This review contains spoilers.
9.7 The Spock Resonance
Say what you will about The Big Bang Theory, Lord knows I have over the last couple of seasons, but when it can deliver an episode like The Spock Resonance after nine years and a weaker than normal season, you have to give it some credit. Few television series and even fewer sitcoms can really do what this episode did, effortlessly cashing in on years and years of built-up emotion and compassion for its characters and, while all is not forgiven, it’s definitely earned a little grace period.
Since Sheldon and Amy broke up, the season has veered wildly between tedious inconsequence and unnecessary morosity. It didn’t really click until this week, however, that one of the things that has been holding these episodes back is the reluctance to really delve into what it means for the characters, not just the show.
People give Sheldon a hard time, but as divisive as the character has become, The Big Bang Theory‘s writers have rarely neglected his development. Leonard, Howard and Penny, once wonderfully well-drawn characters with some real, visible growth over early seasons, have settled into an immovable groove that has made the show feel at times like it’s come to a standstill. That’s been a major problem for me largely because I expect better from the series.
But Sheldon and Amy continue to raise the show above the rest of its parts, and this week the ramifications of Sheldon’s first and only relationship breaking down were finally used to full effect.
The set-up is Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam, coming to the apartment to film a fan segment for a documentary (or Spockumentary) about his father’s most famous role. I’ve been waiting for the show to mark Nimoy’s passing in some way, given that he became such a large part of The Big Bang Theory‘s essence and had always been very generous with his time, and this was perfect.
Using the character of Spock to force Sheldon to confront his true feelings about Amy is pretty genius, and the delivery of his journey from denial to self-awareness was note-perfect. It’s been brewing all year, and it was about time it exploded. I guess Jim Parsons is out of the Emmys inner-circle now, which is a shame because he’s been turning in very good work this season.
The episode is much a love-letter to fandom – something The Big Bang Theory has struggled to get right – as it is a look at how pouring yourself into a fictional character you admire as a child might later become a way of hiding from the difficult emotions of adulthood. Yes, Spock helped Sheldon cope with his emotional difficulties as a child, but it’s also a crutch that might have contributed to the end of his relationship.
But the ultimate realisation that things could be salvageable if only Sheldon summons up the bravery to feel his emotions rather than shutting them out is for nought, as he sees that Amy might just have moved on without him. It’s a gut-punch of an ending after a pretty emotional episode.
Even the B-plot, which begins as a humorous aside about Bernadette wanting to redecorate Howard’s mother’s house, becomes a great moment for their relationship after Bernadette reveals she’s been putting off having kids because of Howard’s immaturity.
Just looking at my watch, the timeline seems set to have a Sheldon/Amy wedding and Howard/Bernadette baby for the series finale in just over a season and a half’s time, no?
The Spock Resonance might be my favourite episode of The Big Bang Theory in years, and it makes me wonder why the show appears to save up its character work for the odd special occasion, rather than peppering it throughout the entire series. Nevertheless, there’s no way we won’t be feeling the effects on this for the rest of the year and, after a shaky start to season nine, that can only be a good thing.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Helium Insufficiency, here.