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A Final Look at the House, M.D. Season Finale “Moving On”

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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.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Robin

    Barbara, your thoughts are excellent and I agree with you. I’ve always contended House feels so intensely, he can’t handle the emotions and so flees from them for the pain they cause him. That dovetails nicely with the idea that House’s fatal flaw is his inability to face pain of any kind.

    Referencing comment #231 by 60+: agreed. This is the conclusion I’ve come to as well. It doesn’t excuse or rationalize House’s behavior, which is reprehensible. What it does is try to understand it, something of a challenge since we’re also dealing with (IMO) self-indulgent, self-parodying writing, substituting crude tropes and gimmicks for subtlety and layered plots.

    I’m hoping (and it’s a very small hope) the storyline will not shy away from the consequences of actions taken in S8. I want to see how House is going to deal with what he’s done, and what he’ll do now that he’s sabotaged his life so thoroughly yet again. My focus is on House because Hugh Laurie/Greg House is the reason why I started watching the series, and he’s why I still watch–that’s my preference. I’ll be there for S8.

  • Action Kate

    @248: aha, someone else remembered one of the two funny bits from Hugh’s better SNL episode! (the other funny bit was the “Queen’s Advance Man,” a skit worthy of ABOFL. and his second episode was awful.)

  • housemaniac

    #231 60+: So does this mean you think that TPTB decided at some point that people DO change? I don’t see the episode as you do, but I agree that House seems to have changed. I hope this bodes well for further (hopefully not negative) character development in Season 8!

  • housemaniac

    P.S. Thanks Visitkarte and SciFi Fan for your well wishes.

  • 60 plus

    #253 housemaniac I won’t even try to say whether or not TPTB decided that people change. :) (It’s my opinion that the word “change” in the Housian world has become subject to many interpretations and sometimes seems to be a lightning rod!)

    At any rate, I do not think that House has changed at his core. I think his feelings have always been there, but that a big part of his problem has been his inability to deal with them or even acknowledge them. I think it was Barbara who said at one point that it isn’t that he doesn’t feel…he feels too much! But, as I said in my post, he values his rational thinking above anything else, and tries to completely deny or devalue the part of himself that feels. So I don’t think his “losing it” represents a fundamental change in who he is at his core. It does, of course, represent a different behavior…one that he would never ever consider if he were behaving as his normal rational self would. That is why I said that I agree that he was completely out of character during the crash episode…meaning that he was not behaving as we have most often seen him for seven years. I did not mean to imply that being out of character represented a basic change in who House is, merely that we were seeing him deal with his feelings of anger and frustration in a way that was not rational. To use a cliche…we saw another layer of the onion being peeled back, but it’s still the same onion.

    Of course, your definition of change may differ. That’s what makes discussions such as this one fascinating.

  • Michele1L

    I was not angry at House nor was I shocked at what he did. I thought it was completely in character. His behavior has been escalating since the breakup. I think House and Cuddy had a bit of a breakthrough in the hallway of the hospital when he admitted to being hurt (which was obvious anyway) and that there was a possibilty in that moment of a reconcilation between them — but House was not going to risk that, wrenched his hand away from hers and walked away. I think House was struggling with his desire to be with her and his need to avoid further emotional pain. After all, if they were to reconcile, what’s to stop her from changing her mind yet again? She did say to him she didn’t want him to change only to break up with him because she didn’t believe he could change. — What the hell sense did THAT make? — Let alone to an uber logical man like House.

    I think he was more angry with himself for buying into her. In his mind he knew it would not work, because he, I feel has always known Cuddy better than she knows herself. He allowed himself to be coaxed into making an effort he believed would be futile, when normally he would stand his ground.

    When he saw the gentleman through the dining room window, he felt further betrayed, after being told by Cuddy she wasn’t dating anyone.

    Cuddy had forgiven House for everything in the past. He had to do something for which she would never forgive him. Something that would allow him to feel closure. I’m not condoning what he did, but I understand it, and rather than feeling unsympathetic and angry with him, I felt quite the opposite. I felt relieved to see him looking lighter in spirit, smiling and seemingly optimistic. God only knows whether any of this is real and, if so, how they would get him out of it intact, but it certainly offers up the opportunity to reset the show and revisit the wonderful, quiet, revelatory nuances of this character which were sorely missing from this season.

    I think some of the viewers jumped ship, not because Cuddy and House were brought together, but due to the way they were split appart. House was so heavy of heart and “extra” miserable, back to popping vicodin, it just seemed more of the same but worse — and many of us just don’t want more of the same. The show and its characters have always showm progression — and some of us just aren’t interested in seeing things go backwards.

    I, too, can’t wait for season eight! Please be GREAT!

  • abbyb

    Barbara,

    I think he became so angry because he realized Cuddy had lied to him. She said she hadn’t been dating anyone, and there she was with this other guy. Cuddy said in an earlier season that she never lied to House. This, perhaps was the ultimate betrayal, the last and unacceptable hurt from her.

  • Val

    I just don’t see how they can work this out. Do you think there going to pull a “It was aall a dreammmm..” on us? lol. Or make it a year later and start over? IDK, I think they “Jumped the Shark” on this one.

  • Val

    @Abbyb I think you nailed it on that one!

  • Bob

    I understand where House is coming from the same way I understand where OJ was coming from. But like real life you can’t take that moment back, and with that act House was transformed from a jerk we love to a jerk we hate. Rachel could have been in that room for all he knew.

  • nicole

    Please people, if Greg House were murderous he would have attacked Cuddy when he handed her her brush. He did a terrific metaphorical re-enactment of what she did to him. She used a stake thru his heart, he used his car thru her home…..oddly enough right where they both live.

  • Nickel

    It wasn’t jealousy that House felt, it was the fact that Cuddy really did NOT care about what she did to him. He was treated exactly like Lucas was and oddly enough probably the same way that this new guy will be treated. If nothing else maybe House taught Cuddy a lesson that she sorely needed to learn…..you cannot trample on someones heart without considering the consequences. Lets face it Lucas could have done the exact same thing to her (and might have if he did not feel so STUPID considering House warned him of her feelings for him instead). As soon as House took all the responsibility for their break-up Cuddy happily, merrily moved on….removed all her guilt and got to blame House for yet another decision that she made that she did not like…(Vogler, Court, her Mother….god I could just go on forever for all the blame that she gave him). Personally I am SOOOOO glad that Cuddy is gone. I just hope that House doesn’t kiss Wilson’s ass now. Maybe Wilson learned a little something also…I guess you really can’t keep dumping all your shit into someone else without causing some problems.

  • bakerstreet blues

    Hey 50+, in all the years that we have known and loved House, what is the one and only emotion that we know he cannot control? GRIEF, it landed him in Mayfield the last time it overtook him. It is completely understandable that he chose to explode rather than really lose his mind again (maybe permanently this time). The grief that House is experiencing seems normal (for him), just remember Esther after 12 years. How did Cuddy or Wilson really expect House to get over the completely heartless way that Cuddy ended this relationship? Seems to me Cuddy ended this love affair with the same bland emotion that she began it. Of course I never trust anyone that will only declare their love once they see how weak you are. Reminds me of a vulture. I also believe that Wilson hopefully learns something here as well. There is a price for “ENDLESSLY LECTURING SOMEONE DOES MAKE YOU A JERK” I hope that if I ever treat someone that I “Love” with such a cold uncaring attitude that “that someone” rams their car into my house.