There’s nothing the dorky dudes who populate “The Big Bang Theory” like more than comic books. After all, their favorite hangout — when they aren’t congregating at Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper’s (Jim Parsons) apartment or chatting over a meal at the Cheesecake Factory or their workplace cafeteria — is The Comic Center of Pasadena. It’s there where they can pour over the latest issues and debate all of the important things in life — like whether Superman is stronger than Aquaman.
Their loyalty goes beyond buying comics and debating them, of course. They also wear their devotion on their bodies. Sheldon is known for his iconic Flash T-shirt, and the rest of the gang sport the logos of everyone from Superman to The Green Lantern to Spider-Man on their chests. But no character beguiles them more than Bruce Wayne himself. Batman is the only superhero to receive a full episode dedicated to his skills, intelligence, and prowess, after all.
With Batman Day fast approaching, Looper has selected the show’s top five Batman-related episodes — perfect for reading during TBS’ Batman Day marathon of “The Big Bang Theory,” which begins on September 16.
The Bitcoin Entanglement (Season 11, Episode 9)
Batman is only peripherally involved in this one, but he still provides a major plot point in this episode that focuses on the Bitcoin craze. This flashback-filled episode is filled with revelations about Leonard and Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) relationship, as well as the wages of conflict and friendship within the group.
Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) realizes that the entire gang might have a private goldmine in their possession. Said pot of cash exists in the form of a long-forgotten stockpile of Bitcoins. They were mined by Howard, Leonard and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) years before the coinage was popular, with Sheldon abstaining from the plot due to tax-based reasons. A wild goose chase for the location of the pile ensues. It proves not to be on Howard’s old laptop, or on Leonard’s — which became Penny’s after hers broke. Penny reveals that she gave Leonard’s laptop to her old boyfriend, Zack (Brian Thomas Smith). While Leonard and Penny battle about the ethics behind this, the search for the Bitcoin folder runs into dead end after dead end — until Sheldon reveals that he downloaded the item onto Leonard’s Batman logo-shaped flash drive, hoping to teach him a lesson about his lack of attention to details. Unfortunately, he also lost the drive years ago.
In the ultimate twist, a final flashback sees Stuart Bloom (Kevin Sussman) at the Comic Center of Pasadena. He discovers Sheldon’s flash drive — and says he’s going to wipe it clean and sell it. Since this happened four years before their wild goose chase, the money is long gone — but at least the journey helps Penny and Leonard prove that their love for each other still shines.
The Procreation Calculation (Season 12, Episode 3)
The simple but sweet tag scene in this episode sees Penny show a little bit of wifely devotion to Leonard after they have an episode-long fight about, well, procreation. Penny is firmly anti-having kids, and Leonard desperately wants to have children with her. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) also wants Penny and Leonard to have kids, mostly because she fears that her own children with Sheldon won’t be able to make their own outside of their small, already established friends’ group.
The argument is not quite settled — for a good reason, as Penny turns up pregnant during the show’s series finale — but for the moment, it is quelled. As a peace offering, Penny leads Leonard to an exact replica of the Batmobile from the 1960s live-action version of “Batman.” An enthusiastic Leonard assumes Penny bought the car, but she explains that she rented it — sans insurance. Leonard climbs behind the wheel and initially drives away without her. But Leonard returns, Penny climbs into the passenger side seat, and they head off into the afternoon singing the show’s theme song.
The visual callbacks to the 1966 version of “Batman” and the brilliant use of the show’s theme help take this one over the top, making it a must-watch.
The Justice League Recombination (Season 4, Episode 11)
It wouldn’t be “The Big Bang Theory” if its cast of characters didn’t indulge in occasional flights of cosplay. One of the earliest examples of this occurs in “The Justice League Recombination,” where a New Year’s Eve party at The Comic Center of Pasadena has the gang donning spandex and fake muscles to pose as the titular DC super team.
It’s Howard who has the honor of dressing like Adam West’s conception of Batman, though his vocal impression of the character leans harder on Christian Bale’s gravelly inflections. The rest of the gang dresses up like The Green Lantern (Leonard), The Flash (Sheldon), Wonder Woman (Penny, who’s very reluctant about the brunette wig she must don for the part), and Aquaman (an extremely reluctant-as-usual Raj). That leaves just one missing member of the team, and Penny’s boyfriend Zack is roped into playing Superman, even though he seems to know nothing about the character.
Penny nearly refuses to go to the party — that is until Leonard talks her into it, sparking hope that their romance might bloom anew. The gang wins the costume contest and Sheldon’s big acceptance speech is interrupted by the countdown to 2011. Unfortunately, Zack kisses Penny just after the clock strikes 12, leaving Leonard to watch them, his heart shattering into a million pieces.
The Bat Jar Conjecture (Season 1, Episode 13)
This very early episode is important not just because it establishes Sheldon’s love of all things Batman-related early on, but because it provides an important background prop that will be visible throughout the show’s 12 seasons.
The Physics Bowl is fast approaching, and Sheldon almost instantly gets on his friends’ nerves with his supercilious and bossy behavior. The final straw comes when he suggests the whole team wear Starfleet regulation uniforms like the ones worn on “Star Trek: The Original Series.” He refuses to allow anyone else to wear a golden shirt, which ranks him as a captain and thus leader of the team. Unenthusiastic about being relegated to red-shirt status, Howard, Raj, and Leonard remove Sheldon from the team. Leonard tries to soften the blow by giving him a Batman-shaped cookie jar.
Sheldon is outraged but accepts the jar as a payment. He creates his own team to compete with Leonard, Raj, and Howard, but ultimately loses because he refuses to compromise, follow the Quiz Bowl’s rules, or practice the fine art of teamwork. Sheldon may lose a major competition in this episode, but even more importantly, “The Big Bang Theory” gains a notable prop. The Batman cookie jar remains a fixture in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment throughout the rest of the show’s run.
The Celebration Experimentation (Season 9, Episode 17)
The top pick of the pile has to be the only episode in which a Batman actor appears — Season 9’s “The Celebration Experimentation,” which features the late Adam West. Mr. West appeared as himself at Sheldon’s birthday party.
Sheldon has long been reluctant to celebrate his natal day due to a mean trick his twin, Missy, pulled on him when they were six. Amy hopes to reverse the trend by delivering on Missy’s long-ago lie; she plans on inviting Adam West to show up and act as a guest at Sheldon’s party. West does indeed truck over to the party — though he expects Amy to pay him — and the fete fills up with familiar old faces, like Sara Gilbert’s Leslie Winkle and Wil Wheaton, playing himself as a terrible evildoer. But this grand show of kindness causes Sheldon to have a panic attack, and only Penny can help talk him down.
This served as the show’s 200th episode, and it definitely shows, as lots of familiar characters got to return. After years of portraying himself on “Family Guy,” West was by this point an old hat at parodying his outré public persona, and this guest-starring turn here is no exception to the rule. Whether he’s forgetting Sheldon’s name, complaining that he wants to be taken home, or opining about the most overrated Batman, he’s a delight in a sea of guest stars, making this the most necessary “Batman”-related episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”