Ted and Robin shouldn’t have ended up together—not because I believe Ted didn’t deserve to move on after the Mother died—but because the series didn’t put in the effort to deserve that happy ending. How I Met Your Mother made a very big show of Ted letting go of Robin, and the whole point of that was to ensure he was finally able to open his heart to the Mother when he met her. If the series had spent an entire season building up to the moment with Robin and the blue french horn, instead of to a marriage that would ultimately fail after only three years, I don’t think I’d have felt so betrayed when it finally happened. If the series had allowed us some time to grieve the Mother, a character the writers spent 24 episodes making us adore, maybe her death wouldn’t have felt so abrupt.
By jumping around in time during its final hour, How I Met Your Mother used the very thing that initially set it apart from other TV comedies—its flexible narrative structure—as the easy way out. The writers didn’t need to come up with a reason for how or why Ted and Robin eventually found their way back to one another, because they could kill off the Mother and jump forward six years and then just tell fans that’s where they were headed all along. And because the show made its name by flashing back and forth between past, present, and future events, viewers were just supposed to accept that. Bays and Thomas didn’t bother telling us the rest of the story, and they obviously didn’t consider how the Mother’s death would affect the show’s longtime fans, probably because they knew it was simply too hard to explain after all the work they’d done to keep Robin and Ted apart.