How I Met Your Mother, or HIMYM for short, has been my all-time favorite show to watch since it aired. I’ve re-watched it at least 10 times. To me, this show is perfect. It’s comedic, light-hearted, and you don’t necessarily have to watch the episodes in order to know what’s going on. It’s the best sitcom for when you just need a good laugh and want to unwind. It was so easy to emotionally attach yourself to the characters because their lives were relatable. It’s that connection with the show that makes the last episode hard to watch – even 4 years later.

HIMYM centers around Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and his quest for love. Up front, many fans feel that Ted is the most annoying character in the whole series, so if you start it and kind of don’t like him, you’re not alone. For someone who’s supposedly searching for “the one,” he isn’t that great at dating or learning from his mistakes. He’s all about grand romantic gestures and not much else.

Our intro to Robin, Ted’s first love, is a huge cliché. The two lock eyes in a crowded bar and that’s all it takes for Ted to decide that she’s “the one.” Unfortunately for Ted, Robin doesn’t want kids or commitment. Sigh. But, happily, Robin does remain a permanent fixture of the show. I do admire that Ted never gives up his quest. Finding your true love can be tough and his never-ending search for it gave many viewers hope that there are still people in the world who are big hopeless romantics.

The three other HIMYM main players are Ted’s best friends Marshall, Lily, and Barney. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) met freshmen year in college and have been together ever since. Like anyone else, they have their issues, but they are the golden couple of the series. No matter their ups and downs, the pair are bound to make it through together because they’re PERFECT. They’re adorable and just get each other.  They don’t think it’s weird to share a toothbrush, call each other Marshmallow and Lily Pad, have airport and lunch rituals, and can’t spend one night apart. They actually morph into one hermaphroditic blob of one another at one point. They’re the cheesiest couple, but their love is just so cute. Literally #relationshipgoals.

Then there’s Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), the perpetual bachelor. He’s slept with over 200 women and is the biggest player in New York. In spite of his attitude and personality flaws, the group keeps him around, we assume because he is so funny. His character is a huge comedic aspect of the show, and HIMYM wouldn’t be the same without him. There’s the time he physically couldn’t take a bad picture. His constant use of “wait for it.” And the hilarious time when none of his friends would challenge him, so of course he challenged himself.

Deep down, Barney does have a heart, but most of the time we see him focus on suits, scamming women into bed, and having a soul-sucking corporate job where he, thankfully, makes a lot of money. He does have a few real relationships, but about halfway through the series he falls in love with someone as well and starts becoming a better person. (Sorry Ted… )

So where did it all this magic go wrong? The show marched along fine and dandy until the very last episode. I loved watching the characters’ lives play out through their big career changes, romantic relationships, poor decisions, and ultimately living their 20s and 30s in New York. Each character had their own battles they were fighting; their own story to tell. And they’re with each other every step of the way. It’s the big life lessons of the show that made it worthwhile to watch.

As a show, it was never too heavy, but I love the fact that it wasn’t just all surface either. You can watch any sitcom for the comedy, but this series is truly special because their lives and characters actually progress as the show moves on. No matter what life changes they endured, whether it be a death in the family, starting a family, getting cheated on, getting a divorce, getting fired, finding your true love, or any other hurdle life could throw at you, HIMYM had it. The characters managed to grow their experiences and make it a part of their past. Until the last episode.

I won’t go into huge detail about what happens during the finale. There were individual tragedies that happened to my favorite characters, but that wasn’t what was most upsetting. What was so hurtful about the last episode was seeing these characters regress after all their growth. It felt like all of the shows efforts to build everyone up since the beginning were thwarted. Everything seemed to crumble in one single episode. It was honestly heartbreaking for myself and I’m sure a ton of fans too.

I watched the finale with a couple friends and we all felt a lot of emotions. What struck me was that none of our feelings about what happened were positive. It was a mix of emptiness, sadness, and “How could it end like that?!” Every episode before the finale made me laugh and connect with each of the characters. The more I watched, the more I wanted them to have a happy ending. Who wouldn’t?

We all wanted Ted to end up with the mother of his children. It would have been great to see Barney move past his fear of commitment. Of course, Lily and Marshall ended up together, but you wanted them to fulfill their career goals. We wanted the gang to grow old together and to see each of them achieve what they had been working so hard for over the past 9 seasons.

Some say that this ending was more realistic, and I can’t argue against that. Honestly, though, most of the time people watch a show to escape from reality – not live the mundanity of it. How I Met Your Mother filled us with hope and then destroyed that hopefulness in the end.

As much as I still love this show, I thought the last episode would’ve had a better payoff. Overall, it had a pretty melancholy tone. The one thing that I thought I could count on for the whole duration of the show were these lasting friendships, but even that wasn’t sacred.

In spite of everything I’ve said about the finale, I still highly recommend watching this show. It fills 9 seasons with joy and laughter and love, and that is something that no bad finale can take away from me. If you’re anything like me, you’ll ditch the aired final episode and watch the alternate ending instead.

If you’re looking to make How I Met Your Mother your new TV obsession (and you should), be sure to check Bookmans’ Blu-ray and DVD sections at your local store. It’s a show you can watch over and over and over again, so grab yourself a hard copy. It’s totally worth it.