Episode 5 - The Russian Rocket Reaction
14 October 2011
Synopsis: Howard announces that he will be going up to the international space station and everyone is excited. Everyone except Bernadette who is worried that he won't come back. She goes behind his back and tells his mother who forbids him from going. Meanwhile Leonard accepts an invitation to a party at Will Wheaton's house which Sheldon sees as a betrayal.
The Good: On paper I liked the Howard-Bernadette story. She is annoyed that he didn't consult her and worried about losing him. It's enough of a motivation to explain her decision to tell Howard's mother even when she could see that she had no right to stop him herself. I like that we see her wrestling with the problem and that ultimately she realises she was in the wrong.
The Bad: In execution though this was an odd story. It didn't have any depth so there was no real discussion of what Howard was going to do or what it would mean for him to turn it down. Instead he comes out with the extraordinary claim that he wants to not only visit Mars but explore oceans. We've never heard anything like that before. The characterisation of him as a wuss is much closer to the Howard we have seen. I can totally believe he would go to the International Space Station but Mars? And the ocean? That sounded ridiculous and nothing like the character.
The scenes where the discussions took place were kind of dull as well. The long car ride felt predictable and humourless and the discussion amongst the girls was equally bland. When an issue as complicated as this comes up the shows lack of depth gets exposed pretty quickly. Bernadette just states the facts and the others agree that she was in the wrong. That's it. There was no attempt to expand the discussion or explore the hidden fears behind her reactions. That exploration might have brought some humour out too.
The opening scene was a weird one. If I hadn't seen the last four seasons I might have been totally happy with it. Sheldon was completely naive to the practises of a commercial marketplace where as Leonard was wise enough to haggle for a good price. Of course the last four seasons have conditioned us to believe that Sheldon would be smart enough to not believe literally everything Stuart was saying and that Leonard would be too polite to push things that far. I felt similarly about Sheldon's sudden admission that he needed Leonard's friendship. Years of abusing him and on occasion claiming he didn't want to be his friend made this an odd moment. In both cases I liked what I saw. I prefer a world where Sheldon admits a need for his best friend and one where Leonard has a backbone. I'm just not convinced that either scene really flowed from what we know about those characters.
I was sad to see the evil Will Wheaton character dispensed with. For no apparent reason he decided to make peace with Sheldon and boy did he play it in a wooden way. Then Brent Spiner showed up to sell himself out which was fine but wasn't nearly as fun as the idea of Wheaton being petty and tormenting Sheldon.
Comic Highlight: Sheldon did his best with the being-nice-and-being-mean to Leonard stuff. Getting him water and then knocking it over was kind of funny.
In Conclusion: I'm tempted to say the writers hearts were in the right place here. The idea of Sheldon acknowledging his need for Leonard and Bernadette and Howard overcoming a problem are decent developments. But the actual script let everyone down and the results were disappointing.
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