After 208 episodes and nine seasons, "How I Met Your Mother" has met its end.
The CBS sitcom finally revealed its central mystery -- how Ted (Josh Radnor) met the mother of his children (Cristin Milioti) -- during an hour-long series finale episode, titled "Last Forever," on Monday night.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
So, here it is: Ted meets The Mother -- whose name we learn is Tracy McConnell -- on a rainy train platform in Farhampton after his friends Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) are married.
But Barney and Robin's marriage doesn't last, and neither does Ted's -- because Tracy gets sick and dies after the couple has two children together (as numerous fans and critics of the show had predicted). And at the end of the one-hour episode, the romance between Ted and Robin is rekindled.
Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas say they knew the plot for the final episode when the series premiered nine years ago. Success kept them stringing along the story, even though part of Monday's finale was filmed in 2006 for fear that the teen-aged actors who played Ted's children would become unrecognizable.
Most of the last season has been set in one weekend: Robin and Barney's wedding, where Tracy was the bass player in the wedding band. The final episode skips through several years, where we learn that the two get divorced three years after their wedding, because of her success as a television correspondent. After their split, Robin slowly gets pushed out of the gang.
Marshall and Lily (Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan) have three kids and he becomes a judge, and Barney embarks on a "perfect month," sleeping with 31 women in as many days, but No. 31 (that's the only name she's ever given, and we never see her on-screen) gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl, Ellie. When Barney meets his daughter, it changes him. "You are the love of my life," he tells the infant. "Everything I have and everything I am is yours forever."
Ted and Tracy get married after a long engagement and the kids, but she gets sick and dies, a development that many fans speculated upon in recent weeks because of a foreshadowing in an earlier episode.
After that, Ted wraps up the story -- how I met your mother -- that he had been telling his children throughout the length of the show.
"No, I don't buy it. That is not the reason you made us listen to this," declares his daughter, Penny (Lyndsy Fonseca). "This is the story about how you're totally in love with Aunt Robin."
"You made us sit down and listen to the story about how you met Mom, yet Mom is hardly in the story," she continues. "No -- this is the story about how you're totally in love with Aunt Robin. And you're thinking about asking her out and you want to know if we're okay with it."
She adds, "C'mon, Dad. Mom's gone for six years now. It's time."
Ted and Robin dated early on in the show's history, but the producers had made clear that Robin was not the "mother" of the title.
The children urge Ted to pick up the phone and call Robin. He thinks better of it and drives to her apartment. She opens the window to see him holding a blue French horn -- a reference to a story from when they had dated -- and the series ends.
What did you think of the "How I Met Your Mother" finale?