For weeks now, I’ve ruminated upon why some of my friends in the House, M.D. fandom have become frustrated with the series. Why am I’m still enjoying House’s (the ever-incredible Hugh Laurie) journey, while others have become disenchanted? And still others, who a year ago or more wondered why I was still so intrigued, have rediscovered House, finding it once again enjoyable?
I know the arguments on both sides: what people have told me; what I’ve read on the couple of fan forums on which I participate—and of course the very lively comment thread at Blogcritics’ Welcome to the End of the Thought Process feature. Personally, I continue to be captivated by House’s story. I love that he has struggled this year with his tendency to screw things up, putting in an effort to make things work with Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). I’m sad it has ended, yet I’m incredibly curious about what will happen now that they have to really deal with each other for the first time since “Bombshells.”
I hated that House had gone insane after the breakup, setting his self-destructive button to “11.” But it is perfectly in character. We know he fell apart after he and Stacy broke up. I don’t imagine he sat in a corner and cried; I do imagine that he set out to destroy himself, leaving Wilson to pick up the pieces.
Yes, he indulges himself with a bevy of hookers, trying to bury his pain over the breakup. Yes, he tries his best to hurt Cuddy back, finding no satisfaction in it. Those two episodes following “Bombshells” are very hard to watch, but not because they are “bad.”
I’m certainly disappointed that the pivotal House-Cuddy relationship fell apart so quickly after a multi-year build up, although in “real time” they’d been together nearly a year. But, I’m a big fan of the boy meet girl-boy loses girl dramatic structure, so I’m not entirely sure if in the end, we don’t see House back together with Cuddy (or even Stacy, for that matter).
But the comments from some long-time fans, many of whose opinions I’ve respected since almost the start of the series, have to make me wonder whether there’s something I’m missing? Has the series begun to lose a step? Or has genuine disappointment with the series’ main story arc formed a tipping point after which all the small irritants become now become magnified?
Does, then, the tolerance for those smaller annoyances (like plot holes, timeline goofs, or temporarily setting a favored character into the background, for example) depend on your disappointment with the larger story? Have the little things that have annoyed many viewers for years come into high relief and hence a step too far, after sending House tumbling once again very close to the abyss as he had been in the aftermath of “Bombshells?” (And for other fans with the scuttling of Jennifer Morrison’s Cameron?)
In seasons past we’ve heard some of the same complaints: too little House, the absence of clinic beats, too little interaction between House and the patient; House isn’t being serious enough; House’s misery is to unrelenting. I would agree with many of those grievances and have aired them myself. Where I disagree is in the notion that the writing has suddenly become “bad,” and that the overall story has derailed into a black hole.
Although I’m disappointed that House and Cuddy’s relationship ends in “Bombshells,” I’m not unhappy with the show; I don’t think it’s necessarily time for House to be happy and healed. I’m also an unrepentant angst whore, so I would not be crazy about a happy and lighthearted House, if that ever happened for very long. Does he deserve happiness? Absolutely. Does he deserve to be loved? Of course. And I’m thrilled we’ve gotten to see this side of him during Season 7. But where would they go from here?
I know the one of the series’ main tropes is that “people don’t change,” and I accept that. People can want to change; people can reveal heretofore repressed and hidden parts of themselves, but they are who they are. They can cope better or worse as the years pass, and their own situation and relationships change around them, but the fundamental person doesn’t change. Maybe House can learn to better cope with life (and perhaps this is a perfect opportunity for the return of Dr. Nolan, the wonderful Andre Braugher!), but he is who he is.