The Big Bang Theory wrapped up in 2019 with its final season. The shows 279th episode received a 9.6 rating on IMDB and positive reviews from critics and proved to be a rare treat for both show and audience. Final episodes and television series overall tend to be lifeless husks of what they once were, like the mangey family dog, the back legs have gone… yet they mean too much to be put down.
Over the 12 years, The Big Bang Theory has entertained millions with its own brand of geek-chic. A science-based show with slow-burn storytelling. Following Jim Parsons requested exit from the show, the sitcom gave viewers their conclusion by wrapping up its final season with a warm fuzzy finale.
But not this one! Join me as I recall how the final 12th season wasn’t just good, it was the best season of The Big Bang Theory of them all.
SPOILER WARNING: The next section contains spoilers from the show.
What established the show so long ago was its use of simple character types. Nerds’ live across the hall from an attractive lady…that was it, that was the story.
For a while, not much else was needed. Personalities were introduced and characters were slowly developed. All while the classic life events of 20 to 30+ year-olds happen (marriage, children etc..). All alongside some more extraordinary achievements (being sent to space etc.). But, the show made sure to operate on a much slower rate of change to match Sheldon’s pace.
The show can be criticised for many things, but pulling the trigger on Sheldon conforming to social norms too quickly, isn’t one of them. Season 12 starts following Sheldon and Amy’s wedding. This is an unthinkable scenario compared to season 1. Yet the episodes don’t run out of steam or jump to the convention of them starting a family. Instead, the narrative of them running for a Nobel prize is the focus, whilst the topic of family is reserved to one episode and is ran as an experiment by Amy; sticking with the shows core identity: scientists…doing science.
The show also plays with the pregnancy angle with the bait and switch of Leonard being a sperm donor for Penny’s ex Zack. This arc was refreshing and inverted expectations. Before conforming to the more predictable scenario of Penny and Leonard expecting by the finale.
Leonard’s growth as the main character reached an apex in season 12. His deep-seated insecurities were often explained by his cold childhood and distant relationship with his mother. Towards the end of the final season, Leonard finally got to vent and forgive his mother. This came through an emotional monologue. One where both characters are stripped from their academic caricatures and a genuine connection is allowed.
Johnny Galecki, who played Leonard, told USA Today “I read over some of my initial notes about Leonard when we were doing the pilot and how much I thought the character was focused not just on Penny’s looks and charm but on her being the portal for him to experience life in a way he was too afraid to at the time. She completely brought him out of his shell.”
Season 12 gave the audience closure on Leonard’s backstory. It took the focus of the shy, insecure Leonard and presented a more comfortable character. Leonard, the acclaimed scientist, husband of his dream girl and soon to be a father.
Over the shows time on air, the program achieved a historical 46 Emmy nominations and with this global acclaim came a plethora of guest stars.
From sci-fi legends such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer to the biggest names in science like Stephen Hawking. The show became such a staple of pop culture, and no guest became too big to be woven into the script.
This season alone saw Teller as Larry Fowler and Kathy Bates as Mrs Fowler. Whilst Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Shatner, Kevin Smith, Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Michelle Gellar all made appearances.
By the final season, the show knew how to utilise guests in order to progress the stories being told. Lesser shows can use guest appearances to pop a rating at a desperate attempt to drive interest in the program (looking at you The Simpsons). Yet, The Big Bang Theory became so successful, they were able to craft established personalities into actual storylines with the main characters. All while allowing the guest to have their own personality.
From Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter feud with Raj to William Shatner’s flirting with Penny in a game of D&D., Each guest is used perfectly in the final season, to progress a story rather than be the focus of it.
Incorporating Young Sheldon
Whilst spin-offs are common to capitalise on a show’s popularity. They rarely live up to expectations no matter how colossal the original show (Friends spin-off Joey for example).
Yet not only has Young Sheldon proven successful, but it also provided a deeper insight into an already loved character. Helped by running simultaneously with The Big Bang Theory. Having Sheldon watch a video of his younger self and incorporating the cast of Young Sheldon gave the fans a fun moment between the two programs. All as the same character briefly fused the two worlds together.
Even though this was a massive flex from the show. Sheldon’s eidetic memory means he has no need to revisit old tapes. It’s admitted in the scene and played off as Sheldon’s narcissism to allow this unique meeting of the same character in two shows.
The pilot ended with the gag that Leonard and Penny’s children would be ‘smart and beautiful’. For the past 12 years, I always felt it would have been a missed opportunity if they never resolved on the same line.
Season 12 one up-ed that predictable ending with Sheldon’s heart-warming acceptance speech. When receiving his noble prize Sheldon delivers that line to the couple, bookending the two pillars of the program. Leonard’s and Penny’s relationship and Sheldon’s relationship with his friends.
The pay off
The final season of The Big Bang Theory managed to give the audience a reason to stay. This was done with the race to the Nobel Prize. All whilst creating the most satisfying moment in the history of the show when Leonard slaps Sheldon to prove he isn’t asleep.
