How can you not love a House episode that features the main cast attired in tuxedos and evening gowns? But even without all of the window dressing and eye candy, “All In” is one of season two’s best episodes. An examination of House’s medical obsessiveness, Hugh Laurie’s textured performance slowly peels back new layers of House’s inner life, as he grapples with the case of Ian, a young boy whose symptoms match those of a previous patient, the elderly Esther Doyle.
In a sense, death can be viewed as House’s archenemy, something with which he does battle relentlessly; and sometimes to a point beyond which other doctors would turn in their scalpel and wave their white coat in surrender. It’s part of what makes House heroic, especially because he often does it with little regard for his own comfort or career (or life); but House’s medical relentlessness also is part of what makes him a medical outsider.
But House doesn’t always win; death is a powerful adversary, and despite House’s sometimes heroic efforts, it defeats him and patients die. One of House’s more macabre traits (as seen by his colleagues, anyway) is that he will continue to pursue the illness beyond death. He needs to know the cause; what went wrong and why. It’s not (just) morbid curiosity with him. Figuring out the “why” even after death has won allows House to add one more case, one more bit of knowledge, one more weapon, should that disease ever come round again. It’s not something that his colleagues always (or even most of the time) understand. It’s why he continued in “Occam’s Razor” (season one) to search for the mistaken colchicine pills long after the patient was cured, why he needed to know the source of the girl’s infection in season three’s “House Training” even after it was too late to save her. And why, even 12 years later, House still can’t let go of Esther, succumbing to a rampantly aggressive disease — one that killed within hours. A disease that House could not defeat in time to save the patient; a cause of death he could never confirm.