In the 2010s, network TV gave up its dominance as cable and (now streaming services) took over. What remained was a variety of detective and reality shows, but one sitcom broke through to become not just the biggest show of its era, but one of the best comedies of all-time. The Big Bang Theory grew from a small show with a cult following to being a ratings juggernaut for a decade. Four years ago, it was finally time for everyone to bow out with an unforgettable two-part finale. Though The Big Bang Theory still lives on in syndication and on streaming, its ending wrapped up everything perfectly in a truly heartfelt sendoff.
Leonard and Penny Find Out That They’re Going to Be Parents
The Big Bang Theory‘s finale was a two-parter called “The Change Constant” and “The Stockholm Syndrome,” both of which aired on May 16, 2019. The final episodes of The Big Bang Theory saw Leonard (Johnny Galecki) wanting to be a dad but Penny (Kaley Cuoco) wanting no part of motherhood. It seemed as if the couple wasn’t going to be parents, but because this is a sitcom series finale, and the unofficial rules state that sitcom finales must have someone either getting married, making or having a baby, or moving away, Penny was destined to be pregnant.
The finale sees Leonard and Penny and Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), on a plane to Sweden with Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) because the latter couple is to be awarded the Nobel Prize. Penny keeps taking constant trips to the bathroom during the flight to throw up, leaving Sheldon concerned. He thinks she has a stomach virus. “If it’s viral, we’re all susceptible.” An overly worried (as usual) Sheldon approaches Leonard about how his sick wife is “going to take us all down with her.” When Penny returns she decides to tell Sheldon that she’s pregnant. He has a typical self-centered Sheldon reaction. “You’re right, I can’t catch that.”
Leonard angrily confronts Sheldon over the fact that he heard that his friend was pregnant, yet all he cared about was himself. As everyone finds out about the pregnancy, Leonard tells Sheldon that they weren’t saying anything because they didn’t want to upstage Sheldon and Amy’s moment. Sheldon, as he’s prone to do, sticks his foot in his mouth. “You couldn’t upstage us. We won a Nobel Prize. Any idiot can have a baby.”
Everyone on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Gets a Proper Ending Story
Amy and Sheldon are winning the Nobel Prize, and Penny and Leonard are going to be a mom and dad, but they’re not the only ones who see their character arcs go in new directions. Going into the episode, Leonard has learned to accept his over-analyzing mother (Christine Barnanski), and comic book shop owner Stuart (Kevin Sussman) is moving in with his girlfriend. It’s not a dramatic episode for Howard and Bernadette. They’ve already had their huge moments, like getting married, becoming parents, and losing Howard’s mother after actress Carol Ann Susi died in 2014. Somehow, Howard, who was the most immature of everyone in the beginning, is now, along with Bernadette, ahead of everyone else. Most of their time in The Big Bang Theory finale sees them worried about leaving their kids behind for the first time, and with Stuart (of all people).
Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) arc goes in a new direction by staying the same. Raj has always been the romantic of the group and desperately searches for love, even though, for the longest time, he couldn’t even speak in front of a woman. In the later seasons, as he began to grow and could speak in front of the opposite sex, Raj still didn’t have any luck. He could win the interest of a woman here and there, but she wasn’t the right fit. Raj, the perpetual nice guy, is so lonely and desperate that he goes to his father to have him set him up in an arranged marriage. It’s something he’s been against, but he’s come to accept that it’s the only way he’ll be happy. Enter Anu (Rati Gupta). Raj gets along with her well enough, and it looked as if The Big Bang Theory was going to end with Raj finding love with her, but their relationship never felt quite right, even as they learned to love one another after calling off their marriage to just date instead.
When Anu has to move to London for her job, it looks as if Raj is going to follow her. He wants to propose, but is it just because he doesn’t want to be alone? Still, sitcom finales need someone to move away, so it looks as if Raj is on his way out. Then comes a conversation with Howard. His best friend tells him not to go to London, but to stay in America with his friends. Anu is not the one for him, no matter how much he wants to be with someone. Raj accepts this and breaks up with Anu.
For years, fans of The Big Bang Theory waited for Raj to find his soulmate, and the series ends with him not having found her. That’s heartbreaking, but there’s also growth there. Raj didn’t chase desperation for once. He allowed himself to lose something that wasn’t meant for him and put the search for true love first. Meanwhile, he’ll stay right where he is with the friends who are his family. Even the apartment elevator on The Big Bang Theory, one of the best running gags on the show, gets fixed! For twelve seasons it never worked but instead had a line of tape over the door, leaving the characters to take the steps up and down every day.
Sheldon Gives the Speech of His Life
The Big Bang Theory might have been an ensemble show, but let’s face it, Sheldon was the star. There’s a reason why Jim Parsons won four Emmys playing him and why he got a spinoff in Young Sheldon. Yeah, Sheldon’s all about himself, but it’s part of the character’s eccentric personality. He doesn’t understand people or relationships. He is cruel when he doesn’t mean to be, and while this is played for laughs, Sheldon grows as well. He finds someone just as odd as him in Amy, and together they become more open, even getting married and then working together, where they win a Nobel Prize.
Sheldon Cooper might be a TV fan-favorite, but he still needs to prove to the audience he can grow. hasn’t grown enough, though. He’s still a jerk and everyone around him is getting sick of accepting that it’s just how he is. Sheldon is self-absorbed. Sheldon is heartless. Sheldon is mean and cruel. His comments about Penny’s pregnancy go too far. Then he’s cruel to Howard and Bernadette. Everyone is ready to go home and leave him, not even caring to be there for his big speech. Amy calls him out in their hotel room as they’re getting ready. When Sheldon calls his friends selfish, she says, “You would be the authority on the subject.” She goes on to tell him that he broke their hearts. Taken aback, Sheldon says he didn’t mean to. At her wit’s end, Amy tells him, “I know. You never mean to. It’s the only reason people tolerate you.” When Sheldon asks if that includes her, Amy is painfully honest, because her heart is broken, too. “Sometimes, yeah.”
‘The Big Bang Theory’ Sticks the Landing
This moment gives Sheldon his big breakthrough. He’s had little ones before, doing just enough, but now, in the biggest moment of his career, the people he loves are bailing on him, and he realizes it means nothing without them. Sheldon’s Nobel Prize speech becomes a touching moment about all of his friends, and not about him. His friends have decided to stay to hear what he has to say. “I was under the misapprehension that my accomplishments were mine alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been encouraged, sustained, inspired, and tolerated not only by my wife, but by the greatest group of friends anyone ever had.”
He has them all stand, calling out their names, even calling Howard an astronaut for the first time, and calling Penny and Leonard his two dearest friends. He says that Leonard and Penny will have the smartest and most beautiful baby. To all of them he says, “I apologize if I haven’t been the friend you deserve, but I want you to know, in my way, I love you all.” Bigger than even winning a Nobel Prize was this moment for Sheldon, where he becomes a real, caring, less self-absorbed person. The closing moments of The Big Bang Theory make it one of the best episodes, as it fittingly has the gang back at the apartment where it all started. They sit on the couch, eating their take-out, laughing and talking. There are no sad goodbyes, no one “moving on,” but instead, they are all together for the next chapter.