Sheldon Just Called for the Breakup of The Big Bang Theory’s OG Couple
The Big Bang Theory is not This Is Us. (Hello, of course not, you’re thinking). Meaning, there aren’t cryptic clues foreshadowing the fate of a character each week. We’re not usually left hanging at the end of each episode. And we sure aren’t crying. But in tonight’s Big Bang—titled “The Separation Agitation”—I had to wonder if the episode cleverly foreshadowed a major turning point in the lives of two key characters, Penny and Leonard.
If you were to describe the episode as a whole, Penny and Leonard might not even come up. The two of them together were barely in it; Stuart and Bert probably had more airtime. The episode mainly revolved around the end of Bernadette’s maternity leave (a topic the writers have tackled honestly this episode and last) and Bert’s new girlfriend (played by Drop Dead Diva‘s April Bowlby). Penny and Leonard were in just a handful of scenes and were used only to move other plot points along. But if you watch the episode again, you might notice the title—”The Separation Agitation”—could apply to more than just Bernadette and Howard leaving Halley in daycare. Perhaps it’s indicative of what’s been brewing for Leonard and Penny for well over a year.
During the course of seasons nine and ten, we’ve seen exactly how different Big Bang‘s OG couple really is from one another. The show often calls out Penny’s good looks over Leonard’s schlubby appearance, but that’s a dated trope as far as why a couple is or isn’t meant to be. Instead we’ve seen them fight over things like a secret bank account, superhero memorabilia, family members…the list goes on. They even had Sheldon draft them a relationship agreement. Despite being married for almost two years—and in a relationship on and off for many before that—they weren’t even able to be honest about a relatively simple trip to Comic-Con. And, as I’ve pointed our numerous times in the past, affection doesn’t come naturally to these two. They act more like platonic BFFs or an old married couple than newlyweds. (And by the way, no offense to “old married couples” who I’ve seen adorably act like newlyweds). Bottom line, something’s been off.
Then again, every relationship is different. Leonard’s not your average run of the mill guy. Penny is no longer the ditzy blonde waitress with zero knowledge of Jar Jar Binks. They do love each other. I’m just not sure love is enough for these two—especially to sustain “till death do you part.” (I mean, I think Penny is more excited to play house with temporary roommate Raj than her own husband.)
In tonight’s episode, Sheldon pointed out that Bert’s new girlfriend reminded him of Penny, and thus was a metaphor for the relationship between Leonard (the anti-suave, scientist dude) and Penny (the confident bombshell who’s into anything but science). But while Bert’s new girlfriend was only with him for his six-figure grant, Leonard joked that it was his groveling that finally wore down Penny. And sure, while Penny and Leonard are a much better match than Bert and his lady friend, Sheldon did hit on an uncomfortable truth that made me wonder if this was a sign of things to come.
The exchange in question? This:
Penny to Bert: “Relationships are about respect and having things in common.”
Sheldon to Penny: “You and Leonard don’t have anything in common. Maybe you two should break up.”
Leonard shrugged and jokingly blamed Penny for calling on Sheldon to speak. And with that, the scene was over. No other mention, no other reference. But it was a truthful statement that got me thinking. Are these two really endgame? Do they have anything other than their love of Chinese food and dance parties in common? Can a relationship with so many issues survive? Or is this one of the most authentic relationships we’re currently seeing on television?
Granted, after 10 seasons on the air—with a guaranteed two more in its future—the writers have done a good job (some may argue too good of a job) creating obstacles for Lenny. In the beginning, seeing two characters so polar opposite was an intriguing premise, but perhaps even the writers didn’t expect them to last this long. They’ve been together in their 20s and 30s, which are prime transformative years for anyone. As much as I hate to write it, I don’t necessarily think they have what it takes to make it for the long haul.
Earlier this year, Penny confided to Amy and Bernadette, “Leonard and I have been married for two years, and we’re no further along [in our lives] than when we were dating.” (On one hand, that’s totally fine and normal. On the other, you shouldn’t be regressing, which seems to be the case here.) In another episode, she accused Leonard of not giving a crap. And then let’s not forget that hours before they eloped, Leonard admitted he kissed a girl while drunk at sea. Not exactly the makings of a solid marriage. I mean, Amy and Sheldon aren’t even engaged yet and it’s obvious they’re light years ahead of their counterparts in terms of communication.
But is it a bad thing if Leonard and Penny aren’t destined to be together forever? (Obviously if they aren’t, now would be the time to figure that out before kids come into the picture.) It’s a concept that’s not easy for diehard Lenny fans, who have rooted for this couple since day one. It’s also a story that I wouldn’t have seen happening in earlier seasons. But given how sophisticated and honest the writers have gotten with telling each character’s story, it’s one that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see play out the rest of season 10 and into season 11.
If you thought Sheldon had already dealt with a lot of change, God only knows how he’ll handle something like this. (Hey, perhaps he can cry it out while watching This Is Us.)
Related: The cast and crew of The Big Bang Theory just had an adorable four-legged visitor come to set. Check this out:
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8:00 P.M. on CBS.