House, M.D. Series Finale Review: “Everybody Dies” (Season 8, Episode 22)

house series finale fitting farewell House, M.D. Series Finale Review: Everybody Dies (Season 8, Episode 22)

In its early years, House was always one of my favorite TV shows. Seasons 1 and 2 are, bar none, the greatest procedural seasons I’ve ever witnessed. With a tremendous performance by Hugh Laurie, playing one of the cleverest ‘Sherlock Holmes’ updates of all time, and a string of fascinating medical mysteries, this was the rare procedural one could describe as genuinely unpredictable. It was surprising from week to week, if only to see how House himself reacted to a variety of situations, and I still enjoy revisiting early high points like “Three Stories” from time to time.

Starting with the third season, though, I began enjoying the show less and less. The writers started struggling to find interesting twists on the formula, ongoing story arcs became messy and unappealing, and the lack of dynamism among the characters – House isn’t the only person afraid of change on this show – grew tiresome. The introduction of a new team did nothing for me; apart from breakout star Olivia Wilde, none of the new characters held a candle to the old ones.

The series seemed to rebound with its two-hour sixth season premiere, “Broken,” where House dealt with his personal issues in a mental institution. It remains my favorite episode of the series. After the writers quickly hit the ‘reset’ button on six seasons of character development in the following episodes, though, I decided it was better to keep my good memories of the show in tact and quit before I got too frustrated. Following plot summaries occasionally ever since has only reinforced my decision (House drives his car through Cuddy’s house? Really? WHY?).

Thus, tonight’s series finale is the first new episode I’ve watched since season six, and the question is whether or not I felt it lived up to the brighter aspects of the show’s legacy.

In short? It absolutely did.

“Everybody Dies” was as close to a perfect House finale as I could possible imagine, a fabulous hour of television that cut straight to the heart of what House has always been about, evoking the best performances, characters, and stylistic flourishes of the series at large in the process.

The best choice David Shore and company made with their last hour was to focus solely on House himself. The show has always relied on a typically strong supporting cast, and I suspect some will be disappointed we didn’t get more resolution for certain side players. But apart from Wilson, none of them were ever truly important enough to focus on at the end of the story, and much of the power of “Everybody Dies” came from giving the entire hour over to one final in-depth examination of why this gloriously flawed human is worth loving, even in the worst of times. And it wasn’t the audience, or even House’s friends who needed that lesson reinforced. It was House himself, and it was a tremendously moving experience to watch House overcome the only hurdle the writers hadn’t exhausted in the last eight years: learning to cope with his self-loathing and find a reason to truly live.

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HOUSE TV Series Season 8 Finale Episode Poster e1335199793877 542x360 House, M.D. Series Finale Review: Everybody Dies (Season 8, Episode 22)

In one final, grand reference to Sherlock Holmes, though, living means dying and I suspect many will feel the show took a step too far in closing with House having faked his own death. Forget for a moment, that on the scale of ridiculous House moments – getting shot by an angry patient, forced to do medicine at gunpoint, hallucinating dead people in every other episode, driving a car through Cuddy’s house, inciting a prison riot, etc. – swapping dental records is relatively insignificant. Focus instead on the literary and thematic allusions at play.

David Shore and company have never been ashamed to admit that House is their interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and I think it’s entirely fitting to end with an homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, the story where Holmes and arch-nemesis Moriarty went off the Reichenbach Falls together after a fist-fight. Watson – and contemporary Victorian readers – thought Holmes dead for years, until he returned later on. “Everybody Dies” plays out in similar fashion, but instead of Moriarty, House’s greatest nemesis is revealed to be himself.

So throughout the hour, House grapples with his one true enemy by hallucinating departed (literally or figuratively) friends to speak for his subconscious. It’s a stylistic and thematic device the show has used many times before – in “Three Stories,” “House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart,” the final arc of season five, etc. – but they’ve always done it well, and this was, in many ways, the trope’s most meaningful implementation.

With Wilson dying, House heading back to prison, and all possible solutions exhausted, House had truly hit rock bottom. In that moment, it was time to finally confront his nemesis, the person responsible for all this misery. As he discovers speaking to the hallucinogenic projections and reexamining his final days, he only has himself to blame.

I love the way each of the hallucinations was implemented. Kal Penn’s Kutner character was always a bland, boring black hole during his time with the series, and House had no emotional connection to him. Due to this, Kutner was the introductory exposition device, the person House could speak to just to make sense of his surroundings.

