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Something as simple as character motivation can sometimes get lost in compartmentalized episodes of a sitcom. Episodes often differ so creatively from one another that it can be hard to find arcs that span over several weeks. Lately though, The Big Bang Theory has been making attempts at telling articulate stories over a few episodes, and tonight it hit an important mark. By infusing their characters with motivation, the writers created people with whom we could easily identify. The dispositions of each character were clear and succinct, and they stood for something that went beyond just this one particular chapter.
Tonight’s “The Zarnecki Incursion” told a simple story with complicated emotions. Penny, Sheldon, and Leonard had something to fight for. Sheldon needed to fight against Todd Zarnecki, a hacker who stole his character gear on World of Warcraft. Leonard had to spar with truth in order to keep his relationship with Priya alive. And lastly, Penny struggled with herself in order to realize that she doesn’t just want to be Leonard’s friend; she wants to be his girl.
As mentioned earlier, the story for each character tonight relied on motivation that’s been brewing almost all season. Sheldon’s adamant temperament drove him to angrily hunt down the man who ruined his virtual life. It may not have been the most unique reason for his behavior, but it was nice to see him attack his offender with the help of Raj, Howard, and Leonard. It’s rare to see the gang take out their aggression on another nerd and not amongst themselves. As asinine as his task was, he had the passion to fight for something. With the support of his three close friends, it gave his cause more importance. The writers comically noted the triviality of their conquest by having Raj make a mix cd of epic music, and it pointed out just what these people value. It was a perfect and humorous illustration of guys having fun and doing what they think is right, even if it means having to drive two and a half hours to confront a World of Warcraft hacker.
Tonight, Leonard acted out of desperation. By lying to Priya, he avoided a fiasco that just might have ended in his demise. To me, this made sense. Leonard believes that his ostensible purpose in life right now is to maintain a lasting relationship. He needs to prove to his friends and to himself that he doesn’t always get the short end of the stick, but the irony of his position is that he had to pathetically lie in order to keep his “lasting relationship” with Priya. It was a very thoughtful twenty minutes for Leonard, and he still has much to learn. Yet, I think that is why we keep coming back to television shows (even the ones that can sometimes frustrate us); we want our protagonists to not only learn something, but to also fully succeed. Leonard is not yet there, but these moments make him a more dynamic individual.
Penny prodded her discernment with uncertainty. With a display of realness, she went through “The Zarnecki Incursion” as any ex would. Her fickleness, ranging from friendliness and acceptance to hatred and sadness, resonated with me on a very basic level. Heartbreak takes time to heal, and we’ve had all season to see her get better. However, realizing that you are hurt takes determination, and she had the courage to admit it tonight. The reason she arrived at the gang’s needs was because she simply wanted to be there for Leonard as a good friend, one suitable for a lasting relationship.