Review: The Prestidigitation Approximation

Posted: March 16, 2011 in Television
Tags: , ,

I hate Raj.

I’ve sat through three and a half seasons of The Big Bang Theory and I’m now finally comfortable saying it: I HATE RAJ.  I have given him countless chances to carry an episode, most notably in The Pirate Solution (304) and The Thespian Catalyst (414), but he has never delivered in any kind of satisfactory manner.

He adds nothing to the show on his own, but only serves as a foil for the other, more interesting characters.  Without Sheldon, Howard, or Leonard, Raj is nothing.  He even needs others to talk for him.

This week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory underlined this in my mind.  Raj’s role in The Prestidigitation Approximation was nothing short of abhorrent: he was simply Wolowitz’s tool in messing with Sheldon.  Raj did not play any independent role of his own, just bobbing his head along annoyingly to Wolowitz’s quips and tricks.

Raj is there simply to make up the numbers and his presence takes away from a show whose other main characters are all interesting and drive the action.  All of the other main characters act, they don’t, like Raj, simply respond.  Each character is forced to respond to the actions of the others, but they also act upon the others as well.  For an example of this, look at the rest of this week’s episode.  Howard acts upon Sheldon, who in turn acts upon Raj, Penny, and Leonard.  Priya acts upon Leonard, who in turn acts upon Penny.  Penny acts upon Leonard and Priya, causing Priya’s acting against Leonard.  Raj simply responds to the actions of Howard and Sheldon without directly acting of his own volition.

Now, before I dissect the rest of the episode, I must explain why there’s no “Battle of Thursday Nights” post this week, despite there being a new episode of The Big Bang Theory.  And the explanation is simple: because there was no episode of Community this week, I have nothing to compare this week’s TBBT to.

Some of you might wonder why I am not automatically awarding a point to TBBT.  I don’t award points for weeks where only one show has a new episode because that practice would necessarily be biased in favour of Community, which has two more episodes per season than TBBT.

So, on to the analysis…

While taking good steps in recent episodes to move on from the Leonard and Penny relationship, this week’s episode just forces this storyline forward with no consideration for subtlety.  The explanation for this could come from two sources.

On one hand, Priya is a forceful character who knows what she wants and when she wants it.  And right now she wants Leonard.  However, I don’t buy this as the full explanation.  It certainly works in order to give some legitimacy to the storyline, but I can’t buy that this storyline falls conveniently after weeks of Leonard-Penny turmoil.

That leads into the other explanation: the show’s writers are pushing for a final resolution to the Leonard-Penny relationship.  For its entire existence the show has been focussed on this relationship and in order for it to go on for another four or five seasons it needs to resolve the old stories and begin some new ones – which they already have to an extent with the introduction of Bernadette and Amy Farrah Fowler as full-time characters.  This tension between Priya and Penny can resolve itself in one of two ways: either Leonard finally gets over Penny for good and stays with Priya or Leonard and Penny get back together permanently.  In either case the show would then be open to new storylines.

Overall though, I thought that the “card trick” half of the episode was no more than filler.  It won’t feature in any future episodes and did not contribute to any existing storyline in the slightest.  While it was refreshing for Sheldon not to be right for once, was it really necessary for the show to spend half of an episode on, considering that the other half will actually have a big impact on the future of the show?

The potential is there for this episode to lead to great things, but those great things are not present in this episode.  The Pestidigitation Approximation just sets the scene for the end of the season; it doesn’t steal the scene on its own.

Tune in next week for the renewal of hostilities as The Big Bang Theory and Community both return with new episodes!

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