This review contains spoilers.
8.22 Everybody Dies
Watching a series finale, especially one aired with a little prior warning as House has had, is one of the most traumatic viewing experiences for a fan, and it’s rare not to emerge with a specific set of mixed feelings. Adrenaline, from the build up in the press/online etc; shock, from the inevitably action-packed events that you’ve seen; and more often than not, a nagging disappointment and sense of forced closure. It’s distressing not just because the show is ending, but because whatever the writers have chosen to do with your beloved characters in that hour can never be undone, it’s forever, and you’ll just have to live with it.
House, having run for eight years with endless team reboots, cast changes, returns and cycles of House and Wilson’s relationship, was always going to be more susceptible to these rules than most. It so easily could have fallen prey to the pressure from fans and viewers, having to satisfy the loyal following while also staying true to their original, cynical vision for the show. Considering all this, you really have to hand it to the team, as they’ve crafted a flawed, yet hugely satisfying series ender that wraps things up where needed while leaving enough open for fans to ponder.
We begin in a warehouse with House and a former patient trapped inside. There’s a full-scale fire brewing and the patient is dead, but House isn’t moving, and we must slowly unravel the reasons why. It’s instantly clear that this will be an hour inside the character’s psyche, and it alludes to some of the strongest episodes of the show in its structure. We’re intermittently reminded of the House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart two-parter, the Three Stories of season one, and the final stretch of season five, all three of which can be counted as the series’ finest moments. House is a very interesting man, and you could enter worse minds than his in a crisis.
The slightly hokey result of this format is that it facilitates the return of old characters, dead or alive, who each in turn attempt to talk House out of the building. Even though this is cheesy, and some returns work better than others, I can’t see many complaints coming in about old faces making an appearance. It’s executed much better than Lost managed, at least, with Kutner, Amber, Stacey and Cameron all popping in to say hello. No Cuddy? Well we already knew we wouldn’t be seeing her again. Still, in an episode all about resolving House’s issues from within his mind, her absence makes no sense, and all-but ruins the episode.
Everyone was excited about seeing Kutner, but his return is probably the least interesting of the four (seven in total). Stacey is more unexpected, and nicely steps into the part probably reserved for Cuddy should she have chosen to return. Her point to make is all about the domestic, familial life House could have had if their relationship hadn’t crashed and burned, and it’s nice to see that the writers have chosen to respect long-time viewers of the show by including a character not really mentioned since season two. Cameron, on day-loan from Once Upon a Time, is brilliant, but more on her later.
The action/dream sequences inside the building are woven together by flashbacks recounted by House, and Wilson and Foreman’s search for him. We never really find out how or why House and the patient got to the building (or did I miss that?), but it doesn’t really matter. By including a fairly run-of-the-mill case for him to solve, especially with someone who challenges him, we get to see snippets of the show’s usual structure (clinic duty, diagnosis brainstorm), knowing it’s the last time. It’s expertly balanced, with several timelines, storytellers and locations somehow never becoming confusing or feeling unnecessary.
Wilson and Foreman’s journey is probably the least interesting, but once they get to the building, I, at least, was hit with the realisation that the pair are the last remaining cast members, with one last call-to-arms. It feels right, and is another testament to how much the showrunners must have thought about the little things while writing the episode. This is also the moment when House – spoiler alert – seemingly dies, and the audience are crushed along with him. Then you check the time, and realise there’s still 15-minutes of finale left. Is he dead? Maybe not, this is House after all.
But before we find out, there’s a funeral to attend. Everyone (besides Cuddy, grrrr) turns up to recount how much Gregory House changed their lives over eight years. Thirteen is grateful for his offer to kill her when the time came, Taub says House made him a better father and Cameron, well Cameron broke my heart a little bit. Maybe it’s because I bought into her complicated, one-sided, relationship with House way back in the first season, or the fact the her return stirred memories of the old team right when it mattered, but I won’t be the only one who suspected at this moment that they’d actually killed him off.
But as I said, this is House, and things are never that simple. His last words of “I can change” held true, and he had given up his whole world, his job, his freedom and his friends, for five last months with Wilson. At last, he had put something before the love of a good puzzle, and his friend was ultimately more important to him than his own life. The relationship between the two, though not always perfectly realised, has been the heart and soul of House since the first episode, and where would Sherlock be without his Watson?
We get nice, tidy resolutions for the rest too, the most pleasing of which shows Chase stepping into House’s shoes as head of diagnostics. That dashing Australian is right where he belongs, working alongside Foreman and leading his own team. Cameron’s return proves fruitful in that we forget she was ever gone by the episode’s final montage. Married with a kid, she’s takes time to glance longingly at a photo of her, Chase, Foreman and House in the good old days – as I said, cheesy, but oh so satisfying.
And House and Wilson end the hour in some unnamed location, riding off into the sunset together Easy Rider-style. Are we worried about Wilson’s impending death? As House says, “cancer’s boring.” Will fans be pleased with this ending? It’s largely a hard finale to love, but one to respect at a time when series are ending on lows rather than the soaring highs they should. House hasn’t been at its best for at least three seasons now, actually making its bow out somewhat of a relief, and we get the feeling that Everybody Dies was always the finale we would have gotten, at whatever point it had ended.
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