This review contains spoilers.
8.22 The Graduation Transmission
As bad and as badly treated as all of the characters on The Big Bang Theory are, Raj has more often than not come out the worse. He’s the butt of the jokes, the target for slightly over-the-line racial humour and jokes about his sexuality, and he’s the odd one out without an on-screen girlfriend.
The writers have done some strange things with the character over the years, rarely settling on one set of characteristics as with the others, and he hasn’t evolved quite as well as the other three, either. This week, depending on how you see it, may have been one of Raj’s best episodes in ages.
This series has become one about unpleasant people stuck in the confines of their own arrested development. The boys can’t grow out of their toys, as the episode describes them, and the girls are unable to see the boys’ interests as anything other than childish and pointless. Both are bad things from one perspective or another, but both are, equally, perfectly ordinary ways to behave.
Raj, here, got to be as unpleasant as the rest of them, and that’s not always the case. His flaw is privilege and, when his dad decides to cut him off because of a particularly extravagant purchase, he goes instead to his mother. He plays his parents off against each other in order to start a bidding war for his affections, and he’s rewarded with more money than he had in the first place.
It’s not a great thing to do, nor is it something we’re supposed to sympathise or agree with but, in the context of this show, it’s certainly preferable to seeing him worn down by his friends like in last week’s episode. At least he has a storyline to himself.
And while we’re talking about Raj – I’d be perfectly okay with The Big Bang Theory forgetting they ever introduced Emily. We never see her, and maybe it’s better to make Raj the single friend than to have an invisible significant other just for the sake of it. I am, also, still rooting for a Raj/Stuart storyline, even if I know it’ll never happen on CBS.
The B-story was about Howard, which was also a nice change of pace since, disregarding Bernadette’s irksome role as the one to tell everyone off, it’s about him struggling with his skills as an engineer. It’s strange in the first place to see Sheldon trust in Howard’s expertise, admitting he’s no expert in the field, and the storyline gets a few laughs in at their expense. Sometimes it’s just fun to see the guys struggle with something that isn’t their social or romantic lives.
And Leonard injects some heart with a speech to the current graduates of his old high school. As soon as I saw the ‘sexy graduate’ outfit I was sure this was going to turn into an embarrassing situation but, instead, the episode decided to have this be a nice, triumphant moment for him. It reminded me of that version of the show it briefly turned into in the middle period – a celebration of friendship and general nerdery that’s since devolved into what we have now.
But it was a nice call-back to those times, with Penny still supporting him and the two of them simply having fun as a couple, only gentle jibes at each other’s expense dished out.
But it’s a drop in the ocean and, this being a notably Raj-centric hour, it’s probably best to acknowledge that The Big Bang Theory we have now is one that wants us to laugh at these characters’ shortcomings. It’s the imbalance that makes this worse and, by showing the usual odd-one-out to be just as awful as the rest, maybe it’s kind of an improvement.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Communication Deterioration, here.
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