I continue to be frustrated by House. Another season of 20+ episodes have gone past and maybe 60 minutes of footage made an impact on me. The problem is that those 60 minutes are breathtaking, beautiful writing, amazing acting and gorgeous storytelling. It’s the same every year, a few great episodes at the start, then by mid-season I’m tempted to give up, but just before I do the end of the season gets superb again. I feel all used and manipulated.
I’m not sure whether it’s because my criteria for ‘memorable’ are getting harsher, but I can probably remember as many cases this season as I can from the first season, and that was 6 years ago! It’s not even that they’re interesting while on screen, but not terribly memorable, I’ve been struggling to care and pay attention even when they’re gushing blood or screaming their heads off. The lack of subtlety when it comes to matching the patient with the personal issues House and his team are dealing with that week is getting increasingly hilarious; as is the repeated structure of how many times they’ll make the wrong diagnosis before a last minute save.
On the other hand, sometimes the slow burn stuff is a good thing, the way the characters very very slowly develop makes their little moments even more satisfying. They don’t change over night, or constantly go around talking about their feelings so that we all know what’s going on. The ways that the characters and their relationships develop, sometimes coming together, sometimes drifting apart is fascinating. The dynamics of something like the Cameron-Chase relationship was really carefully developed, as Chase became more certain of himself and embraced a lot of what House had been teaching, his relationship with Cameron had to change. Meanwhile whether it was the therapy, or the lack of drugs, House seemed more open to developing friendships – being more obvious in the small acts of kindness to Wilson, occasionally treating Taub as more of an equal in age, if not medical skill and even singing karaoke with Foreman and Chase. All the characters and relationships made sense, you could look back on the previous five seasons and see how they’d very slowly got to where they are.
For all those positives though there is one character and relationship that I’ve been against from pretty much the start. I have never understood how Lisa Cuddy is supposed to be a credible character. While she occasionally shows signs of manipulative brilliance, she more often appears an emotional mess, with a destructive obsession with a member of her staff that causes her to constantly overcompensate back and forth both privately and professionally. The balance of power has always bugged me, when she continually questions his treatments and then gives in after a suitably melodramatic scene, while also defending his medical genius against his critics she looks like an idiot. Gradually the personal issues have also intruded and come to a head this season. I’ve always felt they had good chemistry for fighting, but zero chemistry for romance and in a season where Cuddy is shown to be happy, with a baby, a boyfriend and a life… the way she allowed the shadow of House to still impact her life just made her look like a silly teenager.
When House is good, it’s absolutely superb. The opening trilogy was magnificent, the final episode emotionally devastating (until the last scene which was devastating for other reasons). It’s not that there are particularly ‘bad’ episodes, almost every episode has a scene, or even just a few lines that are delivered so beautifully I would rewind them, it’s just that the surrounding stuff is so unremarkable that it sometimes feels like a bit of a slog to get to the genius. But then, without the slog, maybe I wouldn’t appreciate the genius.
I’ll leave you, with some karaoke: