NOTE: We apologize for the tardiness of this review. Our regular television reviewer was ill at and around the time of airing.
NOTE 2: Full spoilers for this episode of The Big Bang Theory are present in this review.
It’s not often that Sheldon and Leonard have such an effective united front, but “The Troll Manifestation” appeared to represent big things for both of them. It also proved to be the best episode of The Big Bang Theory since “The Prom Equivalency”, particularly in how it effectively spotlighted the female leads this week.
The main plot of the episode involves Leonard having a theory while eating a meal with Penny, and taking it to Sheldon. The two decide to publish it as a paper, where it gets high praise from the scientific community. All seems well, until one person, a supposed ‘internet troll’, leaves seemingly baseless negative comments and attacks the character of both men. Naturally, Sheldon in particular doesn’t take this well, which leads to making a bad situation worse as Sheldon attempts to put the troll in his place.
As much as the laughs came very frequently with Sheldon’s bumbling attempt to improve the situation, “The Troll Manifestation” succeeded best with its commentary on internet trolls, asking the age-old question of how exactly one becomes an internet troll, and how someone could possibly get off on making people miserable online. It’s amazing that the show hasn’t tackled this clear and ever-present issue more, as it seems that every day, another cowardly asshole is hiding behind an online handle with the sole purpose of making someone else’s online experience as difficult and frustrating as it can possibly be. Why? It’s something that I don’t understand myself.
Naturally, the show didn’t come up with any right answers, even as Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj all debated what makes trolls tick. Fortunately, everything worked out in the end regardless, since the ‘troll’ in question was revealed to be Dr. Stephen Hawking, a former nemesis of Sheldon on more than one occasion, who was simply dicking with Sheldon and Leonard because he was bored. Sure, it was a slightly predictable turnout (Kripke was another likely suspect that would have made a lot of sense), but it was uplifting to see Hawking praise the paper in the end, and affirm that he actually likes it, and was simply having fun at the expense of Sheldon in particular.
As much as it ends on an uplifting note, does that make online trolling any more acceptable? Probably not, but at least it prevented the material from going to a place darker than The Big Bang Theory can normally handle.
As much as the guys did well this week though, this is a rare example of an episode where the women had even better material to work with, believe it or not! After Bernadette and Amy decide to watch Penny’s famously awful gorilla horror movie, embarrassing her horribly, Penny decides to get even by unearthing some pageant footage of Bernadette. On both counts, this leads to massive hilarity, but things get even better when Amy has an even more embarrassing secret that the girls discover; She writes Little House on the Prarie fan fiction, and it revolves around her repressed sexual desires toward Sheldon.
It’s very difficult not to be doubled over in laughter as Amy’s fan fiction is read out, and later shown at the very end of the episode, with a very funny scene involving an old-time Amy trying to bathe a time-traveling Sheldon. There’s a bit of sadness to the joke, but it really works, since it highlights the exceptionally ludicrous way that Amy has found to deal with the pressing issue of Sheldon’s inability to have sex, even years into a relationship. As much as you laugh, you feel for her, and it just felt like the subplot all around succeeded on every count, even if it seemed like Amy got significantly more embarrassed than Penny and Bernadette in the end.
“The Troll Manifestation” was excellent, and makes for another highlight episode for Season Eight. Leonard and Sheldon’s story is taking a very interesting turn now, and with even Dr. Hawking behind them, they’re sure to be meant for great new stories soon!
The Big Bang Theory delivered an excellent highlight episode with "The Troll Manifestation", giving the women a top-notch subplot, and a very promising new scientific advancement for Leonard and Sheldon!