Gotcha! How I Met Your Mother pulled off the ultimate "mate and switch" during its March 31 series finale, pairing -- spoiler alert! -- Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) with his longtime BFF and ex-girlfriend Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders). Fans were outraged that a show called How I Met Your Mother turned out not to be about the mother at all, but Radnor says that criticism misses the point a little.
"I thought the title of the show was always a bit of a fake-out. It was more of a hook to hang the thing on. Really it was more about, these are the crazy adventures and these are the lessons I had to learn before I met your mother," the actor, 39, tells Vulture in a new interview.
Radnor also says the surprise ending is in keeping with the "DNA of the show," and points out that past episodes "lead you one way and then they pull you back." Moreover, he adds, the finale was never going to please everyone.
"There have always been people that thought that Barney and Robin were perfect together, there have always been people that thought it didn't make sense," he explains. And the same goes for Robin and Ted. "I think if you're going to do something new and bold and daring, you're going to upset some people and you're going to thrill others," he tells Vulture. "I think it's better to do that than try to have some homogenized, safe ending that was never really what the show was."
He continues: "The show was always bold and daring and questioning assumptions and leading you where you thought you didn't want to go, but realized at the end that that was where you belonged. I'm a fan of the finale and obviously I'm a fan of the show."
That said, Radnor understands that viewers may need time to process and adjust. "There's a jarring disconnect between fans who had five minutes to process that information and [Ted's kids] who had six years," he says, referring to his onscreen offspring's happy acceptance of the Robin-Ted coupling. "The kids were in a completely different emotional space than a lot of fans of the show."
Once some time passes, he tells Vulture, people may feel differently. "I think people are having to deal with grief on a number of levels. There's grief in the episode, but then there's grief at letting the show go," he explains. "People are in various Kubler-Ross stages of grieving, and when they contextualize it and step back and maybe even watch the finale again or revisit the show, I think when the dust settles, people will feel pretty complete."