This Is a Blog: If the Mother Dies, The Show Dies

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If the Mother Dies, The Show Dies


I have been actively forgiving of How I Met Your Mother. Any show that banks on a single grand arc runs the risk of landing exactly where HIMYM is now, and that risk is entirely out of the creators' and writers' hands. Shows get cancelled and extended all the time. They introduced Victoria in season 1 thinking they'd get cancelled and at least their story would have worked as a backup. I'm guessing here, but I'd say around mid-season 5, they had a seven-year plan. Now, their unbridled success has painted them in a corner, and they've had to spin their wheels out to a ninth season. The premise has long since run its course, but the show must go on.

I have trudged through every awful episode because once upon a time, series creator Carter Bays promised he had an ending in mind the whole time that would make it all worth it. He was supposedly overseeing every episode, so no matter what happened, it would align with this grand ending. When filming the Harry Potter movies, J.K. Rowling told only Alan Rickman the truth behind Snape. That way, every scene he played, especially with Harry, would ring true with the final reveal. Bays made a promise to us all. Even though the show isn't exactly how they want it anymore, the big ending will make it all worth it.

Last night's episode, "Vesuvius," seems to point to one conclusion: the Mother is dying, and they know it six years before 2030, the year Ted is telling this epic story. In my humble opinion, this would ruin the entire series. Even if the ending itself is sweet and heartfelt in ways only HIMYM can nail, it would destroy everything that came before it.

The show's success as a story rests on the basic premise that despite his rampant douchiness, Ted is worthy of love. This story, and the way he has been telling it, is not the story you'd tell if the love of your life was dead. And if it is, the man telling it is a narcissist.

Let's start at the pilot. Imagine the Mother has died no more than six years earlier (or he knows she will die before the daughter is of marrying age). These kids have heard the short version of this story, but now he's going to go into details. He chooses to focus not on their dead or dying mother, but instead, he tells the story of how he was madly in love with another woman. Not only that, the pilot ends with him faking the kids out. They think they're hearing about their dead mother, but instead they're hearing about some other woman. If the mother is dead, this joke is outright cruel. (Side note: I just found the script online, and the first joke 2005 Ted makes is a cancer joke.)

Thinking in those terms, re-frames the entire show. If she is dead, I'm sure Old Ted tells stories about her all the time. It wouldn't be a big deal if he sometimes tells stories about his frivolous twenties and early thirties, but this is the one, big epic story that he has called the most romantic story he ever heard, and his dead wife is in less than one-ninth of the story. If she were dead, the story would be about them falling in love, and how she washed away the uncertainty of those empty years.

This story, as is, is about a man. It's about a guy spending years pining over a woman he can't have and standing in his own way because of it. Clearly, the point of this story is how the right woman brought his life into focus. And that is a great story, truly the most romantic story ever told. It's about how he went looking for her, and it was only when the stars aligned just right did they finally meet. I. The pilot, Ted says he was too close to the puzzle to see the full picture. That phrasing points to a cute story straight out of French cinema. It's not just him, but the entire universe conspiring to bring them together at just the right moment. As viewers, once we see the ending, we should be able to go back to the old episodes and see the meaning behind the nonsense.

If the Mother is dead, however, it cheapens every episode. It makes you wonder why the hell is telling the story of how Barney nailed seven chicks in one week, instead of talking about his dead wife. He spends an entire episode mourning a dying Fiero and not his dead (or dying) wife. He talks, in detail, about all the girls he has fallen in love with, slept with, pined over, taken advantage of, and until recently, he has only mentioned his dead wife in terms of how much better she is than them.

My girlfriend is alive, and I feel weird complimenting any of my exes. If I ever bring them up, it's only to illustrate how they were wrong for me. I would never talk to anyone, unless pressed, about how much I had in common with some other girl. I don't talk longingly about all the cute dates and romantic gestures. It's weird, and it spits on the girl you're with to compliment other girls in that way. If I were in Ted's shoes and I was supposedly telling the story how I met my dead wife, there would be a detached distance when talking about other women. Out of respect, I would avoid being too complimentary of any other women. Having seen Ted and the Mother together, it makes sense that the Mother would be totally cool with Ted telling their kids stories of other girls, but only if he did it with her knowledge. If she's dead, he's doing it behind her back and shitting on her grave.

With that in mind, pretty much everything that happens on the show looks like shitting on her grave. If she is dead or dying, Carter Bay's either stopped paying attention or doesn't understand human emotion. Old Ted joked once that a stripper is their mother. Not funny if she's dead. Old Ted fawns over the Mother laughing at his shellfish joke. Really glad his fondest memories of his dead wife are how she validates him. Actually, that's the crux of it. If she's dead, why is the entire story about HIM?

Not to mention, her story already has an untimely death in it. If the entire story is supposed to be about her teaching him that he can move on after death, what is the point of the rest of it?

My only hope is that it's another fake out. Five episodes out, they're either going to go all in on her being dead and hope that stretching it out gives us time to process it, or they're going to pull the rug out from under us. Maybe it's Ted's mom or her mom that dies before their wedding, and that's why they cry at the thought of missing a daughter's wedding. Either way, I'm in it until the bitter end. This show can handle the romance and bittersweetness better than any other show on television. I'm holding onto optimism as much as I can.

But if she's dead, fuck this show.

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