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House, M.D.: Coming to a Poignant Conclusion – “Post Mortem” and the Penultimate “Holding On”

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After this week’s “Post Mortem,” We are down to the last two episodes of House, M.D. before it bows for the final time. This week’s episode was a gut-wrenching hour that, had I been watching with commercials, would have left me breathlessly anticipating the start of each act.

In seasons past, the House-Wilson road trip was virtually synonymous with long-time House scribe Doris Egan, who left the series at the start of season seven. For House and Wilson’s final road trip (unless we get one in the series finale), Katherine Lingenfelter  and long-time House writer David Hoselton have penned a an astoundingly beautiful episode. In it are echoes of past forays off campus and out into the world, but more than the others, this one packs an emotional wallop that begins with House and Wilson, segues to Chase and back to our daring duo at the finish line.

Wilson’s illness provides a dramatic backdrop that wouldn’t have been possible in any previous season. We would have known, of course, that Wilson was going to survive—and that House would be set back to “go,” no matter how his journey had been affected by the threat of losing the person closest to him.

But with this being the final season, all bets are off. Wilson may or may not make it—and we still don’t really know by the end of “Holding On.” And we’ve no idea how House will react if Wilson dies of the C-Word. Will he survive—or will he implode? No one knows, and with this being the end of the series, anything can happen.

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve described a House episode as poignant, but that is an apt adjective to describe the excellent “Post-Mortem.”

As Wilson waits out the days until he learns whether the procedure in “The C-Word” has worked, he tries to make a transformation to a new and more selfish person. Having missed out on too much in life by “trying to be good,” he decides that if he only has a few months to live, he should live it as someone who puts his needs above others’. Finally finished with playing the caring doormat, he decides to take on a new this strange, new persona—and schlep House to Ohio to meet actress British actress Julie Christie. Of course they never reach their destination; Wilson is delayed by his ingrained need to do what expected of him.

What I found most interesting was House’s obvious anxiety about Wilson’s big transformation—red Corvette and all. It’s beyond the “people don’t change” Housian mantra. House seems almost alarmed at the prospect of this strange, new Wilson.

And just as surely as Wilson tries to change stripes, his illness has had a profound effect on House. For the first time since the series start, House leaves his phone back at the office; all of his attention is focused on his best friend—and spending time together with him (although reluctantly at first).

But this change in Wilson’s health status in a sense flip-flops their roles: House becomes the caretaker that Wilson has always seen in himself. We saw that, of course in last week’s “The C-Word,” and again here.

The other huge development in the episode concerns Chase, who gets a big wakeup call from this week’s patient, another doctor. Chase learns that this physician would have been awarded a fellowship with House had Chase’s father Rowan not made that fateful phone call on behalf of his son Robert.

The patient forces Chase to take a good, hard look at what he’s done and where he’s been in the eight years since he’d been hired by House. And what he sees is a now-not-quite-so-young doctor who’s been spinning his wheels for years, and still under the wing of his long-time mentor. It’s time, Chase concludes to move out of House’s giant shadow. The tender farewell scene between House and Chase is beautifully acted by both Spencer and Laurie. I have to confess that this scene as well as Chase’s resignation scene (with Foreman) misted over my eyes.   

But not even this excellent episode prepared me for next week’s episode, the penultimate “Holding On,” which I’ve already had the pleasure of screening. I do not want to spoil the episode in any way, but I will say that next Monday’s episode takes House and Wilson on an entirely different sort of journey and concludes with a revelation that, in any other season, might have been the cliffhanger to keep us chatting all summer. Instead it will serve as the cliffhanger to the series finale. For your viewing pleasure, I have embedded a sneak peek from the episode. Warning: big spoilers.

“Holding On” has much to do with the meaning of friendship (and love), and the ability to look beyond your own needs to do what’s best for someone else.

As many of you already know, Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) makes a guest appearance; she has scenes with both House and Wilson—both crucial, but neither, in any way meant to upstage the episode’s main thrust—the series core relationship.

