Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Diagnosis: Repetitive" A review of the 7th Season of House

For the last four years I have been a big fan of House. I first began watching the show right on the season 2 two-parter where Foreman (Omar Epps) gets infected with a deadly illness that has already killed one patient. The intensity and power of this episode, as well as House's trademark "House-isms" and antics (in this case his attempts to kill a pigeon suffering from similar symptoms with his cane and intentionally trying to infect his pet rat Steve McQueen) instantly had me hooked. As time went on we saw House go through a ton of misfortunes and hard lessons, from getting hounded by a cop to pretty much losing his mind we have seen House take a journey that has so far gotten him nowhere. And it's caused many viewers to stop tuning in, myself included for the most part (I do still watch the show, but just because there's nothing else on and a mediocre episode of House is always better than watching Marcel's Quantum Kitchen. Take that Siffy!)

The first symptoms appeared around the time season 4 came around and the old team consisting of Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Foreman, and Chase (Jesse Spencer) had either been fired or quit the team. We had House's rather humorous Reality TV show like hiring program where we met the new team that would more or less remain consistent up until season 6 where we pretty much had most of the old team back "just cuz." However, my issues with the show began when the show refused to make a new intro sequence with the new cast members replacing the old ones. It's a nitpicky thing however I felt this lack of change was the first sign of the ever prominent problem (or symptom, if you will, to the actual disease). That is, the show has never changed. Not even the simple title cards on the introductory credits changed until much later in the show and for the most part the show has been relatively consistent, if not repetitive.

I can understand that neither Fox nor the writers want to change what works: "if it ain't broke don't fix it" which is understandable. The formula for every episode is what made the show successful, however, it's a fact that too much of the same thing gets old, and boy has this formula gotten old.
I can understand that, for the most part, the show is about House solving medical mysteries, but even then you always had House's own personal issues to balance out all the medical mumbo jumbo. It's safe to assume that, for at least the last few seasons of the show, it's been more about House than it is the medical mystery at hand. Which is a good thing, the medical mysteries could only go so far so it was good to see a slight change to the formula that brought House's personal story to the forefront and the medical stories to the back. However, the show's more powerful episodes where when these two were closely intertwined, again going back to the Season 2 episode with Foreman's life hanging in the balance. It made the mystery that much more dramatic, knowing that it wasn't just patient no. 797345 but a character we knew and cared about. Regardless, this switch to House's life drama was a smart move, but I always felt that the writers were scared to follow through with this plan.

For the last 7 seasons we've seen House at his best and at his worst. It's safe to say that, for the most part, we've all been following his journey to what most hope is a happier life, but so far the story has been running around in circles. It's understandable that after the whole "Cop waging his own personal feud with House" story line that House wouldn't change all that much. After all, the whole thing ended with Cuddy breaking the law to save his ass. Plus House wasn't going to give up vicodin anytime soon, it was a reasonable route for the character to take considering he really didn't learn anything. However the real potential to see some powerful changes was when House gets committed to the insane asylum in season 6. I think one of the most crippling decisions the writers made when thinking up the storyline for season 6 is to have House's time in the asylum be condensed into a two hour "movie." While it was probably one of the better episodes of the sixth season, what would've been a bolder move is have at least half of the episodes of season 6 devoted to House working out his problems in the asylum. Alas, this didn't happen, and instead House's time in the nut house was quietly swept under the rug and everything went back to normal as if nothing had happened. Sure House had kicked his vicodin habit, which was a good enough step in the right direction, but by the end of the season House was already beginning to get back on the pills.
Then season seven came along and gave us the House/Cuddy romance to chew on while the writers tried to figure out what the heck they were going to do next, and to be honest, I'm sure that they really don't care anymore. I don't want to sound presumptuous, but the fact that for the last half of this season House has gone back to his old self, pills and all, just proves that either the writers are too scared to push forward and have House actually grow as a character, or that after seven years of writing the same stuff they don't want to do anything else. And that is the most frustrating thing about the situation with House: nothing has changed.

For the last seven years the show, and it's characters, have been the same. There has been no growth whatsoever. I could go on all day about the other characters but I want to get to the heart of the matter: Dr. Gregory House. House is still the same bitter cynic with a drug addiction, and after everything he's been through he hasn't changed, even when he says he's gonna or that he wants to. While it is typical of someone like him, an addict no less, the fact of the matter is that as a character he's going nowhere. Wouldn't it be frustrating if, in Star Wars (the ORIGINAL trilogy, not the prequels), Luke never matured as a person throughout the trilogy? If instead of becoming a noble Jedi he was still a whiny little bitch complaining about how his father constantly bringing him down and cutting his hand off when all he wants to do is go to the Toshi station to pick up power converters? We'd all be pretty much as impressed with the original films as we are with the prequels if that were the case. It's the growth of a character in a story that makes that story worth telling, even if that growth is towards something worse (the downfall of a good and noble person can be just as engaging as a hopeful hero story) at least it's growth.

House is the titular character of this story, the story of a man struggling with is own issues, whether it be in relationships or his drug addiction, in the face of his difficult job saving the lives other doctors can't. And if the writers do care, they should remember that. If they want to make House what the show was in it's early years, they better start thinking of a way to resolve all of these issues House has, because after this stunt in the 7th season finale, and the news of Lisa Edelstein leaving the show, it's beginning to look like Season 8 of House might be it's last. I don't care how they resolve all of these issues House has, as long as we finally see the character mature and grow from his experiences. Whether he finally learns that he can rely on the people who have stood by him after everything he's been through, comes to terms with himself and his leg and finally decides to have the damn thing cut off to begin starting his life pain and drug free; or he succumbs to his idiocy and eventually dies in a jail cell of a drug overdose, proving that while he was one of the smartest doctors alive, he wasn't smart enough to save himself.
As Wilson told House in the second to last episode of Season 7: "Something has to change." And that couldn't be any truer.

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