The Big Bang Theory Series Finale is a Heartwarming and Tearful Goodbye

*Spoiler warning for The Big Bang Theory series finale.

So, after 12 hilarious seasons, The Big Bang Theory has finally come to a close. I haven’t quite processed yet that I will no longer be able to count on this show to bring me a half hour of light and laughter each week, but I will have to adjust. It’s been quite a journey with this series, from being about four nerdy dudes and the hot girl who lives across the hall, to a show about a large group of nerdy friends who love and take care of each other. Watching the relationships between the characters flourish, and the character grow and change as a result has been a true pleasure. None of the characters are who they were when they first started. They are now spouses, parents, successful career men and women, and are more mature than when the series started. It’s been a beautiful journey, but television’s top comedy is at its end. The 1-hour double episode series finale, titled “The Change Constant” and “Stockholm Syndrome” is a fitting and emotionally satisfying end (take that Game Of Thrones).

The finale starts with Amy and Sheldon waiting to hear if they’ve won the Nobel prize. They’ve been hyping this up all season, and now we finally get to find out. Considering Sheldon’s been talking about winning one since episode 1, this is an apt way to end the show. The two of them and Leonard and Penny have stayed up all night waiting to hear, and as the time approaches – Sheldon falls asleep. Having been given instructions to slap him awake if necessary, Leonard excitedly prepares to slap Sheldon, but a phone call interrupts right before he gets the chance. Sheldon sits bolt upright to receive the call that will change his life and…it Barry Kripke prank-calling him. The next call is from Howard and Bernadette asking if they’ve heard yet.

Finally, Amy’s phone rings. She answers it, says “I see,” shows no emotion, hangs up, and then dazedly tells them all that she and Sheldon just won the Nobel prize. Sheldon jumps up to celebrate, but then questions if he’s dreaming. Leonard, of course, takes the opportunity to slap him across the face. Realizing that he’s not dreaming, Sheldon crows about the win, they all group hug, and the theme song plays.

If that scene alone doesn’t hook you for this finale, I don’t know how to help you. The rest of the episode, appropriately titled “The Change Constant,” is about the aftermath now that they’ve won. Sheldon feels like nothing has changed despite the big win, until a group of paparazzi ambushes him and Amy on the way out the door. Sheldon, of course, immediately runs back into the building while Amy answers questions.

President Siebert, concerned about interviews that will be given to the press, advises Raj, Howard, and Leonard to describe Amy and Sheldon as quirky, instead of, as Howard puts it, “Mr. and Mrs. Wackadoodle.” At that moment Amy and Sheldon enter the cafeteria to applause, which immediately sends Sheldon running again. Now thats what we call quirky.

Sheldon is so afraid of all of the attention, that he hides from a reporter who was supposed to interview him. Howard takes the opportunity to have the reporter interview him instead. When Bernadette finds the article and confronts him about it, saying that the article calls Howard Sheldon’s best friend, when that role is Leonard’s, Howard convinces her to talk the reporter as Amy’s “best friend,” and just forget that that’s really Penny. Howard and Bernadette are nothing if not attention whores.

Raj, meanwhile, finds Amy crying in the bathroom. She’s upset because her picture is all over the internet, and she doesn’t like how she looks in it. Raj convinces her to use some of the cash prize from the Nobel to buy herself a new wardrobe, makeup, and haircut, and the two go shopping together. If Raj weren’t straight, he would be the perfect stereotype of the gay best friend. When they arrive back home, Sheldon is trying to figure out a way to feel calm while everything is changing (which is undermined by Leonard not having the proper tea), so when Amy walks in looking completely different (and hot af), he flips. He then proceeds to say some very nasty things about how he liked her better before and she should change back, but he’s really just freaking out about all the change. He storms out of the apartment, and Leonard follows.

Leonard tries to explain to Sheldon that he was very rude, but Sheldon says that in all of this, Amy was his one constant, and now she’s changed as well. He says that this change was the last straw, and right then, the elevator opens. Most fans know that it’s a running gag that the elevator hasn’t worked the entire season (in one flashback episode they even show how it broke), so this was just perfect comedic timing. It reveals Penny looking splendid in a bright pink skirt suit. Continuing the theme of Sheldon running away from change, he runs down the stairs. Penny beats him to the lobby by taking the elevator, and asks him what’s wrong.

Sheldon, Penny, and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory series finale
The elevator doors finally open on The Big Bang Theory series finale. Photo courtesy of CBS, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

The two go out drinking, which brings us one last amazing Penny/Sheldon conversation. Sheldon and Penny’s connection has been one of the most special things about the show. She’s often able to get through to him in a way the other characters can’t. As they sit drinking, Sheldon tells Penny about how all the change is freaking him out, and she plays a drinking game where she drinks every time he says the word change (which you can try with this article by the way). She then points out that he’s changed a lot since when she first met him. He has a ton of friends, he’s married, he’s changed apartments, and he’s even had sex a bunch of times. Sheldon responds that Penny’s changed a lot too, citing her successful career and marriage. Penny points out that the only thing that seems to stay the same is change, which calms Sheldon down, because it’s something that makes logical sense to him.

Having sorted that out, Bernadette and Howard appear on the TV at the bar talking about how they’re Sheldon and Amy’s best friends, which spurs Sheldon to switch from coke to a drink with actual alcohol in it.

