After writing about House for the last two years, I've come to realize that there are two kinds of fans of the show: those that have watched every episode, know every story arc, and are completely obsessed... and those that have caught some episodes here and there on USA or Bravo and just enjoy watching House be who he is and are entertained by the series no matter what shape it's in.
I fall into the first camp. And after last season's finale, I wasn't too excited to see this premiere. House has done the whole "institution" bit before - with season 6's well-received premiere, "Broken." After a year of House attempting therapy, staying off drugs, and doing everything he possibly could to better himself, Cuddy finally noticed and the two started dating, only to be broken up midway through season 7.
By the end of that season, House took the drastic measure of driving through Cuddy's house and running off to some deserted island. And here we are now.
Which brings us to the opening scene of "Twenty Vicodin," showing us a House who is given the opportunity for parole after eight months in prison. We also get David Shore's clear backtracking regarding Rachel's (Cuddy's daughter) whereabouts when House drove his car through her home.
A number of fans were infuriated, wondering how House knew Rachel wasn't in the house. This was Shore's clear device to let us know she wasn't around. Apparently, every Friday Rachel goes to her grandmother's, which House claims is reason enough to safely take a stand and drive into someone's home. Is it silly of me to question House's rationality during a scene in which he drove his car into Cuddy's living room?
Regardless, the point of the scene is that House has five days in which to behave himself so he can be released. Of course, House attempting to behave himself is what landed him in prison, but at least it raises the stakes in the episode. I want what the parole board wants from House: to see remorse for what he did last season and for him to mean it!
But this is House, after all, and he rarely shows anyone what they want to see, especially when it runs as deeply as his emotions, which as far as I'm concerned, need to be addressed more that they are. House blames who he is on his leg, then on his medical practice, which he claims to want to leave to study physics, and more specifically, dark matter: the greatest mystery there ever was. How about rather than blaming your doctoring, your leg pain, and whatever else is happening on the exterior, we look within?
This is probably why I loved Dr. Nolan (Andre Braugher) so much when he was on the show; he talked to House about who he is and really made him explore himself. This is another episode of House, like all the others, where viewers are expected to read a little deeper and give the writers the benefit of the doubt in giving House a soul. I'm not sure they have succeeded.
At any rate, in addition to being under the pressure of "being good," House also is forced into giving over his Vicodin to the ultimate prisoner skinhead, Mendelson. Twenty Vicodin and very little time to get it. In the meantime, we see House and how he managed for the last eight months. He's got a friend who he plays chess with, and beats of course, the only seemingly sane prisoner in House's cell block.
And then of course, there's the patient. In "Broken," House was the patient, but there was also someone who he attempted to diagnose. House would always rather fix others than turn the lens onto himself. But this time, with the prisoner patient, comes the prison doctor, the latest in hot women doctors from House, the series. I could write a whole other article on the way women are portrayed on this show, but maybe I'll save that for another day.
Dr. Adams, the latest doctor to fall under House's diagnostic spell, is eager to diagnose patients in a Housian way. She seems like the ultimate hybrid of Chase and Kutner. Pretty and privileged, but with a real interest in the mysteries of medicine.
At this point, House has got extreme leg pain as he tries to save the Vicodin he's stolen from Dr. Adams for the skinhead and as he takes at least three pills, he decided to check himself into Protective Custody to avoid getting killed by Mendelson. But House wouldn't be House if he left a case unsolved. And this is where the House we know and love/hate comes bubbling to the surface. He attempts to force the patient into confirming a diagnosis in a dangerous way, but a doctor overlooking things won't let him. In comes the risky Dr. Adams to save the day, and to let House know she's in on all his little secrets. Not only did House not hire a lawyer to defend himself, but he also took the first deal offered to him without putting up a fight, showing Dr. Adams (AKA Wilson's epiphany twin) that House was just trying to punish himself.
But wait a second.
If House was just trying to punish himself, wouldn't jail not be the right place to be? Real punishment for him would be to own up to his emotions and work to figure them out, rather than shutting himself off from the world that he's too embarrassed to see anyway. On the other hand, one of House's biggest fears is to be alone, and as he told another prisoner, he hasn't had nary a phone call, let alone a visitor. So he's down and out. And ready to fall in line? Not quite.
The stubborn doctor that we know incites a riot and wants to be beaten up, and finally put into solitary confinement, where we see he truly is alone with just his thoughts. And then comes Dr. House's three favorite words. Not "I love you," which permeated last season's premiere, but "You were right!" (from Dr. Adams regarding the patient's diagnosis), which House feels indicates the ultimate in respect for another person. In season three's "Son of a Coma Guy," House was asked what he'd like to hear his father tell him, given the chance.
House thought for a moment, and said "You were right." So here it is. He finally gets the confirmation after several months of "punishing" himself. But is it worth where he is? Is House's pursuit of what's right what keeps him isolated to the point of complete solitude?
Yes, I enjoyed the last scene. And on second viewing, I enjoyed the episode more. But what's going to happen in the following weeks when House is put back in the hospital? I give the series five episodes to get everything back the way it was in season one, minus Cuddy, an integral part of the show. And I don't want to see the same old House. I want House to want to change and figure it out. He's damaged and I want him to pay for what he did emotionally. Jail for House was obviously not easy, but did it really challenge him to face his emotional downfalls? Of course not. If anything, it just gave him more time to avoid dealing with anything related to real remorse, which is again, what I want to see.
The worst part about the upcoming season is that even if we do see House being remorseful, it won't be directed toward the right person. Lisa Edelstein is probably never coming back to the show, so we're left without closure to a relationship that has been built up since season one (from my perspective). Others hated the whole relationship and may be thrilled that Edelstein is gone, but really, who is going to be House's boss now? Wilson? Enough with the foreplay. Foreman? Boring. Taub? Too short. And Chase, my favorite choice, will probably never get the job, because ultimately, when it comes to this show, I can't always get what I want, and neither can House.
So while I didn't mind this little trip down San Quentin Prison Lane, I know that where this season is going is not where I want to be. I'm not interested in more new characters. In fact, I want the old ones back. Kal Penn (Kutner), who left in the first place to pursue politics, just made another Harold and Kumar movie. Where would we be if his character never killed himself?
What about Cameron? And while the episodes that Amber died in were the best of the series (arguably), wouldn't it have been interesting if she were House's boss? And that's worst case scenario anyway, since all I really want is for Cuddy to return. Sigh. All I know is this: the series on the whole could have been better without constantly getting rid of, killing off, or allowing its stars to run off and make films after all of us have become attached and invested. And now we're left with who we're left with. And the only two I care about seeing are Chase and House. And House is borderline. So you do the math.
If this show is going to get better with age, which is already not looking so good, it needs to make me care about the characters, and not just the medicine. Develop the characters that we're forced to watch and I'll be a happier viewer, at least as happy as someone can be watching the most depressed doctor ever practice medicine.
Jeers to no Cuddy. Cheers to a new season and a new time slot.