Leonard and Penny get married… again.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Well, that was anticlimactic.
There wasn’t much hope that the Season 9 finale of The Big Bang Theory would suddenly reinvigorate a show that’s grown surprisingly aimless and unfocused in 2016. As far as major, season-ending conflicts go, Penny and Leonard deciding to get married again doesn’t rank high on the list. “The Convergence Convergence” found some humor in exploring the dynamic among Leonard and Sheldon’s parents, but it hardly felt season finale-worthy.
That fact was all the more glaring considering that this episode was essentially the second half of a two-part storyline. It’s rare to see a new episode spring so directly from the one that preceded it, but this one kicked off with Penny basking in the knowledge that she finally bonded with the stone cold Beverly and Leonard facing the fact that he just got roped into another wedding ceremony.
If nothing else, it was nice to have a relatively upbeat season finale storyline. So many seasons in recent years have culminated with one character or another leaving on an extended trip and the rest of the gang coping with their extended absence (Howard preparing to go to space in Season 5, Sheldon embarking on his cross-country train trip in Season 7, etc.). Then there was Season 8’s depressing finale, wherein Amy finally dumped Sheldon and left him mopey and confused (deservedly so, but still). This storyline was more upbeat, with the conflict stemming from nothing more dramatic than the fact that Leonard’s parents really, really don’t get along.
Leonard’s father Alfred made his belated debut here (played by Taxi’s Judd Hirsch). Unsurprisingly, he’s no more fond of his ex-wife than any other character in the series is. Hirsch was entertaining in what proved to be a fairly limiting role. This show has a habit of being extremely one-note when it comes to portraying the various parental figures. Beverly is the cold, callous, cruelly analytical psychiatrist. Mary is the upbeat, no-nonsense, hardcore Christian woman. And Alfred, it seems, is the likable older gentleman who spends 90% of his time complaining. None of these three broke from that mold, but at least the act of playing their warring personalities off of each other added a little spice to the script. Predictable or not, it was funny to watch Alfred and Mary develop a romantic attraction and leave their children completely befuddled.
But while fairly entertaining, this dinner outing didn’t make for a very exciting or unusual conflict. This episode never even got around to showcasing the actual wedding ceremony. Presumably that’s coming in the Season 10 premiere, making “The Convergence Convergence” the middle chapter of a very long, drawn-out trilogy. As a result, this finale played out like setup for a more interesting story than something capable of wrapping up the season with a neat little bow. Aside from Leonard’s half-baked toast, there was no celebration or examination of his relationship with Penny. Nor did it ever feel like Leonard and Penny were happy to have their friends and family at their side and make up for their decision to elope. It was all very dull and dispassionate.
There are several other running plot threads the writers could have chosen to wrap up this week, but they chose to focus on Howard’s guidance system and his fears at being swallowed up by the military industrial complex. Howard and Raj’s ridiculous conspiracy theories about being spied upon by the government made for an amusing subplot. This storyline reached an amusing crescendo once Howard mistook Leonard’s car for a government tail and grossly overreacted. But while this subplot was funny, it didn’t really do much to push Howard’s ongoing character arc forward. Is this guidance system the key to the financial and professional success he so desperately craves? Will he, Leonard and Sheldon agree to sell their patent to the government? Who knows? Much like the main Leonard/Penny storyline, nothing was truly resolved by the end. The writers seem content to simply leave the characters and viewers hanging until Season 10 starts up in a few months.