I’ve watched episodes of Casualty and M*A*S*H and Nurse Jackie and even ER, but I’d never say I was a fan of medical dramas.
But I have just watched the final very last no there’s not going to be any more episodes of House MD – season 8, episode 22, “Everybody Dies” … and yes, I have now seen every single one of the 178 episodes, probably 134 hours total (in fact, probably more like 400 hours, since I own a boxed set from earlier in the run and the episodes are always repeating on Sky).
“I don’t feel he was my character; he’s not like me, or I’m not like him, but I do love him. I think it’s part of an actor’s responsibility to love the character you play, and I found him endlessly unpredictable and funny and self-loathing and unhappy. I was attracted to and moved by his unhappiness, and by unhappiness in general. Unhappiness is an unfinished state; happy people don’t need our help.” – Hugh Laurie on Greg House
House was a jerk. A “medical genius“, whatever that means, but a jerk. While TV Tropes has him down as bigoted, I’m fairly sure we never actually found out if House was bigoted or just enjoyed saying the most infuriating thing possible to all of the people he met.
Spoilers under the cut.
About halfway through the series finale, “Everybody Dies”, I was beginning to think that David Shore had messed up. The preceding episode, “Holding On”, was one of the best of the series. Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie both on top form, writing, plot, suspense all excellent.
This one seemed to be running as the kind of series-closer in which every character out of House’s past, most of them hallucinated, is coming back to Have A Word, while House lies in a burning building (or is he hallucinating that, too?) with a dead man next to him (who may be the patient of the week or may be another hallucination) and Foreman and Wilson wonder where he is.
Then, in the last few minutes, the episode spun out of control, wrapped itself around the mast, and became something else entirely: David Shore hadn’t failed us after all.
The spine of House MD has always been the relationship between House and Wilson.
[House] believes in love. He has always had the capacity to love others. Stacy. Cameron. Cuddy. And most importantly, Wilson. House loves Wilson as truly as one person can love another, and it’s in this phase of the episode that House realizes how poorly he’s treated that love.
Season one began with House and Wilson talking: Season eight ends with House and Wilson talking. Wilson got the first line in the series: House got the last. In their first exchange, Wilson lies to House – both to help the patient and to help House. In their last exchange, House has told a devastating lie to everyone in his life – including his own mother – except Wilson. In their first exchange, House says people don’t want sick doctors: in their last exchange, Wilson is terminally ill.
Wilson: 29 year old female, first seizure one month ago, lost the ability to speak. Babbled like a baby. Present deterioration of mental status.
House: See that? They all assume I’m a patient because of this cane.
Wilson, in the finale: “Gregory House saved lives. He was a healer and in the end, House was an ass. He mocked anyone … he was a bitter jerk who liked making people miserable and he proved that by dying selfishly, numbed by narcotics.”
Wilson: So put on a white coat like the rest of us.
House, texting: SHUT UP YOU IDIOT
House: I don’t want them to think I’m a doctor.
House, sitting on the steps: I got out of the back of the building. Switched the dental records.
Wilson: You see where the administration might have a problem with that attitude.
Wilson, whose instant reaction is concern for House, not anger at having been tricked into thinking he was dying: You’re destroying your entire life. You can’t go back from this. You’ll go to jail for years. You can never be a doctor again.
House: People don’t want a sick doctor.
House: I’m dead, Wilson. How do you want to spend your last five months?
Wilson: Fair enough. I don’t like healthy patients. The 29 year old female…
House: The one who can’t talk, I liked that part.
Wilson: She’s my cousin.
Wilson: When the cancer starts getting really bad…
House: And your cousin doesn’t like the diagnosis. I wouldn’t either. Brain tumor, she’s gonna die, boring.
House: Cancer’s boring.
House MD was a Sherlock Holmes. And just as Holmes is never really Holmes without Watson, (“I would be lost without my blogger!”) so House depends on Wilson.
There’s another exchange in the first episode:
PotW Rebecca: He’s your friend, huh?
James Wilson: Yeah.
Rebecca: Does he care about you?
Wilson: I think so.
Rebecca: You don’t know?
Wilson: As Dr. House likes to say, “Everybody lies.”
Rebecca: It’s not what people say, it’s what they do.
Wilson: [Pause] Yes, he cares about me.
Wilson is diagnosed with cancer. The last few episodes of the series focus mostly on how Wilson deals with that and how House deals with Wilson: Wilson rejects formal care, and House passes through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance. Most of them, all at the same time.
It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently. (“How Doctors Choose To Die”)
In “Holding On”, the penultimate episode, Wilson says to House: “I need you to tell me that my life was worthwhile and I need you to tell me that you love me.”
In “Everybody Dies”, the antepenultimate scene of the episode is House’s funeral – with all the major characters (except Lisa Cuddy) talking their way through what House meant to them, finishing with Wilson, who closes the service with “he was a bitter jerk who liked making people miserable and he proved that by dying selfishly, numbed by narcotics.”
It was worth a wound — it was worth many wounds — to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking.
“I’m dead, Wilson. How do you want to spend your last five months?”
And Wilson smiles.
Best House MD video ever: 7 minutes, at least 1 clip from each of 177 episodes.