If you watch a lot of sitcoms, you know one of the undeniable laws of the genre: the single lead male and the single lead female will wind up together. There’s no escaping it. It may be for one episode, it may be for several seasons, it may be only during the series finale, but it will happen. The writer’s imbue the two characters with copious sexual tension, and it builds and builds and builds until finally, usually around sweeps week, it erupts in passion.
The Big Bang Theory is particularly guilty. Nobody, no matter how unfamiliar with the program, would have ever doubted for a second that Penny and Leonard would eventually begin dating. It doesn’t matter that Leonard has a PhD in physics and Penny is a waitress. It doesn’t matter that Penny is smoking hot and could do much better than an unashamed geek. It doesn’t matter that Sheldon is a living, breathing anaphrodisiac, Penny and Leonard were getting together, come hell or high water.
This happened on the season finale of the first season. Since then, the pair have been involved in a rocky, but rewarding romance for 47 episodes. When the relationship ended (thanks to Wil Wheaton and his comically shallow sabotage, see episode 59 “The Wheaton Recurrence”), the show was unsure how to progress. Should Leonard and Penny remain friends, but date other people? Should the pair act cold and awkward around each other? Should the two play cat and mouse for several episodes until rekindling the fire? As evidenced in the episodes since, it seems the writers were keen on trying all three scenarios.
This week’s episode, the season finale, begins with Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard on the apartment’s roof, setting up a laser to bounce off the moon. By aiming directly at a reflector left by the Apollo astronauts, the procedure is an actually replicable experiment, and an entertaining way of verifying the success of manned trips to the lunar surface.
Before the commencement of the experiment, Leonard decides on a whim to invite Penny. Penny, however, is about to leave for a party with her new boyfriend, Zack. Zack, to put it mildly, combines the general demeanor of Pauly Shore with the cognitive faculties of Kelly Bundy from Married With Children. Deciding they have a few minutes to spare, Zack and Penny join Leonard on the roof. Misunderstanding how lasers, gravity, computers, space travel, and pretty much anything beyond second-grade science works, Zack is thoroughly disappointed with the experiment, and departs abruptly for the party. An annoyed Penny follows.
Leonard is visibly disturbed by Penny’s new boytoy, but cannot bring himself to begin dating again. Noting his misery, Raj and Howard offer to find him an ideal match on the internet. Leonard declines the offer, but the Cupid-wannabes suddenly find inspiration, and an even better use of internet dating technology. If dating websites truly have an advanced algorithm for finding perfect mates, shouldn’t they be capable of finding matches for anybody? Even people as hopeless as Sheldon? Under the logic that even Frankenstein had a wife, the two set up an online profile to see what strange female counterpart could possibly exist for Sheldon.
Later that night, Leonard is woken by Penny, pounding at his door. In a drunken epithet, Penny declares that Leonard has ruined dating for her. By comparison, every man she now meets is an ignoramus spewing utter nonsense. As punishment for ruining her ability to tolerate idiots, Penny drags Leonard back to his bedroom for post-breakup sex. All hyperboles aside, the coitus is so powerful, not even Sheldon’s noise-canceling headphones are capable of drowning out the thunderous proclaimations of “Yee-haw!” In Sheldon’s words, “as a native Texan… I’ve never heard the word used in that context.”
Reluctantly willing to go on his arranged blind date (read: blackmailed by Howard), Sheldon meets Amy for the first time. Amy is, for all intents and purposes, female Sheldon. She has the same nebbish mannerisms, the same aversion to people, the same robotic diction, etc. Except for a Y-chromosome, they are identical. Because of this, Sheldon and Amy immediately take a liking to each other. Meanwhile, Raj and Howard stare at the freaky pair in wide-eyed horror. Partially because a female Sheldon exists, but mostly because they have introduced the two and unleashed them onto the world. Amy is played by Mayim Bialik, AKA Blossom. The complete 180 from her most famous role is admirably executed.
The next morning, Penny slips out, not even bothering to wake Leonard. Confused as to what, exactly, the previous night meant, Leonard forces an explanation from Penny. Penny insists it was a mistake (especially the rodeo theme), it was just meaningless sex, and does not effect their current relationship at all.
Leonard cannot get over the fact that he was used for sex, and tries to the best of his ability to exact revenge. His first attempt is to solicit casual sex from an old flame, Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert reprising her role from seasons one and two). Resulting in a door slammed in his face, Leonard’s second attempt involves getting drunk and insulting Penny to her face, a gender-swap reversal of Penny’s drunken rant earlier in the episode. Resulting in another door slammed in his face, Leonard gives up and resigns himself to his room, declaring the whole thing an unfair double standard. It’s not the most satisfying way to leave our protagonist, but in a minimalistic, dark way, it’s strangely amusing.
The season finale of The Big Bang Theory was alarmingly relaxed, almost as if it wasn’t a season finale at all. It’s not necessarily a bad episode, just comparatively uneventful for a time when audiences are expecting shock and upheaval. Perhaps the writers are preparing something large for the next season, and are simply maintaining a blank slate in preparation.
While information concerning the fourth season is unavailable, rumors persist on the internet. For starters, Amy’s quick introduction in the final five minutes all but guarantee her return next season. Speculation persists that fan-favorite Bernadette will return, although most sources seem rooted in hopeful desire rather than fact. And finally, the reintroduction of Leslie after a season-long absence adds credibility to the oft-perpetuated rumor that she will be joining the cast, full-fledged. Again, there is no verification to any of these suppositions from the producers, writers, or cast. But for a show so ardently devoted to science, a little faith couldn’t hurt.