NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the ninth season of “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review
The Big Bang Theory continues to chug along, mightier than ever with the conclusion of its ninth season, and to this long-running sitcom’s credit, it’s still managing to defy its age pretty well. Even after Leonard and Penny have gotten married, there was plenty of interesting story events to go around this season, as Sheldon and Amy break up, Howard and Bernadette begin expecting a child, and Raj starts dating two different women! On paper, it seems like a very exciting season, and in some respects, The Big Bang Theory pushed the show forward in Season Nine in ways that Season Eight sometimes failed to do.
On the negative side however, the show’s ninth season felt a little wonkier than the eighth season at times, even if it was still largely good overall. Despite still managing some standout episodes this season, such as, “The Opening Night Excitation”, “The Spock Resonance”, and, “The Big Bear Precipitation”, the show also had a strange tendency to fall flat on its face when it was supposed to be achieving its greatest milestones this season. Most shockingly, The Big Bang Theory’s landmark 200th episode, “The Celebration Experimentation”, was a major dud, suffering from lacklustre writing and weak humour. Likewise, the show’s latest season finale was inexcusably dull, and failed to cap off Season Nine with any degree of excitement, to the point where some people didn’t even know that it was supposed to be a season finale! That’s not good.
To go with the positives however, the early break-up between Sheldon and Amy led to some great, funny and effectively emotional storylines early in the season. Inevitably, the break-up doesn’t stick, and by the back half of the season, Sheldon and Amy are back together and largely in the exact same relationship, beyond the fact that they’re finally having sex now, anyway, which was the big turn in the midseason finale, “The Opening Night Excitation”, easily one of the season’s best episodes, matching last season’s standout, “The Prom Equivalency.” Still, learning about Amy’s more attractive side, and Sheldon’s more sensitive side, was pretty entertaining, and many of the best moments this season easily belonged to Sheldon and Amy.
Likewise, Leonard and Penny’s increased maturity came into decent focus this season, even if The Big Bang Theory still won’t be upsetting the status quo to any real degree yet. Sadly, the episode that most tried to focus on Leonard and Penny’s increased age and altered marriage psychology, “The Valentino Submergence”, was also one of the season’s weaker episodes, but it’s good to see that the series is giving a heavier air of reflection towards these two characters. Sure, they’re not truly old, as both of them are merely in their 30’s, but even so, it was neat to have the show take stock of the many things that have happened to finally see Leonard and Penny getting married, something that the show was teasing from the very start in 2007, and what it might have cost both characters in the process.
On the less successful end however, Howard’s and Bernadette’s pregnancy didn’t really amount to much this season. It seems like a Season Ten tease that was revealed strangely early in Season Nine, with a few jokes being made about it in the back half of Season Nine, but not much else. Even the weird, abrupt way that the show revealed Bernadette’s pregnancy was very odd and tone-deaf, and fittingly, that was also in, “The Valentino Submergence.” Also, Howard and Bernadette were supposed to be adopting that rabbit, and yet, Valentino is never brought up nor seen again for the rest of the season. On top of that, as I already said in my review of that episode, how in blue hell does a rabbit get into a sealed hot tub?!
Also less successful was the whole love triangle with Raj, which just didn’t go anywhere noteworthy. Raj came off as far too whiny and unlikable throughout much of this season, sadly, and was largely relegated to being a plot device, and one that was frequently overshadowed by the other characters and their own storylines. Yet again, as with the end of Season Eight, Raj breaking up with Emily doesn’t stick this season, and things get further complicated with the introduction of the other woman, Claire, but Claire is introduced too late in the season to make that much of an impact. Claire is definitely the more logical choice for Raj’s mate, but Emily is supposedly sexier, yet also crazier, and doesn’t seem like the better deal. Seeing as the show is maturing everybody else, why is Raj still acting like an adolescent? The love triangle just feels like a non-conflict that’s being forced simply because the season didn’t have any better ideas for Raj, and that’s quite annoying.
At the very least, The Big Bang Theory avoided the feeling of recycling plots this season, and took the characters to new and interesting locations and situations, or at least attempted to. The in-show advertising by Warner Bros. and Time Warner for things like Game of Thrones, Suicide Squad and other such products got a bit obnoxious in a couple of episodes (in fairness, Disney also seems to have paid for an episode-long plug for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the midseason finale), and the show really wasn’t subtle about plugging these products compared to prior seasons, but at least this didn’t sink the humour, which was still pretty good throughout most of the season. Still, Season Ten had best dial back the advertising, since this is a great sitcom, and things like that will instantly date it during legacy views in the future.
Even with a bit of a dip in quality compared to Season Eight, especially in the disappointingly flat season finale, Season Nine still has The Big Bang Theory feeling healthy and entertaining, as it prepares to move into its tenth season later this year. Whether the show is worth keeping on after the automatic renewals run out with the conclusion of Season Ten next year remains to be seen, though considering that this is currently the biggest and most-watched sitcom on television, I imagine that CBS will do everything in their power to keep this series going for as long as possible, no matter how much money they have to throw at the actors. For now though, the series has yet to overstay its welcome, and hopefully, that’s still true by the end of Season Ten. Let’s just avoid another Two and a Half Men fiasco, alright, CBS?
- Sheldon and Amy's early break-up
- Leonard and Penny are visibly affected by their marriage
- Appreciated effort to take the series to fresh territory
- Wolowitz pregnancy is pointless for now
- Raj's love triangle is tedious and uninteresting
- Botches the 200th episode and season finale, badly