The season finale of "House" was AWESOME. I've blogged about this before, but I really dig the show. It has transformed from being something I watched only for Hugh Laurie and Massive Attack, into a very well-written, sharply funny, and clever show that's willing to take on some pretty meaty issues.
I've read a couple of interviews with the stars and creators that discuss the fact that House is the marriage of a procedural and a soap opera, two genres that have absolutely no interest for me. And I don't think the combination sounds that great on paper. When you have a lot of talent behind a project, though, even tired tools can be put to good use, and I feel like they've been successful at mining the possibilities of the genre. The procedural is an excellent framework for the show, both providing the raw material for them to talk about and engaging the viewer to join in the problem-solving. Not on a medical level, since we haven't even heard of many of these conditions, but over the course of two seasons we've been well-trained in the important questions. Were the tests right? What was the patient hiding? Do we trust the family's statements? It's this detective work that engages our minds.
Every once in a while, though, the writers let themselves slip from the procedural a little. Every time, the result is a masterpiece. Both last season's "Three Stories" and this finale do keep elements of the procedural in place - there's a lot of discussion about diagnosing a condition - but the script takes a step up and starts looking at the process of diagnosing, what it means to be looking for the truth. If they did this every week it would probably lose its potency, but as it is, the result is an episode that can define an entire season.
I loved, loved, loved this episode. It's very hard to displease me when you start plumbing the depths of sanity, and the hallucinatory whirl that House is caught up in utterly delighted me. After he first skipped from the rails a little, everything was fair game, and I immediately began to wonder if anything that was happening was real. At the same time, though, the story told within the hallucinations is compelling in its own right, so there was plenty to do besides ponder.
One of my favorite scenes was when House was walking down the stairs with his team, then asked "How did I get here?" We, the viewers, saw the beginning of the conversation in his room, and the continuation in the stairs, but as regular watchers we are accustomed to seeing changes in scenery. In the real world, though, you can't move from Scene A to Scene B without crossing the space between them. Anyways, I loved that because it forces the viewer to examine their own relationship with the show; we're projecting our own reality on it, and House's question really shakes that foundation.
One thing I did NOT enjoy was the main case. I'm a bit of a wuss, and often will close my eyes or turn my head during a particularly gruesome scene. So, yeah, the exploding eyeball... not the highlight of my day. It was interesting, but also sickening.
As Pat points out, the scene at the Mexican place where House impersonates his team was wonderful. I need to watch it again. And what's really funny, of course, is that he's ALREADY impersonating them - throughout the entire episode, everything they say is coming from him. Just brilliant.
The very end of the episode was fantastic. I'm reminded of Waking Life, one of my all-time favorite movies; one of the characters talks about how you can have fantastic dreams that seem to go on for hours, even though you've only been asleep for a minute or two, and speculates that a single second of dreaming prior to death could occupy your entire lifetime. This episode felt like a treatment of that idea. As a rule, I detest "Oh, it was all just a dream!" endings, but they absolutely earned it. The whole episode is about thought, and reality, and the relationship between the two, so the ending was absolutely a part of the episode, rather than a cheap way to get an ending.
I keep saying "ending," even though clearly it's a cliffhanger. What do you think will happen? I don't know... the tongue guy is probably a much simpler case than House predicted, the shooter was probably arrested without being injured, and for House... maybe now he'll have two limps? I'm guessing the premiere will be his recovery, and maybe he'll have some additional long-term pain. We'll see. I'm already looking forward to the fall!