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Questions From The Big Bang Theory We Still Need Answers To

Some people believe that the age of classic sitcoms is at an end. Thanks to streaming services and other factors, long-form episodic storytelling is becoming the new gold standard. But even if we're only talking about sitcoms, laugh tracks and live audiences started looking more and more antiquated ever since "The Office" became a U.S. phenomenon in the late '00s.  

But despite this new breed of shows, sitcoms shot in the old-school style still have a place in pop culture. If they didn't, "The Big Bang Theory," wouldn't have been able to run for 12 seasons in recent years, but it certainly did do that. "The Big Bang Theory" consistently managed to stay near the top of TV ratings throughout its runtime, won a slew of awards, and continues to enjoy huge popularity in reruns around the world.

"The Big Bang Theory" tells the story of a group of four geeky scientist guys who view the opposite gender as a baffling mystery. Over time, the guys learn to stop letting their nerdy hobbies overwhelm the rest of their lives, date women, and eventually get married and start families. Although the show ends on an optimistic note, it leaves some important questions hanging. 

How did Penny afford her apartment?

The first season of "The Big Bang Theory" starts with physicist Leonard Hofstadter's (Johnny Galecki) life turning upside down after he discovers that the apartment across the hall has a new tenant. That tenant turns out to be a gorgeous woman named Penny (Kaley Cuoco) — a waitress and an aspiring actress with whom Leonard is immediately smitten. 

This begs the question — exactly how much money was Penny making as a waitress? How could it possibly have been enough to allow her to rent an apartment on her own? Leonard needs to co-rent his apartment in the same building with his best friend and fellow physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons). We know the rent in this fictional version of Pasadena, California, is quite high. Sheldon and Leonard are both drawing a physicist's salary, and Sheldon once openly admits he would prefer to live alone but can't afford to. Meanwhile, Penny regularly borrows money from her friends to make ends meet. 

One possibility is that Penny was getting money from her family back in Nebraska. But the show never tells us anything that indicates her family is rich enough to support her. Another possibility is that Penny's waitress income is supplemented by her acting income, but a running joke on the show is that Penny fails to secure any significant parts. For the most part, there's no acting income to supplement. So how the heck was she paying rent that whole time?  

Was Penny dyslexic?

In a lot of ways, Penny from "The Big Bang Theory" might be the show's most important character. Her arrival is the catalyst for the entire series. Before Penny came into the picture, Leonard and his friends were content to live like hermits without any female companionship. Penny's arrival forces the guys to get out of their shells and start meaningful romantic relationships.

But despite being a crucial member of the group, Penny is often held up for ridicule by the others. Most of the jokes are aimed at Penny's lack of formal education and her general air of dim-wittedness, especially compared to her physicist friends. And yet there are a few hints that Penny's perceived lack of intelligence might not be a simplistic issue. Penny is often identified as "street smart," meaning she is capable of learning well as long as she doesn't have to rely on books. 

This is a problem that people with dyslexia often encounter. Another symptom of dyslexia is that letters on a page appear to jump around and don't make sense. In one episode, Penny describes Leonard's surname with the observation, "I know there's a 'd' in there, but it keeps moving every time I try to write it." Finally, there is an instance where it takes Penny much longer to read a comic book than Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). Slow reading is another hallmark of dyslexia.

Will Raj ever find love?

"The Big Bang Theory" includes a number of essentially pathetic figures. There's Sheldon, whose arrogance and narcissism tend to alienate everyone he encounters; Leonard, whose incredibly low self-esteem gets in the way of his professional and romantic lives; and Stuart Bloom (Kevin Sussman), whose entire life seems like one giant cosmic joke at his expense. 

And yet, arguably the most tragic figure on the show is Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). For a long time, Raj suffers from selective mutism that renders him incapable of talking to women. But inwardly, Raj yearns to meet his dream woman, fall in love, and start a family. Eventually, Raj gets over his medical condition and actually starts dating women, where he has a natural edge over his friends due to his intensely romantic nature.

But his dating history is one disaster after another. For a variety of reasons, each promising relationship ends up a dumpster fire, and Raj is reduced to pitiful weeping over the state of his love life on more than one occasion. The worst part is that while all his friends enter into steady relationships, Raj remains an unwilling bachelor until the very end of the show. You have to hope that somewhere down the line after the end of "The Big Bang Theory," Raj finds that one person he can finally settle down with.     

Will Howard get his Ph.D.?

Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is unlike his friends in one important aspect. While Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj are all physicists with Ph.Ds., Howard has a master's degree in engineering from MIT. This technicality puts Howard below his friends on the totem pole at their place of work. 

This state of affairs has often become a sore spot for Howard, especially because of Sheldon. Time and again, Sheldon is a jerk to Howard for only having a master's, and even compares engineers to Oompa-Loompas who are only fit to create practical things based on the knowledge obtained by brilliant physicists like himself. Things get even worse when Howard's wife Bernadette also gets a Ph.D. and starts making more money than Howard.

