On Monday evening, eight years of complex medical cases, relationships, deaths, friendships and characters said one final goodbye and departed our screens for good. House finally came to a definitive end after eight seasons of TV, some higher up on the quality scale and some so far down that they were barely visible. Ending a show that’s been on air for so long and garnered such a large fan-base is always a difficult task. For example, look at the ending of The Sopranos: the ending divided its fan-base entirely, with some loving the open-ended final scene and some absolutely hating the lack of a true ‘end’ for the character they’d watched for years on end. House had the potential to do that all over again but although I’m not of the opinion that it’s as divisive as it could’ve been, there were some elements that dragged down what could have been a wonderful episode.
As was set up over the previous weeks, the finale’s main storyline surrounds House and Wilson’s friendship – a recurring constant that has remained over the show’s history whilst other dynamics have faded and/or disappeared completely. Wilson has cancer and he’s going to die from it in five months time. House is all ready to spend those precious few months with his best friend until the silly prank he played at the hospital threatens to put him back in jail for that period of time. This sends House into an extremely low and suicidal mood, and to a drug-den where he injects himself full of heroin, before seemingly being killed in a warehouse explosion after failing to exit the building in time. It’s at this point where things begin to go wrong, at least for me.
The mantra that ‘everybody lies’ has been drummed into us from the show’s very first episode, and not just from the many patients that have come in and out of the hospital over the show’s course. As such, expecting House to have inexplicably got out of the burning building in time, and faked his death in the process, shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise to anybody who’s seen the many stunts House has pulled over the years. That being said, it still doesn’t sit right with me. For a start, you have to deal with the implausible scenario in which House got out of the building; there are literally seconds between House appearing at the front door, the beam supposedly collapsing on top of him and the huge explosion ripping through the block. Are we to sit there and seriously be told that House, who was dosed up on heroin and suffers from a painful limp, managed to ‘get out of the back’ within a time-frame of merely seconds? I don’t think so and anything after this point in the episode was tainted because of this, and unnecessarily so.
After House is presumed dead, and with the remains found supposedly confirming this, we’re led into a rather emotional funeral scene that was working extremely well until that moment in which Wilson received a text from House, dropping the whole thing into the ground. I have major issues with this. You create this scene, with characters from years gone by returning to say a final goodbye to House and the audience with them, and then you suddenly collapse the whole thing in one single move. Having House really be dead, and all of these characters mourning him in such a raw and emotional moment, would’ve been a sad but tremendous conclusion to the show, but that was erased in favor of ‘everybody lies’.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that I wanted House to die in the series finale but that isn’t true. House surviving was always the way I was hoping things to conclude, even though there was so much potential for things to go the other way, but the way in which it was done did not satisfy me. I do think that having House and Wilson ride off into the sunset, prepared for their final five months together, was a good conclusion to the show and to the friendship between them, but I also have to confess that I would have preferred House to have really died in that explosion, especially with the way it was done. Those last ten minutes of the episode are quite strange because whilst I liked that House survived, even in such a ridiculous way, it also made me wish that House had really died, which goes against what I was hoping for from the finale. At the same time, I also liked the way the show ended.
For a series finale event, ‘Everybody Dies’ did what it should have done – it brought things to an end, for the characters and for the story. Ignoring the aforementioned issues with House surviving the warehouse explosion, the way in which they brought House and Wilson’s friendship to an end satisfied me. It’s actually one of the good things about the last ten minutes, that this was allowed to happen. We can only imagine what the pair’s final few months together will be like and what will happen at the end of that, but seeing House sacrifice his entire life to be with his friend in his dying days is the House that I love to see. House is officially dead and like Wilson says, there is no coming back from that. The days spent solving the most complex of medical puzzles, House’s most addictive drug, even next to vicodin, are gone. House gave those up in favor of friendship and I loved it. Having the whole show end with these two characters felt like the right thing to do, considering the impact they’ve had on the story and the audience over the years.
