This review contains spoilers.
11.24 The Bow Tie Asymmetry
It would be unfair to say that The Big Bang Theory has been completely devoid of good episodes in these later seasons but, as with any show that’s run for more than a decade, truly great episodes are harder to come by. The series found gold in celebrating a milestone in Amy and Sheldon’s relationship with season nine’s Opening Night Excitation, and it’s done it again here.
You can tell from the first scene that the writers have been holding out on us in preparation for the big wedding episode – an unfortunate symptom of having a 24-episode order to fill – and it hits the ground running with some Avengers/Lord Of The Rings analogies for the wedding party tasks.
Penny gets the job of picking up the ‘demon of shadow and flame’ from the airport, and our first proper introduction to Amy’s mother (Kathy Bates) doesn’t disappoint. A bullying monster who spent her daughter’s first 30-odd years wrapping her in cotton wool, she’s god-fearing and prone to moralising, but not in the fun way that Mary Cooper is.
Speaking of Mary, she provides multiple highlights from her side-stepping of political correctness to her emotional exchange with with Sheldon later.
The Mark Hamill guest appearance works as well as we could have hoped, but peaks with Howard’s reaction to seeing him come to the door. The Star Wars jokes feel too obvious, but Hamill is a good sport and it’s an appearance that feels big enough for such a huge episode.
Amy and Sheldon’s relationship has never been more fully realised that it is in The Bow Tie Asymmetry. She understands his references and genuinely cares when he gets fixated with his work and, while he refuses to indulge her, he doesn’t complain when Amy requests a return of the Texas accent after meeting his brother.
Even Sheldon just appreciating how Amy looks in her ‘pile of swans’ dress is made sweeter than it might be otherwise, and the vows are romantic without betraying the characters and their history together.
And just when it might have been getting too sentimental, a wild Kripke pops up in the background to sing At Last in his own special way. Having not previously been seen in the episode, it’s a masterstroke of a stealth gag and leaves the episode on the perfect note.
My only big complaint is that this wasn’t the series finale, perhaps stretched to a two-parter in order to get closure moments for the rest of the characters. Had more have been made of Howard’s gesture of friendship via Mark Hamill, or Raj and Howard looking forward to hypothetical futures with Missy and Denise, respectively, it would have been the perfect ending to the show overall.
Everyone had great little moments, whether it was Leonard getting tearful with Sheldon or Penny keeping everything running while Sheldon and Amy worked on a new science breakthrough.
The job now facing The Big Bang Theory is to top the emotional crescendo of the ‘Shamy’ wedding with something else. This was arguably where everything was heading, and it’s a struggle to think of anything that might work as well in its place.
But The Bow Tie Symmetry is a high-point of the show nonetheless, underlining all of the parts of The Big Bang Theory that makes fans care about the characters while still managing to be funny and light. Leonard and Penny may have been the heart of the show’s first half, but fans have been waiting for this episode for years. It’s a miracle it works so well, but work it does, and maybe – just maybe – the wait was worth it.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Sibling Realignment, here.