The Big Bang Theory season 8 episode 8 review: The Prom Equivalency

The Big Bang Theory delivers the best season 8 episode so far, one with emotionally rich character development...

This review contains spoilers.

8.8 The Prom Equivalency

Well that was a lovely little surprise, wasn’t it? In an episode of The Big Bang Theory that could, on paper, have been one of the show’s most forced and contrived instalments of the season, we got a boat-load of character development and sweet, emotional moments – the kind that make sitting through the rest of the not-so-great elements of the show immediately feel worth it.

The reason most of us still watch The Big Bang Theory, at least those who are seeking out a recap post-viewing, is for the central characters and their relationships with each other. Like real bonds, the connection between these characters is simultaneously familiar and ever-evolving.

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It wouldn’t make sense for Leonard and Penny to constantly break up, or for some huge rift to get between Howard and Raj – they’re friends for the long haul and, unlike a lot of TV characters, don’t really think about it beyond that.

It’s precisely this comforting familiarity that makes the big moments, whether its Leonard and Penny’s engagement, Bernadette’s birthday song or Howard’s wedding, that much more satisfying, and the little moments feel somehow bigger than they are. Just seeing Howard and Penny dance alone on that rooftop, with the knowledge that it has eight seasons of history behind it, was an absolute joy for long-time fans.

So, the slightly awkward set-up for the episode was a prom do-over, which saw the friends attempt a second prom, making up for the disastrous nights everyone except Penny, who was “popular,” and Raj, who didn’t grow up in America, had experienced.

I’m the first to criticise Big Bang Theory when it’s being lazy, but one area in which it’s almost never faltered is with Sheldon and Amy. Sure, any show with the knowledge that it’s essentially un-cancellable might take its time with a central couple in the same way, but the careful, considered way that Amy and Sheldon’s romance has evolved is really something to applaud.

It feels natural, and ensures the little incremental steps forward land with just the right amount of importance. Sheldon is rude, selfish and sometimes cruel, but his ability to feel affection towards those in his life was never the thing in question.

The big “I love you too” was one of those slightly larger steps forward, not counteracted with a joke or immediately backtracked on, just there because it felt like the right time. As soon as the scene began and Amy started her apologetic monologue, the direction it was likely to take became apparent, but that didn’t make it any less gratifying in the end. Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik make these scenes so good, and this was no exception. It was as big, if not bigger than last season’s kiss, but it’ll hopefully have more long-term impact.

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The two main couples were the highlight, but another nice little detail was the show’s attempt to craft an actual personality for Emily. We haven’t even seen Raj with his new girlfriend since that awful catfight episode at the beginning of the season, so to have her present in his and Howard’s storyline was extremely welcome. I feel less enthusiastic about the Howard/Stuart rivalry over Howard’s mother, but this bad-natured humour is sadly a habit Big Bang Theory just can’t get out of, even in a great episode like this.

The Prom Equivalency was definitely the best episode we’ve had so far this season, and was a continuation of some of the more emotionally rich stuff we had in previous seasons. It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy these characters simply interacting with each other, it’s a wonderful change of pace.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Misinterpretation Agitation, here.

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