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The Big Bang Theory - The Change Constant/The Stockholm Syndrome (Series Finale) - Review: "And the Nobel goes to..."

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The unthinkable has happened. The Big Bang Theory aired its very last episode (though I’m sure CBS is already working on the revival). After spending twelve years with Sheldon, Leonard, Penny & Co they said goodbye this Thursday in an hour-long series finale.

The Change Constant

Sheldon, Amy, Leonard and Penny stay up all night waiting for the big, potentially life-changing call from Sweden. The call that informs them whether Amy and Sheldon have won the Nobel Prize. After a prank call from Kripke and a call from Howard asking for news, the committee finally contacts them. Amy is the one to pick up the phone. She barely says anything and shows no reaction whatsoever before hanging up again. Calmly she states: “We won.”
Sheldon is not entirely certain this is actually happening. What if all of this is nothing but a dream? What if he wakes up and it turns out they actually lost? So, Leonard does what anybody else would do in his situation: he slaps Sheldon. Apparently, this is all the confirmation the scientist needs to realize that this is not a dream nor a hallucination! They won. They actually won! Together with his wife he finally achieved his biggest dream! Dr. Sheldon Copper and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler won the Nobel Prize in Physics! All four of them are over the moon and celebrate the good news with a group hug and some slight screaming.

The next day, on their way to work, Amy and Sheldon get held up by a group of journalists who were waiting for them in front of their apartment building. It appears the couple has become famous overnight. This is something not at all unexpected but still, they are overwhelmed by the sudden attention. While Amy is able to deal with it Sheldon prefers to hide away in his office. Winning the Nobel comes with so many changes which Sheldon completely neglected to consider beforehand. On top of this nightmare, the manager of their apartment building finally decided to fix the elevator and Amy, encouraged by Raj, got a haircut and some new outfits. This is simply too much for Sheldon. He cannot deal with this.  He is confronted with way too many changes at once. He needs to get away, leave the building, go somewhere else. Penny follows him and they both wind up at a bar where Penny mentions something Sheldon, despite his high IQ, keeps forgetting: the only constant in life is change. She points out how much he himself has changed over the years. Changed for the better. Looking at change as a constant seems to help Sheldon deal with his fear. When they get back home he even rides the elevator with Penny. Our little smarty pants has come a long way...

The Stockholm Syndrome

The second part of the one-hour finale is set a few weeks later, right before the gang is leaving for Sweden. Amy and Sheldon gifted each of their friends a plane ticket to Stockholm. They want them all to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony. They want them to be there on their big day.

Once on the plane, Sheldon gets worried when he notices Penny seems to use the bathroom every few minutes. Is she sick? Does she have the stomach flu? Is the entire plane contaminated already? Will they all die? Leonard assures him that Penny is most certainly not ill. When Sheldon still does not calm down Penny reveals the secret she and Leonard have been keeping: she is pregnant.

I am not quite sure what to think about the news. While I was sure the series would end with Penny being pregnant I hoped her earlier decision to not have kids would at least be addressed again. Instead, all the doubts she had in the past were ignored. Did they just disappear? What is the message we take away from that? If a woman does not want kids but accidentally gets pregnant she will suddenly love the idea of being a mom? Is this really how it works? This may be a romantic scenario but it is not a realistic one. Don‘t get me wrong, I am beyond excited there'll be a baby Hofstadter but this particular plot just seemed not very thought-out.

When Sheldon gets to know about the baby his only reaction is to be relieved that Penny does not have the stomach flu. His lack of enthusiasm hurts Leonard. Sheldon does not understand why he is supposed to congratulate them. After all, every idiot can procreate. Leonard is beside himself with anger.
Leonard: To hell with you and your Nobel Prize!

Only a few hours after arriving in Stockholm, Howard and Bernadette announce they are thinking about going back home. Stuart seems to be completely overwhelmed with the little ones. Michael has a fever and Halley fell down the stairs. Sheldon cannot comprehend how they would want to leave on his big day. For the couple, his insensitive reaction encourages them even further to fly back home. Leonard decides to join them. He is sick of Sheldon‘s selfish behavior.

