Aw, our little Sheldon is all grown up.
Big changes arrived on The Big Bang Theory in the Season 7 finale and miraculously, Penny and Leonard's latest engagement survived. I think that maybe—just maybe—this might be the one that sticks. In recent seasons, the series has committed itself to expanding the bottle world of Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj into a thriving ecosystem, with complex relationships, motivations, and situations. Changes have come in waves, but as the very title of "The Status Quo Combustion" implied, the steps have always been modest and measured.
I don't think it would be accurate to say that Sheldon has never been affected by the changes going on around him, whether it be the Wolowitz-Rostenkowski wedding, Raj figuring out how to talk to women, or Leonard and Penny managing to make their relationship work. He's certainly been affected, just never as deeply and as quickly as the one-two punch of Leonard and Penny's engagement his roommate agreement into question, and Stu's comic book shop—Sheldon's safe haven—burning down all in a single frantic episode.
All things considered, Sheldon showed a tremendou amount of maturity and growth in the face of quite a lot of change. An earlier Sheldon wouldn't have weathered the new landscape quite as well—which is not to say that it was a smooth process or that everything will be peachy keen when The Big Bang Theory returns in the fall. It's true, what Leonard said, about Sheldon being like Freaky Friday: He's a child trapped in an adult body. We've often seen the bratty side of the child in Sheldon, but children can be hurt so easily, and while Leonard and Penny are most certainly allowed to start planning their lives together without Sheldon, that plan is the latest hurt in a season that's seen a lot of pain for Sheldon Cooper. It's only been a few short weeks since he lost his childhood idol, Professor Proton, and dealt not only with that loss, but a lifelong lack of father figures.
Sheldon may not demonstrate emotion outwardly in a way that most of us are accustomed to seeing it displayed, but that doesn't mean he isn't emotional. Leonard may not be a father or other authority figure in Sheldon's life, but he is an individual who's connected to Sheldon in a familial way, and someone to whom Sheldon has, likewise, attached himself, in his Sheldon-esque way. Sheldon was miffed at the idea of Leonard putting Penny's feelings over his own, and yes that was funny in that "Oh, Sheldon!" kind of way, but beyond the surface laughs, Sheldon's attitude reflected his childlike interpretation of Leonard's decision as yet another rejection from someone he cared about, yet another person not caring about him the same way, yet another person leaving him.
Sheldon is a scientist. He knows how experiments work; a control sample is required so that the effect of different variables can accurately be studied. Sheldon's aversion to change has long been his method of maintaining control of his life—except that sometimes, despite the very best efforts of everyone in the lab, contamination happens. Sheldon doesn't seek out change, but it comes to him regardless. Friends get married, women fall in love with him, heroes die, and the luster of a dream job fades, whether Sheldon wants it to or not.
In "The Status Quo Combustion," Sheldon finally took control of his own life. The agreements and arrangements and rules and meticulously organized cereal boxes have become ineffective. The experiment failed. It's time for a new experiment.
Sheldon's decision to hit the road to "find himself" was the most obvious change to the status quo in the finale, but Stu and Raj took large steps toward something new as well. Raj got laid (and wouldn't STFU about it). And Stu, with the future of the comic book store up in the air following the fire, let Howard and Bernadette sucker him into caring for Momma Wolowitz... and ended up not hating it.
For many TV shows, especially sitcoms, Season 7 is well into old age, when the wrinkles can't be hidden and the beer gut situation is hopeless, but The Big Bang Theory is resilient—and, apparently, quite malleable. It's not a matter of teaching an old dog new tricks, but an old dog figuring out how to use the tricks it's known for a long time now.
– "You guys propose all the time. This never happened." —Bernadette on Raj having sex.
– Will the comic shop be rebuilt?
– Penny has the Sheldon seal of approval. Awwww.
– What do you think the Sheldon-Leonard-Penny living arrangement situation will be when we return to The Big Bang Theory?
– Will Amy and Sheldon ever shack up?
What'd you think of the finale? What's on your wishlist for Season 8?