Penny runs into her ex-boyfriend Zack, who has gotten rich from selling his company and married a similarly dim-witted woman named Marissa. Meeting with Leonard and Penny, they say Zack is infertile and ask to pay Leonard as a sperm donor so they can have a baby. Leonard is flattered, but Penny finds it creepy. Leonard says that since Penny decided she did not want to have children, he should be allowed to help another couple with this issue. Sheldon advises him to think about the emotional toll this could have on him. Leonard says he will not do it if Penny objects; Penny says she will support whatever decision Leonard makes. Meanwhile, Raj tries to get Anu back but she points out he just wanted to be married like his friends. Raj points out that Anu is similarly looking for a quick marriage. He admits to Anu that he really likes her and they decide to start their relationship as just dating.
In March 2017, CBS renewed the series for two additional seasons, bringing its total to twelve, and running through the 2018–19 television season. On August 22, 2018, CBS and Warner Bros. Television officially announced that the twelfth season would be the series' last. This stems from Jim Parsons' decision to leave the series at the end of the season if the show were to have been renewed for a thirteenth season. The series concluded with an hour-long finale consisting of two back-to-back episodes on May 16, 2019. A retrospective, hosted by Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, aired at 9:30 P.M. ET/PT, the night of the finale, following the season two finale of Young Sheldon.
When Leonard receives a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he feels bad about how little he and Penny have achieved in the past year. Leonard wonders if he and Penny should be thinking about the next step after two years of marriage, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny tells him she wants to do all those things someday, but she has a bunch of stuff she would like to do first.
He's since become attached to a handful of Netflix projects, appearing in their recent Ted Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, executive producing mentee Ryan O'Connell's autobiographical comedy series Special, and signing on to reprise his role in their movie version of Ryan Murphy's Broadway production of The Boys in the Band, due on the streaming service in 2020.
In scenes set at Howard's home, he interacts with his rarely-seen mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi until her death) by shouting from room to room in the house. She similarly interacts with other characters in this manner. She reflects the Jewish mother stereotype in some ways, such as being overly controlling of Howard's adult life and sometimes trying to make him feel guilty about causing her trouble. She is dependent on Howard, as she requires him to help her with her wig and makeup in the morning. Howard, in turn, is attached to his mother to the point where she still cuts his meat for him, takes him to the dentist, does his laundry and "grounds" him when he returns home after briefly moving out. Until Howard's marriage to Bernadette in the fifth-season finale, Howard's former living situation led Leonard's psychiatrist mother to speculate that he may suffer from some type of pathology, and Sheldon to refer to their relationship as Oedipal. In season 8, Howard's mother dies in her sleep while in Florida, which devastates Howard and Stuart, who briefly lived with Mrs. Wolowitz.
Howard dresses as Sheldon for Halloween at work, hurting Sheldon's feelings. When Howard does not apologize, Amy and Sheldon dress as Bernadette and Howard at Penny and Leonard's party, angering Bernadette. Sheldon and Bernadette later bond over their painful childhood memories. Leonard is upset that Penny does not seem to remember that their first kiss was on Halloween. Penny later admits she does remember, but does not like to think of their first kiss as an unromantic drunken hookup. She likes to imagine their first kiss was one they shared on Leonard's birthday, which pleases him.
The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
Leonard's mother Beverly visits, and he is thrilled when she takes an interest in his work. However, when he learns that she is doing research on him for a new parenting book, he is furious. He prepares to tell her how she let him down over the years, but instead chooses to accept and forgive her, and forgive himself for holding onto that resentment for so long. Beverley is touched that he forgave her and they share a genuine hug. Meanwhile, Anu gets a job offer in London. Raj prepares to fly out and propose to her, ready to follow her if she accepts. Howard stops Raj at the airport, saying there is a better match out there for him, convincing Raj to return home. Stuart and Denise are bothered by her creepy roommate Mitch, while Bernadette and Howard are tired of Denise constantly staying overnight with Stuart at their house. Stuart says he is ready to move in with Denise, and they say they love each other while convincing Mitch to move out.
For the first three seasons, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco, the three main stars of the show, received at most $60,000 per episode. The salary for the three went up to $200,000 per episode for the fourth season. Their per-episode pay went up an additional $50,000 in each of the following three seasons, culminating in $350,000 per episode in the seventh season. In September 2013, Bialik and Rauch renegotiated the contracts they held since they were introduced to the series in 2010. On their old contracts, each was making $20,000–$30,000 per episode, while the new contracts doubled that, beginning at $60,000 per episode, increasing steadily to $100,000 per episode by the end of the contract, as well as adding another year for both.
By season seven, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco were also receiving 0.25% of the series' back-end money. Before production began on the eighth season, the three plus Helberg and Nayyar, looked to renegotiate new contracts, with Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco seeking around $1 million per episode, as well as more back-end money. Contracts were signed in the beginning of August 2014, giving the three principal actors an estimated $1 million per episode for three years, with the possibility to extend for a fourth year. The deals also include larger pieces of the show, signing bonuses, production deals, and advances towards the back-end. Helberg and Nayyar were also able to renegotiate their contracts, giving them a per-episode pay in the "mid-six-figure range", up from around $100,000 per episode they each received in years prior. The duo, who were looking to have salary parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, signed their contracts after the studio and producers threatened to write the characters out of the series if a deal could not be reached before the start of production on season eight. By season 10, Helberg and Nayyar reached the $1 million per episode parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, due to a clause in their deals signed in 2014.
Raj hooks up with a recently separated woman, Nell, after one of his lectures at the planetarium. Her husband, Oliver, confronts Raj at the planetarium and then breaks down over the end of his marriage. After comforting Oliver, Raj talks to Nell and convinces her to give her husband another chance. Meanwhile, after diving once again into string theory and sprawling his work across his and Amy's apartment, Sheldon approaches a reluctant Leonard and Penny and convinces them to let him use his old room to study for a three-day trial period with an agreement to be quiet and stay out of their way. Sheldon surprisingly sticks to this agreement, being a reasonably good guest, which shockingly frustrates Leonard to no end. After Leonard lets out his frustrations, Sheldon then renegotiates the guest tenancy agreement for an extra few days and resumes being his normal demanding self, much to Leonard's relief.
Sheldon's childhood friend from Texas, Tam, is visiting the university with his son. Sheldon does not want to see him and the others wonder why Sheldon has never mentioned Tam. Tam is unaware Sheldon is angry with him, thinking they just naturally drifted apart. Sheldon's brother George does not know the reason either. Sheldon eventually reveals Tam promised he would move to California with Sheldon, but then got a girlfriend and stayed with her, leaving Sheldon feeling abandoned. Tam and Sheldon make up and Sheldon has Leonard take Tam to the airport. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette want to get to know Anu, impressed by her connections in the hotel industry. They tell her embarrassing things about Raj and wonder if they can go out with her again after Raj confronts them.
When Mayim Bialik first learned she had to say goodbye to neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, she opened up about the show ending in a blog post, asking, "And now I start to figure out what next. Where will life take me? Where will this career go? What do I want?" Up next she has a voice role in The Inspector Chronicles, a quasi-parody of Doctor Who making the leap from short to feature film. She'll reprise her role as the voice of the Inspector's time machine, known as B.O.O.T.H. Aside from that, she doesn't have any major projects lined up, aside from preparing to not see her close-knit cast the way she'd grown accustomed to. "We'll have to see what our lives look like," she told Us Weekly in early May about the chance they'll remain close. "I mean, we're all going to be on different schedules now; it's very different."