Sunday , September 27 2020
A short speculation about what we might see when House returns in the fall.

House, MD: Looking Ahead to Next Season

The finale episodes, "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart" left me (as I’m sure they left most of you) speechless and maybe even in tears (not in small portion due to the stunning performances of Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, and Anne Dudek). And, as every good cliffhanger should, the final scenes left us with a lot of questions on our collective mind. For example, why was House drinking himself to oblivion at five in the afternoon?

But, of course, the big question to ponder over the summer is: What is to become of House and Wilson’s friendship? And certainly, the two questions are connected. In the current TV Guide, series executive producer Katie Jacobs says that we should be worried about the relationship between House and Wilson. Has House’s neediness led to the inadvertent and tragic death of Wilson’s new love Amber? Will Wilson blame House, and if so, what will it take for Wilson to forgive him? We also don’t know whether the deep brain stimulation procedure undergone by House has harmed him in any way. Did Wilson ask too much of his friend, asking him to risk irreparable brain damage or death on the chance there was something else locked in his brain?

All of these questions loom over the summer hiatus. Before the terrible accident, House had accepted Amber’s place in Wilson’s life (grudgingly, but accepting it, nonetheless). But like other losses in his life, House had internalized his diminished place in Wilson’s life. Although he’d never admit it, House is at sea without Wilson. I think this is why he was drinking himself into oblivion at five in the afternoon. Without Wilson, House is isolated, alone, and a little lost.

Think back to the series pilot episode. It is only because of Wilson’s manipulation (and outright lie) that House takes on Wilson’s “cousin” Rebecca Adler. We are given the distinct impression that House had been pretty isolated since coming to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital as head of diagnostic medicine. Now here we are, four years later in the aftermath of a tragic series of unfortunate events that have led to the death of Amber Volakis. And you have to wonder what will become of House if Wilson blames him for Amber’s death. Who will prevent House from withdrawing again, as he well might dealing with his own injuries, Amber’s death and his hand in it, and a healthy dose of survivor guilt that House will have, but try very hard to hide?

I do get the distinct impression that this is exactly what will happen. Wilson will blame House. Did House directly cause Amber’s demise? Of course not. Even at his worst and most self-absorbed, House is not someone who would cause harm to another human being intentionally. But has the manner in which House has lived his life — self-destructive, self-absorbed and isolated from most of humanity — finally hurt someone other than himself? And will Wilson, who has for years been trying to get House “to change” in some fundamental way, point to this and say, “See, look what I told you. Your self-destructive selfishness has caused the death of the person who has made me truly happy.” I can easily see Wilson simply washing his hands of House — without considering the impact on House. Or considering it and believing that he has no more time, energy or inclination to waste on trying “to help” his friend, perhaps even dismissing the importance of House’s self-sacrificial gesture to undergo the deep brain stimulation procedure.

Wilson will be understandably grief stricken. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process and House is an easy target as Wilson will want to lash out at someone. All of Wilson’s frustrations from his years of trying to “change House” are going to hit at once. Add to that House’s own state of mind: he’s got a good dose of survivor guilt (which we know based on that last dream sequence) and feels responsible. House will undoubtedly be quite a mess at the season’s start.

I can’t help but think of what Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend said to me when I spoke with them before “Wilson’s Heart.” They told me that House will be “in a place where he will be more reflective.” Amber’s death, Wilson’s ange, and House’s own feelings of guilt (and his own self-image) may provide an impetus for House to try and change his situation, a serious self-accounting.

Of course, one of the series' mantras is “no one ever changes.” It’s not in human nature to make permanent, fundamental change. It’s incredibly hard; just ask anyone who’s tried to lose weight or give up smoking. But that doesn’t prevent people from trying. And I think, for what it’s worth, House will try “to change” — or at least try to make some changes in the way he lives.

On the other hand, I also think that, being true to his nature, House will try very hard to appear as if none of this has affected him at the least. “Wilson hates me? Fine. Who needs him anyway.” “You think my actions cause Amber’s death? Hell with you. She’s the one who insisted upon getting on the bus with me.” I think those will be close to House’s overt response to the situation, all the while being torn apart inside.

It will be a very tough ride for Dr. Gregory House in September. My magic pool hall oracle has told me so. (Not really, but I do have one on my desk at work, so I’ll ask it later.) Will Cuddy be there to help him pick up the pieces? She surely was there for him as he lay in his hospital bed, holding his hand and being at his side. I think her being with him, holding his hand, waiting for him to wake was very significant. I think she understands just what he sacrificed for Wilson, and what it may have cost him physically and emotionally. And I think she loves him for it, even if Wilson cannot at this point. The bond between House and Cuddy will strengthen and perhaps lead to something between them, if only for a brief moment in time.

Sigh. I cannot wait for the new season to start — which is not until September 2. Season five is already in production, and hopefully all will go reasonably well between the Screen Actors Guild and the studios. The DVD set will be out on August 19. In the meantime, the entire season will air in repeats beginning next Tuesday (June 2) with no long hiatuses to mar the flow.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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