The Big Bang Theory season 12 episodes 11 & 12 review: throwing a curveball

The Big Bang Theory is laying the ground for a satisfying whole-series conclusion, but is it about to throw a curveball? Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

12.11 The Paintball Scattering & 12.12 The Propagation Proposition

The first two episodes of The Big Bang Theory since the winter break send us hurtly towards the conclusion with interesting dynamics and some nice curveballs for certain characters.

We come back from the break with – what else? – a follow-up on Sheldon and Amy’s paper and its massive success. With success comes publicity, however, and the academic world is already all-too familiar with Sheldon’s lack of social skills and humility. After inviting the couple to the exclusive lunch lounge, the university sends Amy to take care of the people-facing side of things, and this causes trouble in the delicate relationship balance.

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Sheldon doesn’t want to be left behind and so insists on being involved, but it immediately flummoxed by a question that asks whether the discovery is derivative of another’s work. When Amy takes over and is dubbed ‘the neuroscientist who revolutionised physics’, Sheldon is obviously upset.

The episode culminates in a very well staged paintball tournament that forces each of the couples – yes that’s right even Raj and Stuart are coupled up now – to face up to their issues. Only Bernadette and Howard have nothing to resolve, but maybe it’s fun for them to just coast on into the sunset.

Sheldon and Amy argue about the paper, Stuart and Denise discuss why Stuart is so scared of moving in together despite everything going well, and Raj and Anu blow up over a breach of privacy.

I’m so torn about the Raj stuff this season, because I was so pleasantly surprised over how sensitively the show was treating the concept of arranged marriage. Both of the characters grew up with the idea but have also lived with American ideals for decades so it makes sense for there to be some hesitation, but the fact that they’ve dropped the idea of marriage in favour of simply dating feels weird.

On the one hand it’s perfectly healthy for the pair to realise that they barely know each other and could not conceivably trust that they won’t get hurt, but on the other they seem like a good match and both entered into the engagement willingly. It feels like a backstep.

It also once again throws doubt on what the heck the show is going to do in its finale. It was confusing for Raj to announce a Valentine’s Day wedding date since he removed the nuptials from the running, and Penny also took a pregnancy off the table.

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Or did she? Zach’s request for Leonard to be he and his wife’s sperm donor is one of the weirdest storylines the show has ever done and yet feels like the perfect thing for these last few episodes to grapple with. There’s huge potential for humour, if not just because Zach is hilarious and an easy nostalgia point, and it puts Penny and Leonard back in the spotlight for a change. It’s bizarre, but I love it.

There’s a lot of momentum in these episodes, and the perfect balance between callbacks (it was great to get a no-fuss ladies night/boys night teaser) and new situations for the original characters. It could all go to crap from next week, but for now we can feel happy that the The Big Bang Theory writers seem to know what they’re doing on the way to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The VCR Illumination, here.