Why The Final Season Of The Big Bang Theory Was The Best

Originally writen for theculturecrossing.com here.

The Big Bang Theory wrapped up in 2019 with its final season. The shows 279th episode received a 9.6 rating on IMDB and positive reviews from critics and proved to be a rare treat for both show and audience. Final episodes and television series overall tend to be lifeless husks of what they once were, like the mangey family dog, the back legs have gone… yet they mean too much to be put down.Over the 12 years, The Big Bang Theory has entertained millions with its own brand of geek-chic. A science-based show with slow-burn storytelling. Following Jim Parsons requested exit from the show, the sitcom gave viewers their conclusion by wrapping up its final season with a warm fuzzy finale.But not this one! Join me as I recall how the final 12th season wasn’t just good, it was the best season of The Big Bang Theory of them all.SPOILER WARNING: The next section contains spoilers from the show.Character growthWhat established the show so long ago was its use of simple character types. Nerds’ live across the hall from an attractive lady…that was it, that was the story.For a while, not much else was needed. Personalities were introduced and characters were slowly developed. All while the classic life events of 20 to 30+ year-olds happen (marriage, children etc..). All alongside some more extraordinary achievements (being sent to space etc.). But, the show made sure to operate on a much slower rate of change to match Sheldon’s pace.The show can be criticised for many things, but pulling the trigger on Sheldon conforming to social norms too quickly, isn’t one of them. Season 12 starts following Sheldon and Amy’s wedding. This is an unthinkable scenario compared to season 1. Yet the episodes don’t run out of steam or jump to the convention of them starting a family. Instead, the narrative of them running for a Nobel prize is the focus, whilst the topic of family is reserved to one episode and is ran as an experiment by Amy; sticking with the shows core identity: scientists…doing science.The show also plays with the pregnancy angle with the bait and switch of Leonard being a sperm donor for Penny’s ex Zack. This arc was refreshing and inverted expectations. Before conforming to the more predictable scenario of Penny and Leonard expecting by the finale.Leonard’s growthLeonard’s growth as the main character reached an apex in season 12. His deep-seated insecurities were often explained by his cold childhood and distant relationship with his mother. Towards the end of the final season, Leonard finally got to vent and forgive his mother. This came through an emotional monologue. One where both characters are stripped from their academic caricatures and a genuine connection is allowed.Johnny Galecki, who played Leonard, told USA Today “I read over some of my initial notes about Leonard when we were doing the pilot and how much I thought the character was focused not just on Penny’s looks and charm but on her being the portal for him to experience life in a way he was too afraid to at the time. She completely brought him out of his shell.”Season 12 gave the audience closure on Leonard’s backstory. It took the focus of the shy, insecure Leonard and presented a more comfortable character. Leonard, the acclaimed scientist, husband of his dream girl and soon to be a father.The cameosOver the shows time on air, the program achieved a historical 46 Emmy nominations and with this global acclaim came a plethora of guest stars.From sci-fi legends such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer to the biggest names in science like Stephen Hawking. The show became such a staple of pop culture, and no guest became too big to be woven into the script.This season alone saw Teller as Larry Fowler and Kathy Bates as Mrs Fowler. Whilst Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Shatner, Kevin Smith, Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Michelle Gellar all made appearances.By the final season, the show knew how to utilise guests in order to progress the stories being told. Lesser shows can use guest appearances to pop a rating at a desperate attempt to drive interest in the program (looking at you The Simpsons). Yet, The Big Bang Theory became so successful, they were able to craft established personalities into actual storylines with the main characters. All while allowing the guest to have their own personality.From Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter feud with Raj to William Shatner’s flirting with Penny in a game of D&D., Each guest is used perfectly in the final season, to progress a story rather than be the focus of it.Incorporating Young SheldonWhilst spin-offs are common to capitalise on a show’s popularity. They rarely live up to expectations no matter how colossal the original show (Friends spin-off Joey for example).Yet not only has Young Sheldon proven successful, but it also provided a deeper insight into an already loved character. Helped by running simultaneously with The Big Bang Theory. Having Sheldon watch a video of his younger self and incorporating the cast of Young Sheldon gave the fans a fun moment between the two programs. All as the same character briefly fused the two worlds together.Even though this was a massive flex from the show. Sheldon’s eidetic memory means he has no need to revisit old tapes. It’s admitted in the scene and played off as Sheldon’s narcissism to allow this unique meeting of the same character in two shows.The synergyThe pilot ended with the gag that Leonard and Penny’s children would be ‘smart and beautiful’. For the past 12 years, I always felt it would have been a missed opportunity if they never resolved on the same line.Season 12 one up-ed that predictable ending with Sheldon’s heart-warming acceptance speech. When receiving his noble prize Sheldon delivers that line to the couple, bookending the two pillars of the program. Leonard’s and Penny’s relationship and Sheldon’s relationship with his friends.The payoffThe final season of The Big Bang Theory managed to give the audience a reason to stay. This was done with the race to the Nobel Prize. All whilst creating the most satisfying moment in the history of the show when Leonard slaps Sheldon to prove he isn’t asleep.We saw characters like Howard going from creepy scientist living with his mother to the astronaut-family man, becoming a topic for a children’s book. Raj becoming a successful astrophysicist and his own journey towards marriage. Each character in the show has their own achievements. Yet season 12 allows breathing room for emotional growth. It reflects the last decade of investment the audience has given to these characters.Series 12 didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or throw an unexpected curveball to shock the audience. Instead, it played to its strengths and rewarded its viewers for sticking with it.The final shot leaves the group eating dinner together, allowing us to return whenever we need some lighthearted viewing. The Big Bang Theory’ season 12 proves a TV show can grow with its audience in real-time, whilst maintaining its identity and concluding on top form.

