As the culture shifted in the late 2010s, The Big Bang Theory was a breath of fresh air against everything cable television sitcoms were doing at the time. CBS capitalized off of creator Chuck Lorre’s success with Two and a Half Men and rolled it into a comedy about four nerdy scientists who work at a university. Seeking to resonate with a segment of fans that get neglected. This show was for the intellectuals; the brainy wiz kids that are fans of science fiction and comic books, that weren’t the popular ones nor the main focus elsewhere.
Big Bang brought pop culture into the spotlight, cultivated the archetypes of the “nerd”, and made science the main priority. The show created many iconic moments that live larger than the show, like “Bazinga!” The episodes in this list take into account the entire cast and their story arc as well as how the episode fits into the main plot of the series.
“The Tangerine Factor”
Season 1, Episode 17
The last episode of the first season is the epitome of how the show takes off. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) being a menace learning Mandarin to harass a local restaurant, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) playing the game of a relationship, and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg) as the supplemental nuances that keep the show on its feet.
This episode also displays the logic this show is based on, which is how the absurd can play into logic. When Leonard and Penny both go to Sheldon for help, he brings the theory of Schrödinger’s cat up – applying it to their situation. And believe it or not, unknowingly, Sheldon makes good points when he relates things back to physics.
“The Maternal Capacitance”
Season 2, Episode 15
The arrival of Leonard’s mother (Christine Baranski) means a slow despair for Leonard. An uptight, logic-based individual who does not show much affection for her son or his friends. As she digs into each character, she draws out their inner trauma, leaving them a puddle in her wake. Driving Leonard to hang out with Penny, forwards their relationship as they almost sleep together.
The diverse cast of characters constantly creates tension and conflict, making for a great combination of back-and-forth wit. Filled with silly innuendos, clever wit, and responses. This episode shows how even the simplest jokes set between Sheldon and Leonard’s mom are brought to life through the performances. These characters laugh at the deeper meaning of things.
“The Staircase Implementation”
Season 3, Episode 22
A flashback episode of how Sheldon and Leonard met lets us in on the secret of why the elevator has not been working, among many other running gags in the series. As somewhat younger versions of themselves, we see how Sheldon has grown since then and how deep the relationship between these characters goes.
This episode deserves to be ranked as the best of the season, hitting on the running gags that have been used throughout the series and giving exposition to the lore. As the gags have grown bigger than the show, the awareness from the writers to pick up on the fans’ curiosity behind some of these little quirks was appreciated and helped this episode to become notable.
“The Robotic Manipulation”
Season 4, Episode 1
A pivotal point in Sheldon’s life comes when it is time for his first date with none other than Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). To help him with this big occasion, Penny agrees to tag along and help them along the way. In terms of those memorable moments, this episode includes the infamous robot malfunction as Howard tries to use it for self-pleasure.
This episode is fascinating in showing how the writers arced the characters throughout the series. Sheldon develops throughout the seasons with the help of Penny and the rest of the gang, but we start to see Sheldon becoming more aware of the conventions of society, replying with cheekier quips back at Penny.
“The Good Guy Fluctuation”
Season 5, Episode 7
“Bazinga! Punk now we’re even!” After the guys play a prank on Sheldon, he sets out to scare them as badly as he gets scared. He tries a plan for Leonard, Howard, and Raj, but each time is bested by his mates.
Sheldon’s classic inability to let things go consumes this episode as he is constantly working on silly ways to get his friends back. This episode shows how, through the lives of these characters, we can go into a different world, one where blood can drip down walls and the impossible can seem possible because when science is on your side you can do cool things.
“The Closet Reconfiguration”
Season 6, Episode 19
When Bernadette and Howard take Sheldon over to rearrange his closet, he finds a letter from Howard’s father that he reads. Howard burns the letter to put it in the past, but a curious Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) asks Sheldon what is in the letter. Upset that everyone except himself knows the contents of the letter, Howard storms out. However, the rest of the gang comes up with a plan to help him get past the situation. They all write a version of the letter with one of them being the real version.