To tell you any more would give away “Post Mortem’s” cliffhanger, and I can’t really do that.

If you have specific questions, I will try to respond in the comments section, but please do not use the thread to reveal spoilers if you have, like me, seen the episode.

“Holding On” airs Monday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.

Please Note: I will be hosting a CoverItLive Chat event post-episode on May 21 following the House series finale. I will post more information next week, so please stay tuned!

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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.
  • MusicandHouse

    Funny, I saw your review just as I logged onto my computer to rewatch this episode! I really loved it and I am so excited for next weeks episode!
    My guess (as I mentioned to you on Twitter) is that Wilson will ask House to help him commit suicide, which is where 13 comes in because House already made that promise to her. Obviously you can’t ocnfirm or deny this but I just thought I’d put it out there to see what other people thought of the idea.
    One question: Ausiello says that House’s cane plays a crucial role in the episode. Can you elaborate any on that without spoiling too much? All I keep picturing is the scene from “Safe” where Wilson files through House’s cane, but I can’t imagine something that lighthearted in this particular episode.

  • Laurie

    I am very worried after David Shore’s comments that they “don’t do happy endings” and that the finale is definitely an ending. I truly believe that if a series, character and actor deserved a positive ending it was Hugh’s House. I am only holding on on Hugh saying that he found the finale “Uplifting”. How do you feel after watching “Holding On”?

  • Pam

    After watching Holding On, do you feel there is any hope for Wilson fans that he’ll make it out of this alive?

  • dvbfan

    I think in two final episodes House will do something to help Wilson but will jeopardize his career and maybe his life . I am not sure what exactly he will do in favor of Wilson but some how I am sure House is going to do something .
    Barbara , can you just mention am I right or wrong and will this show end with a “Bang” ?

  • djesus

    House will go back to Mayfield after Wilson’s death. For a new start.
    Not a happy ending but still an optimistic ending.

  • Chuck Nespy

    I’m thinking House is going to get his leg amputated telling Wilson that he can’t live with the pain of losing his best friend if he has to endure his existing daily pain. Thus, he loses the cane.

  • KMC

    I’m almost afraid to think about what they have planned…it’s the end of the series so they can do whatever they want. Whatever happens, I just hope they honor the actors and the characters they’ve inhabited these last eight years. That being said…watching House drop the barriers in these last two episodes has been a revelation. WE know he cares…I’m glad that Wilson is finally seeing it…and learning what life for House is actually like..if Wilson lives…it should give him a greater understanding and acceptance of House. And I liked seeing the team be able to function all by their own big selves…I always thought that was the point…to train with House to become better doctors. And they have. They’ll miss Chase…but it’s more than time that he left the safety of the nest. I’m looking forward to the finale with far more trepidation that any finale I’ve ever watched in my 53 years..I’ve met RSL (a photo of us sits on my desk at work), I’ve seen HL live in concert…I’m invested. I just hope that if the Powers That Be decide that it’s Wilson’s time, that the character is allowed to die with dignity, and that HL and RSL are given an Emmy-worthy farewell.

  • BrokenLeg

    I’m so overwhelmed by the end of [H] that I can’t even post properly.

    But I have flashes of the episode: GH face seeing Wilson’s Corvette was priceless. GH riding his Repsol Honda again for a last time !!
    It was the episode of Chase “graduation”, but was also the episode of a son that is prepared to fly out of the nest. And GH didn’t stop him, because he knew now it was the right time to do that. GH shaking hands with Chase! ( a GH that does not “touch” people, only “touch” the loved ones). A Chase that will maintain forever in touch with his mentor ( he asked GH to inform him about Wilson evolution).But a smell of ending.
    A POTW that is only an excuse to tell Chase’s election ten days ago ( Thanks God GH chose Chase!)

