Just like with every other fall TV show, the summer 2014 was full of speculation and high expectations for The Big Bang Theory. In contrast to other shows of the same genre such as How I Met Your Mother or FRIENDS where they balanced comedy with more serious situations perfectly, The Big Bang Theory has barely gone there. Everytime it’s tried to get serious, it all ended with a joke and the topic ended up being dropped and forgotten in the next episode.
That dynamic seemed to changed with the finale of Season 7, when the most emotionless and robot-like character, Sheldon Cooper, decided to leave and make a personal journey to have some personal time. It seemed radical but it was justified: one of his idols, Professor Proton, had died, he struggled with his new field of study and, on top of that, he felt forced to move out due to Leonard and Penny’s recent engagement. It gave us the idea of a more mature Sheldon that finally needed to face his humanity and do some thinking.
There were lots of questions in our minds: Where has he gone? How long has he been gone? What has happened to him? Is he coming back? Is he gonna come back different? Did he even get on that train at all?
Season 8 finally aired on September 22nd and even though the finale answered some of those questions, it didn’t feel like much. Everything felt like it was just for pure comedic relief, like all the questions we had were just waved off with some joke. The only moment that was somehow serious was when Sheldon told Leonard that he didn’t want Amy to think that he had failed.
It all went by normally after that, as if nothing had happened. That is until this week’s last episode, “The Expedition Approximation”, when Leonard admitted to Raj to have an “internal emotional struggle”:
“It’s dark matter. When I entered the field of string theory I was a prodigy. I rose to a position of respect and I assumed that my career would continue on that upward trajectory. Now here I am in my 30s, I’m back at square one and frankly it’s frightening“.
Middle-life crisis. Not even Sheldon can escape it.
Not much has changed for the other characters. Howard and Bernadette’s relationships is still pretty much the same and Howard keeps struggling with Stuart being a replacement for him to his mom. Raj is happy with his girlfriend and Leonard and Penny keep having their ups and downs despite being engaged with still no wedding plans in the horizon. Amy keeps on being used just to bring (or at least try to bring) the romantic side in Sheldon’s life.
Of course it’s still very soon for any assumptions or final judgements. We’re still only in Episode 6 after all. We’re gonna have to keep waiting to see more changes, especially regarding Sheldon. He’ll probably handle this crisis like he handles every other problem in his life: with baby steps and extreme detail.