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Digging into the House Season Finale: A Conversation with Writers Peter Blake and Kath Lingenfelter

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The House, M.D. season finale “Moving On” is without a doubt the most controversial episodes in the series history. Some fans hated it, and others not. To take a character like House (Hugh Laurie), who really skates on the edge of likability and have him crash into the home of ex-girlfriend Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) may have been a long step too far over that edge for some fans. Other fans hate what House (the character) has done, even while understanding what drove him (as it were) to that brink, but are more than curious about how the series writers will redeem his character next season. Others still have felt that the way Season 7 ended was completely in keeping with both the character and the series and quite like where the end of the episode found him—on a beach sipping a cocktail. I’ll have more on that and my own thoughts on the episode later this weekend.

The writers are just now coming back to the studio after a brief hiatus to begin sketching out Season 8, which many believe might be the final season for the series. Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner told me last week that determining whether next season will be the last will be among the first things discussed as the creative team now gets back to work. But also high on that list, and perhaps even more important for the first part of the season, is where to take the character of House from where we last see him at the end of the season finale. Have they painted themselves into a corner, or does the Season 7 finale open new avenues to explore?

This year’s finale was written by Co-Executive Producer/Writer Peter Blake and Writer/Producer Kath Lingenfelter. Blake has been with House, M.D. since the very beginning. His first script “Maternity” (1×04) still stands as one of the series best, presenting a classic Housian ethical dilemma into the hands of the man whose ethics are often questioned. Lingenfelter is new to the House creative team, joining the show only this season. Her episode “You Must Remember This,” proved to a great entry in what has turned out to be a very controversial season. I caught up with the two writers earlier this week to talk about “Moving On,” Season 7 and where Season 8 might be headed.

Where did the idea for the “Moving On” come from?

Blake: We knew that the season had to end with House getting to a different place. We also knew that [House and Cuddy] were going to break up in the middle of the season, and then we knew that the rest of the season was going to be dealing with the after effects of the breakup. So we went back and forth a number of times about in our plotting out of the entire season, where it would end up. At one point, [House’s] car crash was going to be episode 19. Then we were going to show the fallout of that for the next few episodes. I shouldn’t talk about what that fallout was going to be because we might use some of it next year; we’re just not sure yet. But I think the network, the studio, and the writers decided that it would be better to go out on a bang. So it got moved up to the last episode about a couple months before we started filming it.

There are obviously some parallels between House and his patient, and he’s really affected by her. Do you want to talk about that? I know that the writers are always drawing parallels between House and his patients, but this one really seemed to get to him.

Lingenfelter: At the beginning of last season, I pitched [a story] about a performance artist who revels in her treatment rather than suffering through it, preferring to experience the pain publicly—to share it with other people. That pitch kind of fell by the wayside, but a little while later Blake resurrected it with a new spin. We thought that it was just going to be a good way to look at where House is now with his pain—and with the personal walls he continues to put up.

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.
  • 2Lightworker

    348-@Ann uk
    349-@BrokenLeg

    Yes, hard to find others who care to process all this, so this is a good place

    Still think that even though she was portrayed as a negative presence, Arlene Cuddy was the voice of common sense to House and Cuddy, and common sense seems to be absent. House’s “uncommon” sense was the power that drove the show for 6 seasons, but now, I would be glad for a little “common” sense after “Moving On.” A lot of need for willful suspension of belief with that one.

    Yes, I agree there has been a draining of intelligence and caring in Cuddy, and making House pathetic and tiresome. It annoys me that the relationship itself is blamed for diminished quality of the show this season, rather than that it was so poorly explored and the characters rendered unrecognizable. Who are these people? Yes, it’s a business, but this used to be really interesting dramatic writing as well. What’s left for me is HL’s commitment to deliver superb performance.

    Yes about Rachel – she and House together were such a delight. There was the “common sense” reality when Cuddy indicated to House she didn’t want Rachel to be affected if they broke up one day, and Arlene did have a point in “Larger than Life,” about the effect on Rachel if Cuddy didn’t choose a committed relationship. And now Cuddy dumps him without so much as an effort to work with him on his fear of losing her and seeking comfort in Vicodin? And she goes from experiencing House’s hurt to the start of a new flirtation? So the writers not only choose to present women as less than fully developed human beings, that extends to a child who will be affected. And if Lisa is gone for good, then so is Rachel?? Or she and Arlene show up in Season 8?

