Next Thursday, The Big Bang Theory concludes after 12 seasons. Tonight, in the exceptionally poignant “The Maternal Conclusion,” the finish line begins to come into view. 

RELATED: Catch up here with our recap of the last episode!

Dr. Hofstadter (Christine Baranski) is in town for a visit, staying with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) instead of her usual hotel. She’s abnormally pleasant to Leonard, visiting his lab at work and appearing to show genuine interest in his professional success. This bizarre behavior confuses Leonard and leaves a slighted Sheldon (Jim Parsons) wondering if Beverly is angry with him because she seems to prefer her son’s company all of the sudden. 

Over dinner, Penny tells Beverly how happy she made Leonard by going to see where he works, and Beverly’s oddly phrased response raises a red flag. When she begins offering them multiple-choice options for how happy she made Leonard, and for how directly her parenting strategies contributed to his current success, it comes out that Beverly’s visit isn’t social– she’s observing Leonard as research for her latest book. 

Leonard’s feelings are deeply hurt by this, so he takes refuge across the hall at Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon’s. Sheldon is reassured by finding out why Beverly hasn’t been hanging out with him, and Amy does her best to check his insensitivity while offering their friend comfort. 

Penny is unsuccessful in convincing Beverly to follow Leonard and apologize, and when Leonard storms back into the apartment a while later to talk to his mom privately, she gladly ducks out. Beverly asks if Leonard is going to lay out all the ways she’s failed as a mother, and at first Leonard says yes and that she should get comfortable because it will be a long list. He hesitates before beginning, though, and realizes that if he wants his mother to accept him as he is, he has to do the same for her. She’s never going to change. 

He marshals his anger and tells his mother that he forgives her, then tells himself that he forgives himself for taking so long to do it. 

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Leonard practically melts with spent energy. He flops onto the arm of his easy chair and remarks at how good it feels to have done that. A surprised Beverly agrees, telling him it also feels good to have been forgiven. 

She rises and crosses to him, taking him in her arms and stroking his head. He stands to receive the first truly loving hug we’ve ever seen his mother offer him. 

Love is all around in this episode. While Leonard and Beverly are resolving a lifetime of hurt, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Howard (Simon Helberg) are struggling with the couples who share their space. 

Denise (Lauren Lapkus) has been spending almost every night with Stuart (Kevin Sussman) because they both– even Stuart– find her roommate, Mitch (Todd Giebenhain), so creepy that they never want to stay at her place. This means that they’re constantly at the Wolowitzes,’ eating their food and infringing on their privacy. 

Raj (Kunal Nayyar), the third wheel in Howard and Bernadette’s marriage, is also threatening the status quo as he considers returning his relationship with Anu (Rati Gupta) to the next level. She’s been offered a management job in London, and he’s decided that if she agrees to marry him, he’ll move to London to be with her. 

Eventually, Howard takes action on both fronts. He tells Stuart that he wishes he and Denise would spend at least half of their time at her place. This leads to Stuart and Denise acknowledging that they both wish Stuart lived with her, and that he was wrong to chicken out when she asked him before. When they go to Mitch with their request for him to move out, they also wind up saying “I love you” for the first time. 

Next, prompted by Bernie, Howard heads Raj off at the airport just before he boards a plane to London to propose. He tells Raj that if he’s going to propose to a woman in Notting Hill, it should be to a woman who knows what that movie is– a quality Anu lacks. Raj, moved, asks Howard if he’s just a boy standing in front of another boy, asking him not to go. Howard squeamishly says that he is, and then they say “I love you” and hug, with everyone at the gate cheering as a result of their having reasonably misunderstood what’s going on. 

RELATED: Follow my Season 12 recaps here!

As we head into the home stretch, Leonard has been rewarded for standing up for himself at work and found peace with his mother through forgiveness, Raj has chosen bromance over arranged romance, Stuart and Denise are shacking up, Penny and Bernie are killing it at work and Amy and Sheldon are on the brink of winning a Nobel Prize together. It’s hard to believe that the show is coming to an end, but it does look like the writers are setting the characters up to go out on high notes all around. 


Leona Laurie