NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review
The Big Bang Theory left us hanging on a pretty exciting note in the previous episode from a couple of weeks ago, as Bernadette seemingly goes into labour, and Baby Wolowitz appears to be imminently on the way! This storyline served as one of the backbones of this week’s midseason finale, “The Birthday Synchronicity”, an episode that had Baby Wolowitz’s birthday falling at the same time as Amy’s, as she tries and fails to receive her annual birthday sex from Sheldon. This is a potentially funny idea, though sadly, this midseason finale is kind of a mess, and an underwhelming note to end The Big Bang Theory’s 2016 run on.
One of the first and biggest problems with the episode is that Bernadette’s first trip to the hospital is pointlessly treated as a false alarm. It was funny to have the same cynical nurse from Season One, and the show’s pilot episode from 2007 at that, tend to the Wolowitz family at the hospital, but why would Bernadette be sent home, only to have her water actually break a few minutes later? Why not just keep her at the hospital? You could have had the same set of conflicts more or less.
Well, in fairness, it’s evident why, at least from the perspective of the writers, but it still doesn’t make sense. The only reason that Bernadette and everyone else is temporarily removed from the hospital is so Raj can randomly start filming Howard and Bernadette at home, completely out of nowhere, simply so he can accidentally blurt out that Baby Wolowitz is a girl. This annoyingly revives the same pointless, irritating conflict from before, where Howard and Bernadette are somehow angry at Raj for knowing the sex of their baby, which there’s no way he’d realistically be able to find out without extreme narrative contrivance. The two actively kicking Raj out of the house for his slip-up is also very harsh, and leads to an equally improbable and hasty forgiveness later. Despite the show trying to play Raj being given the boot for laughs, it just made the Wolowitz’s come off as selfish and mean, right when we should be rooting for them most.
Fortunately, the other two couples elevated the episode with some solid humour, particularly Sheldon and Amy. Sheldon and Amy building an eccentric sex life for each other was often where the humour was at its strongest in this episode, to the point where Amy’s sexual frustration from the baby didn’t really register to the same degree. Seeing Sheldon and Amy try to excite each other was genuinely hysterical, especially when we see it working so well. Likewise, Leonard trying to capitalize on the occasion for sex with Penny, despite being winded from stair-climbing, was also fairly funny, even if it also merely served as another punch line for Raj’s misery when he comes knocking in the end.
Once Bernadette actually does start properly going into labour, everyone follows her, Howard and Stuart to the hospital, even Raj, and as everyone waits in the waiting room, they recount their personal growth over the past ten years. This is a pretty solid moment that feels fitting for a midseason finale, especially when Raj and Stuart bring up the joke of their personal growth being limited to non-existent in contrast to everyone else. It’s like the writers are willfully admitting that they’ve been mostly under-serving both of these characters in contrast to the others for ten years. Penny does bring up that Raj can talk to women now, and that certainly counts, though the main thing this leads into is Howard declaring that he wants Raj to be the baby’s godfather, despite being angry with him mere moments beforehand. Like I said, this is an improbable and hasty forgiveness for a transgression that is very minor and contrived, and the Wolowitz’s might have been better off just immediately forgiving Raj for what was obviously an innocent slip.
Baby Wolowitz is ultimately named Halley, after Halley’s Comet, and surprisingly, the episode doesn’t end with the baby actually being seen. Instead, there’s an awkward ending gag before the epilogue, where Halley appears to cry with an ear-piercing sound akin to the shouts of Howard’s late mother. That might have sounded funny on paper, but it really doesn’t work in practice, especially when it came so close to a moment between the group that was so grounded and genuine. Truth be told, all of the references to the late Mrs. Wolowitz felt very forced and awkward, taking away from the episode rather than contributing more real emotional weight to it.
Either way, Sheldon and Amy finally get to the bedroom after Amy finally takes Sheldon to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World (yet another pointless conflict that is brought up and quickly abandoned), and the show seems to tease the vague possibility that Amy could become pregnant next. Well, maybe that depends on whether The Big Bang Theory will be renewed for any more seasons after this one, but the writers certainly seem to be leaving the door open to that possibility. I suppose that’s fair enough.
“The Birthday Synchronicity” is a serviceable, but fairly clumsy midseason finale for The Big Bang Theory, one that feels like a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that only exist to fill the space around the only event in this episode that truly matters; The birth of Halley Wolowitz. Sheldon and Amy in particular kept the laughs from falling flat, and there were also enough other funny moments to get the episode by too, even if some felt pretty forced. The writers tried to get ahead of the show’s especially evident age in Season Ten with the moment of self-reflection in the hospital waiting room, which, in fairness, was one of this episode’s better moments, but mostly, it feels like the writers just want to wash their hands of 2016 at this point. With Hallie Wolowitz finally being born, here’s hoping that we can get back to stronger storylines in 2017.
The Big Bang Theory delivered a serviceable, but messy midseason finale this week, as Howard and Bernadette finally have their baby.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Sheldon's and Amy's bedroom shenanigans
Raj getting a permanent family connection to Halley
Nice self-reflection moment in the waiting room
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Bernadette being sent home at first is pointless
The Wolowitz parents' treatment of Raj is pretty harsh