Ever since expanding its female cast, The Big Bang Theory has been a stronger show when it focuses on the women. It’s beginning to look like we’re going to get a regular new face to join Penny, Bernadette, and Amy in Kate Micucci’s Lucy, and like those other three women, her character is the ideal match for her male counterpart. Penny is the dumb blonde that Leonard wanted but could never have; Bernadette looks like the girl of Howard’s dreams, but has the personality of his mother; Amy gives Sheldon all the attention he needs and accepts his quirks without forcing him to change; and Lucy makes Raj feel strong by being even more anxious than he is. Yet while these women are designed to be the perfect complements to their men, they’re still autonomous beings with their own desires and frustrations, and “The Love Spell Potential” looks at what happens when Amy and Lucy are pushed too far.
Last season, Big Bang Theory was a show that I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to watch if I wasn’t reviewing it. Those feelings lingered for much of the first half of this season, especially as Sheldon became more and more despicable, but the writers have done some impressive course correction since coming back from winter hiatus. The relationships have become stronger and the characters more sympathetic, tapping into the heart that has made this show one of the last sitcom juggernauts. Penny started to show legitimate satisfaction with Leonard, and Howard began to learn the harsh reality of married life, but the biggest developments belonged to Sheldon and Raj. Sheldon was forced to confront his anxiety about intimacy (along with a lot of other issues) while Raj got a girlfriend, and this week’s episode continues to explore those two plotlines with strong results.
When Amy assaults a TSA officer and lands herself on a no-fly list, her trip to Vegas with Penny and Bernadette is grounded, and they find themselves in a couples’ game of Dungeons & Dragons with their significant others. It’s immediately clear that this game isn’t going to go very well for Sheldon when his no alcohol rule is waived so that Penny can get as drunk as she needs to find this a reasonable replacement for Vegas. There are a lot of jokes about how girls don’t play D&D and how guys that do play don’t get girls, but everybody seems to be having a pretty good time until the titular love spell comes into play.
Penny suggests that Sheldon and Amy’s characters “do it” inside the game, and the rest of the group goes along with it in exceedingly immature fashion. The Dungeons & Dragons game essentially becomes the adult equivalent of a grade school playground once Penny suggests in-game smoochies, and Amy doesn’t appreciate having the thing she cares about most get laughed at by her closest friends. She runs off to Sheldon’s room in embarrassment, and when he comes in to comfort her, she asks him if they’re ever going to have an intimate relationship, a question she should have asked a long time ago. He responds by telling her that what they have is extremely intimate to him, and the fact that they are both sitting on his bed after three years shows that he’s grown from where he was when they first met.
Rather than shying away from Sheldon’s disability, the writers have started to embrace it and have in the process turned Sheldon into a character who is trying to overcome these obstacles in order to have meaningful personal relationships. In order to show Amy that he has not ruled out physical intimacy in their future, Sheldon gives her a tease by continuing the D&D campaign where they left off, with both of their characters under a love spell. With each roll of the die, Amy gets to experience a new imaginary sensation. Is simulated Dungeons & Dragons-style intimacy as good as actual physical contact with another person? Does Amy have a lot of other options at this point? She’ll take what she can get. The fact that Amy got Sheldon to talk about any sort of physical intimacy is a big step, but getting him to actually simulate it via D&D is even bigger, showing that he’s capable to looking at Amy through an erotic lens. I’m still predicting a kiss between these two in next week’s finale, especially since Raj gets his this week.
Raj ditches the D&D game to go on a date with Lucy, which starts off great, as they talk about their mutual anxieties. Kate Micucci is so great at playing these extremely mousy characters, and she has great chemistry with Kunal Nayyar, who is clearly enjoying the opportunity to have some romantic scenes for once. Lucy is crippled by her anxieties, which are physically represented by the bangs on her forehead that she is afraid to tell her hairdresser to cut. Raj tries to get Lucy to break through some of those fears, beginning with sending back her funky crabcakes at the restaurant. The pressure causes Lucy to shut down, and she flees to the bathroom where she tries to escape through a window but finds herself stuck in a fenced-in back area.
Lucy calls Raj to come save her, and he warns her that if she keeps on running away from him, she’s going to do irreparable damage to his masculinity. She tells him that she didn’t like being pressured into sending her food back, and like Sheldon and Amy’s situation, the fact that Raj gets Lucy to speak her mind without fear shows that he’s helping her. Of course, Raj also shouldn’t be getting on anyone’s case, considering he still can’t talk to women without a sip of alcohol beforehand. Granted, with the way this season has been addressing some of the more frustrating aspects of different characters, I wouldn’t be surprised if that plot device went away soon.
- I saw a great play a few months ago called She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen that used Dungeons & Dragons as therapy for a woman who loses her family in a car accident. She connects with her dead sister by playing her D&D campaign and comes to a bunch of personal realizations about herself in the process. It’s a hilarious script with lots of nods to geek culture, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if it’s ever being performed in your area.
- Simon Helberg shows his mastery of the celebrity impression as Howard does Nicholas Cage, Al Pacino, and Christopher Walken voices to make Sheldon accept him as Dungeon Master. It’s a great use of Helberg’s talent.
- “I got a brand new bikini, so drinks at the pool are on these.”
- “I take my +1 Longsword, stab myself in the face with it, I’m dead, I’ve got a date with a girl byeeee.”
- “Oh, it’s not so bad. You lost money, you’re filled with shame, and you got groped by a stranger. I mean, that’s Vegas. You nailed it.”
- “It’s only been three years. Here we are in bed together.”
- Sheldon: “I erotically caress your… nose.” Amy: “Keep rolling.”
- “Sheldon is nibbling on my… 14! YES!”