If you are anything like me, you ended up having tears in your eyes, but not because you were sad. Oh no. It was because you were angry.
Naturally, I'm talking about the finale of How I Met Your Mother.
I know there are people who liked the finale, which is fine. However, I've found a majority of the people I have talked to are much more like me. We're mad.
In case you haven't figured out, this blog post will contain spoilers. I'm going to do my best to not have spoilers and speak generally, however, who knows if that'll actually happen. If you haven't watched the finale, you can hold off on reading this post. You can read this later. This is the internet - nothing goes away. My blog will be here when you're done watching.
I know there are probably a ton of people creating reaction videos and articles about the finale. It was pretty controversial and with a show this popular and had been running for so long, there's going to be a lot of different reactions and views on how it should have ended. Therefore, instead of writing something ranty and angry, I'm going to go a different route.
Writing Lesson from the Finale of How I Met Your Mother
Story and Character Arcs
A huge part of writing a story is creating arcs for the plot and the characters. You start in one place, the story and the characters grow and change, and they end up somewhere different. Somehow at the end of the story, your characters (especially the main character, your protagonist), are different than they were in the beginning. If your characters are in the same place as they were at the start of the story, you've done something wrong.
This doesn't mean the characters change and become completely different people. At heart, they are still the same person. However, there has been some sort of change. Some sort of growth. Think about it, even in real life we aren't the same as we were when we were born. As we get older and have different experiences, we grow and change. This might not mean we have grown and changed for the better, but the growth and change is there.
The story works the same way. If your plot is in the same place as it was in the beginning of the story, you've done something wrong, and the story was probably really boring.
|Here's a nice diagram in which this is kind of explained.|
Some may argue "But that's realistic! Sometimes people don't change and we regress!"
Valid point. However, while good stories many time reflect "real life", telling a story is different than actually living life. Therefore, the writers need to approach it this way.
Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
I actually had a long conversation about this point with a friend just the other day. A lot of TV shows, movies, and books lately are very much driven by plot. How many plot twists they can put into their story and see what happens. In a way, this works. It keeps the audience interested and the story keeps moving. Also - you need plot to create a story. Otherwise you have a bunch of characters just sitting around and it's completely boring.
However, if your entire story is based on plot twists and turns, it's pretty weak. You need good characters to really have a strong story. I felt like How I Met Your Mother was good at this. Plot twists happened. Things turned in directions we didn't expect. Yet, it all was focused on the characters and their relationships. It was the characters who influenced the plot in most cases, not the other way around.
Until the last episode. Basically, it was all just a bunch of plot twists.
Write With the End in Mind
From what I've heard, the creators of How I Met Your Mother knew what the ending was going to be eight years ago. It was even filmed. That's great. It's awesome. I know when I write, if I don't know how I want it to end, I'm lost. I also can tell in other stories when the writer wasn't sure how they wanted it to end. The rest of the story was disjointed.
As this last season closed, I loved how all of the pieces from all of the other seasons fell together. It was seamless and fantastic. It was so much fun to see how everything worked together.
Then, in the last 20 minutes (or less) they turned everything on it's head and it fell apart. Basically, everything the show was pointing to didn't matter anymore. If you are going to do something like that, you need to have the rest of the story pointing to it as well.
Shock for the Sake of Shock
This is a huge pet peeve of mine lately in movies, TV, and books lately and it goes back a bit to the plot driven vs. character driven point. I feel as though a lot of writers are putting in crazy plot twists simply for the sake of being different or having some sort of shock factor. There is nothing wrong with a crazy plot twist and being different. It can show creativity and how unexpected life can be.
However, when you're writing a story your plot twist needs to have a purpose. If there isn't a point to it, then it shows lack of creativity. Actually, it also shows the writers don't have confidence in their story or their audience. If having a major shock factor is the main thing driving the story, there's something wrong.
In my opinion, the feel of the final episode was very much just about shock factor. Also, I felt like it was deceptive to the audience. There's a difference between plot twists and deceiving your audience. It might work for shows such as Lost or something, but not How I Met Your Mother. (Not that I've watched Lost so I could be totally off on that point.)
As I mentioned before, from what I've heard the ending of How I Met Your Mother was planned from the beginning. That's awesome! However, over the course of 9 years, the characters and the show evolved and changed. Which is a good thing. I can't tell you how many times I've begun a story and then as I've gone on writing, it becomes something completely different than I had originally planned.
Sometimes this means I have to change my ending.
That's the creative process. Maybe when the show first began this ending was perfect. However, by the last episode it felt as though so much of it had been pointless and just filler for the big plot twists.
You need to learn how to be flexible when things are going a new direction.
Keep the Heart
When you read or watch a good story you get a sense of it's heart. I think of Harry Potter and if people ask "what is it about?" you can have two different types of answers. One answer would be "Harry Potter is about a boy who finds out he's a wizard, goes to wizard school, and has to defeat an evil wizard." The other answer would be "It's about love, sacrifice, growing up, learning, social issues, friendship, family..."
Do you see what I mean?
You can have a ton of twists and turns and great plot devices and fantastic characters to a story, but you also need to have the heart of it. What's the story really about? How I Met Your Mother had this awesome heart to the story with the friendships, navigating adulthood, and ultimately - meeting the mother. Meeting the love of your life. Never giving up hope.
Yes, the finale did do this to an extent. And when it was done well - it was awesome! Then there were other moments when I felt like they completely forgot what the point of the show even was and threw it out the window.
All in all, I have to become Mr. Knightly from Emma and say "Badly done How I Met Your Mother. Badly done."
I know there are probably a ton of people who liked the finale- which is fine. However, I think you can tell I did not like it. After nine years of an excellent show, they could have done much better and been more true to the heart of the story.
Also- I'm going to be honest. I'm slightly terrified to post this because I have no idea how people will react.
Also (again)- This article is a fantastic reaction. http://time.com/44702/how-i-met-your-mother-finale-review/