I use the word faith a lot when I talk about House to friends. With mock seriousness, I invoke my faith in the writers when I have the most doubt. How will they use Stacy in season two, when her story seemed nicely wrapped up until five minutes remaining in the season one finale? How will they avoid mawkishness when choosing an adorably plucky little girl with cancer as the patient of the week? How will they portray a wide-eyed faith healer without taking the easy paths of either ridicule or salvation?
My faith is almost always vindicated. It definitely was with "House vs. God," where the patient of the week is a teenager specializing in "divine health management" who has two-way conversations with God, who can touch a cancer patient and cause her to go into remission, and who chooses not to have surgery for fear it will take away his gift.
I cringed at the plot synopsis and the potential for religious or anti-religious heavy-handedness. But I had faith, because I've loved the show's take on the theme so far. Unlike race, religion is woven into the characters' backgrounds without usually being a lightening rod. Chase's life in seminary school has been highlighted and Wilson's Jewishness comes up as texture frequently. We know Cuddy (who sadly only makes a two-line cameo in this episode) is Jewish, Cameron doesn't believe in a personal God, and House is an atheist ... but not necessarily a devout one.
Season one's "Damned if You Do" was one of my favorite episodes, treating the spectrum of faith from atheism to nun with respect and thoughtfulness. And as the nun tells House: "You can’t be angry with God and not believe in him at the same time. No one can. Not even you." House's beliefs were given more shading in "Three Stories": "I choose to believe that the white light people sometimes see ... they’re all just chemical reactions that take place when the brain shuts down. ... I find it more comforting to believe that this isn’t simply a test," he says.
And now "House vs. God" paints even more of the picture of House's faith, filling in more details of his choice of faith in science over faith in a supreme being. Written by Doris Egan, who also wrote "Failure to Communicate" and seems to have a gift for complexity, this episode provides entire paragraphs of character explanation without losing itself in pedantic exposition or absolutes. And Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard deliver those paragraphs beautifully as the friendship between House and Wilson takes on a new dimension amid all the God talk.