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.