I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Season 7 House, M.D. finale. I will have much more to say about it, and have a chance to process my own feelings about it later in the week after I’ve had an opportunity to talk with the episode’s writers Peter Blake and Kath Lingenfelter.
Until the last few moments of the episode, they completely had me riveted: a patient (Shohreh Aghdashloo) whose unnerving mirror image portrait of House (Hugh Laurie); House finally processing what has happened between him and Cuddy, realizing that what he had done to his leg was just insane, and that something has to change. He has to change.
House is hurt, and not just from Cuddy. He doesn’t blame her, he says for the breakup. “It’s not your fault,” he tells her, acknowledging rightly or wrongly that his own faults have rendered him essentially unlovable.
But House has been a ticking time bomb for seven seasons. He wants to change; he struggles with his inability to change. He’s tired of being judged and analyzed and having his motivations, his pain and torment questioned. He is stuck and he knows it; he doesn’t need Wilson or Foreman or Cuddy or a patient to remind him of that. And I totally get that. We are meant to see House being pushed and edged to the brink, wanting desperately to be who he does not believe he can be. “It’s not your fault.” Read, “It’s mine.”
But the last five minutes do not add up for me. And I wonder why. With House insanely (and I do mean really insanely) crashing his car into a house full of people—with the potential for loss of life (never mind that it is Cuddy in the house), I’m not sure what to think; maybe that’s the point. (It is, after all, a season finale.)
Vicodin plays a hugely important part of this episode. House is taking it like candy; it’s at his bedside—in the ICU. Is it there to remind us that House on Vicodin is a disaster waiting to happen? The amounts he’s taking will do more than trash his liver, as Wilson suggests. For House, Vicodin means hallucinations.
Then there is House’s mirror image patient. She’s a performance artist who would do anything (even kill herself) for her art; nothing is more important than that, not love, not life. But even the mirror image cracks at then end; she is able to change when he is not; House argues and pleads with her, his anger seeping through his usual guarded surface. Is he arguing with himself? Trying to understand himself?
And then comes the final sequence, from Wilson’s visit to House’s apartment through the end, and the shock of House intentionally crashing his car into Cuddy’s home—and then his walking away from it, uncaring, barely a word, self-satisfied, leaving devastation in his wake as he walks merrily into the sunset.
So, I have to wonder how much of “Moving On” plays out in House’s mindscape. It’s a device the creative team has used before, however usually with clues (but not always—think “Under My Skin”). If it isn’t all imagined (and I would guess not all of it would be), I wonder if everything from the point of Wilson’s visit (at least) is either in House’s mind or a delusion seen from inside House’s point of view.
Or maybe things go surreal after House sees Cuddy with her sister’s friend enjoying an ordinary life, something unobtainable for her as long as House was in her heart. Ordering Wilson from the car, House drives away at top speed, beyond caring. Has he just kept on going, breaking from reality to imagine he has turned the car around and crashed into Cuddy’s home?
Or has he just snapped, and everything we see on screen is exactly what happens in the story? Of course there is the possibility that it’s all real—a terrible, terrible tragedy for all involved. After seven seasons of repressed anger and issues with his father, his mother, Stacy, Wilson, and Cuddy, has House finally snapped? The ticking time bomb exploded big time?
House rarely raises his voice; anger is something he pushes down, deflects and relegates to a place in his psyche he tries to ignore. And it’s certainly possible that House suddenly, dramatically snaps inside when he observes Cuddy and her new friend. But what doesn’t add up for me is that no matter how angry, no matter how out of character, would House actually drive his car into a home he knows to be occupied?
If it happened “really” within the story, and House has actually done what it appears he has done, what does that do to him as a character, and what does it do to the series moving forward into what is likely the final season? Walking away from the destruction he has wrought is pretty unforgivable. How do you recover from that? How does House not come to his senses enough to understand that what he has done is beyond belief and beyond the pale? How does he go to a tropical paradise, running away from everything and everyone into some sort of fantasy that cannot exist?
And what of next season? Will it be House on trial for attempted murder? Will he plead insanity? Will he wind up back in Mayfield?
Had this been the series finale, it would have been a weirdly logical, but very disappointing ending, with House walking off into the sunset, leaving behind destruction and devastation with a smile on his face and not a care in the world. It would have rendered this difficult, troubled, fragile and completely sympathetic character, suddenly and irrevocably not. But we are now heading into Season 8 and a lot remains to be seen.
I will be speaking with the episode’s writers Wednesday afternoon with the interview going live by the end of the week. I am incredibly curious about what they have to say. So stay tuned!