So close. So tantalizingly, unforgivably close.

For about 56 of its 60 minutes, "How I Met Your Mother" was delivering a series finale full of emotion and sweet moments not just for Ted and the Mother, but for the whole cast. There was a sense of a normal ebb and flow to the gang's life, good times and rough patches in equal measure but with the through line of these enduring friendships.

And then, those last few minutes snatched that goodwill away, leaving a bitter, bitter taste in a lot of long-time fans' mouths.

In short: What seemed like the most out-there, wild fan theory at the start of the season turned out to be exactly what the show did with its ending. The Mother is dead, and the series closes with 2030 Ted -- no longer sounding like Bob Saget -- being called out by his teenage kids. Why is our mom barely in the story? Didn't you really just sit us down to ask if we'd be OK if you asked Aunt Robin out?  

And so the blasted blue French horn makes one more appearance, and the story ends where it began, with Ted pursuing Robin. To borrow from another recently ended, heavily scrutinized show, time really is a flat freaking circle.

The portion with the kids, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have said many times, was written and filmed way back in the show's second season. And had it ended sometime around then, or maybe even a season or two later, it would have made a fitting ending. Ted and Robin were still, at that time, the best boy- and girlfriend either had had, and we could have been satisfied with that ending.

But then we had several more seasons, and everything involving Robin and Barney, and Ted being emotionally battered some more. We got to this season, and the best part about it was the Mother -- her name, we learn, is Tracy McConnell, and that and their first, magical, destiny-fulfilling conversation on the train platform should have been the emotional beat on which the show goes out. Instead we got the blasted blue French horn.

Bays and Thomas remained beholden to their ending, though, even in the face of evidence that they'd nailed the casting of the Mother and fans were responding to Cristin Milioti with overwhelming love. When evidence was presented several episodes back that Tracy might not survive to 2030, there was a collective "Oh no, please no, not that" from many of the show's fans.

And really, the way those first 56 minutes of the finale played out, it almost felt OK ending with the realization that the Mother was gone. What we saw, and what we had seen in earlier episodes featuring Ted and Tracy together, was that Ted really did love her "as much as I can for as long as I can." Sometimes great loves leave us too early, and if this had been just the story of a melancholy Ted telling his kids about that great love, I probably would have left sad but satisfied.

But because they were beholden to that ending and that footage of Penny and Luke shot back in Season 2, I and many others are leaving sad and very dissatisfied. I don't agree that those final minutes invalidate everything that came before it, a not-unpopular opinion on social media in the minutes after the finale aired. "Slap Bet," "Spoiler Alert," "The Pineapple Incident" and others will still be great comedy episodes regardless of how I feel about this ending. I will probably still retain some affection for the show and its characters. I will still say "lawyered" when it's appropriate.

But the ending did plow under some great great moments within the finale itself: It's going to be hard to separate the Infinity Five and its "Ghostbusters" reference; Barney's life really and finally being changed by a woman -- his newborn daughter; that incredible train platform scene; Robin's speech to Lily about friendships changing over time; and the genuine LOL of Marshall's "Fudge Supreme" line from the scene that tells us Ted wasn't really telling us about the Mother after all. That's a kick in the teeth to fans, and it's going to be felt for a while.

What did you think of the "HIMYM" finale?