House Review: A Flood of Emotions

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Last week's House episode, "Post-Mortem," ended on a cliffhanger: Will Wilson's intensive chemotherapy shrink his tumor? Or is cancer actually going to kill the oncologist? 

Within thirty seconds of "Holding On," we find out that Wilson's disease has not gotten any better and that he's decided not to pursue any further treatment. The episode opens with Wilson's alarm going off. Not only is it time for Wilson to get up, but it also serves as a reminder to him of how little time he actually has left.

It's time for Wilson to wake up.

Trying to Hang On

Wilson does grapple with his decision, but after watching hundreds of his patients wither away in the Chemotherapy Suite, he just can't envision his own life ending in such a manner.

What's interesting about this episode is how little House can do to control the situation. House, even when his own life has been spinning out of control over the years, has still maintained some level of control over his own future. When Wilson says he won't take the chemotherapy, House says to Wilson: "I'm not going to let you just die."

But, really, what can House do? Here's what: he can attempt to make Wilson recognize death isn't peaceful by dosing him (Wilson on drugs is still funny, by the way), he can try to make Wilson see that his life gives other people life by hiring a number of fake former patients, and he can make Wilson realize that he'll miss House terribly and want to fight for a longer time on earth by treating him to dinner with nostalgic Oreos for dessert. 

While House tries out these various strategies to get Wilson to stay just a little longer, Wilson contacts Thirteen to discuss mortality. While Thirteen gives Wilson some advice on dealing with the surreality of impending death, the team, under Foreman's instructions of keeping things business as usual, try and diagnose a patient.

House isn't having it. He implores his squad to figure out a way to get Wilson to see the light, and not the one that he's reaching for in five-six months time.  Adams pipes up: "He's just trying to die with a little dignity." Paying homage to the series' pilot, House quickly corrects her and snaps: "There's no such thing." 

The patient's storyline dovetailed nicely with the rest of the episode, even if I could have dealt with a little less of him. Derrick, the patient, is hearing his dead brother's voice in his head. Even when House correctly diagnoses him, Derrick would rather continue hearing his little brother than move forward with his life and accept his brother's death.

House clearly can't accept Wilson's choice to accept death and not try and extend his life. But rather than explode at Wilson, House copes with his frustrations in different ways throughout the episode. He takes Foreman's offer of hockey tickets and shoves it into the hospital's water system.

At first, the overflow is small, starting with Foreman's bathroom. But as the episode progresses, and House becomes more and more desperate to hold on to Wilson, his one action of flushing Foreman's tickets continues to block the water system from flowing correctly until it culminates in a huge explosion, raining onto the patient, Park, Adams, and the MRI, a million dollar fix at the least.

When Thirteen appeared in the halls of PPTH, House looked as though he’d seen a ghost. Thirteen reminded him of what House did for her and called it the most selfless thing anyone’s ever done for her. House took this in, but it wasn’t until House’s confrontation with his patient that House began to see that there was no fighting Wilson in his final wish.

Taub tried to appeal to the House who understands pain, but it's because of this that House ultimately lashes out at Taub, raising his voice, which rarely occurs. Taub tells him he's being an ass, that Wilson just doesn't want to live in pain. House explodes, "Life is pain! I wake up every morning in pain!  You know how many times I just wanted to give up? How many times I've thought about ending it?" 

Realizing he's in public and sharing too much, House retreats while Taub stands stunned by the veracity of House's words. But what House neglects to acknowledge here is that the pain Wilson would have to endure would still inevitably lead to death. Yes, House combats his pain daily, but his life isn't in imminent danger; Wilson's is.

Just as it seems like Derrick has been diagnosed, Park delivers the news to House that he has taken ammonia in an attempted suicide. House, angry and upset with Wilson for giving up on himself after an extremely heartfelt and tearful confession of his love for House and need for a friend, takes this patient's attempt at ending his life personally. 

He wraps Derrick's IV cord around his neck and begins to choke up, forcing him to fight for his life: "You're resisting because it's our human responsibility to stay alive!" It's only Park who finally stops him, in an attempt for a poignant acting moment (fail!) when she says, "You spend your whole life searching for the truth. But something the truth just sucks!"

I bought Taub's similar philosophy at the beginning of the episode much more that Park's. Taub told Adams and Park before they attempted to help House, "Sometimes the truth is that there's nothing any of us can do." And it’s this truth that forces House to retreat back to his apartment and misanthropically play the piano.

