[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season eight finale of The Big Bang Theory, "The Commitment Determination."]
CBS' The Big Bang Theory made good on its promise to deliver two "life-changing decisions" during Thursday's season eight finale.
The episode explored the future of all four central couples as they juggled their current parallels. Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) celebrated their five-year anniversary with a make-out session that ended abruptly when, out of nowhere, he asked if he should start watching The Flash. Amy winds up getting frustrated that Sheldon isn't focusing on her — but that flies well over his head. Amy ultimately breaks things off with Sheldon — who, in a shocker, had a ring and was seemingly planning on proposing to her.
Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), meanwhile, get the third-degree from Sheldon — still stumped by Amy's frustration — about why they haven't set a date for the wedding yet, and the engaged couple winds up heading for Vegas. But that's where things go off-track, when Leonard confesses he kissed another woman during his time on the North Sea research expedition. While not thrilled, Penny and Leonard still head for Vegas — but are clearly not on the same page.
As for Raj (Kunal Nayyar), he's struggling with how different he and girlfriend, Emily (Laura Spencer), are when she wants to have sex in a cemetery and he ponders breaking up with her. After Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) mock him — he has, in fact, never broken up with anyone — Raj is unable to express how he really feels, and instead professes his love for Emily. At the same time, Howard and Bernadette are also unable to tell Stuart (Kevin Sussman) the harsh truth: that it's time for him to move out.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Steve Molaro to discuss the events of the finale and get an early preview of what to expect from season nine.
This episode had a lot of great parallels between Sheldon and Amy's relationship and Leonard and Penny's. How will Sheldon and Leonard — and Amy and Penny — work through what's going on in their relationships?
These are all things we need to figure out. But as far as this episode goes, there was a loose theme of commitments in varying degrees in all the relationships: Leonard and Penny, and why don't they have a date and where is this going; Sheldon and Amy have been together for five years now and he's thinking about TV shows while they’re kissing. In a similar but very different version of that, Bernadette and Wolowitz are in this weird relationship with Stuart and they're trying to figure out where that's going, as they're trying to regroup their lives after Mrs. Wolowitz's passing and move into a house. Then there's Raj and Emily, same thing: They like each other but it might just not be the right fit, and Raj is trying to work his way through that.
After five years, what was behind the decision to break up Sheldon and Amy?
We don't know exactly where they are but after five years, I think the answer is in the question. They have been dating, this is the fifth anniversary of their first date, and she can't even get through a make-out session without him thinking about television, so I understand her frustration. At the same time, I understand his side, which is: How much faster do you think I can go with this? It's an interesting place for them to be; it seems very real and I think it's exciting that we're shaking things up.
Then you see the ring — with the great Lord of the Rings reference.
You see an indication of how much he does care about her. It's an interesting and messy situation that they're in.
How long was Sheldon planning on proposing? How much of this will be the genesis of season nine?
I don't know how long he's had that. I have an idea but I'm not going to tell you! (Laughs.) I don't know if the length of time matters so much as the situation where Amy has taken a legitimate step back that he was not expecting. That's really the headline here that we'll be digging into.
Will Sheldon work to win Amy back?
I don't know exactly what's going to happen but he's clearly fond of her. I don't think they're done speaking by any means. He's so fond of her — something is going to happen between them, I'm sure.
Will Mayim still be a regular? She hasn't been around much these past few episodes.
Without a doubt, absolutely yes. Mayim, on a personal level, had some family things she needed to take care of. That was the only reason she was light in those episodes. She's not going anywhere.
How does Sheldon and Amy's breakup change the group dynamic? She's close with everyone, especially Penny.
That's what we're excited to find out. It ripples through a lot of relationships and how they both handle this and what happens moving forward is what we're so excited to jump in on season nine with.
Even after five years, seeing the episode open with Amy and Sheldon making out is so jarring, even with Sheldon's emotional growth in the past five years with Amy. What's the next emotional step for him now? This breakup is a huge change.
I honestly don't know. Part of why I'm so attracted to it is that so much happens and goes down in this episode. Clearly he cares about her; but they may not be on the same page right now. In those final moments, that is not at all what he thought he was going to hear. It's not why he was calling. It's all fascinating. It's exciting, frustrating, sad and scary. It's a lot of feelings happening at once, which is part of why I think it's so exciting.
