As the shaky seventh season of House draws to an end, tonight’s episode – After Hours – didn’t leave any enormous clues as to an emotional cliffhanger for next week’s finale.
After Hours feels like yet another experiment in finding new ways to break the show’s formula. Is it possible that this season has felt so uncomfortable because the format has shifted and it’s unfamiliar to us? The team are all off on different tangents – Thirteen and Chase teamed up to help an injured prison friend of Thirteen’s, Taub taken to a strip club by Foreman after he discovers his ‘girlfriend’ is pregnant. And most significantly of all, House, back in his bathtub. But this time he’s not simply self-medicating, he’s performing DIY surgery on his tumor-ridden leg.
It’s testament to Hugh Laurie’s acting skills that he looks for all the world like someone who’s just cut his own leg open. His face is hollow and drawn, his eyes betray exhaustion, but there’s a simple truth behind what House is doing: no matter how cynical he appears to be, he wants to survive at all costs. Hence the home surgery kit.
It’s probably also testament to the man’s pride that he refuses to admit his mistake and ask for help.
The House storyline is written in such a way that the other storylines don’t get overshadowed. Still, it was a masterstroke that he could only reach Cuddy, and bringing Cuddy’s daughter Rachel into the mix really changed the dynamic. We could see his ability to relate to the child (albeit in his slightly inappropriate way), which might have warmed Cuddy to him. Even the short but meaningful interchange with Wilson at the end was excellently executed.
The only problem is that House needed to change last year as well. I think it’s his own barriers that keep him from getting close to people, so how does House deal with that? He’s notoriously immune to psychologists.
Anyway, when an injured prison friend arrives at Thirteen’s door in need of medical help, Thirteen and Chase team up to try and save the woman. The climax of this storyline comes after an actual fistfight between Chase and Thirteen when they disagree about whether to take the patient to hospital and risk her getting taken back to jail. What’s really at play in these scenes is that Thirteen has to admit to euthanising her brother. Shockingly, Chase decides to share his own murderous secret, which is an interesting way of drawing those two characters together.
Elsewhere, Taub is discovering that his girlfriend is pregnant. Awkward. What does he tell his wife?
While Taub deliberates, Foreman takes him out to a strip club to cheer him up. He manages to wrong-foot a stripper when he points out her possibly cancerous mole, and when she pulls a gun on him, he has a near-death epiphany. And surprisingly, he decides he wants to have a child after all.
Simple to recap, but each storyline brought a serious amount of drama. And the ending was so satisfying as the four team members started their day’s work together – each of them visibly tired, yawning over their cups of coffee. But for once, everybody minded their own business, and nobody asked the usual awkward questions about why they were all so knackered.
As I said at the top of the review, part of me is yearning to return to the old formula of House. But as Wilson said right at the end “Something has to change.” And I suppose for the characters to grow and move on, perhaps we have to be exposed to new types of narrative within the show. A solid episode of House though, much better than recent weeks. But does the finale episode title Moving On confirm the rumours that it may actually be Wilson who’ll be moving on? Can’t wait to find out.