After 8 seasons and and 177 episodes, House is slated to air its last-ever new episode this Monday at 9pm on FOX.
Part of me is like ‘Hooray!’, after all, it seems as if the series has really run out of steam and new diseases to diagnose. But as a fan of the series, I’ve run the gamut from casual viewer to obsessive viewer to bitter-ender, and at this point I’m rather invested in the endgame.
House was probably the last show I ever watched casually. Sometime in the second season I picked it up week to week and got ahold of the season 1 DVDs in order to catch up. Through seasons 4-6 I watched House obsessively. Any of my college roommates can attest to the ridiculous amount of time I spent watching the show live, on DVD, and in reruns on Bravo and the USA Network. I can still name most episodes by title and the disease in which the patient is suffering from. (When you’re in Grad School anything that isn’t course work or thesis writing is a fun and welcomed distraction.)
Even last season I watched the show live, prioritizing new episodes of House above anything else on at the same time. But this season was different, I only cared in that I wanted to know how it all ended.
Earlier this week I read an article from the AV Club entitled What do we want from a TV finale?, which in turn really made me think about the upcoming House sendoff. Now the article was more focused on serialized shows with complex narratives, like Fringe or Lost, but it still made a few interesting observations about how viewer expectations and whether or not a series remains true to itself even in that finale hour dictate the perception of a ‘good ending’.
At its core, House has always been a procedural show, just with more sarcasm than anything airing on CSB. For a typical procedural I would be satisfied with the ‘life goes on’ ending, in which we know everyone is alright and will continue on doing what they’ve always done, just unseen on TV. The season 3 finale of Lie To Me is a great example of this – while they didn’t exactly get the chance to write a ‘series’ finale, the last episode acts well as one, but I’ve written about this before.
For House however, I don’t buy this scenario as a fitting ending. The character of House has never been okay on a day-to-day basis. It’s unreasonable and unsatisfactory to assume that he’ll go on working at PPTH, abusing his current team, and saving people after almost killing them a few times. House takes risks and does stupid things, he isn’t fufilled by the status-quo. Normal is not what he is looking for. After all, normal is overrated.
Some shows go out with a bang. Finales with a crazy plot twist or abrupt ending like Life on Mars, The Sopranos, or St. Elsewhere can be both mind boggling and frustrating. House has tried to employ the crazy in past season finales (hallucinations, bus crashes, more hallucinations, mental hospitals, crane crashes, and car crashes) with varying results so my fear is that this type of ending might feel more contrived than an organic result of what’s come before.
And then we have the House finale title: “Everybody Dies”. I’m not taking this literally of course, House is not Lost but the show has long debated about the afterlife and deals with death on a weekly basis. House himself has either almost died or been clincally dead a few times. And in addition to their patients, the characters on House have lost loved ones (Foreman’s mom, Thirteen’s brother, Chase’s dad, House’s dad) as well as coworkers like Kutner and Amber. Thirteen herself is dying and Wilson, as of a few episodes ago, is too. It’s evident why FOX has never promoted House as the feel-good show of the week.
Given the current story line its not unbelievable to assume that it is Wilson who meets his demise in the finale, but where does that leave House? He admitted out loud that he needs Wilson in his life and that would certainly leave the show on a somber note. Would David Shore really create a finale in which the main character is more tormented than when we first met him? Although its perhaps inline with the morose tone that perpetually fuels the series, I don’t know if that is the finale I want to see.
I suppose in the case of House its difficult for me to resolve my conflicting feelings of wanting to see all of the characters be okay with my knowledge of the House-verse and understanding that the finale episode is not entitled “Everybody’s Okay” for a reason.
So House fans out there, what do you hope or expect to see on Monday night’s finale? Are you looking for House to find happiness, go out with a bang, deal with death, or are you one of those fans still secretly hopping to see Cuddy again?
*It was Lupus once, episode 8 of season 4, “You Don’t Want To Know”.