There’s no turning back now. Thursday’s Young Sheldon used the arrival of Georgie and Mandy’s daughter to get George and Brenda, and Mary and Rob, all in the same room. The result: a blowup between husband and wife that culminated in Mary’s decision to stay with her mother.
The implosion of George and Mary’s relationship comes at an interesting moment in the Big Bang Theory prequel’s timeline. Sheldon is now 13 years old — which, according to the mothership, is the age where Sheldon walks in on his dad having sex with another woman. Does this latest development set the stage for that painful childhood memory?
Below, Young Sheldon executive producer Steve Holland unpacks the dramatic episode and the state of the Coopers’ union.
TVLINE | You’ve been slow-burning George and Mary’s issues, and their respective relationships with Brenda and Rob, for the better part of two seasons. Why was now the time to blow up their marriage?
We knew we had these fuses burning for a long time, and we were talking about the episode where the baby is born. We didn’t want to do the traditional “you’re in the delivery room and she’s panting” episode. That episode has been done a thousand times, and this show is such an ensemble, so we were talking about “What would make this the most exciting episode that’s not just about the birth of the baby?” It just seemed like a great way to have these stories all crash together.
TVLINE | This feels like a real turning point for the show. There’s no way for Mary to unlearn that George is Brenda’s “mystery man.” Was there any hesitancy about moving forward?
Not hesitancy, but there’s always a concern. We want to protect these characters and we want to make sure we’re not doing anything that betrays them or makes people turn on them, but this was a storyline that has been simmering in the background for a long time, and we wanted to honor the reality of that. And you’re right, this is a turning point. The rest of the season [deals with] the fallout.
TVLINE | There was a period of time, early in Season 6, where it seemed like maybe, just maybe, George and Mary had turned a corner — that their respective feelings for Brenda and Rob would actually bring them closer together….
It was fun to write them in a better place. I personally think they were in a somewhat better place because they didn’t deal with any of their issues. They temporarily swept them under the rug, but those issues were still festering in the background, and they blow up here. But we also know we have at least another season coming, so it’s our chance to blow things up and allow some rebuilding to happen.
TVLINE | After Brenda denies giving George a heart attack in the Season 5 premiere, George implies that she gave him “something” that night. How much should we read into that “something”? Is it just playful banter, or is there something the audience doesn’t know?
I think you can read into it any way you want. I think it’s playful banter, but there’s definitely another layer there. We’ve also talked internally a lot about how these are stories that an adult Sheldon is telling. He doesn’t have to tell every story. This is a story that Sheldon, who now has kids of his own, is telling, and maybe he doesn’t understand [everything], and he’s looking back at his parents in a different light. He doesn’t have to tell every heartbreaking story… He can choose to omit some things, or put a positive spin on some things.
TVLINE | Let’s dive into that. Because 13-year-old Sheldon is presumably within weeks of spring break — which is allegedly when he returns home from college and catches George with cheating on Mary. I don’t expect you to reveal to me how you’ll go about addressing it, but can you say whether that moment will be addressed this season?
Not in Season 6, but it’s possible that it will get addressed in the future. But again, without saying it didn’t happen, we’re not obligated to tell all the stories that Sheldon told on Big Bang. So I’m not saying we are or we’re not, but it’s not happening in Season 6. It could potentially happen in Season 7, and it’s a possibility we’ve talked about a lot, so it’s on the table. But just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s a story [our narrator] has to tell.
TVLINE | But the show still needs to adhere to the canon set forth by Big Bang, right?
Absolutely. It’s tricky, because we were writing Big Bang for 10 seasons before Young Sheldon was on the air and a thing we had to worry about. If you go back and look, there are things in Big Bang that contradict its own canon. I’m not trying to get off the hook. There are certainly big-picture canon things that are very important to the Sheldon character, and there are a lot of smaller things we’re not saying didn’t happen, but were just jokes when we said them on Big Bang, and we don’t feel the need to necessarily be handcuffed by a joke in the stories we have to tell because we told a joke eight years ago. So, again, we’re not trying to discount those things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we feel obligated to tell all of them as story pieces. I mean, in Big Bang, George is shooting plates like skeet off the window and Mary is putting ground-up glass in his soup. Obviously, those are not stories you could tell on this show. I don’t think they would fit or make sense. But we do feel a responsibility to the character and the canon…. Our head canon is that Sheldon on Big Bang was telling much harsher versions of the stories of his dad. And those may not have been entirely accurate either. They were certainly from his point of view, but that point of view has shifted.
TVLINE | What can you tease about the immediate fallout from George and Mary’s fight?
The next episode [airing Thursday, March 9] picks up right where this one leaves off. Mary’s not going back home. She’s using the new grandbaby as an excuse, but she is staying at Meemaw’s house.
TVLINE | Might the time away from George bring Mary closer to Rob?
I don’t want to give too much away about what’s coming up, but the intention was always to let these fuses blow, then let George and Mary start to rebuild.
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