This review contains spoilers.
12.3 The Procreation Calculation
It seems that an end date has done wonders for The Big Bang Theory, with several storylines exhibiting a sense of forward momentum and lasting consequences that hasn’t been seen on the show in years. Even better, those storylines involve the show’s most neglected characters.
Starting with Raj, his engagement to Anu is now confirmed. The arranged marriage may seem crazy to his friends, but Raj is going to stick to his guns and get married despite knowing his bride-to-be for all of five minutes. It’s hard right now to determine how the show wants us to feel about Anu, but it sure feels good to see the two of them so happy at the end of the episode.
The biggest obstacle for Raj was always going to be his undying belief in romance. This might not be as clinical and alien to him as it is to his Western friends, but its still not his personal dream. Raj is a character who’s always wanted to fall in love, and his realisation that this might never happen is really fascinating to watch not just because an arranged marriage goes against his instincts, but because it’s also a left turn for a show that’s always chosen to treat Raj’s culture as a punchline.
He almost walks out on Anu when it emerges that she is far more practical than he is, but – as a big point in her favour – she realises that she might have to do some wooing and gets down on one knee so that they have a story to tell their hypothetical grandchildren. It’s an adorable moment, and one that indicates that these two might just make it to the altar.
On the opposite end of the scale are Leonard and Penny, who make a major life decision that involves changing nothing at all. Penny doesn’t want children, she tells a judgemental Bernadette, and she has to break the news to her husband. He takes it incredibly badly.
Honestly, I felt sorry for Penny in this episode, if only because she has to deal with so many terrible friends and family members. The episode ends up coming down on the side of ‘not procreating is a valid choice and one that is ultimately up to the woman’, but it certainly sends some mixed messages getting there.
Bernadette is supposed to be the unbearable mother who can’t remember how she felt before she had her children, and Penny’s father is used as more than a joke than a genuine story element, but Amy and Leonard are a different matter. Do we know that Sheldon wants to be a father? And could the show not have included a moment for Penny like that between Howard and Raj, in which someone saw her side?
The final moment in which Penny rents the Batmobile for Leonard as a peace offering is cute, but think about it for more than a minute and it becomes an apology. Still, with only twenty-odd episodes left, the writers didn’t need to include a reason for no more babies on the show, so I’m glad it exists at all. There’s some speculation online that this could lead to a divorce before the end, but that would honestly be a nightmare outcome for a storyline as rarely-seen as this.
Something not even Friends did in its final few seasons was address what might happen to sitcom characters as they age. When The Big Bang Theory began these characters were in their mid-late twenties and didn’t have much to think about beyond careers and whether they’d have sex that year. Now they’re twelve years older and (mostly) married. How to priorities shift and change when you look around and see an adult life, job and relationship?
It’s a worthy topic to dig into in this final season, and I look forward to seeing how it all resolves.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Wedding Gift Wormhole, here.