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TV Open Thread: House, M.D. – “Moving On”

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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!

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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.
  • Jacquelyn

    I don’t believe it. The rest of the episode wasn’t too bad – I was sleepy for most of it as it’s the middle of the night here – but the ending was just contrived and thoughtless. And not really even a “shocker,” at that, if you’d seen the promo shots (but at least those I refused to believe were real).

    I can’t believe House would EVER risk Cuddy’s life (or Rachel’s – where was she?). I can’t believe he’d react like that to seeing her with another man. And I can’t believe the writers would be so out of touch with a character that they created that they would have him sink to that level and then just take a walk on the beach.

    And a hairbrush? Really?!?

    Leaving the story open-ended pending LE’s negotiations is no excuse for sloppy writing. I just don’t buy it. I won’t be watching next year without LE, but I hope I hear that it was all a hallucination. Of course, we all wanted everything after 7×15 to be a hallucination, too.

    I feel sad, and betrayed. I had hoped that when I woke up, we’d find it was one big joke, but that’s apparently not the case.

  • David

    Originally, I thought that this was a “jump the shark” moment, but after reminiscing, I don’t think so. I could see his hostility to Cuddy because she only wanted him to talk to her so that she could soothe her own guilty feelings, and this irritated House.

    I saw in another comment the key. Wilson told the police that House would be in a place that reflected his mood, which Wilson expected to be dark. Turns out, once he finally vented his anger (taking Wilson’s and Cuddy’s advice), he was in a very happy place, just like Wilson said.

  • Frustrated

    He cracked because he thought she had lied about not seeing someone. He had talked to the POTW about trust. He was ready to make an effort to mend things with Cuddy and give trust a try. Seeing Cuddy with the new guy told him he was right to not trust anyone.

    Sigh. Goodbye House. I’m breaking up with you. It’s just not worth it anymore.

  • spoilerchicka

    Barbara, thanks for the honest analysis. I too was hoping somehow House would snap out of his momentary fantasy and still be standing on the walkway to Cuddy’s door after ramming his car (figuratively)into her dining room. Then just walking up, ringing the doorbell and begging her to take him back. No worse an idea than what we fans were force fed. Blecch.

    If the goal of the show is to reveal House is nuts, looney, psycho and mean, mission accomplished. So he was hurt to discover Cuddy had company over and he presumed she had lied to him but anyone could have hoped against hope that it wasn’t a boyfriend, just company. Instead House has to drive at warp speed into her home after supposedly snapping (?) at what he saw.

    There certainly were enough hints about House being whacked out high on vicodyn having used up a month’s supply in just three days so very likely the writers will use some contrivance to explain away House’s insanity as yet another drug induced hallucination. Boring. Done to death.

    If it turns out House has done these criminal things and he’s off galavanting in the tropics, why would we care? He’s gone bonkers or on the lamm and no one will be there to pick up the pieces when it hits him what he did. No wonder Cuddy was terrified and shaken in her final scene with House. He really is incredibly unredeemable at this point and I for one don’t care to see how things turn out. Thank you to Lisa Edelstein for being wise enough to see the show ended this season for most fans after this crap finale.

    Lisa Edelstein will have the last laugh as the critics begin tearing apart the show’s ridiculous direction for the principal character. Congratulations.

  • Jacquelyn

    I wanted to add, too, that they scene in the hallway between House and Cuddy, and the masterful scenes last week between House, Cuddy, and Rachel, all prove that the writers DO know how to write the House/Cuddy relationship. So what is it, they’re too lazy to do so? Or they really don’t realize the level of their fan base that SUPPORTS this relationship and wants to see it developed.

    Treating it as a story arc rather than the very fabric of this show, as someone pointed out in your last article, is where it all went wrong.

  • http://barbarabarnett.com barbara barnett

    Jacquelyn,

    In my opinion, this isn’t about doing House and Cuddy right or not right. The relationship (or lack of one) is less important to me than where they’re taking the character of House. He’s been broken, he’s wanted to change. And now he’s snapped. I could see the rage building in him and everyone from Cuddy to Wilson to Foreman begging him to just let out the anger. And when he did it was destructive and insane.

    The question in my mind is how to build back from where we are left with him.

  • shy reader

    I was also very shocked at his decision to drive through the house – right in to the very room where he had seen them enjoying a meal together! But then I thought about how the entire episode, Cuddy was telling him to feel something, and to get ANGRY, and wilson was saying the same thing.

    And the sight of the brilliant artist being capable of NOT being alone, the sight of her possibly sacrificing her artistic gift for love, and the sight of her partner ACCEPTING her – that, obviously compounded by the sight of Cuddy with a new man – House felt lied to, betrayed, replaced, irrelevant – and yes, I think he snapped.

    I can see how from his point of view this episode, his closet friends have abandoned him when he needs them the most – Wilson’s odd timing to cut off the Vicodin, especially after House had agreed that changes needed to be made; Cuddy seemingly lying to him about dating; even the brilliant artist abandoned him – they had kindred connection, and she opted for love over brilliance – abandoning him as well…

    I can’t say I loved how the season finale went. I wish the writers had chosen another (read: redeemable) way to demonstrate House’s deep anger.

