The Big Bang Theory Series Finale Review: The Change Constant & The Stockholm Syndrome

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There hasn't been a sitcom finale in a long time viewed with as much anticipation as the double-sized whammy of The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23 and The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 24.

It's been TWELVE seasons since we all started out in that "hot, dense state" before four scientists (technically, three scientists and an engineer) in Pasadena won our hearts and mainstreamed geek culture into acceptance.

This episode was clearly a love letter to the fans, no more apparent than in that kick-ass clips synopsis of twelve years that played at the very start, much like the MCU films' iconic opening credits.

Big News - Tall - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23

In a truly meta twist, the nail-biting anticipation for the finale was echoed in Sheldon, Amy, Leonard, and Penny awaiting the call from the Nobel Committee.

Sheldon: The only drug I need is the endorphins pumping through my brain in anticipation of our victory.
Amy: Well, technically, anticipation wouldn't be mediated by endorphins as much as dopamine but, y'know, you've been up all night so I'll give you that one.

Even this moment of tension is garnished with eye-rolling fake-outs. Beautifully, John Ross Bowie's last appearance as the irritating Barry Kripke is true to form.

Despite being the catalyst that led to the destruction of Sheldon and Amy's competition on The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 21, he's not above pranking them in their time of greatest stress.

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Dramas tend to have an easier row to hoe in terms of series finales. They're expected to be over-the-top and intense and emotionally-wrought. That's what dramas do.

Sitcoms, on the other hand, need to reach deeper than the typical script to create something satisfying while staying true to the nature of the genre.

Sheldon: Hmmm... what kind of tea is appropriate for winning a Nobel Prize and now everything is changing and you feel unmoored from reality?
Leonard: I dunno. Earl Grey?

What they did particularly well here was wish-granting. And hanging the finale around the Nobel Prize was a fresh departure from the usual wedding/farewell/jail/birth situation.

The first wish granted was Sheldon and Amy's. They won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Some of the knock-on effects of that win should've been expected. 

Hordes of reporters and sudden adulation from colleagues triggered every flight impulse in Sheldon and the natural place for him to end up was under his desk, hiding from the world.

Sheldon Spying - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23

It never occured to me that the win would also trigger Amy's self-consciousness. 

There's always been an issue with the representation of the women on The Big Bang Theory. Between Penny's promiscuous heart-of-gold Nebraskan and Bernadette's cute but vicious nature, it took a long time for them to develop nuance.

I've always loved that Amy flew her quirky flag with great aplomb so it was sort of disappointing (but not unrealistic) that she would fall prey to the physical appearance pit that is the Internet and modern media.

Leonard: Picked up your dresses?
Amy: Yup. The tailor had to take mine in and let Penny's out. Best day of my life.
Sheldon: What about the day you met me?
Amy: I stand by my statement.

That Raj plays the part of her de facto fairy godmother when she has two close female friends with better-than-decent fashion sense is also somewhat contrived.

It's not beyond the realm of belief as we know Raj to be supremely capable and confident in his metrosexuality but it would've been nice to see her supported in her moment of need by her woman friends.

Raj: You're allowed to get a haircut.
Amy: I know. But I should've done it gradually. Y'know, like, maybe three hundred tiny haircuts over a ten year period.

Other wishes actualized as a result of the Nobel Win included President Siebert's ambitions for the university, Howard and Bernadette's desire for celebrity, and Leonard's chance to slap Sheldon. Pretty good score card for twenty-two minutes, eh?

President Siebert - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23

After the two month time jump between the halves, even more wishes are granted and each one brings us closer to the emotional closure that earmarks a solid sitcom finale.

Related: The Big Bang Theory Finale Promo: It's Time to Say Goodbye!

Howard and Bernadette rediscovering life outside of parenthood strikes pretty close to home for me.

Every over-tired, emotionally fragile parent will recognize that desert-mirage-like fantasy of uninterrupted sleep without the sounds of little feet, the smell of diapers, or the visions of snot and vomit.

Bernadette: You realize it's been years since we've gone away, just the two of us?
Howard: I know. I can't wait. Fancy hotel room. The big bed.
Bernadette: Yeah, we're going to sleep our asses off.

But like Sheldon's Nobel wish, there's a dark side. The flip-side of getting away from the kids for the first time is the terrifying catastrophizing your brain can't turn off.

Leaving the Kids At Home - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23

Didn't help that they left the kids with Stuart and Denise. #ParentingFail

Related: The Big Bang Theory Cast Says Goodbye As Series Wraps Production

Speaking of parenting, it's kind of problematic that Leonard got his wish about having kids.

Keeping a Secret - Tall - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 24

Penny was very clear on The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 3 that she didn't want children.

The fact that she allegedly jumped Leonard's bones the night she went drinking with Sheldon doesn't really change that, does it?

Obviously, it did but I would've appreciated if it been unpacked a bit. Sheldon even voices that question on the plane and the answer was not satisfying at all.

Everything Changes - The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 23

And lastly, Raj's wish for companionship seems to be magically granted by the cameo of Buffy Summers herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Siebert: Hey fellas, can you do me a favor?
Raj: Do we have a choice?
Siebert: HA HA! No.

The central tension of The Big Bang Theory has always been Sheldon's interaction with the world around him and his seeming ignorance of how he affects the people closest to him.

To that end, when Amy addresses it as directly as it has ever been done in the run of the show, it's the kind of truth-speaking that Sheldon-before-Amy or even Sheldon-before-marriage wouldn't have been ready for.

Sheldon: I hate to say it but I think everyone is being incredibly selfish.
Amy: Well, you would be the authority on the subject.

It speaks to the growth of these characters, most obviously in Sheldon, that they've shown dynamic change and development over the years that is both natural and positive.

Watching The Competitors - The Big Bang Theory

There are a lot of good reasons to watch The Big Bang Theory online especially as there ain't nothing new coming our way ever again.

It's the end of an era and I am grateful as a fan to have a finale that provided that emotional value as we bid these characters a final farewell.

The Stockholm Syndrome Review

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Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Big Bang Theory Season 12 Episode 24 Quotes

Sheldon: The only drug I need is the endorphins pumping through my brain in anticipation of our victory.
Amy: Well, technically, anticipation wouldn't be mediated by endorphins as much as dopamine but, y'know, you've been up all night so I'll give you that one.

Penny: Leonard? Coffee?
Leonard: Black and strong like Luke Cage.
Penny: I'm too tired to even be disturbed by that.