The Big Bang Theory
Episode 24: The Bon Voyage Reaction
The Season Finale
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
The second season of the Big Bang Theory had ended with the group going to the North Pole. Penny and Leonard had dated briefly at the beginning of the season before breaking up. They managed to repair their friendship so that it was stronger than before but they still had feelings toward each other. The sixth season ends with Leonard going to Europe to work on a project for Stephen Hawking. He's going by himself this time but that's not the biggest difference. He's with Penny now. The two have been dating since the hundredth episode. It hasn't been smooth sailing but the two have gotten to a place where Penny is comfortable with him going away for four months. This is pretty impressive considering how they started out at the beginning of the season. Penny was so unsure about their relationship that she actually thought about breaking up with him. They managed to stick together as Penny decides to commit herself into being with Leonard. The show made some moves to have her be comfortable with where they are by bringing in a girl for her to be jealous of. Leonard himself gained some confidence as Alex flirted with him. It helps that he stopped proposing all the time but their relationship got to the point where Penny was finally able to proclaim that she loved him. It might have come out in the middle of a fight but it basically was them moving into their next stage of their relationship. It went from being rocky and viable to fall to being on solid ground. Leonard is able to leave to Europe with the confidence he needs that his relationship with Penny is going to survive. He panics a bit when he fears that it won't but she's able to make him realize they can survive. It's important to note that it's Penny who is giving him the confidence boost-she has grown so much ever since the very idea of committing to him led to their second break-up. Now she can handle being in a long-distance relationship with him.
The person with the big problem with Leonard going away is actually Sheldon. He has multiple reasons on why he doesn't want his roommate to go. He doesn't want to be alone because it would mean having to try and take care of himself. He's not going to have his best friend to drive him everywhere and he's afraid to be alone. Sheldon doesn't want Leonard to go because he's jealous. Sheldon holds Hawking in high respect. He wanted to meet the doctor when Howard worked for Hawking and he took it as a sign of friendship when Hawking started to play Words with Friends with him. It makes sense that Sheldon thinks that he should be the one to go on that research trip. He feels like he deserves it and it would be a dream job for him. He's never been a character who has taken it well when his friends succeed. It's partially due to Penny that he's able to pretend that he's happy for his friend. It's a nice gesture that he at least attempts to be supportive as it's yet another sign of his character growth. He might have undermined it when he basically admitted he was faking but it's the thought that counts. These are selfish reasons but he was also concerned for his friend. This is why he worries that Leonard might drown or have to fight a shark during the trip. He might not actually say it out loud but he does infer it when he's afraid that the person he thinks of as “unnamed red shirt” shouldn't be going on any mission. It's basically a way for him to state that he's worried about his friend's well-being. So the sixth season ends with Leonard going away to Europe. It'll be interesting to see if the next season starts with him coming back or if they're going to follow him on the last leg of his trip. Whatever the case, I do like how Sheldon's humanity is able to subtly show itself even as he acts like his usual self. He's really growing.
The character who grows the most is Raj. He wants more from his relationship with Lucy. He wants to be her boyfriend rather than someone who is dating her. He's interested in being in a serious relationship with her. His first step is to try and get her to meet his friends. Lucy is able to meet Amy but she doesn't like the pressure that Raj puts on the relationship. She can't handle it so she ends up breaking up with him. Raj is devastated by this news but this relationship led to a significant piece of character development that has frankly been a long time coming. When Penny goes over to comfort him, she mistakes his grief for the alcohol talking. Only he's sober as she talks with her. Lucy's relationship has basically given him the confidence he needed in order to break out of his quirk of only being able to speak with women while intoxicated. Raj's “can't-talk-to-women” running gag ran out of steam a long time ago so it's nice to finally lay it to rest. Howard used to be a womanizer who was humanized by Bernadette. Sheldon might be self-centered but he's been trying to connect with people. Leonard might have always been the most normal of the guys but his eagerness created conflict with Penny. Once he was able to try and control it, she was able to commit herself to him. Penny has managed to grow as she's grown more comfortable with the idea of commitment while becoming slightly more intelligent by being around her circle of friends. The only character who has been there since the pilot who hasn't seen any real growth is Raj. He might have become more metropolitan but he's remained unable to talk to women sober and he's largely remained the same. His relationship with Lucy finally allowed him to start on growing. The Big Bang Theory is often a show criticized because it's characters are on stasis but these critics would be wrong. Now that even Raj no longer needs alcohol to talk to women, each character has made significant strides since the beginning of the series. It's very satisfying to see this character growth.
I'm going to go out and state that the sixth season of this show has been the best one this show has done so far. The character development in this season has been the best that this show has done. Sheldon has been able to admit that he's struggling with trying to connect to people. He's trying to change even though it's hard for him. Amy has become frustrated as she wants more from her relationship with Sheldon to the point where it's actually forcing him to grow more in order to keep her. Penny has been able to admit that she loves Leonard and has become committed to him. Leonard has become more confident in his relationship with Penny. Howard might have grown the least but his marriage with Bernadette has allowed him to address some of his mommy issues. Raj got into a serious relationship and can now talk to women sober. There might have been some episodes and a continual reliance on outdated stereotypes but it's been a great season when it came to the characters and their relationships with each other. This season has been under a new showrunner with Steven Molaro and his concentration on the character's storylines have helped keep the Big Bang Theory on top in the ratings. It's also helped keep the Big Bang Theory a truly funny show that continues to be one of my favorites. Heck, I think the fact that it's the only multi-camera comedy I still watch speaks volumes about it's quality.
The Bon Voyage Reaction is not the first season to end with the characters leaving on a trip. The second season ended with the guys going to the North Pole. The fifth season finale had ended with Howard going into space. This season now ends with Leonard going to Europe. It's the strength of the finale that it used this trip to show how Penny's relationship with him as developed while having Sheldon share concern (and jealousy) for his friend. The Raj story might sadly see the end of Lucy's time on this show but at least he can talk to women now. The Big Bang Theory ends it's strongest season to date with a spectacular finale.