How I Met Your Father Season 1 Ending Explained: It's All About Timing

"How I Met Your Father" had a lot going against it. It is a sequel to a beloved sitcom with a great ensemble cast, intricate plot lines, and also a very, very controversial ending that betrayed its titular character and soured the entire show for many fans.

And yet, something funny happened along the way, the first season of "How I Met Your Father" ... got good, great even. Even at its worst, "How I Met Your Mother" could always rely on the chemistry of its cast to make the more problematic or less interesting storylines easier to swallow. "How I Met Your Father" continues this trend, with a charming group of characters very easy to root for. Add a few crises of faith, bad romances, some classic "HIMYM"-style plot twists, and a shocking couple of cameos in the right moment and you've got a winning sitcom. Now that season 2 has been confirmed, it's time to obsess over what happened in the season 1 finale and speculate on how it will affect future seasons.

A crisis of faith and love

After a quick check-in with The Captain (Kyle MacLachlan, making everything better) and "Boats! Boats! Boats!" Becky (Kim Cattrall), we're back to resolve last week's cliffhanger ending, where Sophie (Hilary Duff) was seemingly stood up on her first date with Jesse (Christopher Lowell).

Thankfully, that plot point gets resolved rather quickly, and not only does Jesse show up, but they have a lovely date, and spend the night together. Everything seems to be going well, until Jesse prematurely tells Sophie he loves her in his sleep. This freaks Sophie out to the point where she starts to self-sabotage her relationship, because she thinks things are going too fast and there is simply no way Jesse can be so sure about things this fast. This, of course, is a not-so-subtle parallel to Ted and Robin — particularly to Ted telling Robin that he loved her all the way back in the pilot.

This is consistent with everything we know about Sophie. How she never really met her father, and how her mother's string of terrible relationships led her to be unable to properly build a serious relationship before. It is also consistent with the relationship formula "HIMYM" was known for. "How I Met Your Father" has quite cleverly updated certain aspects of the story for the 2020s, from adding inclusion and diversity to the cast, to actually taking the gig economy and freelance hustle into account for how the main cast can afford to live in New York. They are small mentions, of course, but it is refreshing to see a sitcom that actually features struggling young people with crappy jobs and apartments.

There is perhaps no bigger indication that this is a show almost two decades removed from the pilot of its predecessor than how Sophie's story deals with imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. It's not only that she is the archetypical rom-com character that doesn't believe in love, it's specifically that she doesn't think she deserves love — just as she struggles with believing in her photography skills when a big job opportunity arrives.

So, after she freaks out about Jesse's "I love you" sleep-talk, she confronts him about moving too fast and not being so sure about where they stand. Hoping to cool off ahead of her big gallery exhibition, Sophie heads to the nearest bar, which just so happens to be below Jesse's apartment: MacLaren's Pub.

'Timing is everything. And sometimes timing's a b****'

From the very first episode, "How I Met Your Father" hasn't shied away from connecting to its predecessor. After all, Jesse lives in THE apartment once owned by famed architect Ted Mosby and New York Supreme Court Judge Marshall Eriksen, but they were passing references, until now.

This is to say, I nearly screamed when they finally showed MacLaren's, and we saw Carl (Joe Nieves) still bartending. But it was when Robin Scherbatsky, formerly known as Robin Sparkles, a.k.a. Robin Daggers, showed up that everything in the season clicked.

It wasn't just the pure, unadulterated glee of seeing Cobie Smulders just jump straight into Robin mode as if no time had passed, and it wasn't that she started talking to Sophie in the booth, or that she namedropped her friends. No, it was that the moment felt completely earned and fitting to the story of Sophie.

You see, after Sophie freaks out because she recognizes Robin from the news, she tells her whole love story to Robin (and Robin instantly saw herself in that story). Out of every cast member of "How I Met Your Mother," seeing Robin come back to offer Sophie advice felt like the perfect encapsulation of how this new show both stands out while also connecting to the original. Sophie is clearly not a Ted analog, but a new Robin. She is the woman unsure about her life, who doesn't believe in love even when it's staring at her face, and the woman who sabotages her own happiness out of insecurity.

Robin clearly sees herself in Sophie, especially at this stage. The show takes place a few years after Robin divorced Barney, but years before the horrible finale where she reconnects with Ted. She is at a happy place in her life, but she is also reminiscing about the past and missed opportunities. When Sophie talks about freaking out and bailing on Jesse when he moved too fast, Robin recognizes how she sabotaged her relationship with Ted, with Barney, and with Kevin, partially because she was not ready.

Robin tells Sophie that she shouldn't find excuses not to be with Jesse. If it feels right, it is right. But when Sophie finally decides to go ahead and return to the apartment, it's too late. Jesse is already kissing his ex, Meredith. After walking back to the bar, Robin tells Sophie some words of wisdom, "If I've learned anything at all about love, it's that timing is everything. And sometimes timing's a b****." 

They say their goodbyes, and promise to meet back at the bar in 20 years, so mark your calendars for another genuine Scherbatsky sighting.

Looking back, and looking ahead

Against all odds, "How I Met Your Father" has managed to both stand on its own two feet as its own show while slowly, and carefully, connecting to the original in important moments. Just as Robin showed up both to pass on the torch and provide some actual Robin advice, so does the subplot with the Captain connect to the main story. It turns out that, as a result of the divorce, the Captain lost the boat he had in Australia for marine biology research. The same boat where a certain Tinder date Sophie fell head over heels for was working. Now Ian is back, and Sophie has a new chance to rebuild her love life.

So far, it seems "How I Met Your Father" is using cameos and references to the original show to further the characters' stories rather than make this show feel like a part of a larger world. This is no "Parks and Recreation" or "The Simpsons," with dozens of side characters with their own stories that can pop in and out at any time, at least not yet. But after the care given to Robin's return, I'm optimistic about any future cameos.

In its finale, "How I Met Your Father" reaffirms it fully understands what made the original such a good sitcom, and it recreates its broader formula in crafting overlapping stories while planting the seeds for future storylines. This franchise has always been about the butterfly effect, and how even the smallest thing can have huge repercussions — and the sequel series fully gets it. We leave the season with the gang hitting major milestones. Valentina (Francia Raísa) and Charlie (Tom Ainsley) break up, Ellen (Tien Tran) has a date and a job, and Sid (Suraj Sharma) and Hannah (Ashley Reyes) eloped — though they have a lot of problems waiting in the future.

No matter where future seasons go, "How I Met Your Father" has firmly earned the benefit of the doubt.