The Big Bang Theory ended not with a bang, but a tear - exactly what the show needed to satisfy the massive fanbase that it has followed for the last 12 years. With the one-hour finale significantly devoted in Sheldon and Amy's bid for the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on Super Asymmetry, the rest of the gang go through their own lives but also supporting the Coopers every step of their road to academic success.
Kicking off in 2007, The Big Bang Theory followed the lives of a gang of four (eventually seven) friends based in Pasadena, the majority of them deemed social outcasts. But what they lack in social skills, they made up for in terms of intellect and their love for anything geeky. Over the years, the crew has gone through ups and downs, both professionally and personally, but they remained intact (partly because six of them have married each other).
With so much history riding on its final two episodes, pressure mounted on the writers to deliver a satisfying ending - but did they? Here's everything that happened in The Big Bang Theory's series finale.
Sheldon & Amy Win The Nobel Prize (But Not Without Complications)
The first half of The Big Bang Theory finale, titled "Changed Constant," was mainly devoted to the Nobel Prize subplot, with it finally revealed that Sheldon and Amy won - supposedly a cause for celebration, especially for the former who has worked relentlessly all his life for this goal. But what he had long been longing for, apparently wasn't exactly what he expected it to be.
Overwhelmed with the string of big changes happening by the minute, Sheldon slowly descended into paranoia. It was the same with Amy, who's stressed with the press hounding her after enjoying the initial wave of interest. Looking to help, Raj suggested that she go through a make-over. Everyone loved it, except her husband who's struggling very hard to cope with the flurry of changes.
Penny took a shaken Sheldon to The Cheesecake Factory to prepare him for his significantly changed life, reminiscent of their unlikely friendship in The Big Bang Theory's early seasons. They talked about how far they've come separately, providing a great retrospective of more than a decades-worth of adventures for both characters. Elsewhere, Howard and Bernadette were being interviewed with CNN where both tell reporters that they're best friends with the Coopers.
The Elevator Is Fixed And Leonard Changes The Apartment
After Sheldon's outburst about Amy's new looks, one of The Big Bang Theory's biggest plot threads was resolved: as Leonard tried to talk some sense to him in the hallway, Penny stepped out of the functional elevatory saying, "can you believe it? They finally fixed the elevator?" This led to a humorous bit where Sheldon tried to run away from the Hofstadters downstairs, but Penny was already waiting for him thanks to the fully-working lift.
That's not the only change. Back in the apartment, Leonard who's motivated by his newfound self-confidence, decided to re-arrange the whole place - something that we haven't seen in the history of the show because Sheldon didn't want to. And during his biggest rebellion act over his best friend's controlling ways, Leonard not only touched, but moved the molecular model that Sheldon forbade him to lay his hands on. As it turns out, there was a reason why it's best to leave it alone because the moment Leonard touched it, the little balls fell off. The episode ended with Penny and Sheldon riding the elevator upstairs with the latter exclaiming that the experience was "wild."
Penny Is Pregnant, Resolving Her And Leonard's Season 12 Arc
Fast forward to two months later, The Big Bang Theory's final episode, "The Stockholm Syndrome," picked up with Sheldon saying that it's been a great 139.5 hours having just finished rebuilding the molecular model with Leonard. At this point, he's already acclimated to his new status, and was every bit of excited as the whole gang to fly to Stockholm for the Nobel awarding ceremony. Being the first time to leave Halley and Michael, who finally make an appearance in the series, Howard and Bernadette were understandably worried, even with Stuart staying behind and keeping an eye on the kids. Raj also needed a sitter for Cinnamon - fortunately, Bert was available to care for his beloved pet while he's away.
Because of all the commotion coming from the upcoming foreign trip, Leonard and Penny were able to keep a big secret tightly under wraps: they're pregnant. Apparently, they conceived the night of Penny and Sheldon's trip to the Cheesecake Factory. There were subtle clues peppered throughout this whole episode, but everyone was too focused on their own affairs that they easily missed it.
What's not revealed is Penny's initial reaction to discovering her pregnancy. She had been pretty adamant about not wanting to have kids, which was the root of her and Leonard's conflict for the majority of The Big Bang Theory season 12. She now seemed very excited about the prospect of becoming a mother - a little odd considering how much time was spent in the final episodes. Nevertheless, it's great news, one that every fan of the couple will undoubtedly be happy about.
The Big Bang Theory Gang Almost Split - But Sheldon Learns To Respect Them
The discovery of Penny's pregnancy could have had better timing, however. Due to the pressure of the Novel, Sheldon shrugged it off after Leonard came clean during their tumultuous flight to Stockholm. Riled with his best bud's nonchalance about this big news, the gang's time in Sweden started on the wrong foot, but the situation went from bad to worse with a series of mishaps in their first few hours in the country capped off with Penny's weird craving for picked herring and salted cod.
Things weren't looking up at the Wolowitz household either, with Howard and Bernadette learning from Stuart that not only did Halley lost a tooth during a tumble down the stairs, the sitter also lost Michael while playing hide and seek. Understandably worried about their kids, the couple decided they'll have to fly back home and miss the awarding ceremony. But Sheldon couldn't be bothered with the news, further motivating Howard to leave. Leonard also decided that he's had enough - he and Penny were returning home.
Left by their friends, Amy confronted Sheldon about his behavior, bluntly telling him that the only reason they have tolerated him all this time is because he never meant to be unnecessarily mean to them. While the Coopers dealt with the fallout of their trip, the Hofstadters and Wolowitzes decided to stay; by the time Amy and Sheldon were awarded, the whole gang's in the audience, genuinely proud of the two. In her speech, Amy encouraged young girls to never give up on their dreams - a great nod to her arc just a couple of episodes ago where she felt immense pressure to win the academic accolade after learning that only a few women have won it. Once Sheldon stepped on the podium, he saw the gang in the crowd, causing him to ditch his pre-written speech and instead deliver one that came from the heart. He first thanked his family (Laurie Metcalf should've guest starred as Mary), and his friends.
Sheldon's speech became more earnest as he cited how his friends stuck with him all these years despite his quirks. Thinking about all the other times Sheldon spoke in front of an audience, he managed to eloquently say how truly grateful he is to his friends without embarrassing himself. He finally acknowledged Howard's stint as an astronaut and called Penny and Leonard his "two dearest friends in the world," recalling the first day the couple met 12 years ago. After the glitzy ceremony, we see the gang back home - at Apartment 4A living room, eating Chinese food.
Raj Is Now Dating Sarah Michelle-Gellar?
It's not as grand as the rest of the plot, but Raj also gets a happy ending in The Big Bang Theory finale. During his speech, Sheldon spots Sarah Michelle-Gellar (the actress playing herself) beside Raj after the two met on the plane, causing him to blurt out: "Is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" Unless this is returned to in a potential sequel, it would seem that Raj ends up with the star.
The Big Bang Theory finale was a touching ending, one that long-time fans of the show will definitely appreciate; it pretty much ticked all the boxes for a happy-ever-after. Still, like much of the final season, the narrative was too Sheldon-centric, and there were some plot turns that disregard what's come before. It would've played better if the show's writers mapped out a clear final season leading to the series finale, allowing each character a proper payoff rather than feeling like support for the Coopers
Nevertheless, while it's cliche and safe, it's exactly what The Big Bang Theory fans wanted, and given the massive fanbase that relentlessly supported it in its 12-year-run, it makes sense that satisfying the viewers was their top priority.