As “Everybody Dies,” the series finale of FOX’s House opens, Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) is lying next to the dead body of his patient of the week (or, POtW) in a burning building. Throughout most of the hour, House converses with hallucinations of some important people in his life, as he tries to decide whether he should live or die.
“Everybody Dies” is dark. There is no denying that. It’s obvious when the first image House sees is Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn), a fellow who killed himself. Strangely, though, Kutner is trying to talk House out of suicide, while House is the one arguing that life is pointless.
Then Amber (Anne Dudek) appears. Her death is more tragic, but she still argues for life. Stacy (Sela Ward) wants House to try to find happiness again, but he continues to resist. Finally, though, Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) tells him to just lie down, letting the choice be taken from him. This House does, before thinking better of it.
These people are House’s subconscious, and as such, he appears to be waging a war within himself. It’s thrilling to see these former characters reappear, but besides being a gift to viewers, who they are isn’t so important as what they say. House knows that death is the easy way out. He is not going to be able to enjoy the sort of life he has been enjoying much longer, even though his life hasn’t been all that fun. Soon, his best friend will be dead, and even sooner, House will be back in jail, wasting Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) final moments on earth. So why not end it all?
Even in this darkest of moments, though, House fights on, as he always has. By making the people from his past appear to him, he talks himself out of such a deed. It’s telling that he starts with the most tragic figure, and builds to the ones that love him the most. The trajectory is an upswing, and in retrospect, House moves closer to life with each passing moment. But viewers are tricked into missing this by the POW scenes, which are of a more depressing nature.
While House is battling his inner demons in an extremely slowly burning building, he is not left to die alone. The two people he leans on most, who enable all of his crap, are desperately searching from him. Wilson and Foreman (Omar Epps) know that House is missing, and giving the desperateness of the situation, fear the worst. They even interrupt Dr. Nolan’s (Andre Braugher) group therapy session to ask for advice. Eventually, they are able to put the pieces together and get to the building where House is.
But they arrive too late. House has decided to live, and is heading towards the front door, visible through the window to Foreman and Wilson, when the ceiling collapses. Gone in a rush of flame, a body identified as House is pulled from the wreckage. It’s a tragic ending.
Or is it? House’s wife Dominika (Karolina Wydra) and former colleagues, including Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), Taub (Peter Jacobson), Adams (Odette Annable), Masters (Amber Tamblyn), and Park (Charlyne Yi), wax poetic about him at his funeral. But Wilson alone lashes out in anger, instead, calling House a selfish idiot, which, of course, he is. Then Wilson is interrupted by a text message. He doesn’t tell the others, but he goes and finds House, who has faked his death so that he can spend Wilson’s final five months doing whatever Wilson wants to do. They ride off into the sunset together on motorcycles, great music playing, the ultimate happy ending.
Is this House’s plan all along? Or is this something he comes up with at the last minute? It seems a little unrealistic that he is able to escape from the collapsing building, but at the same time, it’s hard to complain about the perfect build up of suspense and twist. Not to mention, the metaphors of purgatory and hell are thrown in to make things even more surreal. “Everybody Dies” is a brilliant piece of art, and any inauthenticities can be chalked up to artistic license, not fretted about needlessly.
House has gone to dark places before, but the titular character has always emerged triumphantly. He argues that no one changes, but his growth over the years proves otherwise. Perhaps there have been backslides, as he is self-destructive. But in the end, the goodness within him wins out. This could be because of Wilson. The person House cares about most, the one who sticks by him through it all, needs him, and House wants to be there.
What will happen in five months when Wilson dies? House will not be able to just return to his former life. He gives that up for Wilson. Will he he hide out in a foreign land and practice medicine? Return and take his punishment so that he can honestly go back to his job? Who knows? Who cares? “Everybody Dies” is very satisfying and uplifting.
Before the credits roll, viewers are reminded of the positive impact House has had in the lives of his fellows, too. Cameron is married with a baby. Chase (Jesse Spencer) has taken over House’s department, with Adams and Park staying on under him. Taub enjoys spending time with his daughters. These may not all be House’s doing, but he has certainly played a role in who they are. Freeing them from himself by his death actually helps them to move on from his crap, and so it is a favor to them, too. Though he deserves credit for teaching them to how to live.
Well, everyone but Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). It makes sense that she doesn’t appear, seeing as how House caused her more pain than anyone, and she has the least reason to still care about him. But to bake anything, there will always be a few broken eggs, and she qualifies as this.
The only person besides Wilson who learns of House’s survival is Foreman. Foreman is the only one this information would make a positive impact on. Gone from the team, Foreman has already found his happy career. He might blame himself for not controlling House better if he is allowed to continue to believe the lie. By sending him a signal, as House does, Foreman can go on, knowing tghat he has nothing to feel guilty for. Plus, of all the fellows, Foreman is the one least likely to tell on House.
Thank you to the cast and crew of House for eight mostly amazing years. It is a series that will not soon be forgotten, and one that has, at times, touched viewers just as much as House himself touches the other characters. House reminds us that a procedural doesn’t have to just be a procedural, and there is plenty of mystery still to be found when examining the human spirit. We appreciate the lesson!
I highly recommend you read Barbara Barnett‘s review of “Everybody Dies” when it posts, and also pick up a copy of her book about House, Chasing Zebras. She has been a brilliant House expert over the years, and who has spoken with wonderful insight and wisdom. Going by her past work, and her thoughts during her live online chat party last night, her article will definitely be something worth reading for every House fan.
One last bit of trivia. The POW in “Everybody Dies” is played by James LeGros. LeGros starred in the short lived medical drama Mercy, and, besides guest starring in the House finale, he also appears in this year’s season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, which aired last week. Talk about success in the fictional medical community!