While Howard usually tries to brush such concerns off, his lack of a Ph.D. does rankle his brain. He tries, on occasion, to start down the road to acquiring the degree. Could he pull it off sometime after the events of the show? Or does he finally give up, and find satisfaction in his advanced degree from a world-class technical college?

Will Sheldon ever master sarcasm?

All the characters on "The Big Bang Theory" go on major emotional arcs throughout the show's 12-season run. Arguably, the character that gradually undergoes the biggest, most life-changing inner-journey is Sheldon Cooper. In the first few seasons Sheldon is the most arrogant, self-absorbed, paranoid, and infuriating version of a genius scientist you can imagine. 

But over time, thanks to Jim Parsons' heartfelt performance, audiences can see that Sheldon suffers from his own set of issues and is not a bad guy at his core. A big problem for Sheldon is his extreme intelligence has stunted his emotional growth. This is best exemplified by Sheldon's inability to pick up on basic social cues, particularly sarcasm. We often see Sheldon grapple with his lack of social awareness and the vast amount he still has to learn in that department.

By the end of the series Sheldon had grown enormously as a person but remains as naïve as he is in Season 1 in some respects. Hopefully marrying Amy, the birth of their children, and winning the Nobel Prize finally brings Sheldon beyond of his man-child tendencies and he learns to become a proper adult with a solid grasp of sarcasm and other social conventions. 

Will Leonard achieve anything significant professionally?

With each new season of "The Big Bang Theory," Sheldon Cooper became even more perpetually popular that sometimes general audiences forget the show actually started with Leonard as its main focus. During the first couple of seasons, Leonard's romance with Penny and his attempts to woo her are at the center of the show.

But the inexorable pull of Sheldon's nerdy charisma gradually moves the center of the show's narrative closer to him. Meanwhile, Leonard is still an important character, but his role is somewhat reduced. He becomes the guy who has to tolerate Sheldon's many idiosyncrasies, teach Penny how to be in an adult relationship, and be constantly belittled by his overbearing mother. 

The result of these storylines is that Leonard ends up acting more like a support system for the other characters than his own person. The series ends with Leonard and the others clapping for Sheldon and Amy after they win the Nobel Prize for physics. So, does Leonard go on to achieve anything similarly impressive in his career, or does his life continue to be defined by his relationships with Penny and Sheldon? 

Can Penny be a good mom?

While the arrival of Penny forces Leonard and his friends to grow up and become mature men, Penny undergoes her own transformation through her associations with Leonard and the others. In the beginning of the show, Penny is an airhead waitress with hollow dreams of Hollywood stardom who generally lives a very messy life.

After getting into a serious relationship with Leonard, Penny takes a long hard look at her life and decides she needs to make major changes. Over time, Penny gives up her Hollywood ambitions and settles into a well-paid pharmaceutical job. She also learns to appreciate her mature relationship with Leonard, even though it becomes a sore point when Penny emphatically tells Leonard that she does not want children. 

Penny's attitude changes very abruptly in the series finale when she learns she's pregnant and appears excited at the prospect. Which begs the question, has Penny evolved enough as a person to become a good mom? Penny's issues are tough obstacles to get past, and it would be sad to think Penny and Leonard might pass their many emotional issues on to their children.

Will Missy and Raj get together?

A major theme of "The Big Bang Theory" is that love can be found in the most unlikely places between people who at first glance do not seem compatible at all. But this maxim did not apply to Raj, who spends most of the seasons of the show being single and ends up alone in the series finale with seemingly no prospect of romance in his immediate future. 

Watching Raj hop from one doomed relationship to another is one of the most frustrating parts of the show. Especially when the solution to his loneliness might have been present all along. In the early seasons, Raj and the other guys meet Sheldon's gorgeous sister Missy (Courtney Henggeler). Despite being smitten, Raj does not have the courage to ask Missy out, even though Missy strongly hints that she's also attracted to Raj.

That's how matters stand until Missy and Raj meet again in the days leading up to Sheldon and Amy's wedding. This time, Missy is freshly divorced, and Raj has gotten over his fear of talking to women. And yet, while Raj is excited upon learning that Missy was newly single, we never get to see how their romance shakes out. It would be pretty perfect for Missy, with her history of dating toxic men, to find love with Raj. Meanwhile, Raj could end his search for romance on a triumphant note with someone as friendly, sympathetic, and beautiful as Missy.  

Can Stuart succeed in life?

While it might seem like Raj or Leonard are the most pathetic characters on "The Big Bang Theory," one guy who has them nearly beat is Stuart Bloom. That is not always the case, as Stuart starts out as the owner of a comic book store. He's a talented artist with enough self-confidence to successfully ask Penny out on a date during their first meeting. 

But with each fresh appearance on the show, Stuart steadily loses all his "cool" points and accrues an overabundance of "loser" points. He loses his store, his house, and seems to suffer from every genetic medical condition known to mankind. He also becomes a supreme moocher, needing the help of Howard and the others to keep a roof over his head and food on the table. 