The Big Bang Theory wrapped up in 2019 with its final season. The shows 279th episode received a 9.6 rating on IMDB and positive reviews from critics and proved to be a rare treat for both show and audience. Final episodes and television series overall tend to be lifeless husks of what they once were, like the mangey family dog, the back legs have gone… yet they mean too much to be put down.

Over the 12 years, The Big Bang Theory has entertained millions with its own brand of geek-chic. A science-based show with slow-burn storytelling. Following Jim Parsons requested exit from the show, the sitcom gave viewers their conclusion by wrapping up its final season with a warm fuzzy finale.

But not this one! Join me as I recall how the final 12th season wasn’t just good, it was the best season of The Big Bang Theory of them all.

SPOILER WARNING: The next section contains spoilers from the show.

Character growth

What established the show so long ago was its use of simple character types. Nerds’ live across the hall from an attractive lady…that was it, that was the story.

For a while, not much else was needed. Personalities were introduced and characters were slowly developed. All while the classic life events of 20 to 30+ year-olds happen (marriage, children etc..). All alongside some more extraordinary achievements (being sent to space etc.). But, the show made sure to operate on a much slower rate of change to match Sheldon’s pace.

The show can be criticised for many things, but pulling the trigger on Sheldon conforming to social norms too quickly, isn’t one of them. Season 12 starts following Sheldon and Amy’s wedding. This is an unthinkable scenario compared to season 1. Yet the episodes don’t run out of steam or jump to the convention of them starting a family. Instead, the narrative of them running for a Nobel prize is the focus, whilst the topic of family is reserved to one episode and is ran as an experiment by Amy; sticking with the shows core identity: scientists…doing science.

The show also plays with the pregnancy angle with the bait and switch of Leonard being a sperm donor for Penny’s ex Zack. This arc was refreshing and inverted expectations. Before conforming to the more predictable scenario of Penny and Leonard expecting by the finale.

Leonard’s growth

Leonard’s growth as the main character reached an apex in season 12. His deep-seated insecurities were often explained by his cold childhood and distant relationship with his mother. Towards the end of the final season, Leonard finally got to vent and forgive his mother. This came through an emotional monologue. One where both characters are stripped from their academic caricatures and a genuine connection is allowed.

Johnny Galecki, who played Leonard, told USA Today “I read over some of my initial notes about Leonard when we were doing the pilot and how much I thought the character was focused not just on Penny’s looks and charm but on her being the portal for him to experience life in a way he was too afraid to at the time. She completely brought him out of his shell.”

Season 12 gave the audience closure on Leonard’s backstory. It took the focus of the shy, insecure Leonard and presented a more comfortable character. Leonard, the acclaimed scientist, husband of his dream girl and soon to be a father.

The cameos

Over the shows time on air, the program achieved a historical 46 Emmy nominations and with this global acclaim came a plethora of guest stars.

From sci-fi legends such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer to the biggest names in science like Stephen Hawking. The show became such a staple of pop culture, and no guest became too big to be woven into the script.

This season alone saw Teller as Larry Fowler and Kathy Bates as Mrs Fowler. Whilst Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Shatner, Kevin Smith, Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Michelle Gellar all made appearances.

By the final season, the show knew how to utilise guests in order to progress the stories being told. Lesser shows can use guest appearances to pop a rating at a desperate attempt to drive interest in the program (looking at you The Simpsons). Yet, The Big Bang Theory became so successful, they were able to craft established personalities into actual storylines with the main characters. All while allowing the guest to have their own personality.

From Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter feud with Raj to William Shatner’s flirting with Penny in a game of D&D., Each guest is used perfectly in the final season, to progress a story rather than be the focus of it.

Incorporating Young Sheldon

Whilst spin-offs are common to capitalise on a show’s popularity. They rarely live up to expectations no matter how colossal the original show (Friends spin-off Joey for example).

Yet not only has Young Sheldon proven successful, but it also provided a deeper insight into an already loved character. Helped by running simultaneously with The Big Bang Theory. Having Sheldon watch a video of his younger self and incorporating the cast of Young Sheldon gave the fans a fun moment between the two programs. All as the same character briefly fused the two worlds together.

Even though this was a massive flex from the show. Sheldon’s eidetic memory means he has no need to revisit old tapes. It’s admitted in the scene and played off as Sheldon’s narcissism to allow this unique meeting of the same character in two shows.

The synergy

The pilot ended with the gag that Leonard and Penny’s children would be ‘smart and beautiful’. For the past 12 years, I always felt it would have been a missed opportunity if they never resolved on the same line.

Season 12 one up-ed that predictable ending with Sheldon’s heart-warming acceptance speech. When receiving his noble prize Sheldon delivers that line to the couple, bookending the two pillars of the program. Leonard’s and Penny’s relationship and Sheldon’s relationship with his friends.

The payoff

The final season of The Big Bang Theory managed to give the audience a reason to stay. This was done with the race to the Nobel Prize. All whilst creating the most satisfying moment in the history of the show when Leonard slaps Sheldon to prove he isn’t asleep.

We saw characters like Howard going from creepy scientist living with his mother to the astronaut-family man, becoming a topic for a children’s book. Raj becoming a successful astrophysicist and his own journey towards marriage. Each character in the show has their own achievements. Yet season 12 allows breathing room for emotional growth. It reflects the last decade of investment the audience has given to these characters.

Series 12 didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or throw an unexpected curveball to shock the audience. Instead, it played to its strengths and rewarded its viewers for sticking with it.

The final shot leaves the group eating dinner together, allowing us to return whenever we need some lighthearted viewing. The Big Bang Theory’ season 12 proves a TV show can grow with its audience in real-time, whilst maintaining its identity and concluding on top form.


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