Episode 8 - The Isolation Permutation
5 November 2011
Synopsis: Amy is hurt when Penny and Bernadette go wedding dress shopping without her. She asks Sheldon to make her feel better and he settles for a cuddle. The guys tell Penny and Bernadette how Amy is feeling and they try to make it up to her.
The Good: This was a solid attempt to make Amy a more sympathetic character. She doesn't really seem to learn much by the end of the episode but at least her vulnerability added an extra layer for us to see.
The fact that she is so desperate to be loved and accepted is an important contrast between her and Sheldon. Where he sees his isolation as a sign of superiority, she is far more conscious of the unhappiness that loneliness can bring. The interactions between the two of them remain endearing. It's hard not to smile at two misfits who have genuinely found a kindred spirit in the other. I think the show's creative team handle their relationship pretty well. Sheldon remains unconvinced of the benefits of any kind of physical intimacy. He won't even use the words to describe these acts. He steadfastly ignored all attempts to escalate things and yet clearly values Amy's friendship enough to endure indignities that he wouldn't accept from anyone else.
Amy's list of rejections and general wallowing did draw sympathy to her. And none of it made you feel like Bernadette and Penny were being unkind. Their tolerance of her blunt eagerness reflects well on them. Leonard too looked good for pushing Sheldon to take care of his friend.
The Bad: Of course the conclusion of the story demonstrated why Amy is a trying friend. She is rude and pushy and made dress shopping more about her than the bride. I think a better story would have been to show Amy learning something from this experience. The underlying message of the episode is that Amy drives her friends away. Was she rejected by all the cool kids because she is different? Or did she drive away some friends with her clingy enthusiasm? A really strong story would have shown Amy restraining her instincts, even a tiny bit, where the audience could see she was making an effort to fit in better. That would have been a sweet ending that would have drawn viewers to her cause rather than underlining why Bernadette and Penny left her out in the first place.
In a way this episode encapsulated the attitude to character development that controls The Big Bang Theory. Change moves at a glacial pace and doesn't often conclude episodes in a satisfying way.
In general the episode wasn't particularly funny. That's no big problem but the jokes at Raj's expense (he's a bit gay you know) or Leonard's (he isn't a macho lover you know) were predictable. Amy remains a problematic comedy figure when she isn't around Sheldon. Her aggressive approach to everyone but Penny doesn't seem to generate laughter.
Comic Highlight: In the pre-credit tease Amy talks about a terrible tragedy where a family she knew all died from carbon monoxide poisoning. They were preparing for a wedding and so their outfits are available. It seemed like a typically silly joke but then it came back to pay off right at the end of the episode. When Bernadette asks Amy to be her maid of honour she is thrilled. She exclaims "No one's ever asked me to be the Maid of Honour before" but then remembers "Well that's not true, once, but then they all died." It was an unexpected bit of continuity.
In Conclusion: So often the instincts of the writers are good (Amy needs to be humanised) but their execution isn't right (she remains basically unchanged).
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