This review contains spoilers.
12.22 The Maternal Conclusion
After more than twenty weeks of water treading, The Big Bang Theory has finally served up an episode that feels and operates like a final season instalment. The Maternal Conclusion doesn’t really break new ground or reveal things about long-running characters we didn’t already know, but it is a perfect distillation of a relationship that, until now, has been treated more as a punchline than a dramatic part of Leonard and Beverly’s lives.
The comedy has almost always been derived from Beverly’s preference for Sheldon more than it has her indifference to her own son, but here both of those things are played in slightly altered ways. When Beverly comes to town and appears to be making an effort to bond with Leonard, both he and Sheldon are suspicious.
Sheldon is wary because he feels that, if Beverly wants to spend more time across the hall, then she must be mad at him for some reason, and Leonard because he’s never seen his mother so engaged.
She not only opts to stay in the apartment rather than at a hotel, but she expresses admiration for Leonard’s new position at work and even makes fewer condescending comments about it than usual. It all seems too good to be true and, when questioned about it, she reveals that she’s writing a new book about how her particular brand of child rearing impacts the subjects into adulthood.
Leonard is understandably upset, and this leads to a confrontation that’s been 40-years in the making. In a cathartic moment, Leonard announces to Beverly that, despite the way she’s always made him feel, he’s chosen to finally forgive her. It’s a sweet moment, and Johnny Galecki is great, and their final moment is the most satisfying hug since Penny and Sheldon Christmas embrace in season two.
On the other hand, the Raj/Anu conclusion may have worked better on paper than it does in practice, but the thought was clearly there. When Anu tells Raj that she’s been offered her dream job in Notting Hill, he realises he hasn’t been happy in California for years and should probably take her up on her offer to join.
The problem is that Howard and Bernadette both think Anu is wrong for Raj, and that he shouldn’t propose to someone in Notting Hill if she hasn’t even seen the movie. They’re right, in a lot of ways, but having Raj stay in the same place he’s been for more than twelve years doesn’t solve the many problems in his life. Maybe he will meet someone else, but if we don’t see it happen, does it even matter?
There’s still time for an eleventh-hour twist, with Anu coming back to propose to Raj in the rom-commiest of rom-com ways, but we’re running out of time for that to happen. If this was any other show, I’d want at least one of the characters to end up single, but it’s The Big Bang Theory and it’s Raj. He’s always wanted romance, and he deserves it.
So, the endgame is upon us, and it’s an exciting time to be a fan. It’s not often that viewers get to see twelve years of story conclude and, whatever the show serves up next week, let’s hope it rewards those who have been loyal for all these years.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Plagiarism Schism, here.