Anne Dudek’s Amber Volakis, a spectacular side character who tried out for House’s team and dated Wilson before dying in season 4, serves as a mirror for House’s conscious mind. She’s his intellectual equal and he respects her, so she can force him to be honest about his feelings. It’s during this phase of the episode that House enters a serious, meaningful level of self-reflection, realizing why he considered suicide and recognizing the greatest dichotomy of his life: “Everybody dies, it’s meaningless,” he says. But if it’s truly meaningless, why would House be a doctor? Why would he devote his life to saving others? The puzzle itself isn’t enough, as Amber insists. She’s right. House knows she’s right. But on a conscious level, he can’t resolve this fundamental contradiction.

The next two figures are born from his subconscious. Sela Ward’s Stacy Warner, the woman House had his healthiest relationship with, both before the series opened and in season 2, represents the best of Gregory House. She is one of the few people in his life he can be truly proud around, because even though their romance didn’t work out, it wasn’t destructive or damaging either. So she’s the one who prompts him to think about God – a figure House has always railed against for obvious reasons – and makes him realize that even if he’s not religious, he does have faith. He 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.

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sbz laurie House, M.D. Series Finale Review: Everybody Dies (Season 8, Episode 22)

There’s the great sequence in the cafeteria – flawlessly played by Robert Sean Leonard – where Wilson finally stands up to House and says NO, as he’s always needed to. House realizes that Wilson was his conscience, and if he’s acted without one all these years, it’s because he had Wilson’s on loan whenever he needed it.  This is the first step in House’s ultimate revelation. As Stacy explains: “You’ve been looking to him to find what you have got to find within yourself. Something you can find.” This is the first hint House gives himself that even though he is flawed – tremendously, hilariously flawed – he really does have the capacity to change and, more importantly, to stay true to that change.

With this established, the last hallucination is obvious. It has to be an embodiment of House’s shame. House has to confront the darkest part of himself, the part that has destroyed every relationship he’s ever had and the lives of several people. To my mind, this could only be embodied by one person, and I am so, so glad that the writers didn’t mess this one up.

It’s Cameron, Jennifer Morrison, the original woman on House’s team. The writers destroyed Cameron’s character in later seasons, showing such naked contempt for what was always one of the show’s better creations that they unceremoniously kicked her out the door midway through season six. That’s actually the event that convinced me to stop watching, because it was largely House’s fault that Cameron broke up with Chase at all, and I thought that was a step too far for even Gregory House to take. But by making Cameron the embodiment of House’s shame, the writers admitted to the mistakes they made, and infused those mistakes into the characters. House has plenty of other reasons to feel shame around Cameron; the way he toyed with her emotions in the early years, the tough attitude he always had to her ideas, the aforementioned incident with Chase, etc.  Of all the people on this show, Cameron was one of the only ones House ever loved – not romantically, but platonically – and time and time again, he failed to live up to that love. It had to be Cameron appearing to him at the end.

Jennifer Morrison was tremendous in her scene, gently explaining to House the truth he’d always wanted to deny: That he led a dark life, and he had no one to blame but himself. That when he or his friends suffered, it was typically because of a mistake he himself had made, not because of an external force. That because of this, House had plenty of excuses to die: “They’re all different,” she says. “But the reasons are all the same. You’re arrogant. You’re self-destructive. You only care about yourself.” She is a projection of House at his worst, the part of House’s personality that should not exist and deserves to die. And unsurprisingly, she’s the only figure House can’t argue with. House’s greatest nemesis has always been, and will always be, himself.

But before departing, House has one final tidbit to share: that by saving the drug addict, he forfeited a chance to get out of the entire parole situation clean. He performed a truly selfless act. Cameron – House’s subconscious, rather – picks up on this. It undermines the conclusion he’d just come to. In any mystery, there can be a million pieces of evidence that point to one conclusion, but if there’s one contradictory idea, the answer can never be certain. House can’t just lie down and die ignoring this. Combining it with what Stacy told him, the clues point to a brighter future, a future where House could focus on the good and purge the bad. A future where he could overcome his own worst enemy by slowly robbing it of the personality traits that fuel self-destruction.

For a moment, I thought the episode would climax here, on this revelation, and I prepared for disappointment. House has seen his inner demons before. He’s recognized he has the capacity for change. The problem – his core problem, I would argue – is that none of it ever stuck. House would have to do something much more….explosive to truly enact lasting change.

And explosive is exactly the option he takes. Just as John Watson witnessed his best friend Sherlock go over the Reichenbach falls, Wilson arrives on the scene only to see House engulfed in flame. It’s in this moment, I assume, that House gets his last, most brilliant idea: the solution that will actually, permanently fix his life.

