We’re only three episodes in The Big Bang Theory‘s final season, but already major bombshells are dropping. (Consider that your warning: Huge spoilers ahead!)
In tonight’s episode, “The Procreation Calculation,” the first big news happens when Raj gets engaged to Anu after knowing her all of five minutes. Yes, this was an arranged meeting by Raj’s father in hopes of it leading to marriage—but I didn’t expect Anu to propose so soon. Then again, Raj did sweetly tell her he’s a hopeless romantic who wants a great story to tell his future kids one day. And they’re both over-the-moon happy. Plus, now we have 21 episodes left to see how this will play out and whether or not this will lead to marriage.
The other big—and perhaps even more moving—reveal of the episode? Penny doesn’t want to have kids.
Now, if you’ve been following The Big Bang Theory closely (or paying attention to executive producer Steve Holland’s interviews), then it shouldn’t have come as a total surprise that kids weren’t in the cards for Penny and Leonard. After two seasons of pregnancy stories for Bernadette and Howard (and two never-seen babies), Holland has made it clear that he doesn’t want to repeat what’s already been done. Last season he told Glamour that “while it’s always a discussion…we’ve now done two seasons of pregnancy stories. I can’t say exactly what season 12 holds, but I’m not super excited to tell another pregnancy story right now.”
Of course, when you have four characters—Sheldon, Amy, Leonard, Penny—in their 30s, married, and successful…the topic of starting a family is going to come up. “At some point, these characters have to be real people and have things going on in their lives,” Holland said at the time. The question is, how and when do you decide to give the fans want, while also staying true to the characters?
In tonight’s episode, Penny stayed true to herself. While she’s proven to be a great “Aunt Penny” to Bernadette and Howard’s kids, she’s never talked openly about a strong desire to have kids of her own. And even Kaley Cuoco wasn’t on board with Penny becoming a mother. At Paleyfest this year, she told the audience that she didn’t want the Hofstadters to start a family.
While the decision may have been right for Penny—and the show as a whole—it was still heartbreaking for Leonard, who thought he’d be a dad one day. He’s disappointed, but by the episode’s end he reckons that he has other amazing things in his life he never thought he’d get, including his hilarious, smart, and beautiful wife.
One could make the case that Leonard and Penny should have talked openly about having kids before they got married. (And maybe they did—after 250-plus episodes, I can’t keep track.) But guess what? Life happens, and viewpoints change. Penny may have thought there’d come a time when she would want to be a mother. She’s still entitled to change her mind. And even if Leonard wanted to be a dad, it’s not up to Penny to give him that if she doesn’t feel it’s right for her.
The show tackled the discussion beautifully and honestly—and with its signature humor. Case in point: When Penny’s friends Bernadette and Amy lashed out for their own selfish reasons rather than thinking about whether or not this was the right decision for their friend. “My kids were going to be friends with your kids!” Amy screamed. “We were going to be barf buddies [during pregnancy]!” Bernadette didn’t back off, either. “It’s not crazy [not to want to have kids],” she said. “It’s just wrong.”
“I know I’d be great,” Penny countered. “I just don’t want to be one. Not everyone needs to have kids to be fulfilled.” Penny didn’t go into details about why she didn’t want kids, but she doesn’t have to. If it’s none of Amy’s business, as Penny told her, then it’s certainly not ours. The decision to raise a child is an extremely personal one, and women shouldn’t be made to feel less than if they decide it’s not what they want.
Later in the episode, Penny and Leonard have a heart-to-heart and admit that as long as they have each other, they’ll be OK. However, the writers left the door open for a much larger discussion by bringing in Keith Carradine (Penny’s dad) for a brief cameo to express his disappointment that he won’t be a grandfather. What will be interesting to watch, should the show go that direction, is how Penny responds to outside pressure not just from her friends but her family. To that I say, continue to do what’s right for you, Penny. You’ve more than proven that.