It’s Not Lupus; It’s Just Stupid

27 Jun

Fair warning:  here there be spoilers.  If you’re not caught up on House, click away now!

I don’t remember exactly why we started watching House.  It was most likely a case of “everyone else is raving about it,” or “the Netflix queue is empty.  What looks good?”  I believe we caught up right around when Thirteen, Taub, and Kutner were vying for their jobs.

I don’t watch it for the medical drama (does anyone?).  The characters’ relationships and their story arcs are what makes the show — as House himself might say — interesting.  As infuriating, stubborn, and downright reckless as some (okay, all) of them can be in their reactions, I’m usually willing to go along with it.

People being self-destructive?  Sure!
People sabotaging their relationships because they’re sad/upset/scared?  Happens all the time!
People manipulating one another for murky reasons?  I’m there!

This hasn’t been my favorite season to start with, but the finale has has pretty much lost me for season eight.

Okay, fine.  I will either watch the first episode of eight or its recap, to see how they’re tying up the threads they left loose after this last fiasco.  But I’m not feeling terribly inclined to hang around after that.

If you haven’t seen it, but you don’t mind spoilers, Television Without Pity has a recap up.  The TL;DR version:  Frame story!  Cuddy and Wilson are getting patched up by EMTs and cops.  Cops are looking for House.  Cuddy says she’ll press charges and doesn’t want him near her hospital anymore.  Rinse and repeat this any time the story comes back to this scene.  We don’t really learn anything new in these expositiony bits, other than “House did something crazy/reckless” and “We don’t know where he is.”

THREE DAYS EARLIER, House has a patient, as he does.  The case is a decent subplot-story, but nothing terribly noteworhty compared to previous patients (even though the trailers set it up as House has met his match! OMG!)

The meat of the plot here is, he tells Cuddy he’s making some changes after, y’know, carving his leg up the week before.  Cuddy wants to have a fight with him so he can get all his anger at her out in the open.  Also, Cuddy’s sister wants to set her up with some guy, which she doesn’t tell House.  They (Cuddy and House) have lunch.  It ends with her pushing him verbally until he pushes her physically and tells her he feels hurt.  Because,  wow, Cuddy, you didn’t know that?  (I know, the “breakthrough” here is supposed to be that House said it aloud.  And Hugh Laurie nailed the scene and all the emotions that go with it.  But I really don’t see why Cuddy forced it, aside from stroking her own ego.)

Anyway.  After a shitty day, Wilson shows up at House’s apartment and wants to take him out for a drink.  House drives, and says they need to swing by Cuddy’s to return her hairbrush, which she pettily asked for during that awful lunch.  Cuddy’s hosting her New Guy for coffee, along with her sister and brother-in-law.  That didn’t take long, did it?  House stands outside, looking forlorn,  and heads back to his car.

(We see the four of them leave the room, so the writers/producers can be all “Nah, it was just destruction of property, not attempted murder!” regarding what’s about to happen.)

House leaves Wilson on the lawn, drives up the street, turns around, speeds back down, and plows his car through Cuddy’s dining room.  Then gets out, hands her the hairbrush, and leaves.  On foot.

Next we see him, he’s having a drink – not at a depressing dive bar, where Wilson told the police to look – but on a tropical beach somewhere.

This episode aired a month ago, and I still have to take a moment to stop frothing before I can type about it.

First of all, let’s talk about what, exactly, House did:

He drove a car through his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Let that sink in for a moment.  I know that the show has been a one-man game of Can You Top This? this season.  I know that the relationship between House and Cuddy was neither mentally nor emotionally healthy, but at least in that regard, I always had the sense that Cuddy was aware of and for the most part willing to play along with House’s mind games.

This episode moves us right into the realm of domestic violence.  The writers might argue that it was merely destruction of property, since House knew the four of them weren’t in the room, but I have to call bullshit on that.  He saw them leave the room before he got in the car.  He had no way to know, during his rubber-peeling trip up the street and back around, whether or not anyone had returned to the dining room.

