And so, with that horn and those dogs and that first and last gesture of romance, HIMYM came full-circle. The characters' winding paths converged, finally, and Ted, we learned, will get the thing he wanted from the start: Robin.
Put another way, though: Ted, the dad, will get … Robin, the aunt. The finale might as well have been called "How I Met Your Mother (but Then Ended Up With Your Aunt)." And, to be clear, we are not meant to find this outcome strange. We are meant, instead, to find it reassuring—the joyful, and in some sense inevitable, product of years' worth of friendship and struggle and laughter and legen-wait-for-it-dariness. The two friends had, finally, settled into each other; the show's ongoing will-they-or-won't-they resolved itself with a resounding WILL. The Ted/Robin reunion—dad and aunt, transformed into something else—was HIMYM's ultimate answer to the question at the heart of most every sitcom: What, in the end, is family?
Most shows define their social universes geographically: They are populated by people whom circumstance has thrown together, physically. The throwing could take place in a bar (Cheers), in a coffee shop (Friends), in an apartment (New Girl), in an office (The Office), at a taxi dispatch service (Taxi), at a TV studio (30 Rock), or, of course, in a house (pretty much every other sitcom ever). Regardless, in the social—and, you could say, moral—cosmology of the typical sitcom, it is spatial connection that leads to social connection.
In part, these physical spaces are plot devices that explain to audiences why this small group of people seems to be always together, and always so insulated in their togetherness. In HIMYM, the friends' go-to bar, MacLaren's—conveniently located in the basement of the building where three of the five characters live—functions in the same way that Monica's apartment (and Mindy Lahiri's ob-gyn practice, and Greendale Community College) do: They allow the audience to suspend disbelief. They sacrifice the inevitable frictions of real-world social relationships—the vagaries of distance, the misalignments of schedules—at the altar of sitcomic convenience.
There are obvious production-side reasons for that social narrowness, too, of course: Actors are expensive. Contracts are a pain. TV programs, even in the age of the DVR and the stream and the binge-watch, need to offer their audiences some sense of stability, episode after episode. But what those constraints amount to, ultimately, are shows that embrace an eponymous approach to family itself: According to the most basic logic of the sitcom, one's family is "the group of people that situation has thrown together, comedically." So we get The Office's ironized treatment of the workplace family. And The Big Bang Theory's haphazard fusion of work life and home. And Modern Family's casual confidence that an entire TV show can be premised on demographics alone.