This review contains spoilers.
12.13 The Confirmation Polarisation
There’s a point in every show’s final season when it starts to dawn on the audience that everything that’s happening on screen – every in-joke and character beat – could be happening for the last time. This might be the final time we ever open an episode with a Fun with Flags livestream, for example, or see a nerd-tastic special guest star.
But The Big Bang Theory deserves its victory lap, and if every episode from now until the finale has Sheldon and Amy talking about flags, then so be it.
On the guest star side of things, it seems like Sean Astin and Kal Penn are going to be sticking around for a while. The pair are playing rivals to Amy and Sheldon for the Nobel Prize, rather than themselves, and that gives the show a little more space to use them. There’s not even a clumsy audience reaction when they enter, when in season two I feel like it’d be a whole grand production.
Then again, as Sheldon points out in this very episode, they kind of peaked with Mark Hamill at the end of last season, and sadly the show is unable to bring back favourites like Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Hawking.
It doesn’t take long for the new physicists on the block to cause problems for Sheldon who, at the start of the episode, was celebrating with Amy over their now proven super-asymmetry theory. Of course the university is eager to get a piece of their success now that it has potential physics celebrities in their midst, and announces it will recommend them both for a Nobel.
But in a moment that has no business being as satisfying as it comes off, Leonard points out that it wasn’t the guy who had the idea for the Big Bang who won the prize (taking it right back to the title), but rather another scientist who built on the original work. Sheldon becomes worried that this will happen to his own life-long dream but, even though Amy gives him permission to cut her out because she’s from another field, he stands by her.
It’s an example of immense growth for Sheldon at a moment that’s bigger for him than any other. At the start of the show we probably wouldn’t have predicted that the character would get married, but it was a given that he would achieve what he deems academic success before the series was over. Given that this is a feel-good sitcom it’s almost certain that he and Amy will go on to win the thing, but that doesn’t make his decision any less impactful.
It’s an episode focused on careers all around, as Bernadette offers Penny the head sales position on her new project. While I’m sure the fact that Bernie is a tiny tyrant has a little bit to do with her initial hesitation, it turns out that Penny has come down with a case of imposter syndrome. How this has never come up before is beyond me, but I can’t express how glad I am that Leonard is the one grappling with the baby storyline and Penny gets to go out on the strength of her career progression.
There’s a tendency for shows to focus solely on the dramatic trifecta – marriage, babies and death – as they wind down but, because The Big Bang Theory got all that out of the way seasons ago, it has no choice but to find other story avenues to go down. A blessing in disguise, perhaps.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Propagation Proposition, here.