  • BrokenLeg

    351 @2Lightworker

    Good point that of your’s about Arlene!! Arlene was not only “the voice of common sense”, specially in “Changes” episode, but as in old greek theatre tragedies, she is the voice of the Audience too. More in one moment in which the usual older one (Wilson)seem to abandone doing it, occupied distracting Greg House with childish jokes and fool bets.

  • http://goldschmiede-nolden.de dago

    I just want to add another of my thoughts:
    Because all of you comment in such an elaborate way I feel I don`t need to add to
    all of the explorations.Everyone of you made valid points.
    But I think apart from IMO inconsistant an sloppy writing, the writers also have to face a time problem:They feel maybe they don`t have enough time to tell their story.
    It seems to me all hasty and fast,sometimes they neglect to show important detail to tell their story in a logical way ,sometimes they show character traits that weren`there before and came to the audience out of the blue,etc.All those dicussions of drowning ratings surely spurred their actions.( And as one of those brilliant fellow posters mentioned earlier,
    House MD is a massive hit outside the US !)

  • BrokenLeg

    353 @dago

    Just another good point!!!Millions eyes watching, analyzing and searching for clues have this beautiful things, after 353 threads, someone find another new thing. That is really networking!

    That discontinous, sometimes too fast timeline alterations can be perfectly observed in “The Dig”, were seems to have passed only 8-9 months (Martha M Masters fellowship is an academic course at the most)and then Greg House told 13 that this day was he and Cuddy….impossible first anniversary!!…And he said too that they broke up TWO weeks ago……

    All this failures demonstrate that, at least the Scripts Supervisor fellow HAD NOT DONE appropiately his/her job, and that this season, writers had done theirs been really unconnected ones from the others.
    Be able to preserve the quality and continuity of the storytelling is very important when, as this season happened, there were new writers on the “¿team?”
    Believe me, I’m architect, and I lead from a great responsability position, a big team of the different many proffessionals involved in a big project, being that as a creative process as writing a TV show can be. If I’m not able to lead and take command, preserving the unitary character of what we, the TEAM, have in hands, I’ll sure be fired.

    So,for me, that indicates, at least, one person that deserves to be fired and replaced.

    At least, as RedTulip_Ana wisely warned, someone seems that have fullfilled The Peter Priciple, arriving at his/her fully last incompetence stage. Who knows. And, if so, staff changes are much needed. The show can’t only work because its very brilliant acting.

  • 2Lightworker

    354-@BrokenLeg

    “staff changes are much needed. The show can’t only work because its very brilliant acting.”

    THIS! u r totally in touch with the reality that the team is not wisely and strongly led. My experience in a large organization has been that if the person in charge was weak/insecure/not up to the task, the work suffered and became less focused and forward-moving. If your team failed to achieve unity of purpose and execution, maybe the building couldn’t stand!

    Re RedTulip_Ana and Peter Principle that we have processed, check out MsHousefan on Twitter. There are links to damage control talk from David Shore. The links also have fan responses. As here, there is much response about the crash, but there is also comment on the season, the lack of coherence, and the writing.

    This is not a daytime soap opera shown on TV in a nursing home where people don’t have much else to do. This is a show watched by obviously thoughtful people with busy lives who have been engaged by the complex lead character and the way Hugh has brought his animating spirit to his role, so the destruction of confidence is not something that a couple of interviews, or even sincere cheerleading, can assuage. The fact that we take time out from our work and other activities to reflect and write on this blog is a testament to the impact of this character and show. So many comments here have sincerity and a desire for substance that provides hope for better episodes to come.
    Spin does not cut it.

    About Arlene, yes I also had that association with the voice of the audience, and she did have the last “common sense” word in “Changes.” Candice Bergen brought a sharp intelligence that was delightful in itself and counterpart to Hugh Laurie. In the midst of so much that I found unengaging, they whipped up the dynamic with delicious edginess.

