Caveat: Mild spoilers ahoy, me mateys.
We are about one month from the season eight premiere of House, M.D., starring Hugh Laurie as the genius diagnostician Dr. Gregory House. When last we saw Dr. House, he had crashed his car into the (unoccupied) dining room of his boss and ex-girlfriend Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Fleeing from the scene, House ends season seven somewhere in the South Pacific, strolling down a beach into the sunset.
As we enter season eight, much has changed in House’s world. Cuddy is gone. Full stop. Edelstein’s departure (she will be seen this season on The Good Wife in a guest-starring role) was a blow to House’s cast and creative team.
But what effect will her departure have on House? Will he feel responsible for her leaving? Or will he blow it off, holding his angst over it inside? Personally, I would like to see House struggle with Cuddy’s absence, trying to make it not matter, but failing in his effort.
Cuddy has been to House both muse and anchor; lover and antagonist. I imagine that she will be much on House’s mind and a new hole in his heart and soul as we move through the new season (at least during the first part of it). He needs to be affected by not only her absence but the way in which it has occurred.
That said, Cuddy’s departure opens up a lot of creative space for writers and David Shore to explore in new directions. If handled well, it may be a blessing in disguise (please, no flames) for a series headed into its eighth season.
For the past three years, mainly seasons five through seven, House has been as driven by his feelings for Cuddy almost as intensely as he’s been driven to save his patients, and solve the puzzle. You could an argue that the Cuddy effect has gone on even longer, and I would agree. But his feelings for her had not been so front and center before season five.
Now that Cuddy is gone from his life, and from the hospital entirely, what will fill that void for House and for Princeton Plainsboro? Will House throw himself into his work? Crawl back into his first season introspective shell? Will he be more cynical or less? Will he completely bury his emotions, dwelling exclusively in the rational part of his persona?
And, separate from the Cuddy effect, how will his year in prison affect House’s relationships with his patients, particularly those who are marginal in society or victims of “the system?”
Understanding that the series (according to press reports) is going to jump ahead a year, revealing House’s prison time in flashback, I wonder what might things look like a year ahead for House, the team and Princeton Plainsboro. What will House after months in prison be? Will his relationship with drugs, and even his pain, be altered?
I’d like to see House on a reasonable pain management program—his pain treated with whatever is necessary—but managed. He should never have been allowed to self-medicate (which is essentially what Wilson had enabled all those years). I’d like House to have gone through a year of therapy. He’d spent a few months at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital after season five’s breakdown going through in-patient therapy, and a year would do him much good; he won’t be a happy-go-lucky guy, but he hopefully may have gained some better coping tools as he’s had to deal with the loss of Cuddy and the big blows to his pride.
The writers are not going to give us a well-adjusted, drug-free House ready to be a good boy and play along with the establishment. I can see him chastened, but not broken. I do want to see him struggle with his new circumstances (and there will be a lot new in his life, no matter what the year has held for him). What of House’s medical license? Will it have been restored by the time we see him at the start of season eight? Will he be a consultant? The damaged oracle of diagnostic medicine sans medical credentials? Again, interesting questions, and although they’d been explored early in season six, circumstances this time are different: it’s the second time he’s lost his license and the reasons are more dire; the environment in which he’ll find himself post-prison will likely be much more hostile. I do assuming that sooner or later (I’m guessing sooner) House’s medical license is restored. Otherwise, they’d have to change the name of the series.
But before the series really gets into to exploring these new avenues and directions, it first has to address the fallout from House’s violent act out. I actually do not believe that House had been trying to harm anyone; he had hadn’t plowed his car into Cuddy’s dining room to injure her or anyone else. On the other hand, I also don’t believe that he was in control enough to have stopped had anyone had stepped back into the empty room momentarily. The end result is that Cuddy’s house is damaged, House is guilty (at least) of reckless driving, property damage, maybe reckless endangerment—and driving under the influence.
And then there’s his relationship with Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). That relationship could not have come out unscathed. Will House and Wilson even be friends at the start of season eight? Will they even be talking? Wilson is likely to blame House for Cuddy’s departure (and with some good cause). Although I’ve never doubted that Wilson loves House (and it’s mutual, of course), at what point does a patient friend throw his hands up in frustration? And no matter Wilson’s manipulations and interferences in House’s life and pain treatment, House’s actions at the end of season seven really trump all of that. House has much for which to atone. But so might Wilson. I would love to see how this might play out over the course of season eight. And, although I’ve said that I don’t want to see Wilson as the new Dean of Medicine, if it’s accompanied by this seriously altered personal dynamic, it might provide some very interesting tension personally and professionally for both.
I am incredibly excited about season eight, although I recognize that some fans are decidedly not. David Shore has said that the series will be getting “back to basics.” Hopefully that means getting back to the medical stories and what they reveal about House (and to a lesser extent the other characters). The series has always been at its best telling great stories that advance our knowledge of this complex and fascinating fictional character. The show is, in the end, about Dr. Gregory House; everything else is commentary.
House, M.D. season eight premieres October 3 at a new time: 9:00 p.m., following new series Terra Nova on FOX.