These moments are what make this friendship so special to watch. The loyalty they have to each other is one of a kind. The sincere moment coming from Sheldon makes the scene sweeter, as their relationship is not one with much care in the first place. Simon Helberg delivers a genuine performance that will make you tear up. The episode feels like a true turning point for his character in terms of being a family man; showing the depth of the writing and cast.
“The Scavenger Vortex”
Season 7, Episode 3
Raj forms a scavenger hunt for the gang and their girlfriends. The episode mixes and matches everyone, creating some pairings of characters that don’t normally interact alone together. Howard and Amy discover their love for Neil Simon, while Leonard learns how serious Bernadette is about winning. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Penny spend time together in their normal fashion of annoying each other.
The episode is the best of the season as it includes all the major players of the show. By this time, the seven main characters of the show have been introduced with a hoard of returning side characters, so fitting everyone into an episode isn’t always possible. Seeing characters that are typically not paired together makes the episode special. Seeing Amy and Howard sing their hearts out is enough to make you want to grab your best friend and go on a scavenger hunt. Emphasizing that you can be friends with everyone!
“The Commitment Determination”
Season 8, Episode 24
The last episode of the season sets fans on a cliffhanger over the relationships of Leonard and Penny as well as Sheldon and Amy. Sheldon wants Leonard and Penny to pick a wedding date while Amy reconsiders her relationship with Sheldon. In a spontaneous effort to get married, Penny and Leonard set off to Vegas to get married until Leonard brings up something from his past.
This episode is all about relationships moving forward and doing the hard thing of possibly hurting somebody’s feelings. Through underdeveloped, emotionally intelligent characters, audiences are shown the correct way to go about relationships and how to interact in certain dynamics. The relative problems of these characters may seem to be part of a silly plot on TV, yet their situations are real for many.
“The Opening Night Excitation”
Season 9, Episode 11
Sheldon and Amy are back together after some time apart now. However, Sheldon faces a dilemma when he has to choose between seeing the new Star Wars movie or spending time with Amy on her birthday. Bob Newhart comes to Sheldon as he decides he is going to spend the night with Amy and give her the best birthday gift. They are going to be intimate and sleep together.
Besides the huge revelation from Sheldon in this episode, as an act we would never think of seeing him commit. Another part of why this episode is the best of the season relates to how it incorporated pop culture. The episode tied a new Star Wars movie to it, making the situation more relatable because fans feel they are incorporated into the same universe when current events are floated around. Seeing characters drink the same drinks or eat at the same restaurants makes audiences familiar with the characters.
“The Brain Bowl Incubation”
Season 10, Episode 8
During the tenth season, the show began to experience a dip in the content of the episodes as plots felt arbitrary, and the characters became hollow versions of themselves. Something that this season was able to do well was continue to stay true to the kind of stories they told.
In this episode, Sheldon learns of the potential for a genetically gifted child, making him want to procreate with Amy. Jim Parsons’ performance as Sheldon always makes the episodes worth watching, as his high jinks are typically the main joke of the show. His character has even become so popular that a spin-off series based on his younger years has been one of the highest-rated shows on streaming.
“The Bow Tie, Asymmetry”
Season 11, Episode 24
On Sheldon and Amy’s wedding day, they make their guests wait as they figure out the last piece to an equation he has been working on. Inventing Super A symmetry and ending the season by marrying the person of his dreams.
Emphasizing the characters’ careers has always been a big part of the show. Leonard goes off to Antarctica to do experiments, Howard goes off into space, and Raj discovers a planetary object. Keeping in touch with their career and their accomplishments is nice to see in a sitcom where it can be easy to attach to frivolous things. Seeing the characters active and ambitious within their work community sets an example to always learn and grow.
“The Stockholm Syndrome”
Season 12, Episode 24
Of course, the best episode of the last season is the sending-off of a group of characters we’ve grown close to. The gang travels to Sweden for the Nobel Peace Prize celebration for Sheldon and Amy. While in Sweden, Sheldon is only able to make everything about him, causing everyone to want to leave until Sheldon commits to the final version of himself.
The ultimate arc for a character is Sheldon Cooper. In the biggest moment of his life, he spends time talking about the people who have been there for him: Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette. For if they were not a part of his life, he would not be standing where he is. This sweet sentiment from him is sincere and heartwarming as there is nothing left to do other than remember it all started with a big bang.