America’s ambassadors of nerd culture return for another series of laughs. Series seven of The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) opens with a slightly undercooked episode that continues plot threads from the last episode of series six (The Bon Voyage Reaction). Raj (Kunal Nayyar) now possesses the ability to talk to women uninebriated, but is struggling over his breakup with Lucy (Kate Micucci). Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is still on his research expedition in the North Sea. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) offer each other emotional (if not intellectual) support in Leonard’s absence. Meanwhile, Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) attempt to bond at a conference.
Raj continues to be the most sympathetic of the male leads. His portion of the episode contains the most emotionally fulfilling bits because it propels the character forward. Howard (Simon Helberg) encourages Raj to attend a mixer in order to test his new power on the university’s female population. Raj initially blunders his way through the mixer. Clearly Raj forgot to read the owner’s manual that came with his ability. Raj is unable to make any headway with a female researcher and offends Janine Davis (Regina King), the human resources lady he dubbed Brown Sugar. Janine is trying to rebound after being left by her husband. In the show’s most poignant scene, Raj is able to connect with Janine after an earlier mishap. I wonder if Janine and Raj are being prepped for a romantic entanglement in future episodes? Since Raj is TBBT’s only single character, I suspect a large amount of this series will be devoted to testing potential significant others. The writers took Leonard through a similar arc in previous series. Could Raj end up with some Brown Sugar? Only time will tell.
Penny and Sheldon, TBBT’s best couple (in my opinion), continue to spin comedy gold. In the show’s opening sequence, Leonard is besieged by two monsters: Sheldon and a kraken (from the film Clash of the Titans). Unleashing the episode’s largest joke at the beginning was a huge risk. The gamble paid off because it introduced the segment’s emotional conflict, Penny and Sheldon missing Leonard. For Sheldon, Leonard represents a constant variable that is needed in order for his life to function normally. Penny tries to be a substitute for Leonard; she understands that an unhinged Sheldon is not good for her sanity. Filling the Leonard shaped hole in Sheldon’s life also allows Penny to stay emotionally connected to her boyfriend. Penny and Sheldon’s arc culminates with the duo sharing secrets with each other. This would have been the episode’s highpoint if Penny had not penetrated Sheldon’s shell on previous occasions. Unearthing Penny’s past also sets up the show’s final gag which involves a serial killing ape.
TBBT has always done a fabulous job of deconstructing the group’s dynamic and rearranging it into different configurations. Amy and Bernadette’s conference bonding segment was a great opportunity for the duo to interact without the other characters. Unfortunately the resolution came too quickly; the external and internal conflicts needed to simmer a bit more. TBBT’s best sex jokes are rooted in psychology but enhanced through visuals. Amy and Bernadette’s arc could have benefited from additional time in order to reach a more fulfilling conclusion.
After six series it clear the production team behind TBBT knows its audience. The opening episode of series seven was designed to fulfill most of the viewer’s expectations. Unfortunately the effort to cram everything into one episode led to some incomplete narratives. Though The Hofstadter Insufficiency contained some slight pacing problems, it does a wonderful job of deeping previously established connections and forging new ones. Now that Raj is able to talk to women sober, I believe this will be the character’s breakout series. It is clear Amy and Bernadette crackle with energy, like two atoms that collide. I hope the writers return to this combination sooner rather than later; I believe there is so much potential in this duo waiting to be harnessed.
Contributed by Mo Walker