    A road trip with roles changed. A GH that continue being the caring , tender friend we’ve seen in the previous episode. A Wilson that prefers to be Kyle and drive a Corvette that he didn’t know how to drive, only to avoid thinking what really is happening to him.
    A funeral scene. Thrilling one.
    An Alzheimer’s old lady that puts involuntarily things on its correct way again. A return by bus, that reveals the most perfect and poignant part of the episode: The perfect song to true friendship.
    An Scanner. Two faces. GH’s one. Wilson’s one. Words were unnecessary.

    I only know that is sad that only two episodes remain. Thank you Barbara for this forum. Thank you all, [H] fandom I’ve met here. I’ll miss you all. Thank you HL, crew and cast for this eight years of exceptional journey.
    What’s next? I’ve adjusted the seat belt yet. I hope “the ending BANG”…but , please, if not happy an uplifting one, as HL said.

  • BrokenLeg

    A POTW that is only an excuse to tell Chase’s election ten days ago ( Thanks God GH chose Chase!)

    SORRY, YEARS, was TEN YEARS AGO!!!

  • Jackie

    I am so sad to see this series come to an end, but I am also glad that the quality of the scripts over the past weeks is giving the show an exceptional send off. This week’s show was excellent as to its content as well as the superb acting by all. From the House’s entrance in the parking garage on his Honda Repsol to Wilson’s Red Corvette with a stick shift and key bob misfunction that House can only roll his eyes at, it had the makings of one of those ‘keeper’ episodes. The road trip with its stops at the hamburger/steak joint, the hookers, the bus stop and soul bearing and heartfelt bus ride left nothing to the imagination. Wilson’s “I don’t want to go back, House,” said it all. He doesn’t want to know what the future holds and perhaps we as an audience don’t want to know either – prolonging the inevitable, whatever that is.

    Chase’s finally leaving the nest and stepping out of the shadow seemed to have a foretelling in one of the early scenes. When first discussing the ddx with the team, Chase does take the lead and House looks on from the coffee maker area and you can see the pride and admiration in his protege/fellow’s contributions to the case. House never shakes hands – Cameron tried numerous times and walked away empty, but House who at times may have considered Chase like a son, responded to Chase’s hand in kind. House’s eyes even followed Chase out the door of the radiology booth. Hugh Laurie never ceases to amaze me with his moments from scene to scene and Robert Sean Leonard brought tears to my eyes with his acting.

    Back to the bus ride – House’s line of dialogue, “I could live without Kyle,” was just what the scene needed. He realizes that Wilson could never be someone else whose personality would be callous to those in need. The next two episodes can’t come fast enough. How this series concludes is anyone’s guess at this point but it has sure been an interesting ride from start to finish and will be sorely and surely missed.

  • Sacha

    #10 Jackie “House never shakes hands – Cameron tried numerous times and walked away empty, but House who at times may have considered Chase like a son, responded to Chase’s hand in kind.”

    Chase came to say thank you. That makes him the only person (aside from – finally! – Wilson in last week’s episode) who, on multiple occasions, openly expressed gratitude and respect and even affection towards House. Cameron offered him her hand twice, and if you re-collect the circumstances and what she said to him, House had absolutely no reason to accept it.

  • Jackie

    I was thinking more of the Cameron temporary departure in “Role Model” from season 1, when she made the first attempt in extending her hand while saying her good-bye. Your point is well taken and understood.

  • housefan

    Is Cuddy coming back for the finale?

  • MusicandHouse

    @housefan
    No, TPTB made a big point of saying that Lisa would not be returning for the finale. I loved Cuddy, but there really is no point of her returning at the end. Its fine for other characters like Cameron or 13 to return, because they left with some type of closure, but for Cuddy to come back for just one episode would do more harm than good IMO. Its better to leave that storyline where it is.

