Learning From The “How I Met Your Mother” Finale

First and foremost, spoilers for the How I Met Your Mother season finale will more than likely follow. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read on. This also is not an article to critique the ending but rather to examine storytelling by referencing a pop culture phenomenon. After the finale I took to twitter to gain an understanding of what others thought of the ending and what I found was very interesting. How does this relate to your web comic? Read on.

The main thing How I Met Your Mother did over the nine seasons the show was on was made us fall in love with the characters. This is the foremost thing every artist, writer, and creator in general needs to be able to do. Take our recent Web Comic Wednesday review of Zukahnaut for example. It would be very easy to find Zukah to be a detestable monster, but the web comics creators have walked a fine line between making him odd and off putting, but still someone you want to see the story of. How I Met Your Mother joins the ranks of shows like Friends and Frasier that like many sitcoms had both funny and dramatic moments. Bringing emotion into the world of these characters made us care for them and what they went through. We could relate to their heart breaks.

So why does this relate to HIMYM? The entire final season was a unique animal. The slowed down pace of the wedding lead up created an almost extended movie feel. In itself, this made the season feel significant. Content was different  and to highlight it even further, the final hour long episode was a drastic change as well, leaping forward in time throughout. It’s difficult to say, but potentially it’s because there was more story to share and the writers did want to include the important moments in a smaller space. I think it was this format that was so jarring to a mix of fans. We’re given so many shocking moments all at once that many quickly just shut down and didn’t really take in any of the excitement anymore. This isn’t again to critique the episode. The story they wanted to tell was told. I feel it just may have been a bit too rushed which pushed many fans away.

Potentially the twist of the story not really being about “How I Met Your Mother” was also off putting to many. I hate to say it, but perhaps viewers would have rather had more time with the mother instead of just seeing her and Ted together in the final episode. I think it was the episode prior to the finale that featured them on their first date of sorts. Yes, I realize some viewers would say, “Well, he’s met the mother. Let’s see what else is on,” but for the many hardcore fans, this is the build up that everyone was waiting for. The writers did a great job of introducing us to a very Ted-esque female character throughout the season leading up to the meet up. They did the impossible there. They added a new character, a fresh new face to the series, and we liked her. Many shows struggle with introducing a new cast member, and it’s a difficulty too in any medium such as web comics. The mother being likeable is an achievement in itself.

The issue isn’t really with the story. Life happens. However it felt to many like they’d waited nine seasons to be given their reward, and then instantly have that reward taken away. This created huge controversy on social media, having frustrated fans voicing their displeasure at the series finale. The final ending could have been a movie within itself. Perhaps a TV special down the road. However, I can relate to the excitement of wanting to tell that story and to book end the series the way it was done. The issue again was pacing for many fans. You need to give viewers/readers time to enjoy what they’ve earned. If you’re going to make a long running tease of any sort, the reward needs to be given time to be enjoyed. Again, I’m not trying to be critical here. I don’t write for a major TV show so I can’t lecture. I’m just giving my perspective from my experiences as a suggestion to you web comic creators out there.

These are endearing characters, and I’m sure many of us will love them for years to come. Many actors throughout the series itself are people we already adore for their talents and on screen charisma. It’s up to you as web comic creators to look at your own cast in the same way.  Take your time. Odds are no one is putting a season finale date on your comic so pace it out. Let it grow and play into your readers expectations at times. You may want to add shocking moments into your creation, but go easy on your readers too. As I noted last week, don’t forget to give your readers breathing room. Imagine your comic as being read by someone in it’s entirety. After all, many new readers are going to be doing just that as they being the climb to your latest page/strip.

Back to HIMYM, it is sad to say we didn’t get to spend more time with the mother. However, the most difficult thing to do, and what I struggle with many times as a reviewer, is to enjoy a story in it’s entirety and not just for it’s ending. If you loved the ending, great! If you didn’t like it at all, don’t let that ruin nine seasons of character building and endearing stories. You can’t meet everyone’s expectations all the time with an ending. That’s the most difficult part of being a creator. Over time though, all those memories of what your viewers/readers have experienced will come back. It’s the road that gets us there that tells the biggest story of them all. If every story was just it’s ending, then there would be no need to speak of the journey to get there. The experience is what makes things worthwhile. If your viewers/readers enjoy that, then you’ve done well.