Back at the apartment, Amy is still feeling understandably upset about the way Sheldon spoke to her. She’s starts talking about how she’s done tiptoeing around him, and she’s going to just do whatever she wants. This leads to Leonard complaining about how he tiptoes around Sheldon as well, inconveniencing himself to accommodate Sheldon, which leads to us finally getting an answer on why Leonard always wears sweatshirts. It also leads to Leonard trying to move the weird ball-structure-DNA-like-thing that’s always been there, which immediately falls apart. Sheldon and Penny return to home, and Penny convinces him to take the elevator.

Episode two picks up two months later with Leonard and Sheldon re-gluing the ball-DNA-structure-thing, which apparently took 139.5 hours. Amy and Penny return from altering their dresses for the award presentation in Sweden, and Amy brags about her dress having to be taken in and Penny’s having to be taken out. Amy and Sheldon leave, and Leonard asks Penny if Amy suspected the reason Penny had to have her dress let out. Turns out, she’s pregnant! After she and Sheldon came home from drinking, Penny jumped Leonard’s bones, and got pregnant.

This is one of the missteps of the finale as it was previously established this season that Penny didn’t want kids. Making her pregnant last minute makes that character arc null. It might work if they explained what made Penny change her mind from not wanting kids to being excited about being pregnant, but they never do. It’s also a terrible trope, making the female character pregnant at the last minute to “redeem” her or whatever. It’s not well done. Penny and Leonard’s excitement, however, feels genuine, and is really sweet.

Bernadette and Howard are really excited about getting to go away for the first time since their kids were born – the kids, in this episode, also somehow look years older than they did earlier this season. Raj leaves his dog, Cinnamon, with Bert, which is some of the only character-work he gets in the finale. I’m still really upset that they had him and Anu break up. Anu was such a great character, and I’m not sure what the point was of building up her character, just to throw her out right before the end. Poor Raj ends the series alone, despite desperately wanting to get married, and he hardly has anything to do in these two episodes. He’s mostly just there in the background.

Sheldon types up a ridiculously long speech that spends an enormous amount of time calling out all of the people who told him he wouldn’t succeed. If he talks lightning fast, it’s apparently down to 90 minutes. Amy tries to convince him to change the speech to be about “humbly accepting a great honor,” but Sheldon’s not into it.

Sheldon and Amy have a ridiculous meeting to prep everyone on how to act once they get to Sweden. They then all leave for the airport 6 hours early – thanks Sheldon – and have to figure out how to fit all of their luggage into the elevator. Apparently making multiple trips never occurred to them. While on the plane, Sheldon starts to freak out when he realizes how many times Penny is running back and forth to the bathroom. He thinks she’s sick and that she’s going to infect him. She and Leonard finally just tell him that she’s pregnant. Relieved that there’s no illness going around, Sheldon abruptly goes back to his seat.

Pissed that Sheldon didn’t even congratulate them, Leonard goes over to Sheldon and confronts him. The argument does not go well, especially when Sheldon says that “any idiot can have a baby.” Amy is merely angry that Penny didn’t tell her sooner, and once they both tell Bernadette, she has about the same reaction. Raj, meanwhile, finds out he’s sitting next to Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and is excited about that.

When they get to the hotel, Bernadette and Howard check in on Stewart, who is babysitting for their kids. Stewart tells them that Michael had fever the night before, and Halley climbed over the safety rail and fell down the stairs and lost a tooth, so Bernadette and Howard immediately start freaking out.

Leonard is still angry with Sheldon, but Penny is mostly focused on all of the food she ordered from room service – apparently she’s having cravings – and finds out that she loves pickled herring. Amy schools Sheldon on what he did wrong and marches him over to Leonard and Penny’s door to give the appropriate congratulations. Leonard is not mollified. Penny doesn’t seem to care. Howard then runs up and says that he and Bernadette are thinking of going home early to be with the kids. Sheldon tells him to pull it together, which makes Howard decide that he doesn’t actually care about hurting Sheldon’s feelings after all. Howard, Leonard, Penny, and Bernadette all decide to go home because they’re mad at Sheldon.

Amy, again, has to explain to Sheldon that he was being selfish, and this isn’t the right way to treat their friends. Luckily for Sheldon, the gang decides that they still really love Sheldon and want to see him and Amy win that award, and they decide to stay. Raj, once again, was left out of all of the big plot points.

At the ceremony, Amy gives a lovely speech telling all of the young girls out there that if they want to study science they should go for it. Raj somehow convinced Sarah Michelle Gellar to be his date, so Buffy the Vampire Slayer is officially the last of the great Big Bang guest stars. It’s unclear why neither Sheldon or Amy’s families attended, but okay. Sheldon then gets up to make his speech. Instead of the long annoying speech his was going to make, he decides to instead talk about his wonderful friends.

Amy and Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory series finale
Sheldon gives a heartwarming speech with Amy at his side as they accept the Nobel prize in physics on The Big Bang Theory series finale. Photo courtesy of CBS, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

He talks about how he couldn’t have gotten this award without them, and then asks each of them to stand. He saves Penny and Leonard for last, as his two best friends in the world. He says that Leonard said to him on the day they met Penny that “their babies would be smart and beautiful, and now that they’re expecting, I have no doubt that that will be the case.” This totally makes up for how he reacted to their news earlier, however it does out Penny as pregnant when she hasn’t even told her parents yet. He tells the group that he’s sorry if he hasn’t always been the greatest friend, but he truly loves them, and then he turns to Amy and tells her that he loves her too. The whole thing is such a sweet moment to end the series on, it’s enough to make anyone well up with tears.

The last few seconds of the show are the gang back at home, in the apartment, eating takeout, while a slowed down version of the theme song plays. How appropriate.

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Author: Linda Maleh

Entertainment writer, feminist, and New York City native. Personal blog is tvtotalkabout.com.

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