The month of May brings many a season finale to our airwaves; over the next couple weeks, I will recap the finales a few of our favorite shows here at Collider, and use that as a jumping off point to discuss the direction of the season and the show as a whole. The big event of Monday night was the House finale, “Help Me”, with plenty of twists and turns in store for the doctors of Princeton-Plainsboro. Hit the jump for a spoiler-filled dissection of the episode, as well as the overall arc of season six of House.
I think House is the most “procedural” show I watch on a weekly basis, which is probably a character flaw on my part. There is an inherent pitfall for a show with such formula ingrained in its DNA. I’m clearly willing to come back again and again for the series regulars (particularly Hugh Laurie, for whom praise is redundant by now). Yet House devotes a solid portion of each episode to the “patient of the week” (POTW) story. If the POTW is engaging, it makes for a great episode, but all too often the POTW plot is lacking. If you put a dull patient in a room with Taub, time passes slowly until the scene changes.
This is why House is able to keep me watching where other procedurals fail, though. Because if you put a dull patient in a room with Dr. Gregory House, the scene gets a chance to crackle. Take this week, where I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the POTW, the lady in distress (call me heartless). Hugh Laurie was on screen for virtually the whole of the runtime— hence, the episode was very entertaining.
I think I’d rank the six sides of House thusly:
1) “Wilson” House
2) “Prankster” House
3) “Sarcastic” House
4) “Misogynist” House
5) “Antisocial” House
6) “Earnest” House
For the finale, we mostly got “Earnest” House with precious little “Wilson” House, which is not optimal. (What little we did get of “Wilson” House, with House caning the vending machine while on the phone with Dr. Wilson, was fantastic.) The show relies on the earnest side of House infrequently enough that it is still generally effective for a moment or two per episode, and for special sweeps episodes (premieres, finales, etc.). So it worked here. In fact, it’s because of episodes like “Help Me” that I continue to empathize with, for instance, “Misogynist” House.
I truly do respect the ability of creator David Shore and Co. to make an event out of each season finale. The set of the crumbled ruins was amazing. So massive. So well designed. So awesome. It jumped to the top of the list of sets from this year’s television that I’d love to have an hour or ten to explore*. I’m generally not a big fan of the trope of opening an episode with a scene from the end of the show followed by a cut to a timecard (which here read “8 hours earlier”), as it always feels like an artificial grab for tension. But I get it. It lends the episode a sense of singularity. In the first minute, you know you’re not watching just any old episode of House. The quick opening shots of a battered House neither aided nor hindered the drama, in my opinion.
That’s because the prophesied moment, when House tears off the mirror, is terrific on its own. Even without the tease, the episode was building to the inevitable conclusion of the lapse of House. You could see it coming. But ripping the mirror off the wall** was a shocking act, and so the reveal the cache of pills caught me off guard. The creative team earned that moment, where he downs the Vicodin, spirals into depression and the season ends on a note of despair.
But he doesn’t take the pills. Instead, shapely legs adorned in pink scrubs walk into the frame, just in time to stop him. They banter. They talk. They confess. They kiss. It was a very tender moment with a lovely score for a show that doesn’t specialize in tender moments with lovely scores. I’ve never needed House and Cuddy to be together, but I do like that season ends on such a sweet note, even if despair might have made for a cooler lead in to season seven. As it stands, the dynamic of the now-resolved (right?) sexual tention will be interesting when the show returns in September, assuming the creative team is committed to pursuing it.
(The diagnostic team was rather trivialized during this episode, and so they will be for this recap, too. But I am interested in what will happen to Thirteen in coming episodes. Might Olivia Wilde go the way of Jennifer Morrison and the dodo bird?)
The season five finale left me kind of cold, what with the bait-and-switch revelation that the major events of the prior episode were but a dream. The two-hour premiere of season six, “Broken”, pulled me back in, with its focus on a scarred House outside the hospital setting, away from the POTW. Even though “Broken” promised a change in House that was more told than shown, its utter greatness as a standalone film sustained my interest through the ups and downs of the remainder of season six. This episode, though perhaps not as great as a theoretical finale fraught with “Wilson” House, definitely has me eager for season seven.
*For the curious, the deluxe chemistry lab in season three of Breaking Bad was bumped to number two.
**Maybe 5.5) is “Badass” House? Oh, and where should “Sexy” House go? It seems I need more than six sides to describe House.