6 Comments

  1. DemonDan April 4, 2014 8:41 am 

    So I haven’t seen HIMYM, and probably never will, but I still like your advice. There’s no need to rush through the story to get to “the exciting parts.” Readers often like the slower, character developing sections more than non-stop action pages.

    That said, I think it is also important to have end goals in mind. A lot of webcomics seems to kind of start to flounder after several dozen pages, kind of just rambling through. The original story/plotline keeps getting pushed back for other sub-plots and new characters and whatnot. In some cases, they never even finish the plot before starting the next one.

    Just like in book series, I think it’s important for webcomics that tell a long story to have obvious stop points, when they beat the bad guy (or whatever), and things go back to normal (at least for a while). We like conclusions. We like to see the guy get the girl, and just bask in that for a bit and not have her immediately kidnapped by the next bad guy, etc.

    It’s really just a balance of not rushing to get to the next thing, and taking time to have those moments, including conclusions.

    • Les Major April 4, 2014 1:14 pm 

      That’s one of the challenges of web comics. Like with you guys, I can see their being another mission… As long as at least some characters survive and they don’t turn against the organization lol. But for others it’s easy to get caught up in side story and just living the characters lives. Depending on how it’s done it can be realistic at least since even many of us on a long sweeping epic quest may have our downtime where we’d have doubt and want to just forget our troubles. But yes, in general it’s always good to have a driving focus.

      • DemonDan April 4, 2014 2:42 pm 

        Hehe, those are pretty big assumptions, given the track record of character introductions vs deaths in Chapters 1-3 ;)

        • Les Major April 4, 2014 4:37 pm 

          I’m holding onto hope for a couple survivors lol. Or at least a dramatic ‘death of superman’ style ending. :p

  2. Coyote April 4, 2014 12:01 pm 

    That said, I think there’s a notion that some sort of “twist” must be introduced at the last minute; and a twist can be hard to do because it can be applied like a sloppy bandage and leave people unsatisfied.

    The hit TV show M*A*S*H ended the show with an obvious, logical conclusion that was there from the beginning: the war would eventually end, and so when they decided to fold the show, that was the route they took. On the other hand, the hit TV show Seinfeld had everyone’s karma catch up to them, and the whole cast got sentenced to prison. It was a “twist” that I recall left a lot of people unsatisfied at the time (I liked it and thought it was creative, but I wasn’t a watcher of the show and wasn’t invested in it or the characters).

    But introducing a “twist” just for the sake of letting the writers kick back and congratulate themselves on how “edgy” they were can come off as a gimmick– like a bad chef who applies too much hot sauce to cover up his lack of talent. I didn’t really follow HIMYM, but I read the reactions to the finale and I hate to admit it, but it sounded like a bit of a cheap shot that changes Ted at the last minute.

    Twists are hard, and people see the occasional success and think that not only are they able to pull it off with equal finesse, but that they NEED to add a twist in order to “do it right”. Classical, non-twist endings where everything falls into place may come off as formulaic, but they don’t need to be (see again, M*A*S*H’s end of the war) but they’re better than too much hot sauce for the sake of hot sauce, IMO…

    • Les Major April 4, 2014 1:11 pm 

      Very true. I’d actually just wandered in before the show started, came out with, “So think they’ll have a twist where Robin leaves Barney at the altar and marries Ted and it’ll be ‘How I Married Aunt Robin’ instead?” I regret those words now lol.

      I have to admit too, I actually did like the ending of Seinfeld. Especially since the characters were kind of being put away as the show ended. So they could potentially be released at another time for a reunion or such.

      I do agree too. I prefer when you can backtrack through a twist and go, “Okay, that works.” It doesn’t always have to be something completely ground breaking to the fans.

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