At the end of the series finale of House, M.D. “Everybody Dies,” Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is presumed dead. Only Princeton Plainsboro Dean of Medicine Foreman (Omar Epps) and House’s dying best friend Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) are aware that House has pulled a Sherlock ala Reichenbach Falls.
(Speaking of which, does anyone else think that’s become the literary device du jour this year? I can name at least two recent big movies in which the Reichenbach Falls gambit has been used this year. I won’t name them for fear of major summer blockbuster spoilage for one of them.)
House has done the one thing he’s always vowed he would never do. “I’ll sacrifice a lab rat, I’ll sacrifice a fly, I’ll sacrifice $200 on a mudder at Monmouth Park. I don’t sacrifice self,” he tells Wilson in the fourth season episode “Don’t Ever Change.” We know that House is lying in that scene, and he has indeed “sacrificed self” several times over the course of seven seasons. But in “Everybody Dies,” he makes the ultimate sacrifice—his life.
Faced with going back to prison after a foolish prank gone bad in the penultimate episode, House knows that if he returns to jail, Wilson will live out the final months of his life alone, and worrying about his incarcerated friend. For House, it must feel like the ultimate betrayal of someone who means so very much to him.
Finding himself trapped in an abandoned, burning building, contemplating his life and future, he is in purgatory, debating with himself the merit of living another day, or ending it all: the pain, the misery, the self-doubt, the waste and loss of love, and his humanity. His allies and tormenters, those whose lives he has touched and those whom he has touched come to him in drug-induced visions, urging him to not give in to despair, or egging him not to take the coward’s way out.
It is Cameron, the idealistic, naive young fellow, never shying away from telling House the unvarnished truth who finally gets to him, forcing him out of his self-pitying funk. He can make a difference; he can change and “be there” for Wilson without fading into oblivion. But how? How does he escape from the inevitable? How can he be there for Wilson if he’s in prison?
This is the puzzle, and to solve it, House must conjure the ultimate scam—something at which he is, of course, supremely gifted. It’s a brilliant solution, worthy of House—and Holmes—and a perfect final homage to Conan-Doyle’s fictional detective. It fools everyone, including Wilson, whose attempt at kind words for the dearly-departed House ring hollow in the face of House’s ultimate narcissism, instead turning his eulogy into a dawning realization about what an irredeemable ass his “friend” House truly is.
That is, until he receives the untimely timely text that only says “Shut up, Wilson.” And then, he knows the truth: “everybody lies.”
And there they are at the end, the two of them, together, riding off into Wilson’s sunset astride a matched set of motorbikes to the play-off of “Enjoy Yourself,” interpreted so differently than it had been at the end of season five. It is into a no-less bleak future that they ride, particularly for Wilson, who only has a few months to live, but the ending is, in its own way, upbeat and absolutely perfect.
But the ending asks the inevitable question: “now what?” What are the possibilities? And that is the question with which I leave you, dear readers. What happens after the final credits roll, as the months (and perhaps years) go on? Does House have a altered destiny in “death?” Will he rise like a phoenix (or Sherlock Holmes) out of the ashes to fight another fight? (After all, Holmes has had a very active life post-Reichenbach through other novelists and numerous filmmakers crafting new adventures.)
- Wilson is cured (maybe by some experimental protocol developed by House, himself).
- After euthanizing Wilson (and Thirteen), House gives himself up to the authorities, confesses the scam and returns to prison.
- House assumes Wilson’s name (ah, the endless possibilities of hacking…er…tweaking things a bit on the Interwebs), and starts his medical life anew.
- House fakes amnesia and turns up just when Cuddy’s new hospital (or old one, if she re-appears at Princeton-Plainsboro believing House gone for good) just when he’s needed during a pandemic (House as the Dark Knight).
What do you all think? What happens after “everybody dies?” Let me know in the comments!