House Series Finale Recap: "Everybody Dies"
Even as team members came, left and came back again, House M.D. remained the same old Vicodin-popping medical genius. As House himself would often put it, “People don’t change.”
Unfortunately, for the actual TV show “House,” staying the same isn't exactly a desired trait on a scripted weekly show.
When you stripped away the layers, almost every episode had the same formula: patient of the week collapses, House and his team make a diagnosis, House pulls pranks on Cuddy, Wilson, the team or the patient, the initial diagnosis is wrong so the patient gets worse, House reaches a medical epiphany and saves the day, lessons may or may not be learned.
To be fair, a lot of the time this was fun. House teaching each generation of his team to lie, cheat and steal to get things done resulted in more laughs than I care to admit.
Add to that House’s blatant disregard for hospital rules (or anything in the vicinity of ethics for that matter) and his chauvinistic remarks to Cuddy about her attire— or attempts to rein him in—and you made no shortage of ways to salvage even the most mediocre episodes.
Most importantly, we got the bromance between House and Wilson. Even as House increasingly became an unrelatable person who burned all his bridges and friendships, he still had Wilson to keep him grounded and no matter how badly the show got everything else wrong, this was something it always got right.
That is, until now. Eight seasons in, House is a man who has had everything taken away from him—even Wilson, who we discovered in recent weeks is succumbing to cancer and only has five months to live.
The finale of House finds our eponymous hero high on heroin and smack dab in the middle of a burning building. It’s here that House is visited by the “ghosts” of his past (they are either a figment of his mind or his high) who help him determine whether his life is still worth living.
“Isn’t this just an incredibly simple calculation? I’m going to jail, I’m losing my job, losing my best friend. Do I need more?” House asks his departed team member Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn).
House takes Kutner and later the also-deceased Amber (Anna Dudek), who was Wilson’s girlfriend in a past life, through the diagnosis of his last patient at Princeton-Plainsboro.
There’s an unnamed guy who was in a skiing accident some years back and became hooked on painkillers/lost everything (sound familiar?) and now he’s dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The show of course, focuses on the former and creates a painfully obvious allegory between House and the patient’s dependency on drugs to ease the pain.
With House set to be in prison for causing a flood and ceiling collapse (by flushing tickets down the toilet at the hospital, naturally) he tries in vain to get others (including Wilson) to take the fall for him so he can spend time with Wilson in his last few months. It’s mostly a selfish gesture, but it’s also House being House.
The patient sees House’s predicament and is touched by the fact that House tried to save him even if he couldn’t, so he offers to take the fall. Somehow, this results in the two being at an abandoned warehouse, using heroin and the patient overdosing (the latter of which is conveniently ignored at the end).
All the while Kutner, Amber and even House’s (still living) ex-girlfriend Stacy try to talk him out of just giving up on his life. This last introspective inside the mind of House would be novel if it weren’t so…boring, as House might put it.
These are characters who haven’t shown up for years and so them telling House to fight to live another day doesn’t really do anything for our viewing enjoyment; much less does it feel earned.
The one exception might’ve been the illusion of Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) but she returns only to give House some saccharine spiel about loving him but also about how he really needs to die, “Not as a punishment. As a reward. I think you’ve suffered enough...I think you deserve a chance to just give up.”
It’s around this time that Wilson and Foreman realize that House has been missing the last two days and set about to find him before it’s too late.
As they come across the burning building, House comes to terms with his imaginary version of Cameron and decides he has been taking the coward’s way out, “You’re right. But I can change,” House says (thereby breaking his long-held belief that, “People don’t change”).
When House gets up to try to get out there’s an explosion and a chunk of the building collapses. Wilson and Foreman are powerless as their friend goes down in the blaze.
We then cut to a nice funeral where Wilson, Foreman, Cameron, Park, Taub, Chase, Masters, 13—everyone except Cuddy—comes to reminisce about their fallen hero. Except when Wilson comes up to give his eulogy, he is overwhelmed with anger at House’s selfishness.
Who should send a text to Wilson at that moment? Why, it’s House; he’s alive (Get it? He merely faked his death) and he wants Wilson to meet him somewhere. It’s a much needed moment of relief for Wilson.
The last few seasons have had plotlines that really hurt the show’s legacy. House went to a mental institution for drug addiction only to relapse. A misguided attempt to bring love into House’s life through an on-again, off-again relationship with Cuddy caused more harm than good. Chase getting away with killing an African dictator probably didn’t help either (though, as an interesting aside, it’s nice to see Chase taking over House’s job at the end).
Still, House and Wilson created a lot of good will amongst fans and episodes featuring the two remained must-see TV (credit goes to Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard who deserve all the accolades they've gotten over the years). They made us laugh, they made us cry; but mostly it was just entertaining (and if they had actually ended up together, I, for one, think it would’ve been fitting).
The finale was a great opportunity to give viewers that dynamic duo one last time. They could have saved a patient or burned down the hospital—it really wouldn’t have mattered so long as they were doing it together.
The irony is that as a final image, House and Wilson riding off in their motorcycles isn’t a bad end—it’s just a shame that the two spent all of a minute together in this last episode.
As a sum of its parts, “House” was a solid show, with a great lead actor, one of the best friendships to grace any medium and a below average finale. The good moments mostly outweighed the bad and if I had to do it over again, I would.
Then again, “Everybody lies.”
Reach writer Salomon here