A Eulogy for 'House,' A Show I Hated and Loved

I used to love House. The DVD set of the show’s first season was the first one I ever bought. I watched it faithfully. Hugh Laurie was magnificent as House, his relationship with Wilson was both fun and reliable, and every once in a while, it threw in a really mindbending episode — take season one’s “Three Stories” or season two’s “No Reason,” for example.

But House passed its prime at the same time his original team (Chase, Cameron, and Foreman) departed. The show was able to remain basically interesting early in the fourth season, which featured House’s selection of a new team, and even the fourth season finale managed to be just as mindbending as previous ones. But the show was clearly running out of steam, having to resort to plotlines more extreme than ever before (House electrocuting himself, Kutner’s Very Special Suicide Episode). I dropped off watching, and in July 2009 I wrote the article “3 Reasons Why I’m Quitting House.” I meant it, too; I didn’t watch another episode.

Well, that is, until Monday night, when a sense of nostalgia and an annoying curiosity beset me and I found myself tuned into the show’s series finale, “Everybody Dies.” It was a strange experience trying to go back into that world after having spent so much time away, but I know I wasn’t the only one. Twitter was full of people lamenting that they wished they’d seen the rest of the season. After watching the episode, though, I’m not part of that crowd. “Everybody Dies” was everything I hated about House, mixed with just enough of what I loved to make it meaningful.

What I hated about it was the fact that it was outlandishly plotted, bordering on silly. The two-thirds featured the appearance of more hallucinated ghosts, who (at least for the time I watched) were already pretty overused plot devices. They provided some interesting (if on-the-nose) commentary about House, who just happened to be trapped in a burning building. Because, you know, metaphor.

But the episode only got more ridiculous when the ceiling apparently collapsed on House and the building exploded. Of course, it was obvious when they didn’t show us the body that House wasn’t really dead, but the show gave us an extended fake-out, complete with a funeral montage. Finally, an incessantly beeping phone revealed that House was still alive, having pulled a Sherlock and faked his own death. How did he get away with it? He switched the dental records between himself and a heroin addict who also died in the fire. Because it’s that easy.

But the ridiculousness of that plot twist aside, the episode did manage to be a bit emotionally rewarding. Wilson didn’t escape his cancer, but we didn’t have to watch him succumb to it, either. The episode ended on a happy note, with House deciding to spend Wilson’s last few months with him, riding away on motorbikes.

And that’s what House has always been best at: the relationship between House and Wilson. Their relationship was the show’s emotional center; forget Cuddy and Stacy and the rest. Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard have such a begrudging chemistry that, even after eight years, their scenes together are truly magnetic. The fact that House sacrificed everything to be there for Wilson in his hour of need is a powerful statement, diluted only slightly by the silliness of the act itself.

In the end, House ended on an emotional note that was surprisingly sweet, if just as overblown as the latter half of the series. Of course, for a procedural medical drama, House remained surprisingly true to itself even as it became a hyperbole of itself, and “Everybody Dies” was no exception. It won’t go down in the books as a memorable television finale, the wider context doesn’t matter. “Everybody Dies” was a satisfying ending for House, and even though it was a show I both hated and loved, it was good enough for me.

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