An Autopsy Report on the ‘House’ Series Finale

By  · Published on May 23rd, 2012

Dr. Gregory House was a caustic, egotistical pill-popper who’d insult a dying woman to her face for his own misanthropic reasons but also because doing so would have provided him with some vital insight into her condition. There was brilliance behind that cantankerous behavior and if it weren’t for the Holmesian powers of deduction that allowed him to save lives (and his dreamy eyes), he would have been totally irredeemable. As it stands, he’s one of the most memorable and beloved TV characters in recent history. And now, after eight seasons and more than one hundred last minute diagnoses, Fox stalwart House has ended.

Along with all of the standard medical puzzles, this year, the titular doctor, played as wryly as ever by Hugh Laurie, was incarcerated, then released from jail to find that many of the familiar faces at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital had dispersed; he added a couple of new members to his diagnostic team (Charlene Yi and Odette Annable) and learned that friend and fellow M.D. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) – one of the only people that he ever truly cared about – was battling cancer. Although the episode that capped off this final season was far from outstanding (or even an episode that will be remembered in a year’s time), it was a suitable conclusion and a welcomed end to a powerful show that had been puttering along during these last several seasons.

Everyone Dies” (a spin on House’s “everyone lies” diagnostic philosophy) begins with House waking up in a burning building next to a dead man. I have to assume that we’re supposed to take this set up at face value and not assign it any metaphorical meaning because the whole thing is so over the top that symbolism here would be grossly heavy-handed. After House pieces together the identity of the corpse (a heroin addict that he’d taken an uncharacteristic personal interest in back at the hospital), he tries to decide if he should allow himself to perish in the fire or if he should find a way out of the building, which would force him to deal with the fallout from a parole violation (that occurred during the previous episode) and the prospect of facing life without Wilson. The episode’s big twist is that (Spoiler!) everyone doesn’t die. At least, not on the show. In the end, the sense of peril and dread that framed the story wasn’t suspenseful but just sort of common and manipulative.

Written by series creator David Shore, the finale was uneven but effective as far as series finales go – effective, here, meaning that the episode did provide its audience with closure. The return of former House regulars Jennifer Morrison, Olivia Wilde, and Amber Tamblyn as Cameron, Thirteen, and Martha Masters respectively, as well as deceased characters Kutner (Kal Penn) and Amber (Anne Dudek) – the two popping up as subconscious delusions, helping House decide how to proceed as the building fire grows – added a nice symmetry to the show and were a gift to long-time fans.

Toward the end of the episode, though, when House’s fate seems bleak, the episode devolves into the most boring kind of sentimentality with his colleagues explaining how much he meant to them (Taub saying that House helped him to become a better parent; Cameron crying and saying “somewhere in there, he knew how to love”). It was all very uninspired. I’m not saying that I wanted everything that happened over the past eight seasons to have been the fantasy of an autistic child (or someone with lupus) but in a good series finale, it isn’t so apparent that things are being wrapped up.

What did work was the episode’s conclusion, which saw House and Wilson riding off together on their motorcycles. House’s relationship with Wilson was what made him likable – his vulnerability was revealed through their friendship. The last scene confirmed something that anyone who watched the show carefully would have picked up: On the surface House was about a crabby, genius, sleuth doctor but at its core the show was about two dudes who were in love.

Stray Thoughts

At one point House asks Taub if he’s seen Dead Poets Society. In the version of the movie that House is talking about, are there any physical similarities between the Neil character and Wilson?

Where was Lisa Edelstein? Cuddy was such a major part of the show that it seems odd that she wouldn’t at least be mentioned even if a scheduling conflict (or spoiled professional relationships) prevented a physical appearance.

Was the return of Sela Ward’s Stacy necessary?

The whole sequence of events that led to the mega happy ending (the dental records switch) seems way, way, way too far fetched. Even for House.

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