  • rjw

    This episode left me with a lump in my throat.What a wild trip to Ohio Wilson and House took! Loved the scene in the restaurant (maybe because I had recently watched “Man vs.Food” for the first time).Wilson’s triumph over a totally meaningless food challenge.Then,reality hits when they watch the funeral procession.I wouldn’t normally cheer someone who blows
    by one,but in Wilson’s case,it was a symbol of him thumbing his nose at cancer.Ultimately,he discovers the he is neither shallow nor self-centered when he stays by the old lady.How much am I going to miss this relationship! On Chase’s exit,it was nice for him to get a wake-up call that he was handed this golden opportunity to work with House,and hadn’t taken advantage of it.He has been more than ready to go out on his own for a long time.It finally took someone who had given up alot for his fellowship with House,only to be denied by a prestigious doctor’s phone call.Obviously,he was still bitter.Chase has grown alot these past 8 seasons.Actually,so has House.He’s there for Wilson (years before,I’m not so sure).I haven’t seen this upcoming episode,so it will be interesting to see how House ultimately handles the bad news about Wilson.By the way,I have absolutely loved each of Kath Lingenfelter’s scripts,and David Hoselton has written some of my fav episodes (“Unfaithful” and “The Choice”).

  • Jane E

    These last two episodes have been top quality House writing which we have had the pleasure of viewing for 8 seasons. I love the role reversal in House and also the growth development of his character. I will not look at your clip as I don’t want to have anything spoiled. I like watching it live and living in that moment.

  • Celia

    All lives end. All hearts are broken. Why should House experience life any differently than the rest of mankind ?
    The penultimate ‘change’.

  • http://movieplacesinla.wordpress.com/ Barry M. Grey

    Nice summary, Barbara. But I refuse to look at the clip you provided from the upcoming penultimate epi.

    I like surprises, and while I’ve expected the Housians to kill off Wilson, I’m not convinced that House’s stunned look in the promo for Monday’s show necessarily means the worst for Wilson.

    Anyway, thanks for the nice bit of analysis this week. Now it’s on to next week’s next-to-last (sniff) hour.

  • The Other Barnett

    Barb,

    I did enjoy this episode, not as much as the one before, but it did show me things that I was genuinely happy to see.

    1. It showed House genuinely enthused and happy for someone – After Wilson won the steak challenge.

    2. It inevitably showed the core of Wilson – waiting with the older lady for the “bus to Florida”

    3. It showed Chase finally realizing that he is fully-recognized enough to be his own man….and a boss.

    4. It showed House mustering up his version of pride at pushing Chae out of the nest. The good-bye scene was so subtly acted that it allowed any fervent House/Chae fan to just know that this was emotion-drenched for these two men.

    5. It ended the way it should in the real world…Wilson with cancer that may not be manageable.

    I’d have to say that, as much as I enjoyed this road trip. Last season’s road trip with 13 was a bit more touching to me.

    Chase movnig on was something of an annoyance for me. I understand that, if Chase is going to be the man he can be, he had to move on to grow his own diagnostic empire, but that guy has become my favorite character , possibly moreso than House (which I never thought I’d say). He has grown and I just merely thought he could succeed House, but as he said….he did not want to operate in someone’s shadow. I also found it a good story turn to have the patient point out in cold-stark House-like terms that Chase was the best surgeon in the hospital. No one has ever really made that point in the whole series…I really liked that small piece of TV.

    I like 13 coming back for a short time. She (with all her haters and her flaws) has a better connection to House and Wilson than anyone. Chase could be held closer to House’ heart than 13, but Wilson and Chase never really had a friendship developed. 13 and Wilson did share moments of conversation and more. I like this last hurrah for Remy. She fits and maybe she could give some insight to the newbies.

    Wilson should die. I know hat sounds harsh. But, it makes sense. It makes sense for the one person who has been the closest to unconditional in his support for House (Cuddy people, you can keep your traps shut) should leave to put House into a crisis of the soul….and possibly to make things clear that life moves on, that it has to and that we can grow from it and be better for it, even if we don’t fully change.

    Unfortunately now, my stomach is gurgling in anticipation and dread of tonight’s episode. :(