The Big Bang Theory's latest episode offers an explanation for why Leonard (Johnny Galecki) suddenly changed his mind about having kids by revealing that, up until now, he's still afraid that he's going to screw up and lose Penny (Kaley Cuoco). CBS' long-running sitcom took a couple of weeks off the air for its mandatory winter break. This week, however, it returned with a brand new offering that spread focus on all the key players, instead of centering on a specific couple like it has for a while. That gave all fans something to chew on - especially those who are rooting for the Hofstadters.
Earlier this season, Leonard inadvertently discovered that Penny doesn’t want to have kids ever after they were asked by Raj (Kunal Nayyar) to fill out an Indian compatibility questionnaire. While he’s always given the impression that he wanted a family of his own due to the fact that he's raised in a dysfunctional household, it wasn’t until this year that his wife made it clear that she has no intention of having kids, which understandably broke his heart. For a while it became a source of tension between the couple, with Leonard even storming out of the apartment after Penny dropped that huge information bomb on him.
However, what was brewing to be a huge conflict that could've been the main arc for the Hofstadters this year was quickly swept under the rug when Leonard suddenly changed his mind about having kids. The issue was resolved in the same episode and without much fuss. After returning home, he reached out to Penny and gave way to her request. While he never explicitly said that he's giving up on that dream, he never brought it up again and the two has been operating as if they have no unresolved problem. That specific episode didn’t offer any reason for Leonard's change of heart, which puzzled some fans, but now The Big Bang Theory has subtly provided an explanation.
As revealed in "The Paintball Scattering," Leonard is still afraid that Penny might walk out of his life any minute - an admission he made to Stuart (Kevin Sussman) as the comic book shop owner found himself in a rough spot with his budding romance with girlfriend Denise (Lauren Lapkus) during the gang's paintball game. The two, who both think they're in relationships with women who are out of their leagues, bonded over the fear that their respective ladies will leave them if they make the slightest mistake. For Stuart, he's afraid that moving in with Denise will mess up the easy dynamic they've established, while Leonard is terrified that if he pushes Penny to do something she doesn't want (like having a kid), she could decide to leave him.
In hindsight, this is such a sad notion. The Big Bang Theory has time and again reinforced the idea that Leonard "lucked out" when it comes to Penny, as if he doesn't have anything to offer in their relationship. This mentality is so embedded in his mind that even though he clearly wanted to have a family, he decided to compromise right away, not even trying to convince his wife due to his fear that pushing her might result in him being left alone. Throughout their years together, this has almost always been the case. He appears to be content with the power imbalance because he'd rather settle than risk the idea of losing Penny.
Whether or not the Hofstadters will have kids remains to be seen, but at this point, the couple doesn't have any intention of revisiting the idea. That said, it'll be a huge disservice to The Big Bang Theory's first couple to leave their narrative just like that, and wrap the show without giving them any major milestone before the series goes off the air in a few months.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursday nights on CBS.