“You can’t keep going like this. Something has to change.”
This last exchange in "After Hours" between House (Hugh Laurie in a brilliant performance) and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), for all it’s familiarity, is noteworthy for House’s lack of push-back against Wilson’s nagging. House knows it’s true, perhaps truer than at any other time since we met him.
“After Hours,” is the penultimate episode of House’s seventh season, and after all of this season's pyrotechnics, production numbers and high-wire acts, it really comes down to this simple exchange. “Something has to change.”
Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend’s straightforward, yet heart-stopping script ties together three separate stories, which never intersect, themselves, but which elaborate on a familiar House theme. The simplicity of the story lines belies the complexity of emotion in this study of cause and effect. Oh how I have missed Friend and Lerner’s wonderful scripts this season. (This is their first since last season's finale.) From “House’s Head” and “Wilson’s Heart,” to “Broken” and, of course “Help Me” (often in collaboration with Peter Blake, and sometimes David Foster), this writing team is great at mining the series core themes and getting to the real emotion of House’s story.
I’ve liked much of Season 7, but I’d yet to watch an episode this season that's left me breathless at the commercial breaks (although fortunately I didn’t have to watch the episode with commercials—Phew!). Until now, that is.
To House, everything goes back to The Leg. From Season 1, he insists that all of his pain, torment and sadness originates in Stacy’s single decision, made without his consent. All control over his own future was ripped away when she made the decision to have Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) do the debridement on his leg. And everything from that moment on was dictated by The Leg. His undiagnosed illness led him to diagnostics; the chronic pain led him to dependence on narcotics. Chronic pain changes you, I'm told. Everything becomes about that one thing that now rules your physical and emotional life. And the decisions made in direct contradiction to his wishes destroyed whatever trust he may have had in medicine and in people.
Of course, we know that House’s trust issues go much deeper than that—to his relationship with his parents certainly and whatever he suffered under John House’s roof. And another person might have reacted differently to the realities presented to House post surgery. But House’s damaged leg is the albatross around his neck; it affects everything else; every consideration.