I’m glad to see House rely on his music; it’s been too long since we saw House with a drink in hand, stroking the keys. This time he’s also nursing a head injury from Park’s cane assault, the only way she could stop him from killing his patient. As House plays, we see the patient and his mother attempting to cope with their loss. 

And then, as House opens his door for Wilson, he finally accepts that what Wilson wants is to live out the rest of his life happily. He even admits to Wilson that he could learn a thing or two from him.

Just in time for the episode to come to a close, Wilson and House being planning their next few months together when Foreman and a lawyer come in and tell House that his latest prank counts as a felony and House is going back to jail. How long, you ask? Six months. And with that, the credits roll.

Last year’s finale was entitled “Moving On.” Cuddy left, House ran away to an island, and the audience was left reeling. This year, we’re given “Holding On.”  As much as House clings to the idea of people not ever changing, circumstances certainly can, and House works this week to accept that. I can only imagine what an episode entitled “Everybody Dies” will entail.

Next week is the House series finale. When I spoke to David Shore about series’ endings last summer, he spoke highly of the controversial ending of The Sopranos. With Jennifer Morrison, Amber Tamblyn, Olivia Wilde and Kal Penn all slated to return, one has to wonder exactly what kinds of last minute tricks Shore has up his sleeve to shock his audience one last time. Anyone else a little nervous?


Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (110 Votes)

@lila No they don't. house is already a convicted felon. As explained in the end, the police is having already the cigarette boxes(or whatever house used to block the plumbing system) with his prints on it. That means he violated his parole, which can be proven by the police, with that back to the joint. No need for pressing charges, that is my understanding of last episode.


@lila No they don't. house is already a convicted felon. As explained in the end the police is having already the cigarette boxes(or whatever house used to block the pluming sysytem) with his prints on it. That means he violated his parole, which can be proven by the police with that by to the joint. No need for pressing charges, that is my understanding of last episode.


I'm not a lawyer nor am I in law school, but in order for House to have problems with the police, doesn't anyone need to press charges against him for the vandalism?

Neon glo

I'm glad I read the comments; these odd details could be clues. The fingerprints on the soggy tickets and House not being arrested for assault and the suspicious water damage don't make sense. UNLESS whoever said Foreman is pranking House is right. Maybe Foreman decided to make House serve his time - for felony vandalism but NOT felony assault - in order to give Wilson a reason to take the chemo. If Wilson does, he and House still get time together after House gets out. It would be a heartbreaking sacrifice for Wilson to suffer in order to wait for House but he would do it, I think.


This episode was truly incredible, just so emotional!!!!! Robert Sean Lenard has been as good as any other actor on tv these past two episodes and he thoughrly deserves an emmy nomination for either of the last two episodes, even though it wont happen :( Plus Hugh Laurie gave one of his best perfomances of the series tonight, especially in the scene where he just lost it with Taulb in the hallway, just increible and again he deserves an emmy nomination for this episode as well.
Also il be the ofrst to admit this hasnt been the nest seaosn of House by a long way, but i beleive this series ending arc has been one of the best arcs the show has done, just so emotional and well ascted and just brilliant in genreal


If the ending was not just a prank I think House will totally run, or they will die together.


I don't know if anyone has mentioned this as a possibility. But maybe Foreman just pranked House back with the whole lawyer/tickets/go back to jail routine. Have to say, pretty crappy prank with Wilson's cancer and all, but you know House would love it. I also agree that the whole water fiasco was unbelievable if for no other reason then maintenance would simply have shut the water off long before it got that bad.


The most beautiful moments for me in the whole series history have been the latest Wilson-House moments, they feel so relevant because of Wilson's disease and both actors pull the emotions off soooo well!!! I have never felt sad because of any storyline on House until now.


Persistent stapedial artery. :-)


Pam...I'm with you all the way,...after not discovering House till the third season, I've gotten the DVD's of every season and, after seeing every episode, I've come to the conclusion of similar finality. The only variation will be that House and Wilson will commit simultaneous suicide by driving off a cliff or into a gasoline storage facility (explosive enough?) so that they can end it all in some form of togetherness!! I know that sounds like some morbid way to end a wonderfully successful series of nearly 200 episodes,...but it may be fitting for such an emotional rollercoaster that House has provided us over the years.
Like so many of us,...I'll miss this series,...but hope to see the talent of Hugh Laurie in many future endeavors!!

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House Season 8 Episode 21 Quotes

Adams: He just wants to die with a little dignity.
House: There's no such thing.

I need to turn Wilson from a terminal idiot to an interminable pain in the ass.