This review contains spoilers.
7.23 The Gorilla Dissolution
Next week’s Big Bang Theory season finale is the promisingly titled The Status Quo Combustion. Whether next week’s episode really will shake up the status quo or not remains to be seen, as change in The Big Bang Theory tends to happen at the speed of your average glacier (though it does happen – you wake up one morning and realise that there’s a valley where there used to be a hill, and Howard Wolowitz is a responsible married man). Since Amy is in one brief scene in this episode and Sheldon is supporting Raj’s story, it seems likely that next week will focus around them (perhaps it will finally be Amy’s lucky night). It is perhaps in preparation for next week, then, that this penultimate episode focuses on moving the other three main stories – Penny/Leonard, Howard/Bernadette and Raj – forward in incremental but nonetheless significant steps.
The smallest amount of forward movement belongs to Raj, who gets laid for the first time in a long time. For most of the episode, his story seemed to be going in a different direction. When he and Sheldon see his girlfriend Emily at the cinema with another man, Raj is understandably upset, and in the absence of anyone else available, he tries talking to Sheldon about his loneliness. As quite often happens when characters try talking about emotional problems with Sheldon, this is surprisingly effective, though not in the way that Sheldon intended. Raj leaves wondering if he needs to be alone for a while rather than desperately searching for another person, which would seem to be setting him up for a season in which he gets storylines that don’t revolve around his search for love (which would be quite nice, as that seems to be all he’s done this year).
His story turns around again, though, when Emily turns up at his door and apologises. Their relationship moves forward, and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes next year. Considering how ‘upset’ Emily implied she would be if she saw Raj with another woman, together with her love of gory movies and her career choice determined by how much she enjoys slicing into people, it’s hard to say at this point whether she Raj’s Bernadette (who also has something of a vicious streak) or whether next season will see her go fully crazy on him.
Howard and Bernadette also move forward, in a way. In one of TV-land’s more satisfyingly real scenarios, Howard and Bernadette had talked about having children while they were engaged, and agreed that they would have a baby at some point, but Howard would be responsible for looking after it, because Bernadette really wasn’t interested in doing so. When Howard’s mother is crushed by a falling treadmill and laid up for weeks, Bernadette points out that constantly looking after her is good practice for when they have a baby.
A fairly predictable series of rows in the language of new parents follow, with the ever-present cry of ‘Howard!’ in the place of a baby screaming, but the plot suggests that, considering the show is going to run for three more years, babies are probably in Howard and Bernadette’s near future. It also suggests that their solution to the childcare problem will, in the best tradition of TV sitcom couples, be a nanny (sitcom couples can’t be over-burdened with a baby and need to be free to hang out with their friends as much as before, regardless of how unrealistic that scenario might be).
The storyline that moves forward the most is, of course, Leonard and Penny, who finally get engaged when Penny realises that she doesn’t need a great career to be happy, she just needs Leonard. While an engagement should be a huge step forward, Leonard and Penny have been dancing around the subject for so long that this one feels a little bit more like a small but welcome step forward. Luckily, the show knows that, and provides one of TV’s funnier engagement scenes. To go all out with a saccharine love scene at this point would probably be tiresome, since they’ve nearly got engaged so many times, but their pastry-based argument is wonderful and strikes just the right tone of being sweet while still being funny.
Having said that, the show is careful to give the audience their ‘awww’ moment as well, and stop the engagement from being, as Penny observes, completely anti-climactic. I doubt anyone has trouble believing that Leonard has been carrying around an engagement ring for two years, and seeing him go down on own knee and propose to Penny properly is very satisfying.
This was an unusually plot-heavy episode of The Big Bang Theory, but as ever, it remembers to be funny as well, which is one of the reasons this show has been so successful. Not every joke lands – there is an extraordinary run of racist jokes when Howard is talking about hiring a nurse, which leaves a rather sour taste (at least Sheldon’s later attempt to comfort Raj with chai tea because he’s Indian is meant kindly, and we see Raj’s reaction to it, making it clear that the audience is not expected to share Sheldon’s views). But seeing Wil Wheaton and Penny act out a love scene in the terrible gorilla movie is great, and Penny’s proud declaration that, “There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be the best bisexual go-go-dancer slowly transforming into a killer gorilla that anyone’s ever seen” is perfectly delivered.
We’ll have to wait until next week to see if the status quo in this most stable of shows really does combust, but this week’s episode certainly confirms the show’s commitment to gradual but real change. This episode lays the groundwork for next season’s stories, and to an extent for the two seasons after that – so we can expect more wedding planning (the challenge will be to make it different from Howard and Bernadette’s wedding storylines), possibly the ever reliable sitcom staples of trying for a baby, getting pregnant and having a baby that is then given to a nanny and never seen again, and more of Raj’s love life (with or without Emily). Only Sheldon and Amy’s future remains distinctly uncertain, but we’d place bets on finding out more about that in next week’s finale.
Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, The Proton Transmogrification, here.
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