House, “Bombshells”

In my review of last week’s episode of House, I expressed my frustrations with the series’ inability to stick to any interesting development in regards to House and Cuddy. In “Recession Proof,” the series suggested some compelling tensions between the two of them but ultimately avoided any major blow-out so that it could provide the audience with a hackneyed emotional beat about the connection between the two of them. That episode presented a number of different possibilities, but didn’t stick the landing.

This week’s episode, “Bombshells,” is basically the reverse of that.

After stuffing the episode full of fun, but ultimately frivolous homages to television programs and genres — from Two and a Half Men to ’50s sitcoms and zombies — and a fairly rote story that tried to convince the audience that Cuddy might die, the ending of “Bombshells” completely lived up to its name. And even though I’ve been a big supporter of the version of the House the series has put out there in season seven, I could still recognize the faults in this version, especially after last week’s episode. Therefore, I am wholly supportive of the events of this episode, especially if it means a slight return to form for the series in the coming episodes.

I know some people might take issue with that, and they aren’t wrong. Television series should be about development and over the last two seasons, House has undergone some fairly substantial developments. He’s recovered from his Vicodin addiction, tried to become a better person and ultimately figured out how to sustain a romantic relationship with Cuddy without fully losing himself in the process. And now, all of that is jeopardy. In this episode, he gets too scared of what it could mean that Cuddy is dying, so after trying to avoid the situation for a day or so, he eventually mans up — with the assistance of his Vicodin. Cuddy survives, but she’s figured out that House has relapsed back to his old crutch and that means she can’t be with him anymore. House has put himself out there more than ever before and unfortunately, that didn’t really change anything. He still made mistakes and he’s ultimately still alone in his bathroom swallowing pills. All of his progress could be for naught. And for fans of the “Huddy” relationship or this more recent version of the series, it might feel like the last few seasons were pointless. I get that.

But here’s the thing: Despite my enjoyment of this iteration of House, it couldn’t last forever. And even if things were enjoyable on an episodic basis, there was still the larger issue of House’s consistent happiness. After five seasons of medicated miserableness, it still felt a bit cheap that House basically recovered from his addiction in a season and found love at the end of it. In general, he hadn’t faced the kind of adversity that could have pushed him back to the pills yet. All addicts relapse and House hadn’t really done that yet. Tying that believable breakdown to a break-up with Cuddy makes the most sense and will hopefully have the most dramatic impact moving forward as well. Throwing House back into his drug use just to toss a twist at the audience is cheap. Throwing him back into the drug use because he has nowhere to go BUT back to the pills after having his heart broken is still a bit cheap, but ultimately more satisfying. Some question the character’s real love for Cuddy in the first place, but I’ve been willing to go with it and am especially willing to go with it if it means a return of the miserable House. I don’t mind having a happy House, but throughout this season, he was probably too happy. I appreciate the writers’ willingness to disrupt the relationship and not rest on what looked to be a “happy ever after” situation.

I still have concerns going forward. As I’ve said previously, I didn’t particularly enjoy the more melodramatic version of the series that House was in S5/S6 and sometimes this year and breaking up the main romantic pairing could provide the writers an opportunity to bring back that version of the series. Obviously, having a lead character relapse back into drug use after having his heart stomped on should be a dramatic experience, I just prefer it’s handled with a finesse of the earlier seasons instead of the overtness of the last few. That’s probably wishful thinking, and the series has often used big “bombshells” like this to provoke and audience response without really following through with him — hello, Kutner’s death! — so I am not particularly optimistic. However, I think the writers had to pull the trigger on the break-up and the drug use. Those are really the only two plays they had left and combining them only raises the possible impact. The results could be awful, but I am actually excited for what this means for the rest of the season as well as House‘s long-term future.

Other thoughts:

  • The much publicized “dream sequences” were less distracting that I suspected, and ultimately, kind of fun in their pointlessness. I thought the zombie and musical interludes were the best, but all of them were well-done. I actually didn’t notice the fact that House had something in his mouth in each of Cuddy’s dreams, so at least the sequences had some diegetic purpose for them.
  • Cuddy almost dying was mostly stupid and only saved by the dream sequences and the ending. It provided another opportunity for the series to cover the ground of whether or not House actually cares about other people in a fine fashion, but the fact that we knew she’d never die totally undercut any of the overall impact.
  • This week’s case was totally uninteresting. More Taub depression. Yay.
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