A couple weeks back on “How I Met Your Mother,” the episode closed with Robin’s mom telling her that if she knows she has someone to depend on, she’ll be fine. Robin pauses and says “I do,” and that pause and the faraway look in her eyes had me, frankly, more than a little worried.
It strongly suggested she was talking about Ted instead of Barney. That in turn planted a seed of dread that we’d be in for one last Mosby grand gesture — that Robin would freak out and want to run away with Ted, and that as he did with Victoria a year earlier in show time, he’d take her up on it.
The first part of that happened: Robin did, in fact, wig out over Ted’s tracking down of the locket and her own misgivings about Barney. “Maybe I should be marrying you,” she confesses.
Then something great, and more than that, necessary happened. The “scene we needed to see” in the headline? It wasn’t Barney and Robin getting married, even though that’s been teased for three seasons and was satisfying on its own. Nor was it Marshall and Lily’s impromptu vow renewal, which was lovely and tear-inducing and led Barney to realize the one thing he needed to vow to Robin. It’s not even the final slap, or Robin literally running into the Mother.
Those were great, but the scene we needed to see was the one in which Ted explains to Robin why he won’t run away with her.
It’s a scene that, arguably, could and should have come much earlier in the show’s run*, but absolutely needed to happen. The show laid some groundwork for it a few episodes back in “Sunrise,” although the on-the-nose music choice (“Eternal Flame”) and image of Robin literally floating away from Ted obscured the idea in a heavy layer of cheese.
(*Given that creatos Carter Bays and Craig Thomas didn’t know their end date in prior seasons, it’s understandable why they didn’t play this card until now. But it has been hanging over Ted and Robin, and thus the show, for a very long time.)
“I’m not your future. Barney is,” Ted tells her, sounding the most grown-up and ready to meet his true love than he ever has. “I’m not that guy anymore,” the guy steals blue French horns and finds long-lost lockets.
Robin continues to challenge him, saying she knows the locket is more than just a wedding gift. “Maybe it started out that way,” he replies. “… The truth is, I don’t love you like that anymore. And you don’t love me — you love Barney. And if you think I would ever be part of screwing that up, maybe you don’t know me at all.” As they’ve done many times over the years, Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders handle the intimacy of the scene with aplomb, even managing to throw in a couple of jokes that only old friends could get away with in such a situation.
He closes with, “Love is the best thing we do.” And after Barney overhears Lily and Marshall redoing their vows and tells Robin his only vow is to be honest with her, she believes it. Cue Pearl Jam’s “Future Days” and Future Ted’s voiceover that while a lot of things both before and after the wedding didn’t go all that smoothly*, it’s not something he would trade.
(*Implicit acknowledgment of the up-and-down last season(s), further fodder for certain series-finale theories, or both? You decide.)
With Ted finally reaching the place he needs to be, and Robin and Barney now finally married, “How I Met Your Mother” seemingly is in a pretty good place leading into the series finale. Bring on the grace notes, bring on the fulfillment of the title, and bring on what we all hope is a satisfying final chapter.
What did you think of “The End of the Aisle”?