    I wonder if she will return?

  • Lucy

    @228 – Barbara Barnett
    “I am very curious about how House will feel about what he’s done after he realizes (he is not in his right mind at this point, in my opinion)”
    You’re right: he didn’t realize what he did and what it could mean for both Cuddy and Wilson. In my opinion, if writers don’t want to turn House in a totally unrecognizable character, they should show us a deeply hurt, confused and broken man. He (maybe irreparably) compromised his friendship with Wilson and he completely destroyed his relationship with Cuddy. House has been Cuddy’s only love and he knows that. Now she hates him and doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. He knows he probably won’t see her anymore. How can he deal with this?
    Honestly, my expectations are very low. I don’t understand how David Shore can consider House’s act of insanity a “move on”. The hallway scene, when House tells Cuddy “It’s not your fault”, could have been a step forward, like if he had said “I know you didn’t want to hurt me and I accept you want to live your life without me”. What he did in the end is nothing but a step back. He has already tried to hurt Cuddy in order to get her out of his mind and it didn’t work at all. Why should things be different now? He just has more severe consequences to face.
    But my question is: are we going to see House seriously struggle with the consequences of his actions? If everything is resolved in a couple of episodes and if I dont’t see House feel very sorry about what he did, I won’t be able to consider him a believable character anymore.

  • Jackie

    I’m still dissecting the season finale and looking for clues in the most Housian way possible. The lunch scene dialogue in the cafeteria w/House and Cuddy could have just as easily been comments in the aftermath of the “House driving the car through the house crash”. The reason being…step by step, reason by reason of why he did it (self-surgery on his leg) could have just as easily been applied to reasons he crashed the car. Some reasons being that he was hurt, be in pain, not be in pain, to piss her off, but concluding it was a bad reason and a bad idea. The fact that he backed Cuddy into the wall in the corridor was not lost on me either. Interesting though how even with his voice raised, no one in the immediate vicinity seemed to notice. I did wonder if this was part of a hallucination, but David Shore insists it was the real deal.

    Speed ahead (pardon me) to the house scene. When the car crashed through, the debris on the floor near the driver’s side of the car already included the chandelier. It was the same chandelier that crashed down on the roof/window of the car a few seconds later. Poor editing or in a take two, three or whatever, I guess they forgot what footage was already there.

    I also thought that House deliberately turned the hairbrush doing a 180 when he saw Cuddy and gang through the window, but he was twirling the brush in his hand before he went back to the car, prior to the final focus on the brush in his hand. I was waiting for him to exit the car after the crash with a resounding, “Your hairbrush, my lady”…at least it would have been quite appropriate had he said that (oh those Blackadder roots), but that was not to be.

    Lastly, the lyrics to “Got Nuffin” – blood going through his veins, etc., losing bitterness and patterns, makes me feel that this was a reference to perhaps a transfusion and the page turning to season 8. Should be quite a journey which I cannot wait to see how it will all unfold and come to its conclusion. Let’s give them something to talk about indeed. I have not seen so many comments about any House episode in quite some time on any of the websites. Whether they be in a positive or negative way, the show whether intentional or not seems to have stirred controversy. My only question is given the Lisa Edelstein departure due to her non-renewal of her contract, why did the news break just prior to the finale? Surely, it could have come one week post, a la Christopher Meloni from “Law and Order:SVU”, but that remains a curiosity piece to me, and who knows…maybe she will come back at some point for an appearance or two.

    Barbara – I am looking forward to your comments regarding this episode. Hugh Laurie has not failed to deliver time after time. If indeed season 8 is to be the last, this will be one actor and a character that he made all his own that will be permanently etched in tv history as one that others could look up to for a master class in acting.

  • BrokenLeg

    355 @2Lighworker

    (“This is not a daytime soap opera shown on TV in a nursing home where people don’t have much else to do. This is a show watched by obviously thoughtful people with busy lives who have been engaged by the complex lead character and the way Hugh has brought his animating spirit to his role, so the destruction of confidence is not something that a couple of interviews, or even sincere cheerleading, can assuage.”)
    This is why [H] is so special great great show that appeals intellignt audiences. That audieces do not tolerate be played.If TPTB play with fire, they’ll burn themselves.

