Young Sheldon's Final Episode May Have Hinted At The Death Of Big Bang Theory's Leonard, And I'm Kinda Convinced Now

 Side by side of Big Bang Theory's Leonard angrily yelling while wearing his red Lenny sweater, Jim Parson's Sheldon in green and black robe in Young Sheldon's series finale.
Side by side of Big Bang Theory's Leonard angrily yelling while wearing his red Lenny sweater, Jim Parson's Sheldon in green and black robe in Young Sheldon's series finale.

Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched Young Sheldon’s series finale on CBS or with a Paramount+ subscription, so be warned!

For seven memorable years, Young Sheldon’s creative team filled out the backstory of The Big Bang Theory’s resident genius Sheldon Cooper, and the tragi-comic culmination was reached in the CBS show’s two-part series finale. The first part followed up on George Cooper’s long-anticipated death with his funeral proceedings, while the second part featured the heavily hyped on-screen reunion between former co-stars Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik. But it’s what the prequel series didn’t show that has sparked curiosity, specifically when it comes to the fate of Johnny Galecki’s Leonard Hofstadter.

Understandably, a series devoted so largely to Sheldon’s life doesn’t necessarily owe fans any updates for other Big Bang Theory characters, but co-creators Steve Molaro and Chuck Lorre definitely knew that fans of the flagship sitcom have always pored over the follow-up show for connective tissue. And I know I'm not the only one who was hoping for a Leonard-flavored breadcrumb in the final episode.

While nothing in the installment “Memoir” directly revealed anything doom-laden about Leonard, a few clues indicate that the beloved character is out of the picture, whether it be due to death or perhaps a divorce from Kaley Cuoco's Penny. Let’s go over what we know to try and figure things out, since I doubt any kind of confirmation will come up in Georgie and Mandy’s upcoming spinoff.

Penny Was Namechecked, But No Mention Of Leonard

When it comes right down to it, the biggest piece of evidence pointing to Leonard’s current whereabouts is arguably the lack of evidence within not just the finale, but all of Young Sheldon’s run. Even though Leonard and Sheldon’s friendship developed after his coming-of-age teen years depicted in the dramedy prequel, it’s always been just a little odd that Jim Parsons’ Sheldon never once name-dropped his brainy bestie in any narration.

It might not be as odd if Young Sheldon was completely bereft of Big Bang Theory references and returns on the whole, but the show had already featured Mayim Bialik’s voiceover in the past, and also brought Simon Helberg’s Howard back in the middle of its run. But the kicker here is that Penny’s name does come up in the series finale, so the writers could have easily worked in a nod to Leonard’s current situation within that same line of dialogue.

When Amy mentions that their daughter, who curiously isn’t named, has developed an interest in becoming an actress, Sheldon responds by saying:

Was the implication there that Penny is perhaps more inclined to take on babysitting duties herself, due to whatever natural matronly vibes she exudes, as opposed to sharing those duties with Leonard? Or is the idea that Penny is now a single woman, either due to a divorce or something far more depressing? The third option would be that Sheldon merely named Penny instead of Leonard due to the context of acting being discussed. Whatever the reason, Cuoco’s character was the only TBBT fave referenced, and that seemed to be quite intentional.

Sheldon And Amy Named Their Son Leonard

To be sure, the name Leonard definitely did come up during Young Sheldon’s flash-forward segments, just not in direct reference to Johnny Galecki’s physicist. Rather, that’s the name that Sheldon and Amy named their son, who is already showing signs of branching away from science as an obsession through participating in youth hockey games.

Now, it’s a well-known fact that Sheldon’s idol is the late, great Star Trek vet Leonard Nimoy, so on the one hand, it’s perfectly logical that he and Amy would go that route in naming their first-born son. But on the other hand, that specific bit of nomenclature would likely present some unnecessary confusion amidst the friend group, at least assuming adult Leonard is still around.

This explains a lot!

It’s obviously not unlawful or extremely rare for parents to name a child after a friend or loved one who’s still alive, but that kind of tribute is far more common after someone has passed away, or is at least no longer around in a regular capacity. Which speaks more to the idea that he died at some point, possibly due to the various health issues that he brought up in the 12 years The Big Bang Theory aired, as opposed to Leonard and Penny splitting up.

If this were a situation where a difficult divorce came into play before Amy and Sheldon had their son, then I seriously doubt they would have gone forward with naming the kid Leonard, knowing that they’d be asking Penny to babysit down the line. But that’s more of a socially awkward choice than anything else, so I guess I wouldn’t totally put it past Sheldon.

Johnny Galecki Previously Hit Pause On His Entertainment Career

Let’s step outside the narrative box for a second to pose a different reason for Young Sheldon seemingly avoiding any updates about Leonard: former Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki hit pause on his entertainment career to focus on his growing family in their gorgeous Tennessee home. So it’s likely that Steve Molaro and Chuck Lorre were all too aware that the Roseanne vet wouldn’t be up for reprising the role on Young Sheldon at any point.

To that end, it’s possible they chose not to offer any specific updates about Leonard without having Galecki’s input and blessing about where the character ended up. It’s also plausible that they assumed invoking Leonard’s current whereabouts would lead to an unwanted rise in fans trying to contact Galecki privately.

With any number of reasons behind the creative team’s choice to leave Leonard references by the wayside, Young Sheldon has now completely wrapped up its seven-season run, with only George and Mandy’s impending spinoff to potentially provide further insights into Sheldon, Amy, Penny and Leonard’s lives in the post-Big Bang era. Maybe if that Max spinoff ever makes it through the development process, it’ll offer its own clues into these characters' lives.

Until we know more, Young Sheldon's easter egg-filled finale can be streamed along with all the other episodes on Paramount+, while all 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory are available with a Max subscription.