At first glance, and with enough cynicism, it’s easy to see The Big Bang Theory’s use of its Star Wars: The Force Awakens tie-in episode as the one where Sheldon and Amy finally have sex as a cheap bit of marketing, or perhaps even worse, as a moment of contrived conflict. After all, it’s just so obvious to have Sheldon finally get to a place where he wants to be physical with Amy, only to have that comfort come at the same time the new Star Wars film comes out. On the surface, the whole situation seems like a rote path to easy punchlines, with Sheldon torn between his two true loves. Remarkably though, “The Opening Night Excitation” doesn’t go that route. Instead, that surface observation fades and reveals a deeper connection.

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Backing up though, “The Opening Night Excitation” boasts a rather simple setup compared to some of this season’s more cluttered and forced episodes. There’s one single plot thread that ties everyone together, and such focus is refreshing, especially considering that this is meant to be one of those “big moment” episodes. Stuffing too much into the story, which is what The Big Bang Theory does more often than it should, would be a mistake. I mentioned in last week’s review that while this season has largely been a dud, the continuing, shifting romance of Amy and Sheldon has been a bright spot because it’s rooted in patience and character development. The show doesn’t always take the time to develop its characters, but when it does, it typically pays off. “The Opening Night Excitation” is the payoff of a season-long build, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work out just about perfectly.

The reason the big moment works is because of that deeper connection I mentioned above. “The Opening Night Excitation” sidesteps just about every obvious punchline in terms of Sheldon and Amy finally having sex, instead choosing to make their eventual consummation one of joy and happiness (and, okay, a touch of awkwardness). This is where the Star Wars connection actually comes in handy. Rather than using the new film as a way to have Sheldon feel conflicted, the show uses it to draw a parallel between the episode’s two storylines: Sheldon and Amy getting it on, and Leonard, Howard, and Raj going to see the movie on opening night. Both scenarios are filled with similar emotions: excitement, worry, vulnerability, and unfamiliarity. The cut between the two storylines that occurs near the end of the episode—where Sheldon and Amy lay in bed with a post-coitus glow about them, and Leonard, Raj, and Howard have that fanboy glow sitting in the theatre—is just the visual manifestation of those feelings.

The episode itself goes much deeper than that, and it’s a delight to watch as everyone hurtles towards their Thursday night goal with equal parts eagerness and worry. To that end, “The Opening Night Excitation” is a fun episode of The Big Bang Theory, and that feeling isn’t to be underestimated in a season filled with sluggish and dull storylines. The reason it’s so much fun is because of the show’s greatest strengths: the characters and the sweetness. There’s hardly a nasty joke delivered in the episode. Instead, everyone is just so damn happy. There’s Penny and Bernadette giddily and shockingly taking in Sheldon’s confession about his plans for Amy’s birthday, and there’s Leonard getting excited every single day that the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets closer.

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The highlight of the episode though is Mayim Bialik, who’s always done a wonderful job with the two sides of Amy: the buttoned-up academic and the raging pile of hormones in a cardigan. Her line delivery and facial expressions throughout the episode are some of the best comedy of the season. The way she shouts “shut your damn mouth!” when Penny tells her about Sheldon’s plan, or the way she runs after saying “let’s get me waxed!” aren’t just funny because of the situation, but because we understand what a big moment this is for Amy. There’s unfiltered joy and anticipation in Bialik’s expressions that’s undoubtedly infectious not only from a viewer’s perspective, but also from the perspective of Penny and Bernadette. There’s a “kid in a candy store” kind of glee to her performance that never strays too far into the ridiculous, instead staying grounded in Amy’s charming blend of innocence and naughtiness.

What “The Opening Night Excitation” manages to do is take a story ripe for cheap jokes and instead craft a meaningful and heartfelt episode about two people finding comfort in one another. That’s what Sheldon and Amy have always been about as a couple. They’ve always understood one another, no matter how inexplicable their (okay, mostly Sheldon’s) actions might be. Now here they are, about to engage in something truly vulnerable and powerful, and they’re excited, but also scared. What will it be like? Can it possibly live up to the moment they’ve built up in their heads? Who knows, but at least they have each other. Or, as Sheldon puts it: “we can find out together.”

Stray observations

  • Always nice to have a Bob Newhart appearance on the show. I’ll never tire of his line delivery.
  • Big laugh when Sheldon snatched his ticket back after Leonard said he might give it to Penny.
  • Anyone else looking for a ticket to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival? There’s only about 8000 left, so get them while you can.
  • Sheldon’s last-ditch effort to get Star Wars tickets involves praying to God: “you’re good friends with my Mom.”
  • Sheldon’s birthday options for Amy, as summed up by Penny and Bernadette: “Harp thing, sheep thing, or wild thing.”
  • Sheldon on Amy’s mood-setting candles and music: “it’s kind of spooky actually.”

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