    356 @Lucy

    (“If everything is resolved in a couple of episodes and if I dont’t see House feel very sorry about what he did, I won’t be able to consider him a believable character anymore.”)

    I fear that will happen if there is not a good leadership of the gang next season.

    357 @ Jackie

    Such good your observation skills. I’ve rewatched the episode after reading your post, and observed “the chandelier problem”.
    Let me say is not “poor editing”, but BAD editing and GY failure ( doing so much “special effects” when you are not directing that kind of TV show can get that kind of problems!!)

    And this part of your thread :
    “I was waiting for him to exit the car after the crash with a resounding, “Your hairbrush, my lady”…at least it would have been quite appropriate had he said that (oh those Blackadder roots), but that was not to be”. Very “Housian” way that at least could moderate the DV sensation!!!

  • Jackie

    The reason that I did mention the cafeteria dialogue between House and Cuddy and the fact that it could be applied to the self-surgery as well as the car crashing into Cuddy’s house, is because I did read elsewhere that there was talk of using the crash as a plot device in episode 19 if I remember correctly. The dialogue that House spoke – both questioning and answering by himself as Cuddy took all of this in would have be most appropriate in both scenarios.

    When I watched and listened to Cuddy at the beginning of the episode and she remarked that she wanted House put in jail if he came near her again, it conjured up memories of the father in “Detox” with his “I want him locked up.” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • Amie

    @Chris93 (350)
    “The real test will be how the character evolves and goes from here. I think what is important is the evolution of the character rather than just a quick fix back to where he was before. Any human would be doing a bit of soul searching eventually, because as much as he protests he and the writers have proved his humanity.”

    That would be nice. I what I had hoped for in season 6 and 7 (wasn’t Mayfield rock-bottom enough?!).
    But as they say : “people don’t change”… So what is to be expected?

  • yjust a thought

    As far as LE – people it is all about MONEY. Le appeard 3 seconds in a dif show, probably got paid an insane amount of money to play a hooker for 3 seconds, yah that is advancing your carrer, get paid for 3 seconds what before you got paid in 3 episodes, Creative improvement who cares, just show me the money.

  • BrokenLeg

    361 @ yjust a thought

    I do not think ALL is ony about money, but another money way affair: a well orchestrated marketing manouver to increase audiences on last season along with a character drained in last two seasons.I bet LE will appear next season in some final episodes ( redemptiom sells!!!) along with lovely Rachel and Arlene. So, that way, TPTB do not need to pay her as a full regular,everybody wins and none losts. So they can do some episodes about House taking noticed of his actions,paying for them, or healing him if is all about an AU or drug induced crime, or a side effect of the “rats experiment”. And some kind of “relationship”, never concluded in last episodes will take place. BTW, do you remember how “Unwritting” finished? With an open final to Jack role. I think that is the hint of House final.
    Thoughts?

  • yjust a thought

    362 @ BrokenLeg
    I hope they leave the final open
    I would love them to do 3 – 4 house episodes a year but a lot longer ones, maybe 2-3 hours
    Like they did with Columbus, Perry Mason series
    I thing HL would commit to that; He won’t need the money anymore, but I think he is from the old school and enjoys [H}ouse

  • BrokenLeg

    363 @yjust a thought

    Do you believe HL is much “old school” guy than Perry Mason?Really? I think that your pattern episodes timing would fit better in his trans-oceanic way of life, letting him spend more time with his family in UK!! But I’m quite sure that next season episodes pattern will be the same as always on past seasons.

    And don’t seem to be a guy that appreciates money over all. In a french interview I’ve read recently he told that money has not changed his life in anthing, unless not beeing preocupied anymore for how to pay his rent tomorrow or the cost of his children education.It seems to me a very mature way to deal with richness and economichal security. Do not forget he is not a “new rich man”, on the contrary, he belongs to a well standing middle-high class UK family ( Eton and Cambridge student)of old Presbiterian cultural baggage.