With his best friend watching, he kills Gregory House.

Yes, the man himself escapes out the back, swaps some dental records, and lives to motorcycle another day, but he lets Gregory House, the man we’ve known, loved, and loathed for eight years, perish in that monstrous fire. He has to. Gregory House is his Moriarty, the reason for all his suffering, and if he continues living in a situation where Gregory House is enabled to do his worst, he will never get healthy. So he lets Gregory House die. He severs all ties with the world he used to know, and decides to focus all his energy on a selfless action: giving Wilson the last five months he deserves.

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I think House got the idea when he saw Wilson standing outside the building, come to rescue his friend from the fire. In that moment, I doubt House could ignore the depths of Wilson’s selflessness and he decided that he would go to drastic measures to be there for Wilson the way Wilson was always there for him. Again, Gregory House was a poison in their relationship. Gregory House was abusive to Wilson, no matter how kindly Wilson treated him. But with Gregory House out of the picture, this new, improved man can devote all his energy to paying Wilson back for every kind deed he ever performed. To take on Wilson’s pain, if need be, and allow his best friend to live in the moment, rather than dreading the future. To be there to tell Wilson that “Cancer’s boring” – a perfect final line for the series – and give him an exciting new series of adventures to occupy his final days.

And it starts, of course, with a motorcycle ride.

I honestly couldn’t be happier, or more moved, by what David Shore and company achieved in this final hour. As a show, House has made almost as many missteps over the years as its title character did, and by embracing and owning up to those mistakes – House’s subconscious exploration of his flaws played like a thinly-veiled meta-commentary on the show’s own stubborn refusal to make meaningful change – they crafted a finale that honored and improved upon everything that came before, rather than just cherry-picking and revisiting the best moments in a rocky eight-season run. The finale was everything I loved about House distilled into one wonderful hour, and after years of feeling hurt and betrayed by the downfall of what started as such a great series, I now feel nostalgia and warmth towards the show once more. If that isn’t above-and-beyond what we require of any finale, let alone House, we’re being far too critical.

I will miss House now that it’s gone. I’ll miss the good Doctor’s one-liners. I’ll miss Hugh Laurie’s flawless, iconic performance. I’ll miss the hallucinations, the cane, the whiteboard, the Vicodin, and the ball. I’ll miss many of the characters, especially Wilson, and I’ll miss the understated beauty of the Princeton Plainsboro set. I’ll even miss the medical mysteries, as repetitive and uninvolving as they got in the later years.

But what I’ll especially miss is the opportunity to examine one of the most fascinating characters in the history of television, a character whose own personal struggles revealed so much about the ways in which we all harm ourselves by clinging to our flaws to maintain a stable sense of identity. Gregory House was as universal as he was singular. There will never be another like him.

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  • http://twitter.com/FunBerto80 Roberto V

    Great review! I will truly miss this show as well.

  • Singi Uc Tumi

    hell yeah

  • Vanya Pavlov

    house will return back

  • Stephen

    I will really miss this show. Started watching back in 2006. The first 3 seasons will always be the best. 

  • social_ineptitude

    Great
    review. I’m not sure I agree with the part about Cameron being the only
    character that House platonically loved or about her representing his
    (and the writers’) shame.

    Cameron was my favorite duckling and I’m glad she got an important
    part in the finale. I agree that she was the most intricately-written of
    the ducklings and that she was the character that challenged him the
    most. However, I think that House hallucinated Cameron in that moment
    because she was the one that most believed he could change. 

  • 2gio Bazz

    I love every words of this. <3
    I love the idea that LOVE Cameron House .. But I always hoped, to the end, with all my heart, that he could tell her. That he could prove it. They could share that 'love'together. Even if only for a moment.
    That's what makes me sad, which makes the final incomplete in my opinion.

  • horcrux

    Absolutely Brilliant Review for a brilliant series finale of a brilliant show. 

  • Alex O Neill

    ONly thing that let me down was no return of Cuddy, I felt she was the only character missing, and I had really hoped she would show up at the funeral..

  • InlandEmpireRabbit

    Really great review. Absolutely loved the series, it’s been my favorite for a long time. Loved the characters, and every season. The finale was perfect. I will miss the show.

    I do wonder though how the fire was started in the first place?

  • Censi

    Perfect review!

  • Andrea

    House was a stoke of genius from first to last. I have watched many a TV
    show and with all the “crap” (aka reality shows, the Kardishains, Glee,
    and Jersey Shore, pure cheap thrown together crap) this show shined
    like a bright diamond like no other.

