When The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon debuted seven years ago, it seemingly tried to distinguish itself from the major sitcom that reshaped the TV universe. Sheldon ditched the live audience, lost the multi-cam set up, and went for more of a Wonder Years or Everyone Hates Chris vibe, focussing mainly on family values and 22-minute stories of morality.
That’s not to say that Young Sheldon forgot where it came from, however. The show has borrowed several Big Bang story threads in order to create continuity and expand on Sheldon Cooper’s history. Yet there are some major holes that haven’t been addressed that fans of both shows have noticed.
With Young Sheldon’s final season just around the corner, here are some of the biggest questions left unanswered in the Big Bang universe.
Sheldon Starting at Caltech
It’s perhaps a forgone conclusion, but the narrative of Young Sheldon almost has to end when he begins his adventures at the California Institute of Technology a.k.a. Caltech. Granted, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Sheldon meeting his new family of Leonard, Penny, Raj, Howard or his eventual wife, Amy, but it would be hard to imagine going the entire final season without some kind of cameo from any combination of these characters.
Sheldon and Leonard’s first meeting was one of the Big Bang’s most memorable episodes, so repeating that moment would also be a waste of time. But for a character that absolutely hates change, Sheldon moving to California is an absolute colossal moment in the boy’s life. It quite literally puts the ‘big’ in the Big Bang, which means that it’s likely the last episode (at the very least) is going to tackle this major event.
Whether it’s merely a moment where young Sheldon (Iain Armitage) enters the famous (and famously massive) empty apartment, or audiences actually get to see Dr. Cooper begin his new role at Caltech remains to be seen, but it certainly cannot be ignored.
Meemaw’s Shift in Character
Jim Parson’s Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory often spoke highly of his adored Meemaw. His grandmother was a massive influence on Sheldon, and hearing the stories of how much she meant to him brought some much needed warmth to the character and was a necessary reprieve from Sheldon’s otherwise emotionally withdrawn nature.
When Young Sheldon’s first season was on the air, Meemaw, or rather, Connie made her debut in the third episode, and audiences could see exactly why Sheldon held her in such esteem. Television mainstay Annie Potts has portrayed Connie in almost every episode of the show’s run, and her Meemaw is a wise, sass-talking, adventure having Southern Belle. The love she has for her grandchildren is only rivaled by her free-spirited nature, which is what makes the dynamic between she and Sheldon, and she and her own daughter so interesting.
This was a far cry from the time beloved American actor June Squibb portrayed Meemaw in season 9 of The Big Bang Theory. There, the minute grand-matriarch was just as stern and conservative as her daughter, Sheldon’s mother, Mary Cooper (played by Laurie Metcalf in several episodes of Big Bang). That’s a major shift in character in what isn’t necessarily a large amount of time. But why? It’s likely the writers of Young Sheldon chose to ignore the one episode where Squibb showed an older, hardened Meemaw to make the character more lovable and fun, but if they were extra clever, they could use the final season to explain the change.
In the season 6 finale, a tornado ravages Sheldon’s hometown of Medford. While he and his mother fly safely overhead to his summer program in Germany, his poor family has a series of near misses, and in Meemaw’s case, she loses quite a lot. Her house seemingly got the worst of it, and in what’s left of the wreckage, she can barely find the money she had stashed away from her illegal gambling racket. Could this be the catalyst for Meemaw to straighten up, and give up her adventuring ways? Could it be a massive emotional break for her? Not exactly a storyline befitting a sitcom, but in what is expected to be a fairly dark season, perhaps a fitting way to connect the two portrayals of the character.
George Senior’s Infidelity
On that same note of character shifts, Parson’s Sheldon seemingly had a tumultuous relationship with his father. In the stories Sheldon told during Big Bang, he made it seem as if George Sr. was an emotionally unavailable alcoholic and philanderer.
While the seeds of that story have been planted throughout Young Sheldon’s first six seasons, Lance Barber’s portrayal of George has not been quite that negative. He certainly loves his family, he constantly looks out for his kids (even Sheldon despite their differences), and is far from the drunken oaf Big Bang hints at. Perhaps this is a commentary on the unreliable nature of memory, or perhaps it was merely a change the writers felt was necessary to make George more likable in the prequel. But there are still major events in Sheldon’s life they cannot ignore when it comes to his father.
George famously cheated on his wife, Mary (Zoe Perry) during the summer when Sheldon was 13. That timeline coincides with the end of season 6, as Sheldon just left for Germany at the age of 13, and this unavoidable moment is an absolute lynchpin in Sheldon’s life. In Big Bang, he even shares with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) that discovering his father mid-relations is why he now habitually knocks three times before entering any room.
Seasons 5 and 6 dealt with Mary’s wavering doubts regarding her husband’s fidelity, but it was very quickly brushed off. While George has been meeting secretly with family friend and neighbor Brenda Sparks (Melissa Peterman), Brenda explained it to Mary as George needing someone to vent to about his problems, and even his marital issues. Mary seems to accept this explanation, but it seems as if the story, and likely the affair cannot possibly end there, especially considering Sheldon has to actually catch George Sr. in the act.
The Death of George Sr.
As mentioned, this is likely to be a dark, perhaps sad final season for several reasons, especially if the writers of Young Sheldon complete these storylines. While older Sheldon certainly made a kind of peace with who his father was, and how he influenced his life, there is another core memory the show cannot possibly ignore: George Sr.’s death.
Considering that season 7 is a condensed one, with only 14 episodes set to be released, it remains to be seen if they deal the Coopers a major blow early in the season, or if it’s merely part of an epilogue-narration to make it a more sweet and amicable send off rather than an overly dramatic event.
What Happened to Paige?
One of the most interesting characters to come out of Young Sheldon is McKenna Grace’s Paige: friend to Sheldon’s sister, Missy (Raegan Revord) and frenemy to Sheldon, acting as an intellectual rival to the titular character.
Grace is no stranger to playing a young genius, as she did it beautifully before in Marc Webb’s Gifted, and Paige has been a fun bridge between the Cooper twins. She is fiercely intelligent, yet has a rebellious streak, which gives her genius status more of a realistic teenaged aspect to it, making the character very relatable. That rebellious streak, however, got her in some serious trouble with the even more rebellious Missy, as the two were caught stealing the Coopers’ truck and hitting the country roads.
Last we saw, Paige was in the back of a squad car when the two teens got pulled over by a very understanding cop. There’s no way they can merely end her story on that note, as it just seems so open, but more importantly, fans want to know why Parson’s Sheldon never once mentioned Paige in the 12 year run of Big Bang.
It seems likely that the latter will (or at least should) be explained, and fans were hopeful when Revord shared a picture with Grace on her Instagram feed just last month. Perhaps, this too, will merely be a throwaway blurb in a closing narration, as with so many storylines to close and so many narrative holes to plug, Young Sheldon is running out of time.
Young Sheldon season 7 premieres Thursday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. on CBS.