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How I Met Your Mother character endings ranked worst to best

After nine seasons and over 200 episodes, CBS' hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother came to an end, finally solving the mystery of how Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor and voiced in the frame story by Bob Saget), New York City's most hopeless romantic, met the mother of his children. Throughout the show, Ted regaled his kids with tales of his often messy, always epic love life and his quest to meet their mother, Tracy (Cristin Milioti). Ted's story prominently features his best friends, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), and Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) in addition to a revolving cast of outrageous recurring characters.

Ultimately, showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas stuck with their original plan when it came to ending How I Met Your Mother, a choice made necessary by the fact that they filmed a spoiler-heavy scene with the young actors who played Ted's children right at the beginning of the show. Though many fans argued that this led to a less-than-satisfying conclusion for this crafty, clever series, the ending is what it is, and of course, each character got their own individual sendoff. Here are the most important How I Met Your Mother character endings, ranked from worst to best. Spoilers for the end of How I Met Your Mother to follow!

Barney Stinson

As HIMYM's resident lothario, Barney Stinson, who's always clad in a crisp suit and will stop at nothing to bed every woman in New York, seems like he'll never change his wild ways. However, as the show progresses, Barney, who seemed the least likely of anyone to settle down, realizes he's in love with Robin. To Ted's great shame, the feeling is — shockingly — mutual. After several seasons of tumultuous on-again, off-again relationships, the two finally tie the knot, and their wedding weekend becomes the sole focus of HIMYM's ninth and final season.

In the series finale, Barney goes through a ton of difficult changes, and neither the character nor the audience is really given any time to process them. After three difficult years of marriage, the two apparently got divorced. Robin returns to her career, and Barney returns to his old ways, until something completely unexpected happens: He gets a girl pregnant and becomes the father of a daughter. Suddenly, Barney becomes a judgmental horror, yelling at women in bars about what their fathers might think and leaning into the "overprotective dad" vibe with the zeal of a convert. To make matters worse, Robin ends up with Ted, which means Barney loses the woman he loved to his best friend. Barney turns out to be a layered, complex character, but his ending is oversimplified at best and flat-out offensive at worst.

Tracy McConnell (The Mother)

After watching Ted spend nearly the entirety of HIMYM searching for the titular "mother," expectations were high, and ultimately, they were met in full by Milioti's sweet, pitch-perfect portrayal of Tracy McConnell. She meets Ted as they argue over an umbrella they've both owned on a rainy train platform in the fictional Farhampton. Throughout the final season, we get small glimpses into Ted and Tracy's relationship, but we also learn about Tracy, a process of viewer education that culminates in the standout ninth-season episode "How Your Mother Met Me." 

After losing her boyfriend at a young age, Tracy swears off of love, until she meets Ted; before she does, she manages to charm each one of his close friends in a series of meet-cute scenes. Put plainly, Tracy's kind nature, sharp sense of humor, and surprising nerdy side complement Ted perfectly, which makes her ending all the more disappointing.

After the show laid the groundwork for the entire ninth season, fans were enraged when their macabre prediction came true — during the series finale, in a short montage, Tracy dies of an unnamed illness, and Ted moves on. The entire series' framing device is revealed to be a guilty Ted telling his teenage children about their dead mother — yikes. Thanks to the speed of the finale's overstuffed epilogue, Ted's entire life with Tracy and her untimely death happens in a matter of minutes, providing a pretty unfair ending to the show's eminently lovable title character.

Robin Scherbatsky

On the surface, it seems like Robin has one of the best endings in all of How I Met Your Mother. When you look closer, however, you can see the obvious flaws. After her divorce from Barney, Robin becomes a famous international journalist, constantly jet-setting around the world, but missing her friends and husband.  She finds it difficult to be around the old gang again after her ex-husband gets back to his womanizing ways. She continues her close relationship with Lily, and eventually finds her way back into the fray. Not only does she go to Ted and Tracy's wedding, but she makes peace with Barney. By 2030, Robin is anchored in New York once again with the five dogs she had at the beginning of the series, to boot. In the final scene, Ted shows up at her door to win her back with the blessing of his talked-out teens. She finally gets everything she ever wanted, yes?

Robin and Ted as HIMYM's endgame was definitely the goal in the show's earlier seasons, but as Carter and Bays explored her character, it became clear to most viewers that Robin and Ted weren't meant to be. Clumsily shoving them together at the end of the series, which indicates that Robin, a smart and strong woman, was pining for Ted this entire time, is just insulting to the amazing character the showrunners built along the way. No matter how tumultuous her life had been, the Robin that emerges from season 9 would not have settled for Ted.

Penny and Luke Mosby

Throughout HIMYM, two characters hold an incredible amount of importance, but almost never say a word: Ted's future children, Penny and Luke Mosby, played by Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, respectively.

For what feels like years, Penny and Luke sit patiently and listen to their father's wildly rambling story, which takes plenty of tangents and detours along the way before he actually gets to the part about, well, how he met their mother. The kids only occasionally interact with Ted's narration, and typically they're pretty passive ... until the series finale. At the end, the two little Mosbys claim agency in the story that's been inflicted upon them and tell their dad that it's clear he's still in love with their "Aunt Robin," and that he should go get the girl of his dreams. 