We saw characters like Howard going from creepy scientist living with his mother to the astronaut-family man, becoming a topic for a children’s book. Raj becoming a successful astrophysicist and his own journey towards marriage. Each character in the show has their own achievements. Yet season 12 allows breathing room for emotional growth. It reflects the last decade of investment the audience has given to these characters.
Series 12 didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or throw an unexpected curveball to shock the audience. Instead, it played to its strengths and rewarded its viewers for sticking with it.
The final shot leaves the group eating dinner together, allowing us to return whenever we need some lighthearted viewing. The Big Bang Theory’ season 12 proves a TV show can grow with its audience in real-time, whilst maintaining its identity and concluding on top form.
That’s why the final season of The Big Bang Theory was the best. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
More of our TV reviews HERE
Read IMDB information about The Big Bang theory HERE.
The Big Bang Theory is currently streaming on Netflix.
Squid Game – Review
The Players and Games
On 17 September 2021, South Korean, Netflix series Squid Game was released. Unbeknown to many including writer and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, this nine-part drama quickly became the most talked about and watched show around the world.
The extremely well written, staged and thought-out show is a mix of ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Battel Royal’ all rolled into one. To make an intense and binge-able series from start to finish.
The series can be watched with subtitles or dubbed. We would suggest watching it subtitled as some of the dubbed voiceovers don’t quite match up to the characters and you can lose some of the intensity in the scenes. With both options, however, you will still be able to get a good handle of the story, as you follow hundreds of money-poor contestants take on the deadly childhood games.
SPOILERS: If you haven’t watched the whole of Squid Game yet. Stop reading here as we are about to review the players and the games, with some hefty spoilers added in.
All dressed in green tracksuits the players are the focus of the story, and the costuming made sure they did just that. In Screen Rants video Squid Game: 15 Things You Missed, we find out that Dong-hyuk wanted the players in school uniforms. But after realising they would have to wear shorts and skirts, he went with the PE style tracksuits in green, the opposite colour to red on the colour wheel… to make sure the blood stood out.
The game starts with 456 players, but there are eight main characters, who we are invited to find out more about within the story.
Seong Gi-hun (player 456)
The very first player we are introduced to is gambling addict Seong Gi-hun, Played by actor and successful model Lee Jung-jae. Gi-hun lives with his mother, bets all her money on horses, has a lot of debts, and gets his own daughter’s birthday gift from an arcade game. Which cleverly links to the boxes they use for coffins, within the game.
Gi-hun, is a great main character because through his lies and bad habits, his narrative is written to show that he has a compassionate side too, which you can relate to.
Kang Sae-byeok (player 067)
The next character we meet is Kang Sae-byeok, portrayed perfectly by model Jung Ho-yeon, in her first ever acting role. The character arc of the strong, independent, pickpocket, is so interesting and endearing to watch. She goes from depending on herself to becoming part of a team and putting her trust in others.
Her back story is of wanting money to help her brother leave an orphanage and to move her mother from North to South Korea. This puts her in a very sympathetic light which urges us the viewer to root for her.
Cho Sang-woo (Player 218)
The next player we are introduced to is Cho Sang-woo, this complex character played by popular TV actor Park Hae Soo. His own story and mannerisms are what make him such an interesting and confusing character who one minute you like, for example when he helps the team out in tug-of-war game or the other minute you despise especially after the stunt he pulled with Ali, in the marble arena. This makes him one of the best characters to have in a show like this as he is unpredictable, like we saw at the end of game six.
Oh il-Nam (player 001)
The heart and soul of the team… or so we thought! Was Oh il-Nam player 001- we should have known!
One of the smartest players in the game was expertly played by actor and writer, Oh Young-soothe. The likable old man had us going all the way to the end and even made some of us cry in the marble game making the twist at the end of the series even better.
Jang Deok-Su (Player 101)
All good games need a villain, luckily there were a lot within the 456 players, but none were as bad as actor Heo Sung-tae’s portrayal of tatted Jang Deok-su.
Player 101, comes in hitting one of the female players and leaves being dragged down by another one! His well-written character had us shouting at the screen and hoping for a worthy death, and after his betrayal to Han Mi-nyeo before tug of war, she served him the cruel departure from the game we had all hoped for.
Abdul Ali (Player 199)
After saving Gi-Hun in the red light, green light game. Abdul Ali showed not only his strength but his love and trust in others which unfortunately would also become his demise…Thanks to snaky Sang-woo.
Actor Anupam Tripathi took his first big TV role and ran with it becoming one of the most loved characters in the series. Even getting a barrage of meme’s made for the character following his wrongful and underhanded death.
Han Mi-nyeo (Player 212)
Due to the copious amounts of death and blood, it’s always wise to have a little comic relief. Han Mi-nyeo’s character was certainly that, with her frequently used catchphrase of ‘I’m good at everything, except for the things I’m not’. Portrayed by Californian born actress Kim Joo-ryeong, the loud and obnoxious character really gave the competitive edge to the game, especially in the honeycomb games when she cheated, using a lighter to melt the candy! Her character, however, did get a little grating at times.