Sheldon, however, believes his friends are the selfish ones. He is about the get the most important prize one can ever win and they are not going to be there. How can they do this to him? The scientist is rather shocked to find out Amy is upset with him as well. What he did not seem to realize is that their friends did not just leave him but her as well. He chased them away! She informs him that Leonard is heartbroken about his lack of reaction to the baby news. Sheldon was not aware of that. He did not mean to hurt anyone.

Amy: "I know. You never mean to. That's the only reason people tolerate you!”

Sheldon: Does that include you? 

Amy: Sometimes, yeah.

When Amy and Sheldon get their Nobel medals handed to them Penny, Leonard, Howard, Bernadette and Raj are in attendence cheering for them. They have decided to stay after all. This is such a special moment in their friends' life. They simply cannot miss it. And no matter how selfish Sheldon is, they still love him and always will.

Amy is the first to give her acceptance speech.

Amy: I would just like to take this moment to say to all the young girls out there who dream about science as a profession: go for it. It is the greatest job in the world. And if anybody tells you you can't, don't listen. 

When it‘s Sheldon’s turn he decides to do something drastic: He does not give his prepared speech about his childhood and about all the people who held him back and wronged him. Instead, he decides to talk about the people without whom he would not have won the Nobel: his friends.

Sheldon: I have a very long and somewhat self-centered speech here. But I'd like to set it aside. Because this honor doesn't just belong to me. I wouldn't be up here if it weren't for some very important people in my life. Beginning with my mother, father, meemaw, brother and sister. And my other family, who I'm so happy to have here with us. (...) I was under a 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. I'd like to ask them to stand. Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski Wolowitz. Astronaut Howard Wolowitz. And my two dearest friends in the world, Penny Hofstadter and Dr. Leonard Hofstadter. I was there the moment Leonard and Penny met. He said to me that their babies would be smart and beautiful. And now that they're expecting, I have no doubt that that will be the case. 
Penny: Thanks, Sheldon. I-I haven't told my parents yet, but thanks. 
Sheldon: Oh. I'm sorry. Don't tell anyone that last thing. That's a secret. 
Sheldon: Howard, Bernadette, Raj, Penny, Leonard, I apologize if I haven't been the friend you deserve. But I want you to know in my way, I love you all. 

Was his speech surprising? No. Was it still the most moving thing on the planet? Hell, yes! I certainly shed some tears.

In the next and very last scene, the gang is back at home, sitting on the couch in the living room, having dinner. As it always was and as it always will be. An acoustic version of the theme song is playing in the background.

While the show did not end with a BIG BANG (though Sheldon and Amy getting a Nobel was huge - but not surprising!), it was still a very fitting finale that did the show justice. While I am somewhat sad Raj did not find a woman he could start a family with, I think he still seemed pretty content with his life in the end. Beloved characters like Stuart, Bert and Kripke made one last short appearance and the woman sitting next to Raj on the plane turned out to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer aka Sarah Michelle Gellar. So there was even one last appearance of a famous guest star playing herself.

When the show commenced 12 years ago, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard were outsiders. Them preferring comics, science fiction and science over social outings was considered weird. Back then the majority of the audience did not know characters of comics, and science fiction shows like Doctor Who or Firefly. Today movies about comic characters are blockbusters every person wants to watch the moment they drop. Doctor Who and Firefly are classics one cannot miss. In this aspect the world has changed a lot over the last ten years, the show, however, has not. Presumably, this is why the series finale was not as hyped as one thought it would be several years ago. Because the characters were not the underdogs anymore they used to be.

Still, I enjoyed the way the show ended. There were no surprises which also means there were no negative surprises. It was not the best finale in the history of television but it sure was a lot more enjoyable than the final episode that How I Met Your Mother delivered.

I am going to miss the gang. A lot.

What about you? Did you like the series finale? Did you expect something different? Let us know what you think!

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