Caveat: mild spoilers ahead
The great actor Brian Cox (Coriolanus) recently explained that drama is more about empathy than sympathy. You can hate a character for what he's done, but ultimately if you understand his (or her) actions, the character will endure. I believe that really is the key to why so many have loved the character of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) on House, M.D. through seven seasons. However, at the end of last season, House snaps and crashes his car into ex-girlfriend Lisa Cuddy's (Lisa Edelstein, who has left the series for The Good Wife) home. With that rash action, he has lost the sympathy of not only of his friends and allies in Princeton, but a considerable number of fans in the online community.
So the question coming into season eight is whether the audience can still empathize with House after the events of last season’s controversial finale, whether or not they find him sympathetic at this point.
We find House at the start of season eight facing a parole board, one year into a longer sentence at the East New Jersey Correctional Facility. He’s become eligible for parole (not because of anything he’s done to merit it, but because there is a space issue—and he’s had “good-ish” behavior during his year-long stay in the slammer).
He has five days until his parole is effective and House basically has to stay out of trouble during those last five days—easier said than done. He makes an effort though, and for the most part plays it straight, even giving in to the intimidation of some antagonistic prison bullies who intend to collect an “exit tax” from him before he goes. Part of their price? Twenty Vicodin.
But the prison gang is just the least of House's worries when an inmate exhibits some strange symptoms that House finds irresistible. While trying to navigate the prison (and prisoners’) rules, House’s curiosity gets the best of him, and along the way he meets the young, earnest, but very bright Dr. Jessica Adams (Odette Annable), a prison doctor as intrigued by House’s medical skills as she is by the patient’s mysterious symptoms. But ultimately, she is faced with making a choice (and risking her job) between following protocol with the patient or trusting House’s instincts and unique observational abilities.