    I cried a bit when House went off the air and I don’t cry over TV shows
    leaving the networks. The characters were like friends in some odd way,
    someone you knew, that is how real they came across.

    The only problem I ever had with the show was House’s jabs at his belief that there was no God and his drug overuse.

    The last episode resolved and redeemed House as he came to terms that
    there is a God, friendship, love, and a second chance to be HAPPY! That
    he finally could change even though his life was not perfect, he could
    have his best friend by his side as long as he could and actually let
    himself believe in something real besides just puzzles.

    He makes the ultimate sacrifice in giving up everything to be with and
    to take care of his lifelong friend and in the end he sees there is more
    to himself than he ever thought possible.

    If producers ever make another Masterpiece like this it would shock me
    as the cheap thrown together junk on TV right now cannot hold House a
    candle.

    The last episode was PERFECT!

    Wilson and House finally got to ride off into the sunset with their
    friendship intact after 20 years, House was truly happy and Wilson had
    his best friend to be by his side.

    THE BEST ENDING EVER IS THAT —–

    For all we know House and Wilson went to a forgein local and House with
    his genius manages to cure Wilson and they can play pranks on each other
    for another 20 years, now that would be a great spinoff Mr. Shore:)

    WE WILL ALL MISS THIS SHOW FOR ALONG TIME TO COME

    • Theamazingduck

       “The last episode resolved and redeemed House as he came to terms that
      there is a God”

      No, he really, really didn’t. House would never believe in any god.

      • Andrea

        Then you really need to watch the show again if you missed this. House always believed in love, God, and friendship. He let Stacy go because of guilt for seeing her husband go though the pain of almost losing her like he once did, out of a sense of right. Out of not “thinking” he could be enough for her, so yes he can love.
        He believes in God because if he didn’t he would not have looked up when Stacy told him he did have faith and always had. If you took notice over the seasons House’s “hate everything he can’t understand” position was an outward reflection that he didn’t believe in himself.
        Stacy represents that during his battle with himself, as she reflects “House’s brighter side” telling him what he has always knew and in the end he finally allows himself to believe in everything he shunned due to his pain both mentally and physically.
        So in response to your “No, he really, really didn’t. House would never believe in any god.” So honestly if you didn’t catch that he did then, then in the words of House ——
        “Your an Idiot!”

        • MrDarkly

          You need to watch the episode again:
          House: “You can’t base your life on something you don’t believe.” (referring to God)
          Stacey: “What about love? I lived with you for years I know you believe in love.”

        • NOPE

          Obviously you’re just making up what you want to be true. House never had faith, and Stacy did not change that. If House suddenly started believing for no good reason, that would have been moronic and out of character. The writers aren’t dumb enough to illogically change House like that. The only way House would start believing in a god is if proof showed up, which will obviously never happen. 

        • margaret

          The monotheistic religions are currently the largest out there worldwide, so I understand why you think this. However, having faith does not mean you have to believe in God.

          It seems to me you’re projecting your own desires. Just because love exists… doesn’t mean God exists. Maybe some would say God=love, but love≠God.

    • Pstrim

      It could have been Oh so much better.

    • NightOwl

      House never believed in God, and he still does not. He’s an atheist, and nothing in the finale changed that.

  • Luka J Ric

    And Sir Arhur Conan Doyle, the man who wrote Sherlock Holmes was born on this day, 1859.

  • Qwerty123

    A brilliant analysis of the finale that helped me understand why I loved it so much. Thank you for summing it up so well.

  • yoshimi

    really great review, thank you!

  • Danny Shabo

    Fantastic review, i couldn’t agree more with you. To be perfectly honest, i’ve been wondering how the show will end since the announcement. I even watched Sherlock Homes and the dark shadows for clues, as i know this show is partially based on that concept, yet when 8 o’clock hit, everything i knew, everything i expected went out the window as i was filled with emotions.   
    I didn’t always watch house, in fact when i first saw the re-runs on USA Network i didn’t like it, i was annoyed, what is this? why is this on here? i asked, until my brother ordered the netflix Series one and made me sit with him and watch it, “Thanks Bro” is what i told him through skype, before i let him go so i can watch the show. 

    What i like about Gregory House is that he put on a mask so believable, so strong, that it truly got the best out of his employees and his job. He was a brilliant doctor, everyone in and out of the hospital knew that, yet i believe he stayed modest with that concept although i think he knew he was the best. His character is so colorful, so full of life, completely the opposite of what he tried to show, letting 13 go, even driving a wedge between Chase and Cameron i think he knew that it was for the best, and he saved both of them from a miserable life, and as we saw at the end, Chase takes over House’s job, something he truly loved, and Cameron got the family she wanted since the start of the show and even before. 

