The 25 best episodes of The Big Bang Theory – finale

From Comic-Cons gone wrong to love affairs gone right, we look back at 25 of the most memorable episodes of The Big Bang Theory. (end)

8. “The Justice League Recombination”
Season 4 Episode 11

Mo’ Zack, mo’ laughs. When the group imply that Zack is stupid, thus upsetting Penny, they invite both of them to be part of their Justice League group costume for Stuart’s New Year’s Eve costume competition. The getups themselves provide their fair share of chuckles – it’s fun to see Aquaman jokes from a pre-Jason Momoa (“Aquaman sucks”) world and Sheldon’s love of The Flash is always fun – but it’s really Brian Thomas Smith’s performance as Zack that makes this a brilliant installment.

7. “The D&D Vortex”
Season 12 Episode 16

If I found out that one of my friends was involved with a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that featured Joe Manganiello, William Shatner, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Kevin Smith and didn’t tell me, I would probably be a little jealous too. Sheldon finds out that not only is his friend Wil Wheaton the leader of said group, but that Stuart of all people is also a member. Wil secretly invites Leonard to join too, but after he spills the beans to Penny, Bernadette, and Amy (who love Joe Manganiello), gets kicked out thinking that Leonard and the others only want to hang out for his celeb connections. Not only is this episode fun for D&D fans, but it also shows how far the group’s friendship with Wil Wheaton has come.

6. “The Staircase Implementation”
Season 3 Episode 22

Ever wondered how Leonard ended up living with Sheldon? Well this episode is going to tell you, and explain why both the elevator and Leonard’s spirit are so broken in the present day. It’s standard bad haircut and prescient comment fare for the most part, but there are some inspired touches that make it worthwhile. More than anything, it retroactively shows how far a lot of the characters have come, especially Sheldon, and watch out for a cameo appearance from a young Steven Yeun as Leonard’s predecessor.

5. “The Stockholm Syndrome”
Season 12 Episode 24

Ending a decade-long series is never easy, but The Big Bang Theory’s series finale does a great job of sending off these beloved characters. Sheldon and Amy become Nobel Prize Award Winners for their work, inspiring the next generation of young scientists. Sheldon finally acknowledges how selfish he can be, and uses his speech to thank his friends and family for their support throughout his life and career. Penny and Leonard prepare to start a family while Howard and Bernadette struggle to leave their kids behind while making the trip to Sweden. The queen Sarah Michelle Gellar also makes an appearance in the episode as Raj’s plus one for the ceremony. “The Stockholm Syndrome” is a near perfect farewell and one of the best episodes of the series overall.

4. “The Bow Tie Asymmetry”
Season 11 Episode 24

While this isn’t the very best episode depicting a big event in Sheldon and Amy’s lives, it is the best wedding on the show and what should probably have been the series finale. Not just because the guest star bookings peaked with Mark Hamill, the sense of finality and celebration in “The Bow Tie Asymmetry” is palpable, and note perfect when it comes to combining the necessary emotional beats with the laughs. Leonard and Penny may have started as the main characters, but Sheldon and Amy replaced them long ago, so what better way to cap off a season than having Luke Skywalker officiate their wedding?

3. “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency”
Season 3 Episode 8

The pinnacle of Sheldon and Penny’s odd couple shenanigans, “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency” is the moment the show realised what it had in Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco, running with it ever since. When Penny slips in the bath and dislocates her shoulder, Sheldon must be her knight in shining armour and, after getting her dressed (“does that feel like an arm?”), take her to the emergency room. The chemistry between them is brilliant as ever and, with the rest of the guys otherwise located, it’s a hoot watching them try to navigate around the many hurdles presented by the situation.

2. “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”
Season 2 Episode 11

The episode most cited as The Big Bang Theory’s best (though it just missed out on the top spot here), “The Bath Item Hypothesis” is the show firing on all cylinders, using all of the tools in its toolbox, and crafting a genuinely great Christmas episode at a time when those are few and far between. The best single moment of the episode, and quite possibly of the series, is when Sheldon, having spent the preceding days fretting about how to reciprocate Penny’s hypothetical gift, receives a napkin signed by none other than Leonard Nimoy. Overcome, he gives her a gift basket in every size imaginable, stresses that it’s not enough, and then offers her a rare hug.

1. “The Opening Night Excitation”
Season 9 Episode 11

While “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” may be the funniest episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Opening Night Excitation” is its most gratifying. After years of seeing Sheldon and Amy’s relationship reach each tiny baby step one at a time, it finally came time for them to lose their virginity to each other. It’s a situation that you just don’t see depicted on TV – two people well into adulthood coming together no earlier or later than the right moment – and the writing and direction treats both characters with the respect and genuine affection they’ve earned.

The whole affair is juxtaposed with Leonard, Howard and Raj seeing The Force Awakens and being almost as nervous as their friends back home, which compliments the emotions of one half of the episode with the intense reservations and ultimate euphoria that could be truly felt in screenings around the world. It’s a celebration of geek culture, of love between unlikely pairings, and of both things existing in people’s lives at the same time. It’s a perfect episode, and the show’s best.

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