For the season finale of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, the writers went for shakeups. Tired of listening to Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and his sister, Priya’s (Aarti Mann), sounds of lovemaking, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) goes to stay in Leonard’s apartment with Sheldon (Jim Parsons). When Leonard and Raj agree that they should make the arrangement semi-permanent, Sheldon naturally makes Raj sign a complicated roommate agreement. But everyone is happy with the arrangement, including Sheldon, who considers Raj a much more accommodating roommate than Leonard. Then Leonard and Priya have a fight, and Leonard returns home to discover a drunken Raj and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) have slept together. Meanwhile, Howard (Simon Helberg) feels inadequate after Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) gets her PhD and is offered a lucrative job.
Though it can be seen coming from a mile away, having Penny and Raj sleep together is a huge mistake. Penny is not done with Leonard, as she confesses to Raj before the dirty deed. Things are not going so well between Leonard and Priya because she refuses to tell her family about him. Ergo, a Leonard / Penny reunion is imminent. Or it was. Until Penny sleeps with Raj, and Leonard immediately finds out about it. At least the writers get props for not keeping the sex a secret for half a dozen episodes.
Leonard will not soon get over this. He is insecure and jealous, and his ex sleeping with one of his best friends is a severe betrayal. Obviously, Penny would never have done it without alcohol, but that won’t make Leonard feel any better. Yes, TV series must put obstacles in the way of couples who are destined to end up together. But this is a big one, on the level of Ross sleeping with the copy girl when he and Rachel were “on a break.” It took that pair of Friends years to heal, and Leonard and Penny appear to be heading for the same type of extended separation.
Raj and Penny will not be seriously pursued as a couple. Even after sleeping with her, Raj still cannot talk to Penny without alcohol. That is not the foundation for a solid relationship. Besides, Penny is not interested in Raj. She has been dissatisfied with stupid guys after dating Leonard, and lonely because it’s harder to find smart guys. Raj is simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the consequences of their actions will be far reaching for the entire group, more so than the two of them together.
Leonard and Priya were never going to last long-term, as evidenced by her unwillingness to be open about their relationship. It always felt like she is using him for fun, not interested in anything too serious. Leonard is willing to be with her, but she doesn’t return his feelings. Because of that, Leonard likely still thinks fondly of his time with Penny, and misses their relationship, which will lead to deeply hurt feelings at the Raj revelation. Moving forward, why would Priya want to stay with a guy who is preoccupied with his ex? They are likely over.
The Raj / Penny hookup is just a step too far. It is believable, but barely, and only because of the reasons mentioned above. Had circumstances been slightly different, it would not have happened. The event has no positive impact on the series, and is a huge downer to end on a season on. It should not have been done.
Raj moving in with Sheldon is a delightful side trip. It is too bad it looks like things will return to status quo by season premiere. Leonard is used to Sheldon, so Sheldon must go to extremes for there to be any interesting plot between the two of them. By contrast, while things at first appear rosy between Sheldon and Raj, there will surely be any number of obstacles the two will have to overcome to work out a truly peaceful living arrangement. As such, plot wise, it is much richer if Raj stays with Sheldon. Sadly, the chances of that are low.
Poor Howard doesn’t need to be dumped on anymore. Granted, he has had a good year, as he grows closer to Bernadette, and they even get engaged. Not only that, Howard’s surly mother (Carol Ann Susi) actually likes Bernadette a lot, and approves of their relationship. This may lead to the conclusion that Howard has finally achieved a perfect life. That would be faulty reasoning, as everyone has problems, and nothing is ever perfect.
Howard’s main source of contention right now is how Bernadette overshadows him. He has always been arguably the weakest member of his group of friends. He is the only one, after all, who is not a doctor. Sheldon puts down Howard’s research, and berates his chosen profession. With Bernadette, Howard thinks he has found a true partner on even footing, as Sheldon is equally skeptical of her work. But now Bernadette gets her PhD. Howard tries very hard to be supportive, but with his friends teasing him, it isn’t easy.
Even worse for Howard, Bernadette’s accomplishment leads to her getting a very lucrative job. All of the sudden, her career is more important and profitable than Howard’s. Her buying him a Rolex watch only humiliates him more, feeling like he isn’t providing for his lady, something he wants to do. It is no wonder they soon have a fight, and Howard has to seek comfort in his friends.
In all likelihood, Howard and Bernadette will be able to move past these developments. They have a deep affection for each other, and while Howard can be insecure, he tries really hard not to be, and usually eventually overcomes those insecurities. This is a rough patch, to be sure, but not an insurmountable one. Perhaps some positive will even come of it, if it spurs Howard to get his own PhD. This will not stop the wedding by any means.
Is there any way Howard and Bernadette can have a wedding and Howard’s mother will still not be shown on screen? Sure, the director can get creative with camera angles and objects blocking her, but why go to the trouble? It may finally be time for a Mrs. Wolowitz reveal.
The Big Bang Theory has been renewed, and will return to CBS in the fall.