As well as wrapping up the story, the finale also brought back several of the show’s characters from over the years in order to bring their story to a conclusion, with varying success. Amber and Kutner were both brought back, even though they’ve been dead for years, as hallucinations of House and his drug-riddled mind but there was obviously nowhere to go as far as concluding their stories. Death is as final as it gets after all. However, one of the biggest returnees was Cameron, who was such a huge part of the show for so long that her absence would’ve been extremely noticeable. Her story was as wrapped up as it will ever get, with the character finally finding love and having a family of her own – a prospect which she struggled immensely with over the years. I am glad that ABC allowed Jennifer Morrison time to film these scenes because even though she’s currently fighting evil queens and fairy-tale characters over on Once Upon a Time, she is still mostly recognized for her time on House and the character deserved some degree of finality.
Whereas Cameron got the ending the character was deserving of, others sadly did not. Olivia Wilde returned, albeit in such a small capacity that she may as well have not bothered, as Thirteen, but there was no conclusion to this character at all. For those of you who are unaware, Thirteen has Huntington’s and it’s eventually going to start getting very bad for her, and House promised to end her life for her once it became too diminished in quality to cope with. As far as I’m concerned, things were left extremely open-ended for the character, even though we’re aware of what’s inevitably going to happen in the future. For example, what has she been doing with her life since House fired her? Has she met someone? Is she happy? Unless I subconsciously skipped over these details, none of these questions were answered and that is disappointing.
Of course, the biggest absence of all was Cuddy and although I saw no reason to bring her back for the finale, besides finding out what she’s been up to since her departure, her absence was still noted. It felt strange to have all of these characters return for House’s funeral, some from very early on in the show’s history and some with no obligation to do so, whilst one of the biggest faces in his life remained absent. From a story perspective, it’s not that difficult to think why Cuddy wouldn’t want to go to his funeral, considering he drove a car through her living room last season, but it would have been nice to see Cuddy’s life beyond House. Unfortunately, Lisa Edelstein’s refusal to return put an end to those hopes so wherever the character ended up is open to any possibility.
House, on the whole, can be divided into two sections: seasons 1-4 and seasons 5-8. The former is where the show was at its strongest and the latter is where the show began to falter in quality. I’ve had many issues with the show starting from season seven onward but the formulaic nature of each episode began to get tiring long before that. House, for as successful as it has been, has had a strong reluctance to move away from the rinse-repeat formula for a long time and I would say that that’s one of the reasons as to why the show struggled in its later years. The nature of each episode has been repeated to such a degree that one can recite it without breaking a sweat; House gets a complex case, the next twenty five minutes are spent making guesses as to what is wrong, with varied success, House gets an epiphany about what’s wrong at around the thirty five minute mark and then the few remaining minutes are spent in any number of ways. Being able to so easily describe 90% of the show’s content in one sentence highlights what a problem it became and I’m sure that I cannot be the only one who considers it so. The dwindled audience figures would probably prove that.
Season eight has, at least for me, been an improvement over season seven, which I still consider to be the worst in the show’s history. Things, despite still being as mechanical as ever, felt closer to the show’s roots than it had done for years. The focus felt like it was more on the characters and the cases rather than the tedium of ‘Huddy’, which ruined season seven irreparably. I understand that they had to go there in regards to House and Cudd and that was fine, but the writing was a let-down from the get go, ending in a truly ridiculous, out-of-character finale. Not only that, the cases were as stale as ever and even the new Masters character, played greatly by Amber Tamblyn, couldn’t drag it back from the mud. If any show wants to see how not to handle a relationship between two of its main characters, they should simply look at House and learn from the many mistakes that were made. This is probably the only good that will ever come out of this story.
House’s series finale worked and didn’t work in equal measure. It concluded the story, the characters (some of them) and the show in such a way that felt final and satisfactory, but it was not without its issues. Irrespective of that, House will be remembered fondly in the years to come. Despite its repeated structure and often frustrating writing, it still provided a very strong lead character, side characters that were familiar and understandable and episodes that took the strengths out of these two things and created something spectacular from them. Hugh Laurie has done exceptional work over the last eight years and I sincerely hope it isn’t too long before he’s back on my screen in another lead role, or any role at all even. It’s been a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to House and all that it’s given us over the years but every show has its time and that time always comes to an end. It’s been a good journey, that’s for sure.