The Big Bang Theory Season 9 Episode 13 Review: “The Empathy Optimization”

The Big Bang Theory

Yes. Yes. YES. My loyal readers I’m sure were aware of my fear heading into the second half of The Big Bang Theory‘s ninth season. I was afraid that once Big Bang reached it’s mid-season peak with Sheldon and Amy’s relationship reaching the next level. Though the first episode back last week was fine, this week’s “Empathy Optimization” continued the real growth trajectory for the show. I’m extremely pleased with the growth that Sheldon has displayed this season and even more pleased to see it continue.

This week on The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon, now fully recovered from an extended period of illness, has some amends to make as he has offended all of his friends. Amy helps Sheldon realize the meaning of empathy, and how he might have been in the wrong. So when the gang plans to leave town for a weekend and leave Sheldon behind, he apologizes profusely, hoping to be allowed to go.

This episode of Big Bang was special for several reasons, but not the least of which is that they only had one plot. A show with this many characters normally has to have a b-plot to keep an episode filled, but “The Empathy Optimization” proved to be both meatier and simpler than many of its predecessors. The growth of Sheldon has been by far the most compelling story arc in years, and this week’s episode was a masterclass in empathy for unlikable characters.

I think all of the actors on this show are strong, but I can hardly remember anything anyone did from this episode. Jim Parsons’ Sheldon has such a commanding presence that when there’s only one major story arc in play, he takes over the show. In some cases, that’s an absolutely terrible idea, but this episode really made it work. Just when you think Parsons may be done winning Emmys, he puts on clinic like this. While remaining true to the character, he’s been able to take the stories to some incredible new heights in Season 9. All I can say is bravo!

As always, here are some of my favorite quotes/moments from the episode:

  • The cold open in which Penny, Bernadette and Emily discuss superheroes was the best one this show has ever done.
  • “I had a 101 degree fever. If that’s not a time to verbally abuse my loved ones, when is?”- Sheldon
  • “Great! Now try as if this isn’t your first day as a person.”- Amy Farrah Fowler: Empathy Coach
  • “I hope it’s as fun as the ‘Sheldon Cooper spell checks local menus’ tour.”- Leonard
  • “That is some top shelf empathy. We should start a club.”- Sheldon, misreading the situation
  • “WAIT!! I’m a pain in the a** too!!!” – Poor, poor Stuart

Anyone else wondering who covers the comic book store when Stuart is gone to Las Vegas? Just me? Yeah. I thought so.

The Big Bang Theory is apparently not done with its string of impressive episodes in what has been a creatively strong season for the long-running sitcom. It’s been fantastic and hilarious to watch Sheldon Cooper slowly but surely become a real boy.

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy the episode? Let us know in the comments!

The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8/7c on CBS.

[Photo credit: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.]

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