Unfortunately The Big Bang Theory finale was aired the same week as the Games of Thrones finale and while TBBT got more build-up during the year, this actual week what I’ve seen is more people talking about GOT (and what was wrong with it) than The Big Bang Theory‘s finale and what they got right. (See Note 1) So I want to talk about them being right.
The Big Bang Theory‘s finale knocked several contenders on my personal best endings list down a notch. Guiding Light is, of course, my favorite over all. But this takes down my previous top sitcom pick, I Married Dora, which ended with the best joke in the entire series. It also seriously challenges my favorites in the drama category. The winner there is the last episode of classic Doctor Who, “Survival” which just an average episode in most respects, but is where the Doctor gives one of the greatest, most Doctor Who-iest speeches of the entire series (including classic episodes and reboots ). (See Note 2) The only recent one I can think that MIGHT have given it a run for its money in the drama category would have been if the episode of the penultimate season of Castle, which was written as the series finale and really should have been, had stayed the finale. As it is I think The Big Bang Theory is now number 2 under all time, all categories.
All Night Long
A few series have been such a big deal when they showed their finale that they made it a major all night event. Normally this totally crashes and burns, badly. I direct you to Cheers and later Seinfeld (not even the great accompanying Greg and Dharma episode could save it). However, this time they pulled it off.
The finale had been really started in the third to end episode when Leonard finally comes to terms with his mother. I think that was a key development to one of the main events in the final episode. Then they split the actual hour long finale into two parts, for ease of syndication, but it was really an hour long episode. It was followed by the half-hour season finale of Sheldon which played into another theme of the last season of The Big Bang Theory by having him wanting someone to win the Nobel Prize and feeling alone when they didn’t. The tag was the adult Sheldon saying how alone he felt at that moment and how grateful he was to have found his friends which then montaged them where they were at that same time, ending with a young Amy reading a copy of Little House on the Prairie. Then one more half hour with “Leonard” and “Penny” on the set before they tore it down with memories of the series and a semi tour of the set, ending with a slow pan across the main set of both apartments with the hallway in between. In addition there was a build of stories on Entertainment Tonight and the cast appeared on Late Night (all dolled up as if to look as deliberately different from their characters as possible). There was a show they threw in there at 9pm CDT to probably get it a goose in ratings, but all and all it was perfect. (See Note 3) Then they aired both halves of the finale on Monday nights in the alternate time slot the show often aired in and it was just as moving the second time.
So What Did I Like
First, I was glad that we got one last look at the biggest recurring characters doing typical things: President Siebert, Kripke, Bert, and especially Stuart got a chance to be a small part of it. They even had one more random sci fi actor, Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up on their plane to Sweden and agree to accompany Raj. I’m sorry they couldn’t fit in a few others, Wil Wheaton or Professor Proton, spring to mind, and I would have loved to see Sheldon’s mom and Penny’s dad find out both about the Nobel and the Lenny baby, but you can’t have everything. And a lot of them did get mentions.
