The Big Bang Theory season 8 episode 4 review: The Hook-Up Reverberation

Despite some laughs this week, The Big Bang Theory continues to let its female characters down...

This review contains spoilers.

8.4 The Hook-Up Reverberation

As with many Big Bang Theory episodes – possibly too many – there was a lot of bad to go along with the good in The Hook-Up Reverberation, and it only just managed to balance out. First, there was the utter joy of seeing the guys look into buying Stuart’s defunct comic book store, but then there was also the Penny/Emily stuff, which was the show at its most disappointing.

The setting of the comic book store has been missed this season, and Stuart certainly needs something to do aside from make Howard insecure about his mother’s affections. That’s what makes the idea of Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj investing in it so brilliant – it would have freshened up the show and given them somewhere to socialise outside of the university cafeteria, but also create a legitimate space for Stuart within their group.

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I have no idea where the stuff with Howard’s mother is going, other than to some creepy, inappropriate places I’m not sure I’m interested in seeing, but right now it feels like just another thing to keep the character around while not really knowing what to do with him. I remember getting excited when Kevin Sussman was made a regular, but nothing came of it, and it’s high time that Stuart had a proper storyline.

But the Penny stuff…

I fell in love with The Big Bang Theory from the start, but it took on a new level when Bernadette and Amy were integrated into the central cast. I admired how the show was not only able to, but was willing to donate half of almost every episode to a group of well-drawn female friends so far into its run, and the majority of the writers’ subsequent treatment of those characters has been great.

But sometimes they get it really, really wrong, and it’s as offensive to me as some of the misjudged ‘nerd humour’ that’s driven so much of its audience away. We all love these characters, which is why we keep watching, and so to lazily perpetuate stupid stereotypes or lean on tired tropes is going to annoy a large amount of people. Sadly, Big Bang Theory does this too much.

That’s what happened with the Penny/Emily interaction this week and, as grateful as I was that the Penny/Raj hook-up was mentioned again, their rivalry was just stupid. It’s as stupid as not having even one girl out of the four shown to be interested in and supportive of the guys’ decision to invest in Howard’s store. This is a show about nerd culture, for better or worse, but all of the female characters act like foils to their boyfriends.

It’s not something that just appeared in this episode, but has been a consistent problem for years. If the show wants to make Penny, Amy and Bernadette as important as Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj – which they already have – then they can’t be fighting against the main concept of the show. Penny was set up that way, sure, but that doesn’t mean that none of the girls introduced can share their interests.

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Otherwise, this episode was fine, and I liked the idea of the comic book store coming back so much that it almost made up for my aversion to girls having passive-aggressive catfights over men. We know you can be better than that, Big Bang Theory, so stop intermittently mistreating half of your cast (and audience).

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The First Pitch Insufficiency, here.

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