'Big Bang Theory' Boss Explains Finale Cliffhanger

Big Bang Theory Michael Yarish-Warner Bros. Entertainment-H 2016
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season nine finale, "The Convergence Convergence," of CBS' The Big Bang Theory.]

As promised, CBS' The Big Bang Theory ended its ninth season Thursday with quite a cliffhanger.

In an attempt to appease mother-in-law Beverly (Christine Baranski), Penny and Leonard agree to have a more formal wedding ceremony. Enter the parents, including Leonard's never-before-seen father, Alfred (Judd Hirsch), who has scored an invite to the wedding much to Beverly's chagrin.

Naturally, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and Alfred is a likable guy with a great sense of humor — who gets a few comedic digs in at his ex-wife and immediately takes a liking to Sheldon's mom, Mary (Laurie Metcalf).

With Howard, Bernadette and Raj all running late for the formal night-before dinner, Mary and Alfred continue to bond and wind up bailing for a nightcap at their hotel. Penny, naturally, loves the idea that Sheldon and Leonard are both left squirming as their respective parents have each turned their phones off. 

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Steve Molaro to break down why the series ended its season with a cliffhanger, where season 10 picks up as well as the future of CBS' nerdy comedy.

The finale ended pretty abruptly. Was that by design?

In the vein of cliffhangers, there tends to be an abruptness to it. Everything that we needed to take care of in that episode got taken care of. If it left you feeling like you wanted more, then hopefully we wrote it correctly. (Laughs.)

How did the idea for the finale come about?

It started a few months back when Johnny and Judd met [at NBC's James Burrows tribute] and started talking, and Judd expressed an interest in playing Leonard's father. We thought he was amazing as Alfred. We started wondering how and why he comes to town and what could be fun about that. We know there's always electricity and energy between Sheldon's mom and Leonard's mom. That was the beginning building blocks that led to [the idea that] if there was another little wedding ceremony to take place, that would be a legitimate reason for all the family members to come back and meet. Once that was floating around, this ending of Sheldon's mom and Leonard's dad hitting it off started to seem really fun to us.

If Leonard's father and Sheldon's mother really do hit it off, they'd be brothers — tying them together in a way that puts a name to the nature of their relationship: brothers. Why don't either of them like the idea of their parents together?

(Laughs.) It is weirdly approaching that at the moment, isn't it? But aren't they kind of brothers already? I think it's a weird thing to think about their parents together. I'm fond of my parents, but I don't want to think about what they're doing in the bedroom! So I'm going to put it in that category.

Was one of the appeals of romantically pairing their parents together to explore Leonard and Sheldon's brotherhood?

Leonard's father and Sheldon's mother, all they did was go off and have a nightcap and turn off their phones. I don't think there's any thoughts of those two actually getting married or running off to do anything like that. This is just an initial baby step in whatever that can be.

Will there be a time jump when season 10 debuts?

The plan for now, and it's not set in stone, is that we're coming right back into the situation that was created the night before [with their nightcap]. 

After a season that started with Leonard and Penny eloping, why not have a formal wedding in the finale? Was there ever talk about that or could you be saving that for the premiere? It would be a fun parallel to start both seasons nine and 10 with the same couple getting married.

It could happen — and I don't have all answers yet — but the pieces are in place, certainly at least to be meeting new family members. If we make it that far into the ceremony, great. Or the events of the night before with Leonard's dad and Sheldon's mom start to derail that. That much I don't know yet; we haven't really started writing.

Howard is super paranoid about the Air Force taking over his guidance system, potentially making him, Leonard and Sheldon all wildly successful in their careers. What's the goal with that story?

That guidance system is the child of Leonard, Sheldon and Wolowitz. That's tying the three of them together in what I think is a nice way that doesn't get to happen a whole lot on the time.

The cast's deals are up after season 10 (and the show is up again for renewal afterward as well). Are you approaching season 10 as if it's the last?

Even if that were the case, that's still 24 episodes away. So no, I'm not looking at it as the end. 

Penny's mother and brother — as well as Howard's father — have all never been seen on the show. Have any dream casting?

It's premature to talk about but we have a couple of fun ideas. Howard's father has not been at the top of that list but it's always floating around. If and when the time is right, we'll dig into it.

You guys famously don't map out seasons ahead of time, but do you have a larger overall focus in mind for season 10?

Right now, it's to continue with the stories that are in play. We have all these family members that are there and hopefully more to meet for the first time. We can continue with this guidance system and see where that goes professionally, personally and financially. There's a baby on the way [for Howard and Bernadette], Penny is unhappy with her career. There are a lot of pieces already in play that for now, we just want to continue with. 

Do you already have an idea of how this show ends? 

I have some thoughts floating around but we'll see. Sometimes as the show goes along — and it's not terribly planned out in advance — even I'm surprised by the things that the characters do and the places we end up going. I do have some thoughts but for all I know, based on what's to come, they may be useless thoughts. Time will only tell.

Looking back on season nine, what's the memory that stands out?

The Star Wars episode with Sheldon and Amy consummating their relationship is one of our finest moments ever. It's something I'm probably the most proud of in terms of what we've been able to write and [where we've been able to] take the characters. Everybody in that episode shines, and all their stories converge in this lovely way as Star Wars is premiering and Sheldon and Amy are in bed. It's one of the high points, not just of season nine but of the series for me.

What did you think of the Big Bang Theory season finale? Sound off in the comments section below.