He especially had no way to know whether or not Cuddy’s little girl Rachel was in there or not.

I understand that Lisa Edelstein announced just before the finale aired that she wouldn’t be returning for Season 8.  This episode was written before that announcement, however, and I have to wonder how the writers intended to resolve this utterly over-the-top arc.  Cuddy taking House back and letting him continue to work at the hospital after his numerous fuck-ups was getting to be a tired theme already.  Had they planned on her forgiving him for this?  On having her relent and allowing him to return to Princeton-Plainsboro?

After he performed an action that could very well have killed her child?

We’ll never know.  My gut says that, yes, they would have either found a reason for her to let him come back, or would have removed Cuddy from her position as Dean of Medicine to get her out of House’s way.

Since she’s leaving the show, that will have to remain unknown.

Let’s move on.

Storytelling-wise:  the frame story was totally unnecessary.  Starting a story near the end can work to build tension, or to get your viewers wondering why on earth a character – whose motivations they’re pretty sure they know by now – could possibly be doing Out of Character Thing X.  To fangirl Nathan Fillion as an example:  check out the Firefly episode “Out of Gas,”(Holy shit!  Mal’s dying and Serenity’s been abandoned!) or the Castle Season 3 opener, “A Deadly Affair”  (Holy shit!  Castle just fired at Beckett!)

When you have that sort of setup, then jump back three days/six hours/a week, the audience is waiting for one of two things to happen by the time we’ve caught back up to the present:  either the day is saved during the last five minutes (as is the case in of “Out of Gas”),  or we learn that things aren’t quite what they seemed (Castle wasn’t really shooting at Beckett; he was shooting at the bad guy behind her!)

The only reversal of expectations we get out of this episode is that House isn’t at a dive bar.  That’s…  not something we needed five minutes of EMTs and cops to set up.  All of the Cuddy/Wilson post-crash scenes could have been shown chronologically and they wouldn’t have changed the plot or level of tension in the slightest.

Actually, it could have closed a few plotholes they left wide the fuck open:
1.  The incident happened in the afternoon, in broad daylight.  Why is it full-dark when the cops and EMTs are finishing up?  How could it have taken hours for them to put Wilson’s arm in a sling?
2.  House left on foot.  With an injured leg.  How the hell did he get away?  Did he thumb a ride before he got to the end of the street?

Which leads us to the Current Internet Theory:  that a good chunk of this episode didn’t actually happen, and House either overdosed on Vicodin, or is still in the hospital/undergoing surgery or he’s had a psychotic break of some sort.

I truly hope that’s not what’s going on here.  We’ve already been there, done that with House a few times now.  At what point do the viewers get tired of “Ha ha, it wasn’t real”?

I’m not a fan and-then-she-woke-up endings at the best of times.  It’s a good thing I was too young to truly appreciate Dallas back in the day, but even at eight years old, hearing that Bobby Ewing’s death was a season-long dream sequence made me think I wasn’t missing out on a grown-up show after all.

Having any or all of this last season of House be not-real also means the character suffers no consequences for his actions.  Again.  Lack of accountability is sort of a running theme on the show, and while I’ll suspend my disbelief enough to say, okay, Cuddy’s covering for the medical shenanigans he pulls because he’s just that good, I am beyond tired of Cuddy and Wilson’s seemingly bottomless wells of forgiveness when it comes to House’s personal bullshit.

Of course, the writers succeeded on one level, at least:  I’m a sucker for completing stories.  Leaving us with this infuriating cliffhanger guarantees that I will tune in for at least the first few minutes of the Season 8 premiere.

But as of right now, unless they do something mind-blowingly brilliant, after that’s resolved I’ll be removing House from the DVR queue.

Did you watch this season’s finale?  Will you keep watching next season?  Should I have faith in the writers, or have they lost your trust, too?  Let me know!

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7 Responses to “It’s Not Lupus; It’s Just Stupid”

  1. Fallah June 28, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    I’m not a big House fan so I let myself be spoilered. The lack of accountability and consequences for House (no matter what he does) irks me and it drives my husband absolutely up the wall. I also don’t enjoy the characters enough from the eps I’ve seen to keep watching.

