Season finales on House have always been a time for change. The first season ended with House's lost love, Stacy, coming back into his life. The second season ended with House getting shot, hallucinating, and deciding on an experimental treatment to cure his leg. The third season ending with House's team quitting or being fired. The fourth season ended with Amber dying. The fifth season ended with House having a nervous breakdown and checking himself into an asylum. The sixth season ended with House and Cuddy getting together. These are all big, dramatic moves that each in turn promised to shift the show's core concept, so, of course none of those changes actually held. Stacy stuck around for a few episodes, but when she left her husband for House, he pushed her away. House's leg pain eventually came back, House hired a new team (and most of the old team still works with him), House didn't really change much post-Amber, House is back on the Vicodin, and, huzzah, Huddy is dead. It's like a game, really. Each year, the writers have to come up with some new way to trick us into thinking that the show is moving on. And then, come next season, they have to find some way to undo all those changes, because in House-land, we can have the illusion of growth but not growth itself.
So I wasn't hoping for much from "Moving On," because, well, it hasn't been the sort of season to inspire hope. And now, having watched the episode, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. On the one hand, the ending had House once again reaching some kind of personal or professional (oh, like there's any difference for him) epiphany, one that was dramatic on the surface but showed him dealing with the same problems he's had for the whole run of the show, without much new understanding of any of them. And it was a very silly ending, which was actually sort of horrifying, in that House could've killed some people with his stunt. It'd be hard to have any sympathy left at all for the character if he turned actively homicidal. And yet... I laughed. After the melodramatic cold open (which started in the aftermath of the episode's climax, so we got to spend all of "Moving On" worried that House was going to break Wilson's wrist and assault Cuddy) (at least, that's what I thought), House ramming his car into Cuddy's house was both ridiculous and sort of hilarious, especially after a whole episode's worth of Cuddy and Wilson's pestering. In the real world, this would be an unconscionable act. But in context... Well, provided I will myself to forget that, last House saw them, Cuddy's entire dinner party was sitting in the dining room he hit with his car, it was oddly satisfying. And even better, House seemed happy in the end.
Also good: "Moving On" was actually pretty engaging throughout. It wasn't great TV, but it also wasn't the dreck we got last week. The PotW, a performance artist played by Shohreh Aghdashloo (who a. Has the best name ever and b. I mostly remember as being utterly terrifying in season four of 24) presents a decent case and one that connects clearly with House's own situation, while not so belaboring the point as to become dull. She tries to turn all her stress and pain into work, which is what House has been clinging to all these years; in fact, the reason she comes to see him is because she thinks she has a terminal illness and wants to document his treatment of her as one last art installation. When House realizes that her previous doctor misdiagnosed her and her presumed terminal condition is actually treatable, the PotW refuses the more effective form of treatment because the radiation makes her brain fuzzy. This drives her assistant and former lover to leave her, because he can't stand to watch her die for her art. (I guess the other treatment is just completely ineffective? Or else this guy only sticks with winners, or something.) House thinks this is the right call, because people hurt you and so forth, but then the PotW has second thoughts. She decides to do the radiation treatment after all, her assistant returns, and House gets upset.
Obviously, there's a bit of projecting going on, like there always is on this show. But I found the projecting interesting. I'm sure we're supposed to see how messed up House is and how wrong he is not to accept that people might leave you, but that doesn't mean you can close yourself off from needing someone in your life. I mean, that's the standard narrative for the "unhappy loner is frustrated" story, and, well, driving his car into someone's home in a fit of jealous rage isn't really the behavior of a well-adjusted man. And yet, House's anger throughout the episode didn't play as him being an immature brat, apart from that vehicular domicide. His irritation at Cuddy's insistence that they needed to hash over their problems made sense; when you're upset and hurt, the last thing you want is the person who upset and hurt you to keep bothering you and demanding you open up to them. Especially when that person keeps telling you it's for your own benefit, when it's pretty clear they're just trying to deal with their own unresolved guilt.
I feel like I should have disliked this more than I did. Which is an odd thing for a critic to say, even one as lumpy and waffling as myself. Because really, House ramming Cuddy's home was all kinds of dumb. The idea that Cuddy would just happen to be having a double date, in the middle of the day, when House and Wilson came by, was weird to begin with. (Time just seems bizarre on this show. Like when House asked Cuddy if she was seeing anyone, I had no idea how long it's been since the two of them broke up, so I don't know if that was a strange question or not.) And there's just too much idiocy in the act of auto-assault for it to be taken at face value, since, again, House could've killed people. Hell, Cuddy's daughter was somewhere inside. That's kind of evil.
But getting past that, well, at least he didn't check himself into a nuthouse, and at least no one committed suicide. The announcement of Lisa Edelstein's departure from the show already confirmed the death of Huddy, but even if she wasn't leaving, it's hard to imagine the two of them getting back together after this. I do like that. And I liked how "Moving On" didn't shortchange just how impossible it can feel when you're trying to convince yourself that people are worth knowing after someone who means the world to you lets you down. Maybe it was Laurie's performance, maybe it was the writing, but you can almost see the episode admitting that, well, all of life is pretty screwed up, and the smarter you are, the more difficult it is to just accept the perversity of circumstance. Like all the finales, this promised some kind of change, but the change here is just that maybe next season, everything will somehow go back to the way it was. Oh, I doubt House will be back at Plainsboro anytime soon (I really hope he ends up walking the Earth like Cain in Kung Fu, but I doubt this will happen), since we've got to find some way to keep the cast-members who still are with the show around. But maybe next fall, House won't be pretending to be normal just to get Wilson off his case. Maybe he'll just go back to being an ass, without the pretensions of trying to be a better man. Maybe he'll just stick to being miserable, as that seems to be what he's best at.
Ah, of course he will. We wouldn't really have a show with a happy House. I guess I'm just hoping that maybe we'll get a season that deserves him. Although we probably won't.
- Well, that's another season gone. Not sure if I'll be back next year, or if coverage of the show will continue, or what will happen next. But it's been fun.
- I didn't mention the STUNNING REVELATION that Taub doesn't use condoms. I'm sorry, I mean that Taub's ex-wife (who he still has listed as "Rachel Taub" in his phone, because apparently he wouldn't know who she was otherwise) is also pregnant. Do not. Care.
- "It's a privacy curtain!" "It wasn't working."
- "I've got a title for your piece: 'It doesn't mean anything.'"
- Did we gain anything from all the "start three days later, then jump back in time" nonsense? I don't think we did. And I think the ending would've been more entertaining if we hadn't been prepared for it.
- Hugh Laurie really is great on this show. I tried to imagine any of this working at all without him and couldn't.
- UPDATE: I have changed the grade from B- to C+. Please do not panic.