Sam Rivman ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Big Bang Theory, CBS’s runaway hit sitcom, just aired its first episode of the eighth season. The episode was well written and humorous, but more importantly it adhered to the one magic ingredient that has pushed The Big Bang Theory to the top of the charts for the last seven years: it avoided remaining stagnant. The most impressive aspect of the show isn’t the witty banter or even the performance of award winning actor Jim Parsons, but rather the ability of the writers to constantly evolve the characters in a way which feels identical to the way that real people actually change and mature over time.
In tonight’s premiere episode, the writers did just that yet again, and with a big payoff. The premiere begins with Sheldon (Jim Parsons) in shambles at a train station in Arizona. Last season, Sheldon left Pasadena when he felt as though too much of his life was changing without his consent. Season eight picks up forty five days after Sheldon left, and just as one would expect from a codependent and child-like man, Sheldon has been robbed of everything he had with him, including his pants and one shoe. When Sheldon calls his best friend Leonard (Johnny Galecki) instead of his girlfriend Amy (Mayim Bialik), Amy is frustrated at his lack of consideration to her feelings. However, when Amy mentions her displeasure to Sheldon, Sheldon proves that despite being perhaps the slowest man alive to accept change, he is capable of it. Sheldon explains to Amy that he only called Leonard because he didn’t want her to know that he had failed at living on his own. This clearly indicates that Sheldon values Amy’s opinion of him, something he likely couldn’t have been tortured to admit during season five when Amy became a re-occurring character and potential love interest for Sheldon.
Tender moments in which Sheldon is able to gain some humanity have been occurring more and more frequently as the show progresses, and it was a brilliant idea to insert one into the premiere to express that Sheldon’s character growth had not been abandoned in the time since season seven. Even more brilliant is Sheldon’s inevitable reversion to his egotistical self when he takes offense to Amy referring to him as “not perfect”. There are no better writers in the business who can seamlessly intertwine an “Awww” with a chuckle than the writers of The Big Bang Theory, and the premiere of season 8 set out to prove just that.
Speaking of character change, it would be an utter injustice to avoid discussing what a marvelous transition Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) has made thus far and has continued to make in the first episode of season 8. When Leonard and Sheldon first met Penny in season one, she was sweet and peppy, but not much more. Penny was a fish out of water when she began spending time with the group of men, but she gradually became smarter and more intuitive each season, spending all of her waking hours surrounded by super geniuses.
Now that season eight has rolled around, Penny seems to have finally emerged from her cocoon to become an independent and go-getting butterfly. Penny has chopped off her long blonde locks, and successfully got a job as a pharmaceutical rep despite blundering the interview, which Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) had set up for her. This newly employed Penny is the same one who had mooched off of Leonard for Chinese food for the better part of her time on the show. Finally empowering Penny prevents her from being viewed as simply an extension of Leonard. She has always been viewed by the public as a very attractive woman, and giving Penny some smarts and a real purpose in the premiere of season eight has only made her sexier. Penny is easily the most dynamic character on The Big Bang Theory, and the writers were wise enough to allow this snowball to roll all the way down the hill without standing in its way.
Despite not being an absolute gut-busting episode of The Big Bang Theory, the premiere of season eight laid excellent groundwork for the rest of what could potentially be their best season yet, based on what has been seen so far. The whole cast gave a performance worthy of the pay raise recently granted to them, and hopefully they continue to do so for the remainder of the season.