The final episode of “House” brought back just about everybody (with one big exception) who’s played a significant role on the show and presented us with a “This Is Your Life” sort of story for its central character.
It also mixed in some of the storytelling technique of one of the show’s finest episodes, Season 1’s “Three Stories,” borrowed a little from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and House’s literary predecessor Sherlock Holmes and came to, if not the happiest of endings, at least a happy enough one for its central relationship, that of House and Wilson.
“Everybody Dies” was an ambitious episode, both thematically and in terms of production, and it’s hard not to respect the show for going for it in its last episode. But for about 53 minutes, it was also kind of depressing. That mood reversed pretty quickly in the final scenes, and in a way that people are probably going to be talking about for a while.
The episode spends much of its time in a burning building, where House has followed the final Patient of the Week, Oliver (James LeGros, doing nice and unobtrusive work), a heroin addict who, we learn though flashbacks, thinks he’s dying of ALS and as a final, nothing-left-to-lose act offers to take the fall for House’s hospital-damaging vandalism from last week.
Except he wasn’t really dying: He just inhaled a twig that lodged in a vein in his neck and caused his symptoms. House the empiricist concludes that he actually shouldn’t save Oliver because he’s a better person dying than he was living, but saves him anyway.
That combined with Oliver’s description of taking heroin — “like God had taken over my body” — and his assessment of the comedown — “Reality stinks” — apparently triggers an existential crisis in House, who follows Oliver to an abandoned warehouse in search of a high and ends up trapped there with a dead person.
A few dead people, actually, along with a couple live ones: The conversation House has with himself is played as a dialogue with Kutner (we knew Kal Penn was returning), Amber (we didn’t know Anne Dudek was — well played, “House” secret-keepers), Stacy (Sela Ward!) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison, another pre-confirmed returnee).
The manifestations of House’s mind engage him in a dialectic about why he’s there, instead of, say, hanging out with his dying/only friend — and it’s here that the depressing part really kicks in. Kutner and Amber call him on the fact that he’s leaving details out, and that he’s choosing the boring (death) over the interesting (living). Stacy tells him that he’s used Wilson as his conscience rather than looking for one in himself. Cameron* tells him he always loved the puzzle more than anything, including himself, and that he’s taking the coward’s way out by letting the fire consume him rather than looking for a way out.
*(Nice touch having House envision Cameron, the most selfless of House’s original team, initially argue for the most selfish option, just letting himself die.)
Wilson and Foreman, meanwhile, are looking for House and finally figure out where he went after a quick visit to Andre Braugher‘s (yes, another guest star) Dr. Nolan, but they’re too late. They see a silhouette at the door as the fire trucks arrive — right before a beam falls and there’s a huge explosion.
Cut to the morgue, where Foreman tells Wilson the body was House’s, and then to House’s funeral, where everyone kind of half-heartedly eulogizes him until Wilson says what they’re all thinking but feeling too polite to utter: “House was an ass.” He begins detailing the various ways in which House was, in fact, an ass when his phone starts chirping. The message: “Shut up you idiot.” Wilson walks outside — and there’s House.
He didn’t quite attend his own funeral a la Tom Sawyer, but he did fake his own death to throw off his adversaries, like Holmes in “The Final Problem” (which, incidentally, was the story that inspired Sunday’s “Sherlock” finale on PBS). House can probably never practice medicine again — we see in the final montage, set to Warren Zevon‘s “Keep Me in Your Heart,” that Chase has taken over the diagnostics department — but he and Wilson have motorcycles and five months to wring everything they can from their friendship.
That’s lovely, and we’d like to imagine them living the hell out of the time between now and October, but a couple things:
– It’s less important in the grand scheme of things, but it was hard to ignore that amid all the old faces returning that Cuddy was not one of them. Guess that bridge with Lisa Edelstein couldn’t be repaired.
– One of House’s axioms has been that people don’t change. We can see his heart growing three sizes when his life’s in jeopardy and he finally realizes he’s really leaving Wilson in the lurch. But what happens a few months down the line, when cancer has really started to ravage Wilson’s body and their money is getting short? Does House revert to his old ways and bail again? And after Wilson dies, then what? House basically has nowhere left to go once Wilson is gone, and that’s not a reunion movie we want to see, even in our heads.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a show’s reach to exceed its grasp, and no one can accuse “House” of taking the easy road in its series finale. But rather than feeling happy to see the (anti)hero ride off into the sunset, we’re a little bummed thinking about what will happen after the sun comes up again.
What did you think of the “House” series finale?