    House got the best out of all the relationships but two. Stacy, his ex-wife, was married and happy, Chase became the Head of the diagnostics department, 13 enjoying life before she also dies, Cameron got a happy family, Tawlb accepted his father ship statues, Wilson dies, but House is letting him die happy and finally, Formen became the Dean of Medicine, something impossible to achieve on his own and without house, that’s why he bailed him out of prison. 

    The only two relationships i think he didn’t accomplish was with Cuddy and Kutner and those weren’t his fault either. Lisa decided to leave the show rather then stick around and i think the ending would have been different if she stayed (starting a family, house leaves medicine, change…) I will always hate Lisa for leaving the way she did, yet i’m glad because this ending was flawless. Kutner also left the show to peruse his own ambitions and i think had he stayed, he would have been comparabile to Formen, and he would have achieved a smilar accomplishment.

    Since i started watching House, my Monday night slot has been closed and although I LOVE other shows such as NCIS and Burn notice and i think they are great shows, i will never love another show (i think) as much as House M.D.   

    Finally, i want to close this long message by parsing Hugh Laurie’s acting skills, my god is all i can say, and the writers of the show for their great work. Many shows have had character “shak ups” and didn’t survive (Scrubs) yet House managed to change his staff a few times, and the show remained on its two feet just fine. 

  • housefriend

    This season has been one of the best by far The reviewer needs to watch The C Word (directed brilliantly by Hl) and Holding On tofully grasp the impact of the finale and the series as a whole.THE ONLY LOVE STORY EVER PORTRAYED HERE WAS HOUSE WILSON,Houses ability to love and car have been seen by others but overwhelmingly it was Wilson who accepted the whole person of Gregory House and loved him for that.
    Holding On had one of the most moving love scenes Ive ever seen in 40 years of television.The car scene set the bar really high .Amazing work by RSL and HL,The emotional impact in that scene tops any awful attempts over the years that tv has had to get a love scene right!! Beautiful

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Debbie-Jones/1123920334 Debbie Jones

    Excellent, excellent analysis.

  • Pstrim

    Perfect analysis of the show up until the analysis of the final eepisode. Everything that the last few seasons lacked, the finale lacked. It was far to short to cover the needed “bases”. It lacked all the things that made the series a hit. I did like the last one minute though. : )

  • Hardcorps80204

    Very nicely done! You gave props to many folks & things that gave this show depth & heart. And you discussed the love between House & Wilson without using the DEEPLY annoying word “bromance,” which I appreciate. I’m going to miss the pair of them. Thanks for the insight!

  • Jkidd56

    Incredible review, I really enjoyed reading you break down each character involved in examining his subconscious and what it meant in the grand scheme of the finale and to House’s character. I will also miss the show but do not deny that there were many missteps in the evolution of the series.

  • Rheai02

    Wow!! Thanks for a wonderful view of the finale. I will now miss House on a different level becaue of this. Cheers!!

  • Karl

    I couldn´t enjoy the finale since Cuddy wasn´t there. The person House loved the most couldn´t make it to his funeral. I always considered Wilson his second option. First when Cuddy played hard to get in earlier seasons and then when she decided she wanted him away. If she had chosen House above anything, Wilson wouldn´t have had a chance. But since Cuddy left, he was his only option left.
    And that´s why i like the House/Wilson relationship. They only have each other and that makes it feel real.

  • Memyselfandi

    First three season were really brilliant, Superb, flawless, and so on…

    After season three, House M.D became the biggest bullshit I’ve seen in years.

  • Jyoty

    Awesome review…. In many ways the final episode sums up the entire series, the physical pain someone endures might sometimes create mental blockages unknown to them but yes when the person realises that instead of trying to forget/subdue his pain he could actually help others overcome theirs….somewhere and somehow this would help him live on ….Most episodes ended with this theme appilied either to the other characters or the patients…finally it was House himself …..
    P.s always loved the background music in this show esp the last song chosen so beautifully like each of its characters : handpicked yet complementing the central character….

  • gwynedd

    This is the most brilliant analysis of the finale that I’ve read. Well done!

  • joeinlosangeles

    I am late to the game and just watched the entire run of House on Netflix. I loved the show, but disliked the finale. The gimmick of having a person hallucinate conversations rarely works for me, and I was disappointed when I saw that was the structure of the episode. The instant they declared House dead, I knew he had faked his death, Unlike you, I actually found this to be one of the weakest episodes of the 180 some shows,.