WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, "The Maternal Conclusion," which aired Thursday on CBS.
Soon, fans will bid farewell to Leonard, Sheldon, Penny and the rest of The Big Bang Theory gang. As the series approaches its finale, the long-running CBS sitcom has been tying up loose ends, ensuring that the cast of characters millions of people have fallen in love with for the past 12 years get their happy endings.
Almost everyone has found love (hang in there, Raj!), new jobs and opportunities have come knocking, and a certain prestigious scientific prize may finally be in reach. And yet, there is still one major plot thread that the series had yet to tie up -- one that few likely expected the show to address.
In The Big Bang Theory's second-to-last episode, "The Maternal Conclusion," the series resolves one of its most troubled relationships -- that of Leonard and his mother, Beverly.
Beverly Hofstadter first appeared in the Season 2 episode "The Maternal Capacitance," where we saw just how detached she acted towards her son. While we didn't see the character in the series' first season, Leonard did mention on separate occasions the cold way he was raised by his mother. As a neuroscientist, psychologist and author, she put Leonard through many ordeals when he was growing up, where he was often used as nothing more than an experiment for his mother's next book.
Throughout all of Beverly's appearances on The Big Bang Theory, Leonard vied for her approval, and she very rarely gave it. While it was always played for laughs, it was clear that this had effect on Leonard, and it all finally comes to a boil in "The Maternal Conclusion."
In the episode, Beverly once again comes to visit her son, who was recently promoted to co-lead on a new project at Caltech University. However, Beverly isn't her usual, cold self -- she demonstrates pride in Leonard, visits his new lab and acts uncharacteristically nice, warmer than we've ever seen her. A beaming Leonard believes his mother is finally proud of him after his recent promotion, only to have his hopes crushed when Beverly reveals that she is simply trying out different methods of parenting for her latest book.
This obviously sends Leonard in a fit of rage and betrayal -- something he's far too familiar with when it comes to his mother. This instance was one too many. In the episode's final scene, Leonard finally faces his mother. But before he can express all of his grievances, before he can tell how hurt he is, he tries something else. Understanding that she will always be who she is, he instead decides to forgive her for everything she has ever done.
The scene is packed with emotion, and it's only made more powerful when Leonard expresses the sentiment of freedom his forgiveness brings. Reciprocally, Beverly says that she is glad he has forgiven her. Then, in a poignant show of affection, Beverly walks up to her son, and gives him a hug unlike any we've seen her give him before.
Leonard answers in kind, holding back tears as he hugs her back. As the episode fades to black, we're left with this emotional resolution between mother and son, 12 years (and more) in the making.
The series rarely opts to end with a quiet, emotional scene over a big laugh, but such was the case with "The Maternal Conclusion." The episode truly delivered the promise of its title.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 pm ET/PT on CBS, and will conclude with an hour-long series finale on May 16. The series stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg and Melissa Rauch.