Is HIMYM’s Mother Dead? Do We Care?

After nine seasons and countless bro tips, the final episode of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother airs March 31 — and I cannot wait for it to end. 

For so long, I loved how the show explored the relationships of five twentysomethings — Ted, his best friend Marshall, Marshall’s wife Lily, Ted’s ex-girlfriend Robin, and the legend-wait for it-dary Barney — working, living and loving in New York City. Even the structure of the show was interesting: each episode told in flashback by Ted (and narrated by Bob Saget – way to stay in the game, Bob!), as he regaled his teenage children with the story of how he met their mother.

The promise of meeting the titular Mother kept viewers coming back…for eight long years. She was finally introduced at the end of season 8, after multiple yellow umbrellas as red herrings. Sure, it wasn’t a character we’d ever seen before, but we still felt catharsis the moment actress Cristin Milioti appeared onscreen. Now that the Mother was out of the bag, what would the show runners do with her storyline?

So far, remarkably little. The entire final season takes place in the two days prior to Barney and Robin’s wedding — the longest wedding weekend ever — with only a hint of Mother and her backstory until a few weeks ago. What started as a low-level fanboy rumble morphed into a full-fledged earthquake after a cryptic scene in Episode 19, set in 2024 between Ted and the Mother, made it seem as though the Mother was dying. DOES THAT MEAN SHE’S BEEN DEAD THIS WHOLE TIME? I’d never even considered the possibility, and who would want to? Hapless Ted finally meets the woman of his dreams, and she doesn’t stick around for the long haul? But there he is in Episode 19, crying at the dinner table when the Mother foreshadows, casually, that no mom should miss her daughter’s wedding.

When I bombarded my friends with this theory, there was collective shock, anger, and disappointment. “I’ve been watching this g-d show all season only to find out the Mother is dead?!” To confirm my suspicions, I took to the Internet.

The evidence:
1. The Mother is never referred to in the present tense. In any episode. Ever.
2. Savvy viewers also speculated that this scene from season eight points to the fact that the Mother has kicked the bucket.
3. Jason Segel, who plays Marshall, speculated back in 2010 that the Mother was dead. He plays a lawyer on the show, so he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

Here’s the thing: If a title character dies on a TV show, and we barely know her, does anyone care? I know the whole conceit of HIMYM is for Ted to actually meet the Mother, but to be honest, it’s never been  part of the show that I enjoyed. Ted is my least favorite character. I’ve watched and loved the show for the friendships. The alcohol-glazed photos of the opening credits sum it up: five friends, in a bar, having a blast together. Over the years, there’s been a goat fight, the discovery of Robin’s prior life as a teen Canadian pop singer, and the greatest running joke on any sitcom (I said it): the Slap bet. Bring on the sob story, HIMYM, I don’t care. I’ll be watching for that last slap.

The penultimate episode of How I Met Your Mother airs tonight at 8pm on CBS. The series finale airs March 31.

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