How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 22 “The End of the Aisle”
Written by Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Series finale airs Monday, March 31st at 8pm ET on CBS
Barney and Robin has always been a difficult story for How I Met Your Mother – well, to be honest, it’s been half a difficult story for the show. At its best, the Barney/Robin dynamic’s been a vehicle to transform Barney Stinson, arguably the show’s most effective long-term character arc in the series (next to Ted, it’s really kind of the only one, but I digress). And it shows in “The End of the Aisle”, an episode largely hamstrung by the events Bays and Thomas had laid out for themselves years ago; Robin and Barney’s last minute freak outs, Robin meeting The Mother – and of course, Ted and Robin, a story that seemingly has no ending, even after the assumed resolutions from “Sunrise”.
When “The End of the Aisle” struggles the most, it’s focused on Robin, doing the predictable last-minute freak out before walking down the aisle and happily marrying Barney. She momentarily considers running away with Ted, afraid she’s about to marry a man who will never stop lying to her. Of course, this turns her into an emotional mess, crying and yelling and running around like a maniac – slapstick traits that Cobie Smulders is great doing, but not ones that play to the strengths of her character or her relationships with Ted and Barney.
It doesn’t help that it all feels contrived for the start, so it makes a lot of sense that the episode begins to hit its stride when it centers on Barney, who is trying to write the perfect vows for Robin. It requires him to be a little bit of a dick to Marhsall and Lily, but that asshole-ish vibe provides the avenue for the episode’s best moments; Lily and Marshall renewing their vows, and Barney finally completing his journey from man whore to husband, promising to Robin that he’ll always be honest with her (save for the ring bear, which shows up and leads to a really cute moment during the truncated wedding ceremony, played over montage).
Now, with all of these melodramatics to cover, “The End of the Aisle” kind of glosses over its big moments in the final five minutes; Robin meeting the Mother (who doles out some great advice, and acts very Ted-esque doing it), and Barney and Robin actually getting married (which only happens thanks to Marshall’s final slap, taken in haste when Barney tries to bounce to Manhattan to get that cornflower blue tie). It’s frustrating not because the resolutions are enjoyable – Lily and Marshall’s promises to ‘update’ their vows was nearly redemption for keeping them apart for half the damn season – but because they’re given such little room to breathe in favor of slapstick-y plots, something the show’s often done with the Barney/Robin relationship (partly because of it occurring in later, comedically broader seasons, but also because it’s not the most coherent romance).
All things considered, the third act of “The End of the Aisle” does exactly what it needs to do, to clear the path for whatever is to come in the finale (including “one… last… surprise”, something the brief teaser excitedly shouts at the audience). I could spend thousands of words speculating, but what’s the point in that? Bays and Thomas are FINALLY telling the ending they’ve sketched out for seven years, a story that will bring Ted and The Mother together, and attempt to answer just about every single lingering question (except for the pineapple, of course) for Future Ted’s life in 2030, what The Mother’s name is (something with a C, correct?), and what adventures our other two happy couples end off on. Sure, I’m a little hesitant given the disturbing clues and hints scattered throughout the final season – but this is the ending we’ve all waited years for, and “The End of the Aisle” effectively clears the table for Bays, Thomas, Fryman, and the rest to finally tell it.