Will there be a time jump when season nine returns?
It's too soon to say, but it does feel like if there is a time jump, it probably wouldn't be terribly long. But we haven't begun writing yet so I can't say for sure.
What kind of state will Leonard and Penny's relationship be in come season nine?
They're still driving to Vegas but the mood is certainly a little chilly. They're in a very interesting place and we'll find out what happens when they get there.
How will Leonard's confession change Penny's attitude about getting married?
She's processing it but so far she wants to move forward. That is to be determined.
Will we see a wedding?
We're hoping that everyone tunes in and joins us in the fall to find out!
This couple has been through so many breakups. Should fans be worried for them?
I think worried in a good way. We're all very invested in all these characters. People hit road bumps in their lives and hopefully they'll deal with it or not, but that's the fun excitement of what we're looking to have happen coming back.
They talked about what kind of a formal wedding they envisioned before they eloped. Could this be the latest speed bump for them getting to a more formal altar?
It could be, we have a lot to figure out on our end before I'm able to answer that.
Where do they go from here? What kind of mood might they be in when season nine returns?
At this point, it's too soon for me to say, but I know that they're staying in that car and that car is headed to Vegas — but not under the most ideal circumstances. It's a pretty interesting place to be leaving them off.
Raj has made so much progress the past few seasons but really still has the problem where he can't speak to women. How will his experience with Emily change him?
Just because he can do it doesn't make him good at it. He's in interesting position for a guy like this. For the most part, when you're lonely, it's easy to have feelings for a person because they like you back. Raj is starting to wrestle with the thought of, maybe that's not the ideally the best situation for him. That's a tough thing for a guy like Raj, to think, "Wow, am I going to end a relationship and be by myself when I could be with this person who likes me and wants to sleep with me?" It's a big, mature thing to wrap your head around for a character that spent so much time being lonely for so long.
And then he blurts out that he loves her, which is crazier!
(Laughs.) It didn't quite go the way he planned!
How might Emily respond?
As of now they're still together, but clearly they have some issues to work through. If he's uncomfortable with who she is as a person, that's a pretty big issue. His next hurdle is how to navigate this relationship and see if he has this strength in him to do what's right for him — even if it means being alone. How uncomfortable is he willing to be to not be alone? That's a very real question that people in relationships often find themselves in.
Bernadette and Howard weren't able to kick Stuart out. Is there a world in which this dysfunctional family works?
I hope so, we love the character of Stuart and the job Kevin does with it. He's always going to be around with the comic book store. It's a great and interesting dynamic: You've got these two people trying to move on to the next phase of their life. They move into Howard's mom's house and you have this third person living there that you feel for and don't want to get rid of. It's all set up for a lot of fun stuff to come.
What's the next hurdle for Howard and Bernadette?
This is tough; this is a house that he grew up in with his mom — who he was very attached to — and [that] he and Bernadette are trying to make this "their" home when it feels like his mom's home is an interesting thing. That's one thing that they'll probably be trying to deal with.
Have you thought about and/or discussed how the series ultimately ends?
I have my own personal thoughts about it. But right now it's so far away that we really just need to keep focusing on trying to keep the quality up as much as we possibly can along the way. This show and these characters have continued to grow and surprise all of us in such different ways. I don't know if I'd be able to predict, because they've all grown so much and continued to change. It's really hard for me to know exactly where it's all going to end up. For me, that's part of what's so great about it.
Were you nervous about doing a season finale with so many cliffhangers in it?
Absolutely. But if we're not nervous a little bit then the alternative is we're bored and that's not good! Right now only Sheldon and Gollum know. So we'll see where we go from there!
The new Star Wars debuts in December and you've teamed with Lucasfilm in the past. Have you discussed incorporating that into the show?
We haven't figured out what we're going to do but it's such a huge event that I'd be shocked if we didn't touch on it in some way.
What did you think of The Big Bang Theory season finale? Sound off in the comments section below. The Big Bang Theory returns in the fall for its ninth season.