Stuart's many problems became a running joke on "The Big Bang Theory," and the fact that he seems to be suffering from clinical depression is glossed over. The character ends the series on a downer note, since he still doesn't have a place of his own and is living with his new girlfriend Denise (Lauren Lapkus). Hopefully, Stuart eventually learns to stand on his own feet and turn his life around instead of relying on charity from others.  

What happened to Sheldon's enemies list?

Sheldon Cooper is a complicated man. But more importantly, he's a vindictive man. During the show, Sheldon is not above punishing his closest friends for perceived slights. When it comes to enemies, he can be even more unforgiving. At one point, Sheldon has a complete list of people he deems his archnemeses and nurtures a lifelong vendetta against each of them. 

The most prominent name on the list used to be Wil Wheaton, who Sheldon idolized until Wheaton disappointed him at a fan convention. Over the course of "The Big Bang Theory," Sheldon and Wheaton have many antagonistic encounters. The duo eventually learns to set aside their differences, only for Sheldon to find a fresh archenemy in Brent Spiner. 

At one point it's said that Sheldon's enemies list includes 61 people, and you have to wonder what happened with that list after the show ended. Sheldon was hardly the type of person to forget his enemies, but maybe the influence of Amy and their children can persuade him to finally rip up the list and stop holding on to his many grudges. On the other hand, given his petty nature, a more believable outcome would be Sheldon passing on the list to his children so that they can carry out his many vendettas.   

Did Howard become close with his half-brother?

All the main characters on "The Big Bang Theory" suffer in one way or another at the hands of their families. Howard has a more difficult time than most. His father abandons their family at a young age, and Howard grows up alone with his mother with whom he fought constantly due to unresolved childhood issues. 

After many years of grieving over his father's abandonment, Howard is stunned to discover he has a half-brother named Josh (Matt Bennett) on his dad's side in Episode 20 of Season 8, "The Fortification Implementation." At first, Howard wants nothing to do with Josh, who is a fresh reminder of their father's uncaring attitude towards Howard. But eventually the two half-brothers find common ground and end up bonding.

Fans never see Josh again after the episode, and you have to wonder what happened to him. Did Howard ultimately decide he did not want anything to do with Josh? Or did Howard realize that after the death of his mother, Josh is the only biological family he has left?

Will Leonard and Sheldon become real brothers?

One of the best supporting characters on "The Big Bang Theory" is Sheldon's mom Mary Cooper (Laurie Metcalf). Strong, compassionate, and narrow minded in a hilarious but well-meaning way, Mary is fiercely protective towards Sheldon and the person who knows how to take care of her son better than anyone else. 

Mary's own life had been far from an easy one. In various episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" it is implied that she had a deeply unhappy marriage with Sheldon's father, although "Young Sheldon" dials down the implied alcoholism and infidelity of Sheldon's dad. In any case, Mary is windowed and single during the events of Episode 24 of Season 9, "The Convergence Convergence," when she meets Leonard's father Alfred (Judd Hirsch).

Mary and Alfred hit it off immediately. The two are thought to have slept together, but it's later clarified that while Mary and Alfred have not hooked up, they do plan on going on a date. It would be interesting to think of Mary and Alfred eventually marrying, which would officially make Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, and Amy part of the same family.  

Will Howard and Bernadette stay married?

In later seasons of "The Big Bang Theory," fans were alarmed to discover that the relationship between Leonard and Penny was getting pretty toxic. But while the Leonard-Penny pairing was attracting all the bad press, even more toxicity was brewing between Howard and Bernadette.

When Bernadette is first introduced on the show, she's easily the sweetest character among the group. But after marrying Howard, Bernadette gradually reveals an unpleasant side. She becomes bossy, domineering, bullies Howard mercilessly, makes fun of him for making less money than her, and generally acts very dismissively towards him.

To cap it off, Bernadette had a strong distaste for children that she has to overcome when starting her own family with Howard. The arrival of their children improves the relationship between Howard and Bernadette, but the present situation feels more like a hasty Band-Aid over the problems between the two rather than a true resolution of their various issues. One can't help but wonder whether Howard and Bernadette might get a divorce at some point.   

Will the gang stay together?

Over the course of 12 seasons of "The Big Bang Theory," fans got to see Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette go from being strangers to the closest of friends and, in some cases, romantic partners. Even though the main cast of characters had wildly differing personalities, the growth of their interpersonal relationships feels organic and reasonably natural.

But as is the case with the end of shows like "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother," there comes a point when the characters of "The Big Bang Theory" have to go their separate ways. All three main couples are preparing to start their own families by the end of the show, leaving Raj the odd man out yet again. Sheldon and Amy have become celebrities in the world of science, and Penny and Bernadette are reaching new heights in their careers and bringing their husbands along for the ride.

All these changes mean that it will be difficult for the group to just hang out with each other all day long like they used to. Making time for each other will take more of an effort, and this will naturally lead to the characters seeing less of each other over time. Will their friendships survive the realities of growing up and moving on, especially for someone like Sheldon who has a hard time letting go? Or will the memories of the 12 seasons simply become distant echoes for all the characters over time?