Episode 24 - The Roommate Transmogrification
20 May 2011
Synopsis: Tired of listening to his sister and Leonard having sex, Raj moves into Leonard's room. Sheldon begins to enjoy the new arrangements and Penny joins them for dinner and wine. Bernadette is awarded her PhD and a new high paid job which leaves Howard feeling inadequate. Leonard learns that Priya is heading home to India and returns to his apartment upset. The gang are shocked when Penny emerges from Raj's bedroom having spent the night.
The Good: Season Four of the show was very different to the other three seasons. There were times when the show seemed to have no ambition to ever develop its characters beyond the sketches that were drawn up in the pilot. There are still big holes of course but Season Four has seen a concerted effort to introduce new characters, an arc plot and a sense that everyone is at least taking baby steps forward in their lives. It's all been very encouraging even if really this stuff ought to be easy considering how long Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and company have been working on sit coms.
This finale felt like a half way point rather than the climax of a season but I'm not sure that is a bad thing. It's way too soon for Sheldon and Amy to hook up so I'm glad they are sticking to moments of unintended intimacy over video chats. Penny's feelings of regret about Leonard haven't been overwhelming her so it's not impossible to imagine her sleeping with Raj. The story of his loneliness has actually been gently building for a while so I liked the effort he put in to impressing Sheldon. Priya never quite felt like she was staying around and so if she is leaving now it's not a surprise. It also leaves Leonard with a new problem after what Raj and Penny have just done so he won't just be lying around moping. Finally Bernadette and Howard have been together for a while and their change of status (thanks to her new job) is definitely a continuation of that story rather than a stopping point.
In that sense then we have a lot to look forward to in Season Five. There are enough plot threads there to fuel the first ten episodes alone. Though it's far from perfect I do think making the show into more of a soap opera will keep it interesting for longer.
I liked the opening scene where Sheldon got briefly energised by people laughing at his statements of fact. Raj complaining about Leonard and Priya and then impressing Sheldon had fun moments too (see Comic Highlight).
The Bad: The problem with bringing in so much soap opera is that it shines a brighter light on the weaker aspects of character development. For a start should Penny really sleep with Raj? Raj has been a bit of a chameleon for a long time. He has been allowed to play the closet homosexual, the foreigner, the idiot, the camp but not gay guy and the only guy who stands up to Sheldon. What works in his favour is that we never explore any aspect of his personality in enough depth to make him seem implausible. But has he been just a bit too weird and pathetic and mean (when drunk) to seduce Penny?
That of course brings us to Penny, who despite being a much loved part of the show is as undeveloped as Raj is. Her feelings for Leonard have never been clearly explained or explored. We have never seen her pursue her acting career. Never. Even though that is why she came to California and her stated goal. We know she sleeps with a lot of guys so there is a sense of insecurity and neediness to her but again it's never focussed on. Could she sleep with Raj? Sure. But what does it mean? Not a lot really. When two undeveloped characters have sex in Leonard's bedroom do they make a sound? I have my doubts about whether this story will be much more than a running punch line next season.
Howard and Bernadette are both undeveloped though in a different way. They are both more specifically characterised by their distinguishing features. He is small, Jewish, sex-crazed and has an unhealthy relationship with his mother. She is small, apparently innocent but actually worldly and strangely attracted to him. They make a good TV couple and in a way those well defined characteristics make up for real character development. However we didn't get a proper resolution to Howard's relationship with his mum or whether he would move out and leave her alone (416). Now the story has shifted to how he will cope with her newfound success which could be interesting but I could easily see that being quickly forgotten too.
That just leaves Leonard who remains oddly characterised as part wuss and part whipping boy and it's hard sometimes to feel sorry for him. Other times it is but it would be nice to think the writers might finally restore some of the courage he displayed in Season One. Presumably he will start Season Five single and angry at Raj, I imagine we are in for more of the same.
I suppose there is also Sheldon and his very slow social and sexual awakening. I'm fine with his level of development. To change him too much would be madness. I'm pretty sure if the actors are all happy we will get another five years minimum of this show so Sheldon should remain the way he is for years to come.
This episode specifically was a bit too dominated by the developing story to entirely click. Sheldon was a little too camp for my tastes between his self-massage and stern face. I cringed at Penny's impression of Raj for more than one reason.
Comic Highlight: Oblivious and arrogant Sheldon is usually fun. When Raj moves in Sheldon informs him that he is to now buy all the take out food. Raj prepares a beautiful looking Thai meal complete with individual dishes and candles in an attempt to impress his new roommate. Sheldon comments that "I'm just realising how much Leonard has been skating by all these years." It's such an outrageous remark that it makes me smile to write it. Penny later comments that Leonard moving in with Priya is big news to which Sheldon disagrees: "No, origami napkin swans. That's the headline!"
In Conclusion: This was an interesting choice for a season finale. It was a mass of soap opera developments that many casual fans may have forgotten by next season. In most shows I wouldn't like that but I don't think it will harm The Big Bang Theory much. The show is still working on blending the soap opera in and I think these developments will allow next season to get rolling more quickly. The show remains flawed but funny and contrary to my expectations has improved this season.
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