Monday’s season seven finale of How I Met Your Mother will not go down as the most important episode in the show’s canon because, quite frankly, only the episode which answers that question will qualify for such a distinction. But “The Magician’s Code (Parts 1 and 2)” will almost certainly be remembered as legendary, thanks to a trio of major reveals [warning! visual and textual spoilers imminently ahead]: The middle name of Marshall & Lily’s son, Ted’s old-new love interest, and, after three years of waiting for it, the identity of Future Barney’s bride. HIMYM co-creator Craig Thomas talked to Vulture about Monday’s monumental events, what’s next for the show and why he and partner Carter Bays are hoping to know very soon whether next season will be the show’s last.
So we finally know who Barney’s bride is: Robin. How long have you been plotting this outcome?
We’ve probably known for three or four years that it was going to be Robin. Even as we broke them up after season five, we were thinking about it. And then as we were playing more and more with the flash forwards to Barney’s wedding, it started to feel right: “Yeah, that’s the wedding Ted’s at.” It had that inevitability that good ideas have. It felt true. It also seemed like another good mystery to set up — whose wedding is it?
And you’ve played the long game on this mystery…
Right. At end of season six, we showed you Barney was the groom. Now, at the end of season seven, we’ve shown you Robin is the bride. As we go into season eight, it’s going to be us showing you exactly how we get to that day and what it means to everyone. We’re getting toward the end — though we still have some mysteries up our sleeves.
Because you knew Robin was going to be “the one,” you also knew from the start that Quinn was destined to be a road bump for Barney en route to true love.
We wanted to do the misdirection. We wanted to find someone who could viably end up with Barney. People love Neil, people love Barney, so if it’s not going to be Robin, it had better be somebody great. And that’s why Becki Newton was great. And obviously we love her because we cast her in our pilot.
But wasn’t there a danger in making Quinn too great? I mean, a lot of fans might be bummed realizing that the woman who truly turned Barney around, even more so than Robin, is not going to end up with him.
We wanted to tell the story of this undeniable chemistry between Barney and Robin. No matter what we do with them, there was always this unfinished business between them. They’re two people who are a bit broken, who haven’t figured out their love lives, and there always feels like there’s the potential to show how they could make it happen as they got older. You know, every time we’d hear from fans, “There was something missing about how Barney and Robin ended,” even though it was a complaint, we’d think, “That’s good. Because there’s more to come.” We’ve had it up our sleeves, this really cool chapter to tell. This sets up the home stretch of what happens. This sets everything in motion. We’ve been teasing this future wedding day for so long.
Will Quinn be back?
There will be savvy people who know she’s in our new series and say, “Wait a second, she can’t be in both.” But we also haven’t seen the last of her. She’s going to be in some of HIMYM. We’ll work around it.
Let’s shift to another major plot from the finale: Victoria’s back. And Ted is back together with her. You foreshadowed this a bit, it turns out.
She was set up in 703, the “Ducky Tie” episode, to come back in this episode.
Why go back to Victoria?
She was the the one big unclosed door for Ted. Season seven was mostly about Ted and Robin becoming friends again after he wanted to get back together and she shut it down. Now, in the back of Ted’s head, if there’s anyone left from the women he’s dated who he still thinks could be the mother of his children, it’s Victoria. But he screwed it up. He was obsessed with Robin [and] he ended the relationship very badly. So Ted in 2012 … very much thinks she could be the right one.
But for those of us who might have forgotten, Victoria can’t be the mom …
… Because Ted meets the mom at his wedding. So this is the last door we have to close before Ted can meet the mother.
The final big development in the finale was, of course, the birth. Not much of a surprise, and yet you did manage a twist by giving young Marvin the middle name of “Waitforit.”
It played like a crazy Barney idea. But if you think about it, middle names really aren’t the most important things in the world. And if the kid’s middle name has a built-in dramatic pause, how cool is that? So I just love that it comes down to Lily at the end, and you think she’s going to shoot it down, and she doesn’t.
So how will season eight begin?
It will be our first season premiere that’s still set in May, because we have so much to explain about what happened [in the finale]. We ended the season finale with a lot of, for lack of a better term, mindfucks. So we’ll have to do a whole episode stuck in that time frame. And then in episode 802, we jump ahead to the fall and catch up with everyone.
You can only do so much planning for next season, though, because you don’t know whether it’s the final one.
You’ve hit upon a big issue for us. This is were business meets art. Right now, it’s about actor deals and negotiations, and things we should know more about in the next few months. We’re already breaking stories [for season eight] now, and it’s tough not knowing if we’re writing one or two more seasons … it will affect what we’re doing next year. So the hardest part is not quite knowing.
If you and Carter had the power to make the choice between eight or nine seasons, which would you choose?
It’s going to be heartbreaking whenever it ends. Could it be a great ending after eight seasons? Yes. Could it be a great ending after nine seasons? Yes. But I won’t say whether we’re leaning one way or the other. When we were launching the show, we always thought eight seasons would be great for what we were trying to do. So eight would be awesome. But we just came off our best ratings year. We still think we have great stories to tell. I don’t know. It’s hard to say good-bye. I’m hoping we’ll know soon, and whatever happens, I think we can wrap up the story in a great way. But if season eight is the last one, I’d want to announce it by [the time of the TV Critics Association summer press tour in July], and tell people, “Watch these last 24 episodes.”