Ji-yeong (Player 240)
Our biggest issue with this character was that there was simply not enough screen time! Played by Lee Yoo-mi in her first major role, the character of Ji-yeong captured our hearts in just three episodes. Particularly as we got to know more about her harrowing backstory if only there was a way that both Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok could have left the marble arena together!
The main part of the story of Squid Game, is the six schoolyard games, which the players must play and win to get their hands on the life-changing sum of money.
Game 1: Red Light, Green Light.
The aim of the game is not to move when the ‘creepiest doll in history’ is looking, otherwise you are eliminated, and in this game, this doesn’t just mean out! When the ‘creepy doll’ isn’t looking you need to run as quick as you can and try and cross the line within the time frame. Sounds easy right? Not when you realise if you move… you die!
Red Light, Green Light is where the players realise what kind of game they are involved in and where we lost over half to the players too!
The schoolyard set and creepy doll voice just add to the tension of this game, which is also amplified by the visuals of the game in play accompanied by the switch over to the Front Man as he watched the game through monitors whilst listening to the song ‘Fly me to the moon’.
Game 2: Honeycomb/Dalgano Candy
To be safe in this game you need to successfully cut out a shape from Honeycomb, without damaging or breaking the shape. The only tool you are given to help you is a needle.
At the beginning of this game, we truly see the back-stabbing side of Sang-woo, as he realises what game it is, as the players start to pick their shape, before knowing what they need to do.
In the know, Sang-woo goes for the easiest shape, a triangle, and neglects to warn the others as Gi-Hun walks over to pick the hardest shape, the umbrella. This game separates the cheaters from the thinkers as Mi-nyeo and Deok-su use a lighter and Gi-Hun uses his brain and licks the shape free.
The climbing frames, bright colours, childish music and gunshots provide the perfect setting to make this whole scene completely unnerving for the players and the viewers.
Game 3: Tug of War
In teams of ten, it’s time for the players to play Tug of War. The main basis of this game needs no introduction, but instead of being pulled into a pile of mud like the classic game… you get pulled to your death.
Due to the Dr, Player 111, and his extra gameplay with some of the guards. (That involved selling body parts) Deok-su and his team know what game was coming up and managed to put together a team of strongmen to win their heat. Unfortunately, Gi-hun and his team didn’t have the same knowledge and in turn looked to have a weaker team than others. Luckily Il-Nam and Sang-Woo had solid gameplay ideas which saved the team.
The setting for Tug of War, took a bit of a dark turn and away from the schoolyard setting. With yellow and grey platforms set in a pitch-black room. Within this game, we lost half the players.
Game 4: Marbles
With this series, we all had the fear that at one point out favourites would be pitted against each other but not this early! Asked to pair up the players thought they would be playing together in teams like the last game, but that was not the case.
In the game of Marbles, the pairs were left to decide for themselves what game they wanted to play, with the loser being eliminated!
Probably one of the hardest games to watch as most pairs were playing a game of chance. If you were anything like us, we were hoping there was going to be another twist where some of the characters would survive in pairs but instead, we lost some big players and learned who were not to be trusted.
Having two games back-to-back where we lost half the players each time really helped keep the momentum of the story.
Game 5: Glass Bridge
To start this horrifying game of chance, the players had to pick their order, before knowing what the game was which led to a very tense moment where Gi Hun, almost went first. His indecisiveness helping him hugely here.
The aim of this game is for the remaining players to make their way across the glass bridge hopping from glass square to glass square, hoping to land on the tempered glass, rather than the normal glass which would break instantly sending them plummeting to their death.
Again, set in a pitch-black room with a few lights this game was intense! But it did however whittled the players down to three and showed Sang-woo’s ‘do anything for the money’ character again.
The added glass blasts at the end of the game also added an extra twist of tension as front runner Sae-byeok got severely injured.
Game 6: The Squid Game
With only two players left after Sang-woo eliminated Sae-byeok with a dinner knife, it was on to the final game and namesake of the series, Squid Game.
This game is divided into attacker (Gi-hun) and defender (Sang-woo). The attackers’ objective is to reach the “home” square marked on the opposite side of the field, while the defender’s purpose is to block them and push them out to win.
However, let’s be honest we saw very little gameplay as it ended up in a fight between the two finalists. The end of the game was gripping to watch, particularly with the knives in play and Gi-huns indecisive personality. Just as we think it’s all over, rather than putting his foot in the home square Gi-hun tries to get an injured Sang-woo to walk away from the game so they can both survive, giving up on the money.
But it a massive twist Sang-woo picks up the knife from the floor and instead of killing Gi-hun, like we anticipated, he kills himself. This was a great call from writer Hwang Dong-hyuk as it was unexpected and gave us a little extra from Sang-woos character. However, we can’t help but think that maybe it would have been a bigger twist if Sang-woo did kill Gi-Hun and won the games as no one was routing for him.
What do you think about our thoughts on the players and games within Squid Game? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out book to movie adaptations coming soon HERE.
Read IMDB information about Squid Game HERE.
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