Do you remember how good “Broken,” the two-hour season six premiere of House, was? Easily two of the top ten hours the show has ever produced — both make my top five. It has become the gold standard for House season premieres.
It would be unfair to ask the first two hours of the new season to live up to such quality, so I won’t. That said, even with all drama from last season’s finale left to unwind, it doesn’t get a free pass. My review of “Now What?” and “Selfish,” the first two episodes of season seven, after the jump.
After the quasi-cliffhanger of last year’s finale, in which House was dangerously close to a Vicodin relapse before Cuddy came to the rescue, the show smartly doesn’t bother with a patient-of-the-week cold open. It is somewhat unfortunately replaced with a mawkish sequence in which House and Cuddy officially become Huddy (in the biblical sense) — it’s the kind of scene that causes strings to swell. But the writers are on top of it: before I roll my eyes out of their sockets, House invokes the episode title (“So, now what?”) to undercut the mood. Cut to title.
“Now what?” is a valid question. When the will they/won’t they becomes “they will,” it’s typically safe to make the romance the A-story for a limited number of episodes. If I were the TV czar, I’d set it at two. The first episode is heavy on Huddy. If you’ve been dying for House and Cuddy to get together, this episode is for you. If you prefer House for the medical storylines, you’re mostly out of luck.
I didn’t love the presentation of the coupling. I understand that House is a damaged person, that he has hurt Cuddy on many occasions. But there was so much waffling in the first hour by both parties… I would’ve liked an episode where they simply get to enjoy each other’s company. There is plenty of that, as House and Cuddy skip work together. Frequently without clothes. But it was marred by the melodrama. A collection of lines uttered in “Now What?”:
“Right now, we are more important than what is going on at the hospital.”
“Why do you have to analyze everything to death?”
“Quit being so damn logical.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you love me?”
“This isn’t gonna work.”
But like I said, you get two episodes to transition.
There wasn’t time for a traditional medical story in the first episode, per se. The B-plot invokes the “team needs to solve a problem with House absent” formula. The writers and the cast had fun with it, so I did as well.
In the middle of this, Taub, Chase, and Foreman bid farewell to Thirteen in their own invasive way. If you recall, she left a note on House’s desk last season indicating she would take a leave of absence to shoot Cowboys & Aliens for some reason. This wasn’t her final appearance, so the show didn’t give her too formal a sendoff. I think I’ll miss her presence on the show, especially with Jennifer Morrison gone. Hopefully, Amber Tamblyn will be a sufficient substitute when her guest arc kicks in.
The second episode gets back into the swing of things, with the Huddy drama dialed down and a good old-fashioned patient of the week. The story was a bit of a dud, but I’ve always liked the girl from the Missy Elliott videos (Alyson Stoner), who can act, dance, and apparently skateboard. Plus, the final moment of the episode between House and Cuddy suggested that the romance will be more or less a fact of life by episode three, which I find encouraging.
I’ve seen one critic claim that, after a love/hate relationship with the show for several seasons, these two episodes convinced him to delete his DVR season pass. I’m not there yet. I’m a bit wary, especially with the end of Laurie’s current contract looming. But as long as he remains on the show, Laurie’s performance (still Emmy-free somehow) is reason enough to watch. And I would argue that the creative team is still crafting one of the better procedurals on television.
House returns for season seven Monday, September 20th at 8/7c on Fox.