Penny and Luke get to reveal the show's final twist, and help their dad move on with his life in the aftermath of their mother's death. Not only was that twist fairly unpopular, both actors claimed they actually forgot what the ending was in the years that passed between the filming and the airing.

Victoria

Aside from Robin, one of Ted's girlfriends always loomed large over the series: Victoria (Ashley Williams), the impossibly adorable baker Ted meets during the show's first season at a wedding. Though the two immediately strike up a relationship, everything is put on pause when Victoria gets the opportunity to move to Germany for work, and while she's away, Ted cheats on her with Robin, ending the relationship for the first time.

During HIMYM's seventh season, Victoria reappears, but makes it clear to Ted that his continued involvement with Robin and Barney, despite the trio's awkward combination of romantic entanglements, is just too weird, and removes herself from the situation once again to be with her German boyfriend, Klaus (Tom Lennon). However, at the end of that season, Ted and Victoria reconnect on the day of her wedding, and she leaves Klaus for him, restarting their relationship once again. In the end, Ted and Victoria aren't meant to be, and Victoria returns to Germany after she presents Ted with an ultimatum — that he must stop talking to Robin — and he refuses. Despite everything, Victoria sends Ted a locket that belongs to Robin, helping him pursue the other woman after all. At least Victoria got to move abroad and keep living out her culinary dreams. We'll call it a win for this grade-A class act.

Ted Mosby

There's no denying that Ted Mosby gets one of the best endings of anybody on HIMYM, but considering how difficult his character can be to handle at times, this is ultimately a pretty frustrating outcome. In the end, Ted gets everything he wanted and then some, despite the fact that he shows himself to be selfish, self-righteous, and entirely overbearing toward the women in his life. Nice guys really do finish last, and emotionally manipulative soft boys sometimes notch a win.

After striking up a perfect-yet-doomed relationship with Tracy and siring Penny and Luke, Ted seems entirely settled, and it seems as if he's put his idealistic, stop-at-nothing romantic attitude in the rearview mirror. However, after Tracy dies and his kids encourage him to resume his epochal quest for Robin, a graying Ted is back to his old tricks, standing outside of Robin's window and triumphantly holding up the blue French horn he stole for her way back in the first season. Ted may be the show's main character, but he can also be its most grating, so to see him get both a perfect marriage and the woman of his dreams feels slightly unearned.

Lily Aldrin

Out of everyone on How I Met Your Mother, few characters deserved a perfect ending as much as Lily, the kind, sweet glue that holds the entire gang together time and time again. Lily always looks out for her friends and loves her husband and baby son Marvin, but after spending years as a kindergarten teacher, she finds herself yearning for greater professional achievement later in life. Luckily, George van Smoot (Kyle MacLachlan), known as "the Captain," notices her talent and her good eye and hires her as his art consultant, though his request that Lily and her family move to Milan for her job causes friction between her and Marshall.

When push comes to shove, Lily and Marshall — along with Marvin and their newborn daughter Daisy — do spend a year in Italy, which doesn't prevent Marshall from pursuing his dreams, either. Later, they have a second daughter. After years of helping others, from her students to her friends, Lily finally gets to live her best life in Italy as a professional art consultant, a dream years in the making.

Marshall Eriksen

Far and away the sweetest character on the show, Marshall Eriksen is defined by three things: his love for Lily, his devotion to his friends, and his quest to save the world from certain doom as an environmental lawyer. Despite plenty of career hurdles, including a brief stint working for an evil mega-bank and a turn with a less-than-effective environmental law firm, Marshall's ambitions finally pay off when — during the show's ninth and final season — his application to become a judge is approved, and he is offered a recently vacated seat on the bench. This incites a rift between Marshall and Lily, however, as he doesn't immediately tell her that their move to Italy conflicts with his opportunity to become a New York judge.

In the end, when Marshall finds out Lily is pregnant with Daisy, he immediately agrees to follow her to Italy, and continues working in corporate law until another seat on the bench opens up for him. Happily, one does upon their return to New York, and Marshall is ultimately elected to the New York State Supreme Court in 2020, fulfilling his dreams of helping the world.

Ranjit Singh

The only recurring character on HIMYM to appear in all of the show's nine seasons, Ranjit Singh (Marshall Manesh), is present for nearly every significant moment in each main character's life — whether he's taking Marshall and Lily to their honeymoon or helping Ted woo any number of women he thinks are "the one." This also means Ranjit is present for a lot of the gang's immature nonsense, including plenty of fights and squabbles, and even a bizarre subplot where Lily inadvertently reveals that she had a sex dream about Ranjit, much to Marshall's shock and disgust.

It might seem odd to choose Ranjit's ending as the happiest of all, but after years of driving what appears to be the same five people around New York City and the surrounding area, Future Ted reveals in the season 9 episode "Gary Blauman" (which explains where many tertiary characters ended up over the years) that Ranjit ultimately starts an incredibly successful limousine group and gets rich. Hopefully, he finds a way to avoid Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney going forward, and gets to start a new life with a thriving business, his family, and plenty of money. No one on HIMYM deserves happiness more than Ranjit, if for no other reason than he had to spend so much one-on-one time with Ted.