Second, they accomplished things they had set up all year. We start with a montage of important moments from the series, Sheldon and Amy won the Nobel. Leonard and Penny both had gotten a promotion at work. We finally see Howard and Bernedette’s kids. Each character has had a set clothing pattern, Leonard’s included a hoodie and jacket, he finally explained he always wore one because he was always cold because Sheldon wanted the thermostat too low. The DNA in the corner fell apart with a crash fore-shadowing the take down of the set. (When they put it back together Leonard says it was a fun 139 1/2 hours – the runtime of the show.) And most importantly, they fixed the elevator. The other big news, that Penny was pregnant and so not drinking, was kind of a departure from where the storyline had been going, which while I wanted a baby for them I think deciding not to have kids is a legitimate choice and this kind of rushed to undercut that. But I especially liked the dialogue leading up the baby reveal where you were catching your breath as they circled around it, is she, she can’t be, is she really pregnant? And she was. While it did run counter to this season, when Leonard first met Penny he said their babies would be smart and beautiful and it was a line that was repeated on the show a couple of times, so while it wasn’t holding true to this season, it did complete a loop back on the official pilot. I also held my breath when Sheldon said each person’s name in his thank you speech, including the honorific astronaut before Howard’s, hoping for Penny’s maiden name, but nope they skipped that. Frankly though what I was looking for most was an Amy-Sheldon Nobel prize win and the elevator to be fixed and those both happened, so I’m good. 😉
Third and most importantly, they completed the character arc for Sheldon. Both Howard/Bernadette and Leonard/Penny couples considered leaving due to Sheldon’s behavior and instead they forgave him. Then in an epiphany set off by Amy’s words, Sheldon realizes how much the support and work of his friends have helped him and they deserve part of the credit for the award and he asks them to stand and be named. He even included Astronaut for Howard since he didn’t have a PhD to mention. Cut to a shot of them back in Leonard’s apartment where they are eating take out, no words just a slow melancholy version of the show’s theme song while Amy and Sheldon wore their medals. It was even more touching than the “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” moment in The Mary Tyler Moore Show with more respect and class. They completed Sheldon’s arc specifically and reminded us how far each of the other characters developed and became better people through their friendship.
Why I Like the Show As a Whole
That connection and becoming better people through the friendship was what I liked best about the show all along. Sure there were more immediate comic pay-offs along the way, but that central theme was why I really liked the show. It was reinforced by their real life by when the initial stars of the show took a substantial pay cut to free up money to pay the late comers to the core group more. (I mean they were still making $900,000 an episode after the cut so they aren’t hurting for money, even the late comers where making substantial coin already, but they didn’t HAVE to do it to make things more fair for their friends.) I also liked how even the supporting characters were consistent and they really did a nice job of world building (yes, the differences were small – prominent full professors at universities don’t make a pile of money, taxis only rarely exist, Disney lets adults dress up as princesses at the parks), but there was a complete community there.
And I must admit I enjoyed geeking out to their references. I really loved people talking about cool stuff on the show and treating it as important.
Problems With the Finale
There really isn’t a lot to complain about. I understand that they want to focus on the immediate cast for the last two episodes, but I think after everything they went through Sheldon’s real family should have gotten to be there to see him shine. If not they could have at least had something like an ice storm hitting Texas or an attack of food poisoning or the like to explain their absence. In fact if they really want to marry the two shows, him seeing his Dad would be very fitting. At the very, VERY least he could have said their names instead of just mother, father, sister, brother, Meemaw when he said his thank yous. I think a shout out to Arthur Jefferies would have been appropriate, too. (Take that Bill Nye, the Science Guy.)
I also was a little irked by the fact that in order to get Stuart in to the show they had him fail at taking care of the kids and Bernadette’s parents having to step in. I mean Stuart took care of the kids all the time and I don’t think they even said Bernie’s parents had the kids before. Why would Stuart suddenly been unable to care for them?
And that’s all I can think of after watching the episode twice. I got misty both times.
Note 1: There were comparisons made between the Game of Thrones finale and the Seinfeld finale which I agree was awful although a recent tweet by Jason Alexander explained what they were going for a lot better which helps. Why they didn’t spell that out at the time – which they didn’t or at least I didn’t see it – I have no idea. It was still awful though. The only part I liked was that the last scene was a repeat of the first scene which in a world of never ending reruns was a nice little meta moment.
Note 2: Found at the link in the main text above:
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning,
where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream,
people made of smoke and cities made of song.
Somewhere there’s danger,
somewhere there’s injustice
and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.
Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.”
Note 3: I’m especially grateful that the “surprise all Big Bang fans will want to see” wasn’t Sheldon’s dad dying which everyone I talked to thought it was with the shot in the ad preview of him climbing a fairly shaky ladder up to the roof.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.