  • bigHousefan

    Hi Barbara,

    You’ve got me a little worried. Just drop us a line to let us know you’re ok! It’s not like you to leave us so long in shark infested waters without our floaties!

    I hope you and you’re family are well. – Lori (Northsider..:)

  • BrokenLeg

    Please read this!!: SpoilerTV

    I’ve posted he same more than one time, in this thread,pages ago, last time some hours ago.
    LE will come back ( today is only some episodes for a “closure”,tomorrow, who knows…)
    All seems to be the same part of a well orchestred marketing manouver. But Shore looks really a pathetic guy beggin fans to stay and follow them!!
    And a little smell of guilty in his words,because the way the final episode has been undersood by fans can be perceived, as some stupid considerations about the Huddy damage done.

    344@ 2 Lightworker:
    Sherlock rides again!! Clues seem to be confirmed!It’s up to you and RedTulip_Ana my friends.

  • yjust a thought

    364 @ BrokenLeg
    Sorry I meant after Season 8

  • SusanfromBrooklyn (aka Susan)

    #342 – 2Lightworker – thanks for helping me find the picture with the mariachi band.

    #366 BrokenLeg – I read the spoiler but it doesn’t say LE will be back. You got my hopes up…….. I too think she’ll have to make at least another episode. David Shore must be begging her to come back at this point.

  • maria-eleni

    83 – Oversimplified
    I promised to answer last week but “I have a life” that pops up regularly when I wish do something I enjoy and as I like your thoughtful writing I wanted to do justice to it.

    Please, I never said Mozart was abusive. Here is my quote:
    40 – maria-eleni
    “Mozart by being improvident and a wastrel, showed indifference and disregard for a woman who loved him very much. “
    I need also to emphasize that Mozart’s behavior was not condoned by his contemporaries.
    In our time it is mainly the laws that have changed. And unfortunately for all the laws I see not much improvement in humanity’s behavior. Domestic abusers are still everywhere, the main difference being that today if caught they are punished.
    I must also clarify that I used Mozart and the film Amadeus as a parallel for House in the context of maladjusted geniuses that are usually self-destructing.

  • maria-eleni

    83 – Oversimplified
    Now back to House:
    “…………he was also trying to protect her [Cuddy] from the crushing sense of failure………”
    This is how I perceive it also because I tend to think the best of people, but, I try to be objective at the same time. Nobody is as good or as bad as they seem.
    However it is not given clearly that these are his motives. i.e. to help.
    In House the goodness is an undercurrent and not the mainstream of his character. I think also that we perceive him better than he was conceived as HL’s personality seeps through. But then this mixture House +HL is what made us like/love House and the show such a success.
    He IS cruel, amoral and anarchic. He insults almost sadistically left and right just for the sake of it or to elicit reactions that will help him to categorize people, he cheats often gratuitously, or as an experiment, has no respect for law and so on.
    On the other hand he actually has a code that he obeys: his own code –“truth” and “right”- as his hallucination of his shooter tells him in Se2 Finale.
    13 also remarks that his is monogamous (SE6-Open &Shut).
    As for his manipulations “to help”, even if he means well, he does it arbitrarily with no consideration of the others’ feelings and certainly without their permission. His ego makes him behave as a deus ex machina.
    There are surely gentler and more effective ways to help without shredding peoples’ personalities. His manner results in alienating those around him and this may be intentional. He wants to help and at the same time to keep everybody at a distance. Well he succeeds.
    “It’s the first time I’ve seen him really victimize someone to the point of causing them possibly physical, but definitely mental anguish, and all for purely selfish reasons.’

    Not the first time! Don’t forget the inmates at Mayfield. His behavior attacking those weaker than him was abysmal and purely self-serving. I am actually astounded that so many people here pass lightly over that grave incident.
    At least, as you say with Cuddy it was part of their dynamic.

    And it is admittedly shown that Cuddy hurt him. Whether good script or not it is not ambiguous. She breaks up with him abruptly just for 1 vicodin that had actually helped him function to be with her. ( I shall expand on this latter as I do not like overlong posts).
    She is also shown to connect with another man ( he sees her tenderly touching him through the window) just after denying having a new boyfriend and, more importantly, just after subjecting him to a very emotional interaction between them where he admits his hurt and absolves her.

