This review contains spoilers.
9.1 The Matrimonial Momentum
When we were last with The Big Bang Theory gang, they left us with some pretty big cliffhangers – Leonard and Penny off to Vegas for a quickie wedding and Sheldon possibly, maybe, perhaps considering popping the question to Amy following her request for time to figure out their relationship. Now, while this premiere was always going to resolve both of those will they/won’t they questions, it’s been unclear exactly how.
For one would be an inevitability that would subsequently pose the question – what now? – and the other had the potential to upend the entire series. The progression of both relationships has been deliberately slow, with Sheldon and Amy in particular coming off for the most part well-paced, so what happens when the writers add a climax years before the end of the show?
The answer is nothing much, as we were offered a wedding and a break-up in this episode, yet nothing much has changed. Having Leonard and Penny actually tie the knot was a brave choice on the one hand but, if it comes with a break-up eight minutes later, what was the point?
Eloping is never a good idea on television, usually ending with a last-minute change of heart from one of the two people at the neon altar, and it is intriguing that, though Leonard and Penny are still fighting and still living in separate apartments, they’re actually married now. What the changes, we’ll have to see.
And the ceremony was cute, highlighting that a big flashy wedding akin to Howard and Bernadette’s just might not suit Penny and Leonard in the same way. The Toy Story vows were a nice touch, but I have a feeling that we’ll get some sort of renewal or second wedding before the show is done.
As for the second half of our conundrum, while it may be fun on paper to see Sheldon chasing after Amy for once, dishing out some of the desperation but with none of Amy’s class, in practice it feels like a departure from some of the really careful character development we saw from Sheldon last season.
Why this was the year Jim Parsons didn’t get the Emmy nomination baffles me, because I genuinely thought he did some of his best work during The Big Bang Theory’s eighth season. Now, broken-hearted Sheldon feels weird, his personality pushed too far over the edge too quickly and robbing the storyline of half of its emotional depth. Amy’s reactions feel genuine, Sheldon’s feel forced.
Though none of us should be surprised, what the point of Sheldon’s continued mansplaining monologues were I don’t know, as it wasn’t brief or vague enough to be taken entirely as a joke at Sheldon’s expense.
We know by now that he’s unrepentantly awful, lashing out because he’s hurt and confused by what happened to his life between yesterday and today, but it takes thought for the writers to put those words into his mouth, and it’s a thought I’m never going to be entirely comfortable with.
All of this would make it an average episode of the show for all its flaws and mini-triumphs, but the overall feeling it leaves you with isn’t a positive one. Sitcoms, even when they’re dark (and The Big Bang Theory has never been dark), shouldn’t leave their audience on a sour note. We care about these characters after eight seasons, but not enough for an episode to be devoid of any laughs at all.
I like when this show delves into its characters and does something a little more ambitious than make endless nerd jokes and references to popularised pop culture but, as an episode to ease us back into this world, The Matrimonial Momentum is oddly placed. Yet, I’m still looking forward to what this will all mean for the coming episodes, even if at the same time I’m wondering why the writers have chosen these particular pathways for a show in its ninth (yes, ninth!) season.
Read Caroline’s review of the series nine finale, The Commitment Determination, here.
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