes total sense in the context of how Ted has been telling this story.
How I Met Your Mother has always been much more than just a comedy out for laughs. It’s a show about relationships, friendships, and the very real hardships we as young adults go though in life.
It wouldn’t be the first time the show has dealt with death. In fact, arguably the most powerful episode of the entire series concerns the grieving Marshal has he furiously calls out in anger to God after the sudden death of his father, only to be humbled by the gift of a final message from beyond the grave. There were not many laughs in that episode, but many agree it was one of the best on television not for its comedy, but for its emotional realism.
As for the Mother, how could a show that calls itself a comedy be so morbid, and why do many of us long term fans feel that this is the ultimate outcome?
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we ourselves might be a bit morbid, and it’s that tragic thinking that allows us to hone in on the subtle cues in Ted’s story.
The kids on the couch
Case in point, where has the mother been all this time? While we all understand that the storytelling itself takes place over say an afternoon, why has the mother never come into the room to see how the family is doing? How can Ted talk about all his exploits and sexual conquests to his children and not attract the ire of his wife? And as Ted sometimes got the story wrong, which he admits occasionally, why did the mother never intervene and correct him?
Additionally, it was stated a long time ago that the final scenes of the series with the children were filmed very early on due to the fact that the kids obviously will grow up over the years. If this final scene has already been filmed, how does this work with the current incarnation of the mother Cristin Milioti? She was obviously not cast until last year, so she was never around 6 years ago when they filmed the ending scenes. If she were alive, how would that interaction work? It would literally be impossible to see her embrace or acknowledge her children in the same camera view, unless the producers went with some very odd pre-planned body-double setup for both Cristin and the children.
305 and Ms. Blah Blah.
Furthermore, we have the very subtle cues in Ted’s storytelling. In episode 305 “How I Met Everyone Else,” Ted is currently with the girlfriend affectionally named “Blah Blah.” That episode involves the College Reunion, at which Ted, while stoned, remarks “where is my wife?” At first glance, we could assume that he was just wondering where his wife was in general, especially considering we never saw her at the reunion. But if we follow along with the hypothesis of a dead mother, this subtle comment may have far more tragic implications than we originally thought.
Also along the subject of Ms. Blah Blah, why Ted specifically mention her and reveal her name as Carol in the season 9 episode “Gary Blauman” that recapped the lives of various recurring characters. She was neither recurring nor marginally important to anyone, yet somehow Ted wanted to bring attention to her. There were many other characters that deserved epilogues more than she did. Did the producers want to bring attention to the episode and that subtle remark?
As another sign of suspicious coincidence, episode 305 is also the course number that the Mother first saw Ted (Econ 305). Is 305 as important as we think it is?
Living in your story
Moving on to more evidence, in “Vesuvius”, we get a few weird moments that could really be bombshells. First off, in 2024 Ted and the Mother are having a quiet time alone together. That in itself would not be out of place, but the general tone of the dinner was far more somber than a simple anniversary of some sort, especially considering it took place in winter nowhere near any known special date. Obviously, the mother is shown as alive in 2024, which refutes the 2020 she is already gone idea, but maybe it’s not so simple.
If we look at their conversation, there are some strange things said by the mother. First off, she mentions that she doesn’t want Ted to “be the guy that lives in his stories.” One could take this to mean that he could be someone who just tells stores all day, which is exactly what he has the tendency to do.
On the other hand, what if this were a subtle allusion to what’s actually happening, and that he’s actually living inside of this memory enjoying the company of the Mother who has already been gone. What if by 2024, the other is gone, and he has escaped to Farhampton to be alone? What if while here, he’s imagining his life with her still and what they’d be talking about? What if all those words that the Mother tells him were really his own subconsciousness trying to pull him out of a depressed spiral?
In the episode, the Mother also mentions how every daughter should have their mother at their wedding, a though of which that Ted instantly starts crying. Why would Ted have such a marked reaction to a statement, and why would the Mother apologize? Was it his own thoughts while remembering the story of Robin’s mother that he realizes that his own daughter would be without her mother on her wedding day?
“Vesuvius” was also extremely unique in that it is the only episode in the entire series where we do not heard from 2030 Ted. It was an episode that was not told from the perspective of Ted telling his children about how he met their mother. Was this episode really a one off where Ted was living in his own memories or was it an actual event in 2024? Even if it was a real event, the entire episode had undertones of sadness as if this were a final meeting between Ted and the Mother. Could this have been the final hurrah before an tragic long expected end? If it were imagined, the 2020 reunion theory holds true. If it were real, but the mother had been terminal for an extended period of time, the 2020 absence could be explained still via a medical absence at the time.
Another example of living in his own story is during the retelling of the first date in “Gary Blauman.” The episode itself was a weird series of Inception level flashbacks that were actually quite confusing. Once you dig yourself out of it a little bit, you realize that it’s not quite clear how the framing of the story was relative to him telling the kids. It feels more like the first date was a memory that Ted was recalling while he was telling the story. The scenes involving the first date were seemingly framed outside of the storytelling reference.
Furthermore, in the final scene (which is outside of the storytelling reference), Ted pauses a moment to remember extending the walk with the Mother. One might consider that Ted was just being creepy Ted, but if we apply the idea that Ted is living in his memories? What if Ted was taking a moment to remember the feeling of that first date with the Mother, the feeling of the turning point in his life where everything went right? What if in reality, that moment was just a moment, but in his memory, he wants to make it last as long as he can?
The Time Travelers
It may seem like a stretch to think that Ted would be living in his own stories and changing things around to suit an emotional point, but we have already seen this very concept in another landmark episode “The Time Travelers.” It was here that Ted provided the most mind shattering speech he ever gave in the show, and it was as speech presumably not provided to his children.
We already know that on that cold April day, that Ted had yet to meet the Mother. The Mother was currently living with her then boyfriend, but it is in this altered memory that Ted lays down a speech. This speech, at first glance, may seem like Ted was wishing he could have spent more time with her because he was lonely. In reality, this speech was really more about the fact that Ted wishes he could have had an extra 45 days to spend with her because of the impending finite time they will have together. It is a speech born out of tragically lost love cut far too short, not loneliness.
As the moment of how he meets the Mother draws nearer, Ted’s emotional state seemingly so fragmented that story mixes with memory mixes with fantasy. This is not the state of mind of a man telling the story of how he met someone, but rather the mind of a man finally coming to terms with a life altering trauma.
The music tells all
Finally, the show always uses music to great effect to propel the story forward, most notably in season 9 it seems. In Ted’s speech in “The Time Travelers,” we hear the song “You’re All Alone” by John Swihart. The melancholy themes of this song combine with the title itself to explicitly state the intent. Furthermore, this song is repeated again as the Mother have a final conversation with her long deceased fiancé. In that scene, the Mother looks up to the skies to ask for permission to move on with her life and find someone new. It’s a tragic scene that directly couples with Ted’s version via the use of the same music.
Additionally, just about all scenes involving Ted and the mother involve songs about lost love. “If You See Her, Say Hello” by Bob Dyllan talks about a love lost. “La Vie En Rose” by Edith Piaf talks about how the life of a rose, the symbol of love, is short but brilliant. And “Souvenir” by Billy Joel is a song about hanging onto memories that have faded over time.
Maybe I’m reading far too much into the clues. Maybe I’ve just come up with this entire idea as an extension of my own tragic thinking. Maybe I’m just a sad soul that relates to Ted are far to intimate of a level.
Maybe that’s why How I Met Your Mother has been such an appeal to me all these years.
Soon we will find out if I’m right, and see how tragic of a show this really ends up being.