I’ve done a lot of thinking about “Moving On,” the House, M.D. Season 7 finale. I decided after watching its original airing, I’d let it rest a week and watch it again without preconceived notions fueled by spoilers and promos, and without the news of Lisa Edelstein’s (Lisa Cuddy) departure too fresh in my mind. It’s sunk in by now that she’s not returning, and in a way, the finale—whatever you may think of it—gives the series an way to make the break permanent if that’s what the parties want. (Although who knows? There’s no reason to believe she’ll stay away forever, and wouldn’t it be spectacular for her to make a surprise guest appearance sometime this season?)
Many people came into the finale already upset and feeling betrayed by the series Powers That Be as well as the network(s) involved in bringing House, M.D. into our homes each week. The network took forever to finalize a deal to renew the series for an eighth season, and Edelstein’s departure was collateral damage from the deal ultimately inked. So, too, all other contracts forged between the actors and the network.
So, a week later, distanced from the news, and having by then already seen the shocker of an ending—and having chatted with the episode’s writers—I jumped back in to watch again. Before I talk about the ending, which will be most of this commentary’s focus, I want to say how much I loved everything leading up to it: from House’s (Hugh Laurie) interactions with the patient, with Wilson, and with Cuddy; his introspection regarding the damage done to himself in “After Hours,” and his efforts to move past it—and desire to change.
House comprehends that what had been done in the self-surgery was idiotic if not irrational, although, in true House fashion he’d rather sweep the ramifications under the carpet with an “I’ll never do it again,” than deal with the sort of emotional (and physical) pain that drove him to do it in the first place. Laurie does a wonderful job of expressing House’s attempt to convince himself that he’s going to change, while telegraphing the fact that it’s simply a whitewash.
House is a drowning man in his own way; drowning in self-loathing, deflecting all help—denying he needs it. All his friends can do is stand by and watch as he self-destructs (in an interesting parallel between this week’s patient Afsoun and her assistant/lover Luka). That is nearly what happens in “After Hours,” until a last minute rescue by Cuddy saves him from himself.
In “Moving On,” House insists that he recognizes the self-destructiveness of his “After Hours” action and is ready to move on and past his hurt and anger. He’s deluding himself, even as Wilson and Cuddy want to believe him. They know he’s in pain; they know he’s not really off his self-destructive path. How can he be with a wave of his hand and a bad experience from which he’s (once again) been rescued? I think that’s why Wilson and Cuddy are so insistent that House get beyond whatever corrosive is eating away at his heart and soul—get it out of his system.
But would they have been more successful (and certainly result in something less destructive) had they let House work it through himself? I’m not only thinking about “Moving On,” I mean since the beginning? Would the Ketamine treatment have worked better had Wilson and Cuddy not conspired to get House “to change” while a window of possibility was still open, for example, at the beginning of Season 3? Are they truly enablers—or have they been dis-ablers? Is their friendship at once co-dependent and corrosive? Did House need to break completely with his closest companions to truly get a fresh start?
I’m not entirely sure, but I wonder how much of that is running through our (decidedly unheroic) hero’s mind during the Season 7 finale. And was the conclusion to it, shocking as it was, more inevitable than it might have appeared? Which brings me to the final moments of “Moving On.”
I think perhaps through editing or direction (since there is no dialogue until the very end), some of House’s confused, complicated motivations might have been made clearer. Although it may have been intended to keep things ambiguous as to why House would barrel his car at full speed into Cuddy’s dining room, it is not clear (as the episode’s writers told me) to many, even very careful viewers, that House isn’t actually homicidal.