    And the scene on the beach was just plain confusing. He was in the same suit that he’d left in! Up until then, I had no inclination to think any of this was a hallucination. But the same suit?? on a tropical beach?? I will be pretty disappointed if hallucinations are used to explain any of the season finale.. I feel the writers might rely on that a bit too much.

    Lastly, in spite of the confusing sequence of events, it was really satisfying to see House express anger – pushing Cuddy against the wall, for example. And Hugh Laurie is just amazing, as usual.

    And I loved the Taub twist. :)

  • http://barbarabarnett.com barbara barnett

    There was so much of this episode I really loved, and I bought the fact that House needed to release all that pent up anger, but to do it in such an unforgivable way. I’m just not sure where they can go with that.

    I trust they can do it, but wow. Like I said, still wrapping my head around it.

  • BiaAylesworth

    Before everything sorry for my english, i’m from Brazil.

    Who is he to be offended by her being with another. Married with a hooker. Stayed with many hookers blatantly. So he had no right to do this.

    I’m disappointed with House since 7×15, and today just ruin everything forever..

    And now I understand why LE left the program, she knew that if she returned in season 8, with a new boyfriend and trying to arrest House, was as if Cuddy, were dead, the best decision she took was out of this damn series …

    So now #RipHouse
    Goodbye House Forever …

  • Laura

    I’m with you on this one Barbara. How?

    How in the world do they go on from here?

    How are we suppose to like House and forgive his flaws after what could be viewed attempted murder?

    How in the world do they have an 8th season, given this ending tonight, without Dr Lisa Cuddy?

  • Visitkarte

    I absolutely loved this episode. I hurt for House so badly, I started crying really, really hard when he told Cuddy “I feel hurt”, I saw few minutes afterwards in a blur of tears. And I have never, ever cried on a House episode before. Not like this, not more than a few tears.

    He was desperate. Deeply hurt, truing to numb himself from feeling anything, never even caring about being arrested for the faked prescriptions. He just hurt and wanted to stop hurting.
    Then he tried to put the relationship behind him. But she insisted on talking, and they talked. He asked her if she was seeing someone and she told him she didn’t.

    Here was a parallel with the story of the POW. House already advised her no to trust love, not to give up her sharp mind for the feeble hope of love and happiness, because it would end up being a false hope and she would end up with nothing to hold on.

    Cuddy wanted to get him to meet her again, that’s why she wanted to have her brush back. And then, after he absolved her of all guilt (undeservedly so, I must add, she definitely has most of the guilt for braking his heart, maybe beyond repair), he hardly turned his back to her and she started dating the other guy. When he came back to her house and maybe hoped for a kiss and maybe even a brake up sex, he found her happily chatting with everything there he could never have. His hurt look and his quivering lip got my crying really, really hard for him and brought an ache in my chest, and when he crushed the car into that wall I felt he would have been OK with getting killed. No, I don’t think he wanted to kill anyone in the house, because the table was that way, there was hardly any chance of killing anyone there, but every chance of them getting the message.

    The only man he ‘tried’ to laughter here was himself, and after that, he was away and free from the burdens of love and hope and human connections. I don’t think he’d stay ‘happy’ for long after that, but he was definitively on adrenalin high for the time being.

    I guess the next season he’ll start in jail, keep out of touch with Wilson and the rest and probably go afterwards somewhere in a small city, running a GP praxis or something like that, and 4-6 episodes later Wilson might track him down and get him back on PPTH, after Cuddy left. It might be like a year or more later, when the story picks up where they left.

    I’m on it and very excited to see where his journey takes him. I guess jail might be good in terms of quitting Vicodin again. Afterwards, he only needs his license back or, maybe, he’ll work like that janitor, as a medical consultant.

  • Matt

    I’m going to aim for the opposite of everyone who has voiced their opinions and say that the ending was perfect. House was furious (Betrayal does that) and like vintage House, he does something crazy. He’s free from the demons of his past. He’s free from Cuddy. Getting rid of Cuddy, in this fashion, may be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Betty

    To crack when he saw Cuddy w/ that guy is a bit hypocritical. He married a hooker to get back at Cuddy, and so why would House be interested in testing trust w/ Cuddy? House is too narcissistic and selfish among many other issues, including apparently being psychotic. That action shows he’s a long ways away from being capable of being in an equal relationship.

  • Jacquelyn

    Barbara, I agree, to an extent. I think what was really “shocking” was that we’re so used to House internalizing his emotions through self-destruction rather than external acts of destruction. It’s insane, and in a way very Housian, but at the same time I still don’t buy it. Running a car into Cuddy’s house – endangering the life of the woman he purports to love – just seems…cheap, to me.

    Season finales in the past past have also portrayed House’s own desire to change after being broken: Season 4 and 5 best come to mind. How he dealt with his broken world then seemed more well-written and less expected in some ways. Remember we’re dealing with a character that continually battles between a rational mind and feeling more emotions than most people. We EXPECT House to explode, but when he checked himself into Mayfield, I saw more of a broken man there than I did last night.

    As always, I appreciate your clear thoughts that are more articulate than my base emotions. We both come down to the same question, though: where does House go from here?

  • JuliaB