    Anyway. I hate shows that rely on narrative devices like this and then…don’t use them effectively. This episode would have pissed me the hell off. The stupid unnecessary flashback-framing. The definitely-yes-domestic-violence aspect. Actually, the lunch scene itself probably would have made me turn it off.

    And then AND THEN if it winds up all being a dream or a hallucination or a scenario he’s telling his new therapist about? BULLSHIT. I hate that. Such a cop out.

    We recently started watching TrueBlood and they are heavily relying on dream/fantasy sequences both for exposition and for getting inside character’s heads to see their fantasies. It is maddening to watch as a viewer, because here are the characters acting completely out of character. You’re going “WTF?” and then… “oh, haha, he was asleep!”

    I also despise season finale cliffhangers. I mean, I understand why they do them. But a certain ham-handed season finale actually pissed me off to the point of never watching the show again (ahem “e.r.” ) (Then again, by that point the show was regularly dropping helicopters on jumping sharks.)

    I guess the TL:DR is: that finale sounds like bullshit. Stupid narrative devices were used poorly, which I also dislike. I hope House gets reamed someday.

  2. Steve Hall (Kestrel) June 28, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I got “beyond tired of Cuddy and Wilson’s seemingly bottomless wells of forgiveness when it comes to House’s personal bullshit” about two episodes into the season before last.

    I actually started watching House about the same time you did…and I watched for the medical drama. When that stopped being a focus—not even the focus—of the show, I quit. I hate soap operas.

    So, thanks for satisfying the little bit of curiosity I did have about the show. (I guess I could have asked my wife, but she’s a fan.)

  3. Bika June 28, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I don’t think I was as mad about the season finale (and to a lesser extent, the last season as a whole) as you are, but I did make my best “really?” face. By the time we got to the part that explained the opening scene, I’d forgotten it happened. I wasn’t biting my nails waiting for the end, I was dreading it.

    I guess if they were aiming to show House in his progressive spiral to the rock-bottom, they succeeded. The problem is, like Cuddy and Wilson, I’ve reached the end of caring about what happens to the murderous old bastard. Too bad. I really did like him.

  4. Verdus June 28, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    I’m kind of glad I stopped watching a few seasons ago. I enjoyed the show, but it sounds like it’s going a little off the rails. This way I can remember it as the show I enjoyed.

  5. Itanya Blade June 28, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I’m with Verdus, I stopped watching a while ago. Actually, I stopped watching at the end of the season where he was torturing the poor newbies.

    Cause honestly House never changes. he is never responsible. And I got tired of shows like that a long time ago.

  6. Tami June 29, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Bleh. I watched last season (as in, the one that ended with Cuddy and House shacking up) and thought to myself, “Self, if this next season isn’t one helluva humdinger, I don’t think they’ve got what it takes to elevate me back to caring about this show.”

    SUCH a shame, as the first couple of seasons were some of my favorite television.

    Gotta keep upping the stakes though, and in something this long, you can’t allow your characters to be HAPPY for very long because it gets more difficult to come up with meaningful conflict for someone who is happy.

    I understand the REASON behind what I (with my own set of viewer expectations) consider a downward spiral of the show. This is why Tami likes novels or end-in-sight trilogies instead of “let’s see how long we can keep this alive” storytelling.

  7. Kyraine July 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    This is why I enjoyed Babylon 5 so much. They had a storyline and didn’t try to drag things out forever. I’m on the second season of House and I love the show, but I’ll probably stop watching it when it turns soap opera-ish. That season finale in this post was too much. Sorry, but in the real world, for something like that you can get thrown in jail. House did that with a child in the home? That he knew about? Please, that’s so unlikely even for House that it borders on the unbelievable. Sure he’s a jerk, but I never got the impression that it would be in character for him to do what he did there. And it’ll be a bit hard to have the show when the main character is serving 5-10 years in jail after he gets convicted.

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