Episode 11 - The Justice League Recombination
18 December 2010
Synopsis: Penny is back with Zach and the guys mock his lack of intellect. They apologise for being mean and he accompanies them to the comic book store. Sheldon spots the chance to use Zach as Superman in their Justice League of America ensemble on New Years Eve. Zach agrees and Penny is upset as it means she will have to go with them as Wonder Woman. What is really upsetting her is that she is only with Zach to avoid being alone and misses Leonard.
The Good: As usual silly costumes make for some fun gags and Sheldon is of course thoroughly immersed in playing the Flash (see Comic Highlight).
The Bad: This failed on pretty much every level which was a shame. In theory I applaud the idea of focussing on Penny and Leonard's relationship but there is no authenticity to it anymore. The writers have made less and less effort to demonstrate any actual bond between them. Leonard still treats her like she is too good for him and her feelings for him have returned out of nowhere. The result is that her emotions seem fabricated and the story falls flat.
It isn't as if there is much of a conflict in the story either. There's nothing stopping Penny from dumping Zach and going out with Leonard again. If you were to simply read the situation as if it were real you would have to conclude that Penny is reluctant to be with Leonard because she isn't that attracted to him or thinks she can do better.
Zach was inadequately characterised here and just played the one-note dumb jock guy. There was no hint of why he would want to bond with the guys. A simple line or two about his lack of friends or longing for geekier pursuits would have helped. He didn't play the "dumb guy" with much skill but it's hard to be too down on his acting when the script was so basic. One line in particular scraped the bottom of the barrel. Howard eavesdropped on Penny and Leonard's conversation and concluded that Super-Man wasn't getting laid tonight (which was in itself was too prescient of him). Zach looked around before remembering what his own costume was and expressed comic frustration. It was a dumb joke and the fact that Zach didn't ask why Howard thought that underlined the lack of definition to who he was.
The scene where the gang walked away from men breaking into a car was a sad misfire too. Surely one of them should have immediately called the police. Ignoring basic morality like that in favour of further mocking the geeks is poor writing. Finally the producers went to great effort to put into effect the episode's best line (see Comic Highlight). They put far more effort into simulating Sheldon being the Flash than they did into the rest of the story.
Comic Highlight: Sheldon is dressed as the Flash and Leonard as the Green Lantern. Sheldon is jogging up and down to simulate the speed at which the Flash would be moving if he were simply pacing up and down waiting for latecomers as Sheldon is. Leonard says "Relax Sheldon" to which he angrily replies "I'm not Sheldon, I'm the Flash! And now I'm going to the Grand Canyon to scream in frustration. (Turns one way and then back again) I'm back."
In Conclusion: What often saves The Big Bang Theory from being a lame duck is the sharpness of its writing. In this case the writing was lazy and the result was a lousy episode which felt as phoned in as Penny's feelings for Leonard.
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