The latest episode of The Big Bang Theory would like to make you think it was about Comic-Con, but the closest the show actually got to the event or superheroes was a scene in Stuart’s comic book shop. Rather, the whole episode was cleverly disguised (not that it even needed to be) as a chance to come clean about the hilarious—and often ridiculous—truths about marriage and long-term relationships.
A month ago, Penny questioned if it was normal for her husband to “stop giving a crap.” Her marriage to Leonard wasn’t necessarily on the rocks, but something else was: their communication skills. By the end of the episode, thanks to Sheldon and his willingness to draft up a relationship agreement, the duo had a renewed sense of unity. They vowed to do a number of things, including not being allowed to say everything is fine if it isn’t.
Well, that agreement hasn’t even had a chance to collect dust and it looks like the Hofstadters already need to take it out of the safe. In “The Comic-Con Conundrum,” Penny decided she would attend Comic-Con with her husband and his friends because she wanted to do something to make him happy. It sounded good in theory—relationships thrive when you can learn to appreciate each other’s hobbies—but lying about her interest in the grueling, obstacle course-like fan fest? As Leonard would say, that’s “off the chainmail!”
Her gesture wasn’t as simple—or as reasonable—as accompanying Leonard to a comic book store or watching his favorite superhero movie. No, it involved committing to five days in a city that more than doubles its population for fans willing to camp out overnight for access to panels. Penny may have acted her way out of a gorilla cage in Serial Ape-ist: Monkey See, Monkey Kill, but looking happy at Comic-Con for multiple days? Not even Meryl Streep could pull off that performance.
The comedy of the entire episode lied in Penny’s attempt to sound and look excited, while Leonard tried to pretend he’d love his wife’s company in a place where he knew she’d be miserable. And in turn, that would make him miserable. So, yeah, that section in the relationship agreement about not speaking up when things aren’t fine? You guys might want to go back to that.
It’s increasingly clear these two still need some help. Even deciding who would drive the car turned into an argument. And yet, it’s such a common issue that all relationships face—how to find common ground with your partner’s interests when you have no interest in them yourself. In the beginning of a relationship it’s different: You want any excuse just to spend time with someone, so an occasional white lie might happen. But what happens when that thrill fades and you settle in? At some point I’d like to think Penny and Leonard will realize it’s about a balance, not biting off more than you can chew. (Here’s a thought: They should re-watch Full House to see how Becky dealt with Jesse’s Elvis obsession.)
On the flip side, there’s Sheldon and Amy, who are so brutally honest that he’s not afraid to tell her that what she considers a beauty mark is actually a mole with a large hair growing out of it. A little too TMI? Sure, but why do I feel like these two have grown leap years ahead of their married counterparts? You know they’re majorly succeeding when even Amy doesn’t want to go Comic-Con alone with Sheldon and isn’t afraid to tell him. (Pay attention, Penny.)
Then there was Bernadette, who was quick to point out that her husband was full of shit when he said he’d do everything around the house if she gave him permission to go to Comic-Con. Never one to let anything get by her, Bernie made Howard make good on his promise now instead of later. That was a master class on relationships right there: actions over words, always.
And last but not least, there was poor Raj, relegated to dressing like a comic book dragon (is that what it is? I didn’t see that look at New York Fashion Week recently) to make money to fund his expensive habits. It had nothing to do with marriage or relationships, but this picture deserves to live on the Internet, so here it is:
With that, one of the funniest episodes of The Big Bang Theory is in the books. But that PSA about marriage and compromise? May that live on forever.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays on CBS at 8 P.M. ET.