After the past few seasons of spicy cliffhangers, fans of The Big Bang Theory were treated to a relatively mild Season 9 finale Thursday night with “The Convergence Convergence.”
The episode was a nice change of pace from the emotional turmoil we’ve gotten in season finales past (Sheldon leaving on a train in Season 7, Shamy’s breakup in Season 8), but overall, it didn’t feel like a finale while watching it at first. Rather, it feels like the set-up for the next episode (the Season 10 premiere) to have the big cliffhanger or twist one might expect of a season finale.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a good episode. If you watch it closely, you can see how things are getting built up to be continued next season and, instead of a summer of agonizing heartbreak or anxiety, there’s actually excitement to be found in it (which is perhaps why its impact seems dulled: fans may have become spoiled and expect emotional turmoil now).
The main focal point of the episode, of course, is Leonard and Penny’s impending vow renewals. Instead of actually seeing them, however, we see more of the planning and family interaction that usually goes into weddings (albeit, at a sped-up pace) as a make-up for last year when the couple ran off to Vegas to elope. Bernadette is asked to officiate the ceremony (and Amy not-so-subtly claims the role of maid of honor), which doesn’t receive much attention, implying that it’ll be addressed in full at the beginning of next season. And then, we get to see the families begin to arrive.
Specifically, we see Leonard’s mother, Beverly (who arrived in the previous episode), and father, Alfred (played by Judd Hirsch from Taxi and seen for the first time), as well as Sheldon’s mother, Mary. While it was nice to see Leonard have a close, endearing relationship with his father as opposed to the nearly nonexistent love he gets from his mother, the dynamic between the trio of parents becomes the attention-grabber of the episode. Alfred and Mary seem to hit it off pretty well and end up going back to their hotel at the end of the episode, while Beverly and Alfred exchange bitter insults as the divorced couple they are, and Mary is humorously convinced that Beverly is a cold-hearted vampire. It’s interesting to see how their clashing personalities and situations have and will continue to interact.
On the other side of the table, something fans should take notice of are the mentions of Penny’s family, and how they haven’t arrived yet. We’ve only seen Penny’s father so far in the series, and if there was ever a hint that we’re finally going to get to meet her other family members, this would be it. There’s been speculation that her mother would be played by Friends‘ Lisa Kudrow, so it’s exciting to get revved up for the likely possibility that we finally meet her.
Penny and Leonard’s relationship itself is represented well in the finale. The growth in their love for each other over the years is clear and pure, particularly when Beverly blatantly insults their marriage in the car ride to the restaurant. Leonard’s comeback of, “Mom, please save something for the toast,” and their shared laugh over it, instead of being offended, shows that their bond can’t be shaken. And then Alfred’s actual toast to the couple in the restaurant, while interrupted, was an adorable and promising moment in that they’re truly meant to be together, and others can see it.
And what about Pasadena’s favorite power couple, Shamy? While they’re not a prominent feature in the episode (most likely because the entire first half of the season revolved heavily around them), it was nice to take a step back and observe Sheldon and Amy as a regular ol’ couple, while still being true to their characters. Sheldon was still classic Sheldon in how he assumed he had every right to invite his mother to Leonard and Penny’s wedding and later was generally oblivious to the budding romance between Mary and Alfred, and Amy’s patience (and sarcasm) was still tested by her boyfriend’s social skills. But in subtle ways, their interaction was a manifestation of this season’s trials and tribulations for them, and it produced a mature, stable bond for us to witness.
Now, while there were plenty of relationship dynamics in the works, the one thing that stole the show above all else was the subplot of Howard and Raj’s paranoia, which comes about after the U.S. Air Force emails Howard with an interest in his working guidance system and they believed they are being spied on. The moment Howard realizes he has a workable system and celebrates with Raj is a touching and wonderful moment for the scientific backbone of the series, but every scene with them (and Bernadette) afterwards is pure comedy gold. In particular, the bits of Raj telling the computer camera that he “loves America” and “America’s enemies,” and then the storyline’s climax of Howard, Raj, and Bernadette thinking Leonard’s car was a government vehicle chasing them were hilarious and a true testament to these actors’ comedic genius.
Overall, the Season 9 finale was funny yet rather anti-climatic, but if you look at the big picture, it’s a nice break for the gang’s status quo and the fans’ emotions over the summer. And with the many loose ends of plot it left unfinished, it will hopefully morph into a good set-up for the Season 10 premiere to kick off from this fall.