Sheldon has a scientific breakthrough on his wedding day

By Kyle Fowle
May 10, 2018 at 08:31 PM EDT
Michael Yarish/CBS
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It’s never been easy for Sheldon Cooper to express emotions. Well, that’s not entirely true. He’s perfectly at home criticizing other people, or making sure they know what’s bothering him at any given moment. Genuine, earnest, heartfelt emotions though? Those aren’t for Sheldon Cooper. He’s a man of science, and one who struggles to understand social cues and norms. In the early seasons of The Big Bang Theory it was unthinkable that anybody could survive living with him, never mind actually beginning a romantic relationship that might lead to marriage.

The Big Bang Theory isn’t strictly the story of Sheldon Cooper — it’s a sitcom, so there’s not much of an overarching story in general — but his journey encapsulates a lot of what this show is about, or at least what it’s morphed into. The show underwent a significant change when it added Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch as series regulars, their presence a boon for the show, allowing it to explore more mature stories. Yes, the “nerd” humor was still there in spades, but so was a renewed focus on relationships, marriage, responsibility, and the necessity of adapting to change as one gets older.

At the heart of that change is Sheldon Cooper, the man most resistant to it. He’s grown a lot across 11 seasons. He’s still obnoxious and selfish, but he’s learning to be better to the people around him. That growth is evident throughout “The Bow Tie Asymmetry,” the season 11 finale that finally sees Sheldon and Amy tie the knot. There’s none of the cruel humor that defines some episodes, and no romantic plans derailed by something silly or that suggests Sheldon is uncaring. Instead, this is about as straightforward as The Big Bang Theory gets, and that’s a good thing.

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It’s a good thing because it allows the characters, and the marriage, to take center stage. With a Saturday wedding all planned and ready to go, Penny is running point and keeping everyone organized. While the rest of the group can’t decide on a nerdy movie metaphor to describe their current duties, Penny is making sure they all understand what they’re supposed to be doing to keep the wedding on schedule.

Doing so isn’t all that easy, especially when parents are involved. Penny picks up Amy’s parents, played by Kathy Bates and Teller of Penn and Teller, from the airport and gets a quick introduction to their particular dynamic. In other words, Amy’s mother has trouble uttering sentences that aren’t judgments and insults, and Amy’s father has trouble uttering sentences in general.

Raj doesn’t fare much better with Sheldon’s mother and sister, who spend most of the ride passive aggressively attacking each other over the fact that Sheldon’s sister is pregnant and separated from her husband. By the time they get back to the apartment, Penny is exhausted, but everyone else is excited to see the family and finally begin the day-long celebration.

Before the wedding can get started though, The Big Bang Theory has to set up two surprises. The first sees Howard find a lost dog, and when he calls the owner to come pick it up, he discovers that he’s found Mark Hamill’s dog. Returning “Bark Hamill” to his owner is a dream come true, but the interaction doesn’t end there. Hamill wants to pay Howard back somehow, and that’s when he comes up with an idea. He rushes over to Stuart’s comic book store and tells him that he’s convinced Mark Hamill to officiate Sheldon and Amy’s wedding. That prompts Alice, who Stuart’s asked to accompany him to the wedding, to agree to the date, setting up the episode’s second surprise: Stuart may legitimately have found someone who thinks fondly of him.

Let’s get back to Sheldon and Amy though, because this episode is about them. Everyone arrives on the special day, and emotions are running high. Leonard tears up while helping Sheldon with his boutonniere. “I’ll always be your problem,” says Sheldon when Leonard mentions that he’ll legally be Amy’s problems now. They joke, but there’s sincerity in there. Things are changing, and while that’s always been hard for Sheldon, it’s difficult for everyone else, too.

The back half of “The Bow Tie Asymmetry” is filled with these types of sentimental moments. Sheldon and his mother get a very sweet moment together before the ceremony, both of them wishing that Sheldon’s father could have lived long enough to see him get married. “He’d be proud of you. I’m proud of you,” says Mary. And she should be, as he’s embracing the day in a way that the old Sheldon Cooper never would have. The old Sheldon Cooper is never truly gone though, and when he repeats Amy’s philosophical line about his bow tie, that sometimes things need to be a little asymmetrical to be beautiful, he has a scientific breakthrough.

He rushes off to Amy’s room and, after exclaiming again and again how stunning she looks, tells her that he’s realized the key to his string theory research is not trying to create the perfect formula, but rather introduce imperfection into the whole process. Before long the two of them are working out calculations on the mirror in lipstick, feeding off each other’s energy. Leonard gets wrapped up in it too, seeing the massive potential in Sheldon’s breakthrough.

Of course, scientific breakthroughs don’t really have a home at a wedding, and newly minted officiant Mark Hamill can only kill so much time by letting Stuart answer questions about Star Wars. Thus, it’s up to Penny to once again wrangle everyone into position. She storms into Sheldon and Amy’s room, totally unsurprised by the fact that they’re making everyone wait because of “science stuff,” and tells them that everyone is waiting for them.

Sheldon and Amy come to a realization. They have their whole lives to “do science together.” The reality of what they’re about to do sets in, and it’s beautiful to watch. As Sheldon makes his way down the aisle and learns the news about Mark Hamill, he can’t believe his luck. Meeting Luke Skywalker is all he’s ever wanted, the dream of a young boy who didn’t really fit in.

What “The Bow Tie Asymmetry” does in its final moments though is question that exact sentiment. The old Sheldon Cooper would have seen meeting Mark Hamill as the highlight of his entire life. This version of Sheldon Cooper, the one who’s stubbornly grown over the years, knows that’s not the case anymore. Amy is everything he could have wanted, and everything he didn’t know he wanted. After Amy delivers vows that a tearful Mark Hamill calls “surprisingly moving,” Sheldon delivers his. He has no words though, for the first time ever. “I’m overwhelmed by you,” he says, promising that while he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to describe what she means to him, he’s going to spend his life making sure he shows her. He’s going to put actions above words, and for Sheldon Cooper, that’s a huge deal.

It’s another moment of change for these characters, and for The Big Bang Theory in general, as it wraps up its eleventh season on a note of love and acceptance.

Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Raj, and Wolowitz, Amy, Bernadette—the gang keeps growing. Bazinga!
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