The series finale of the long-running CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother was one of the most divisive, controversial episodes of TV in recent memory -- and series star Josh Radnor has a theory as to why. In his mind, fans were angry in part because it's easier to be angry that the show didn't end the way they wanted, than it is to be sad that a favorite show has ended. The series, which ran from 2005 until 2014, had filmed its ending far in advance, since the kids in the framing device -- the ones Radnor's character was ostensibly telling the story of the show -- were going to age in real life...something that the premise would not allow for.
That means that an early concept -- audiences would meet the titular mother not long before learning that she had died before the pilot was ever shot -- was built into the finale, as was the happy ending that Ted (Radnor) enjoyed: he would end up with Robin (Cobie Smulders), the girl he fell in love with in the pilot but who had already dated Ted, broken up with him, and ended up in a long-term relationship with another beloved character, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris).
"Anger is an easier emotion than grief," Radnor said. "People were more comfortable being angry than sad. They were sad their favorite show was ending, and they were sad it didn't end the way they wanted it to. Rather than sit with the feelings of sadness or loss — which is what [creators] Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas] were asking people to sit with…not everyone was up for that."
While it's likely not all fans will be on board with his interpretation of events...he likely has a point on some level. After all, nearly every major series finale made in the last few years has been hotly debated among its fans, whether it's Game of Thrones or Chuck or Arrow. How I Met Your Mother had a much larger audience than Chuck or Arrow did, which makes the outcry much easier to notice.
There's also the fact that the ending was written for a show in its infancy, but when that show later matured, some fans would argue the ending didn't fit anymore. Ted ending up with Robin was all fans wanted for the first three seasons, but once she ended up with Barney, a decent chunk of the audience moved on from that. Still others genuinely fell in love with the mother, Tracy (Cristin Milioti), making her sudden and tragic death feel like a concept that might better have been introduced early on.
Radnor says that he believes time will be kinder to the finale than audiences in the moment were. That's distinctly possible, and certainly it hasn't stopped new audiences from finding the hit via streaming (produced by 20th Television, How I Met Your Mother is on Hulu).