    I am not writing all this to absolve House. On the contrary I believe he should face the consequences to be able to finally evolve. But even criminals are allowed to be defended before condemned. Should House, whom we say we loved, go undefended?

    Put yourself in his place:
    He goes home to lick his wounds; she moves forward arranging a pleasant gathering with possible new boyfriend.
    He tries to revert to the old status quo and goes to deliver the hairbrush (last memento of a failed relationship) and so finds himself, an outsider again, staring at her enjoying a cosy, laughing, intimate gathering complete with handsome young man whom she is even touching familiarly.
    House has an intuitive intellect and finds diagnoses out of thin air. He is certainly not going to wait for explanations. He has always been impulsive and a “better now than later” person.
    I do think, that when he paused for a few seconds before revving the car, that he did ponder briefly before taking the cruel decision not to bottle up any more all the pent-up emotions jumbling within him and to let go to hell.
    Criminal ? Yes, a crime of passion. And unless one has lived through a similar situation one can never know what one’s reaction will be. However, it can only be immediate and targeting the object of love/hate. One is out of oneself and there are no restrains or rationalizations.
    The resulting feeling is of liberation even while the repercussions become evident.
    For House after a lifetime of suppressing his emotions it must have been extremely liberating and that’s why when he faces Wilson he smiles with a mischievous look in his eyes. At the beach bar he is not smiling and his eyes are rather sad and retrospective – and a bit shifty. He is probably pondering the consequences of his action and wondering where that would lead him. Hence the uncertainty of his questioning the barman about where to sleep.
    Later walking on the beach he seems calm (the effect of the sea?) and his half-smile is an indication, for me at least, that he started assessing his situation and maybe scheming…..But his face has changed, he literary looks different.

    I am not theorizing. Finding myself in a similar situation, while of course not as violent as House, I reacted in a completely out of character manner. I threw my future ex-husband’s clothes out of the window and bashed a few doors. I have to admit it was extremely liberating and helped me decide on the divorce I tried to avoid. I even managed to remain friends with my ex-husband. My psychoanalyst at the time told me that my outburst was rather over the top, but, that by releasing the suppressed anger and hurt, I had avoided bitterness and self-destruction that would have resulted in a messy divorce.

  • maria-eleni

    83 – Oversimplified
    “….driven home, entered his apartment and then completely exploded and basically wrecked all of his belongings including breaking his phone and therefore severing all ties with those around him and symbolically his past, before heading off ‘far, far away’.”

    No, this requires rational thought and is only self-destructing. In no way does it expel the anger and hurt vis-a-vis Cuddy. “Wrecking his belongings” and going far, far away incommunicado is not enough. He needs to irrevocably sever any emotional ties on BOTH sides.

  • DebbieJ

    #291 – 2Lightworker wrote: I thought he was so adorable in the “Huddy” embarrassment that it is itself an iconic video moment

    Is there a video of House talking about Season 7? If so, can you please post a link?

  • maro

    372 – DebbieJ

    Video

  • DebbieJ

    #373 – maro – thanks!:)

  • Whatever

    To the person who claimed Lisa Epstein leaving was a “woman’s rights issue:” Cuddy has been a stereotyped, male imagined type A personality – driven, yet longing to be a “real” woman by starting a family and finding love. I’m sorry, this is your feminist tale? No, thank you.

    House and Cuddy could not maintain a relationship – foaming at the mouth, many of you scream that the writers “changed” the character of House. NO, keeping that relationship together would have been dishonest to who he is: a dark, deeply disturbed and incredibly interesting person.

    Like Wilson and Cuddy you want House to be something he is and you are so firmly distracted by your own agendas that you’ve somehow convinced yourself he hasn’t harmed anyone. Somehow you have all rewritten the intense verbal abuse (a very real form of abuse) and the life altering stunts he’s pulled as benign. That is frankly insane and more than anything revealing of how out of touch most viewers are with this type of person and what they do those they love. I adore the show and the character but portraying House as above this behavior isn’t realistic.

  • Whatever

    *something he is not