By Josh Oakley
(Spoilers for this week’s How I Met Your Mother follow.)
And then came “Vesuvius”. This episode was framed not by Old Ted speaking to his kids, but by a slightly less Old Ted, one that sounded more like Josh Radnor than Danny Tanner, with his wife at the Farhampton Inn. At the end of the episode, Ted begins to cry when The Mother remarks that a mom would never miss her daughter’s wedding. Along with other context clues, the outcome seems inevitable: years from now at bar trivia night you will be asked which show killed Cristin Milioti off, and the answer will be HIMYM. You will have forgotten by then, having blocked out the memory like a lost night of drinking and pineapples. Then the rage will return.
So, I thought to myself, what if other shows took a lead from HIMYM and ended their shows in ways both unfair to their characters and the audience? What if other shows made moves that didn’t fit their tone in the slightest. There’s still a slight chance HIMYM is misdirecting us, but that seems unlikely. So in the event that this sitcom is ending cruelly, what others could follow suit?
Parks & Rec: On the way to the courthouse to sign their divorce papers, Ben & Leslie pull over when they see a man slumped over a bench. Ben remarks that he doesn’t seem to be breathing. Leslie looks at the man’s face and discovers that Larry has been ruthlessly stabbed to death. She screams and runs to Ben’s side, but he pushes her away, hating the woman she has become. Ben calls the police and tells them that his soon-to-be ex-wife has just murdered a former co-worker. The police arrive, arrest Leslie, and throw her in jail. Ben walks down the rows of cells and arrives at hers. He smiles and says hello. We see Leslie, in a straight-jacket and steel-toothed mask. “Hello,” she darkly whispers back.
Modern Family: Cue “Breathe Me” by Sia.
2017: Jay steps out of the car, unable to understand his wife’s demands. He pivots, asking her “what was that?” one last time before the dump truck crushes his bones.
2020: Mitchell has had it up to here with his husband’s antics, and wonders if he ever truly loved this man. As he finishes the bottle of sleeping pills and lies down, he tries to conjure good memories of their time together, but nothing comes to mind.
2024: Phil is texting and driving to prove to his kids how cool he is. Instead, he proves something that Werner Herzog already made clear. The kids survive the crash, but their hearts never recover.
2032: Cameron, who has been enjoying his post-Mitchell life, is once again drunk on tequila, dancing with attractive young men on some nondescript beach. He looks to the sky and sees the lights descend. The aliens have arrived. There will be few survivors.
2040: Luke, strung out on cyber-heroin, walks about the dirty hyper-cube apartment he calls home. He puts on his auto-lacing Nike shoes and goes outside for some fresh air. But in the future there is no fresh air. Not on… the moon.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Rosa knocks on the captain’s door. “Holt? Can I come in?” Holt waves her in, not looking up from his paperwork. “Where’s Boyle?” she asks. Holt slowly looks up from his papers, his face covered in concern and fear. “Boyle? Don’t you remember?” Rosa doesn’t have time for this. “What do you mean, Captain?” Holt stands up slowly. “Rosa, Boyle died jumping in front of a bullet for you. He’s been dead for five years.” Rosa takes a step back, uncertain. Holt walks towards her, worried about her warped and troubled mind. Then, Rosa screams, pulls her gun, and shoots all of the main characters. She leaves the building, still firing like a drunken madman. She collapses and begins vomiting profusely. “How?” she questions the gods, as she hears sirens closing in. “How?” Jake Peralta staggers out of the station, clutching his bleeding gut. As he falls to his knees, he moans “live from New York, it’s Saturday Night.” Rosa has one last bullet. As the camera pulls into her face, we hear the trigger being pulled. Cut to black. Bang.
And what if a drama took a similar, albeit polar opposite approach?
Mad Men: The last fourteen episodes take place over the course of one weekend, the wedding of Don and Peggy.
7pm Saturday: Don, no longer drawn to the sweet mistress of liquor, arrives at the Farhampton Inn with Peggy. They kiss and profess their undying love for each other. Don’s kids come running up to greet them. Betty, who is now married to Ken Cosgrove (allow for edits; Ken could be traded for Harry or Glen), smiles from afar.
9pm Saturday: Roger says that he has decided not to reprise his blackface routine after reading The Invisible Man and learning the error of his ways.
9am Sunday: This entire episode takes place in the course of one cigarette smoke, as Don reminisces on the day he learned of his son Bobby’s ability to shape-shift.
10pm Sunday: At the reception, a young man joins the festivities, hitting it off with the entire gang. The man shakes Sally’s hand and promises her that she can have a job with him whenever she likes. She asks him his name. “My name?” he says, “Well my name is Joe Biden.” (Possible Spin-Off: in the future Sally is Barack Obama?)