Wednesday, October 10, 2007

“Is he a Vulcan?”: House

I keep expecting House to start shifting focus from its titular character onto others. After all, not only has the show brought in several new team candidates, but it has barely touched upon his past team members who are now on their own journeys. I keep waiting for the writers to set House himself aside for a week and spend more time on any of these characters, but the one constant of the first three (otherwise radically different) episodes of House’s fourth season is that they maintain a strong focus on House’s emotional state.

House would seem to reach his lowest point this week by deliberately killing himself. Perhaps context might be helpful here: a patient comes into the clinic, and the moment House comes in to talk to him, he jams a knife into a plug socket, electrocuting himself. House is fascinated, and wonders throughout the episode why he would have done this. Finally he speaks to the patient, who explains that his experiences in the moments between life and death have been the best of his life. After being berated by Wilson and angered by his teams, House decides to give it a go. He survives of course, and seems physically fine. But I hope the writers don’t brush over the larger psychological implications this has for House’s character. The man has shown himself willing to risk death in order to experience something better that his current life! Sure he’s done crazy things before, but suicidal tendencies? I don’t find this an unlikely or overdramatic twist – I totally believe it, and I like the possible dark direction this could mean for House in the future. My only worry is that the writers will present getting Cameron, Chase and Foreman back around House as all he needs to make him happy (or at least happier); or, god forbid, will ignore this event altogether.

Back to the lighter stuff. House continues to torment his team applicants, splitting them into two groups (of boys and girls) and pitting the groups against each other. Two of them are closely explored this week: Amber (Anne Dudek) and No. 13 (Olivia Wilde). The former is manipulative and irritating; thankfully, this almost definitely marks her final appearance. The latter interests House because she is ‘mysterious’, which in this show means she refuses to talk about their personal life when he asks. Wilde is a charismatic actress, and she is instantly appealing even before her character gets more do to. Her moment comes when she realises she made a big error early on in the case. It’s a plot that has been done a millions of times on every medical show, but Wilde played it beautifully. Plus it concluded in a touching final scene between her and House, in which he informed that she’d been hired. House, having one of those ‘wise mentor’ moments he obviously enjoys so much, informs her that it was the mistake which convinced him to hire her, because he knew she’d never make a similar error again. We are left with the suggestion, however implicit, that House may end up being saved not by his old team, but by his new one.

The episode has a lot of stuff going on, but it manages to keep all its balls in the air very well. The writer slip in a couple appearances for Cameron and Chase, who we see have become a solid couple and more confident individuals. Foreman gets a proper return, with a clever little sub-plot showing how he has become like House even far away from him. When talking with his team, Foreman seems to be making a strong and awkward effort to always be polite and nice. It clearly doesn’t suit him, although it fits with his character that he would persist in acting this way nonetheless. Eventually, however, he makes a gutsy ‘House-esque’ call that gets him fired. Based on early word, he’ll be back working with House by episode five. Personally I’m looking forward to it very much – the interactions between House and his former team are so far episode highlights.

Occasionally the story felt overstuffed – there are technically three patients – but that worked, at least for this week. It may well be setting a precedent for the rest of the season too, that is if the show’s format will continue to shift between House, his old team and his new team. But whether or not we’re seeing the new format now or it’s yet to be fully established, House is off to a very strong start.

1 comment:

Todd said...

Best thing about this episode? House DIES, then is revived. On ANY OTHER SHOW, that's the WHOLE episode, cutting between the other cast members trying to save the main character and the main character's journey through the afterlife.

Here, it's an ACT BREAK. That's HARDCORE, House. HARDCORE.