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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

House – “Moving On”

“I’m making changes.”

House gives Cuddy back her hairbrush.

This is what Huddy closure should look like: House in a final dramatic gesture to Cuddy's horror. So sweet.

Let me tell you why this was a good episode of House and it’s probably not for the reasons you think.

It’s not because of the structure of the narrative. In season finales past we’ve seen so many different ways for them to break the formula, some great (season 4) and some not so great (season 6). By comparison to those episodes, this one is pretty straight-forward. Yeah, we have interviews with Cuddy and Wilson that set up the last five minutes but nothing like Amber in the bus accident. Really, if it weren’t for the extremity of those five minutes, it would probably line up with anything else this season.

That very well might have been the intention, to keep it in line with most of the rest of the season. For most of the hour, it doesn’t even feel like a season finale of any show, let alone one in the rich tradition of this particular series. It’s kind of a rope-a-dope. But again, not for the reason many people think.

It’s not what actually happens at the end that makes this episode very good. It’s what it means. And it means a lot of things: breaking through, connection, finally getting on the other side of things after walling everyone out. But, most importantly to me, it means that all that Psych 101 Wilson, the Ducklings, and Cuddy communicate through is just as much crap as I think it is. With a single action, House looks around at everyone that claims to be the foremost experts in all things Gregory and says, “Don’t pretend like you know me.” And that is why this episode is special.

But let’s stop beating around the bush.

I said that the rest of the episode is like a normal, filler episode, at times even weaker. While it’s just part of the game that the patient-of-the-week colors the mood or situations of one of the doctors, sometimes it can be a little too on the nose. This week threatens that all hour long. The patient in question (a performance artist) doesn’t want to endanger her brain even to get better because it’s all she has. Obviously, House feels the same way because his intelligence isn’t just his livelihood, but also his identity and burden. It’s what tortures him, holds him up, and singles him out. So watching this woman play (admittedly weaker) mind games with a master manipulator while pursuing her own selfish ends is something for which House can feel a little empathy and her unwillingness to sacrifice her mind tugs at his inside feelings.

It’s important to note how often House watches the scenes involving this patient and how most of them are from a distance or behind glass, particularly the ones of resolution and love. For a man that’s generally not around a whole lot to personally care for his patients unless he would like to call them stupid or to steal the diagnosis thunder, he runs many of the tests himself (or sits shotgun) and is present for much of the process. What we’re driving at here becomes most obvious during the scene Afsoun and Luca act out her denial of treatment. Though it’s not from behind glass, House is clearly in the audience watching his own narcissism perform the way he thinks it should: her sense of self and purpose overpowers the sentimental life. It’s the ending he hopes for and, really, asks for with his own self-destruction.

Oh, but then there’s the epilogue. Luca convinces Afsoun to go through with the life-saving treatment and House gets way furious because he hates this tagged-on ending. I’ll level with you: this comes after the Cuddy lunch and I was already tired of seeing the softer side of House. His whimpering personality is not a side of him I appreciate, mostly because it doesn’t make any sense as far as his character goes. That pathetic, bleary-eyed bastard showed up to ruin the end of season 6 and I was scared, with his wavering “I feel hurt” admission to Cuddy, that we were going to get the sad-sack again. His outrage at Afsoun sacrificing her art for the sentimental life feels like an extension of that scene, like he was going to burst into tears as his monologue ham-handedly (though delivered as well as it could be) pours his feelings out onto the screen.

I braced myself for inevitable disappointment. I don’t know what the scenes opening the show meant at that point since, clearly, they were taken out of context. I could only hope for the best.

Continuing with more obvious symbolism (though not unappreciated), it is important that House sees Cuddy on a double-date through a window. He’d been seeing performances all day (mostly from a performance artist) but this is the one that was most resonant since it involved players he could connect with. Anyone physically seeing an ex move on would have some difficult feelings of loss and deal with those accordingly. But you can’t expect House to have a silent moment of reflection and then move on with his life. Go big or go home.

House crashing through the window means two things. First, it’s the full realization of the symbolism in relation to his closure. This character has been sitting on the outside of his own life for an entirety of the series. It’s how he can do the things he does. His depression that puts him on the sidelines of his own life allows him to make such horribly self-destructive decisions because those decisions reconnect him to his humanity. Painkillers numb him but it’s him that feels numb. He is jumping into a hotel pool. He finds a round-robin of hookers, dipping proudly into the taboo of sex workers. It’s almost cliche, not only in life but particularly for this show, to say he does things just to feel something and, post-Huddy, in the vacuum left by romantic emotion, he’s desperate to find something else to make him feel. You might suggest the pain in his leg helps him stay connected to reality but that might be his only lifeline and the constancy of the pain negates the necessary shock for feeling alive.

However, all this speculation may be against the second point. What happens is House finally crashes through the figurative wall he’s constructed and finds a way to connect to Cuddy in order to get the closure he needs. Driving the car through her house is his overdramatic way of engaging his life again and being able to close a chapter. What is amazing is how wrong everyone is about what he’s feeling.

Thirteen talks about how he’s going through a dark time in his life and they should cater to his ridiculous whims, participating in the game, to keep him in bed and continuing treatment. Cuddy accuses House of just regurgitating all of her and Wilson’s psycho-babble expressed of the past few days right before the sappy “I feel hurt” line. She said days. Did you hear the litany he comes up with? Not only is the list long but the items are sometimes conflicting. When do Wilson and Cuddy have time to do their jobs? They have to spend most of their time reading psychology textbooks, coming up with what House’s current mental state is. But then there’s the kicker, and what I feel is the entire reason for the emergency vehicles set-up. Wilson tells the cop House will find a bar that matches how he feels inside. He remarks “it’ll be the most dark, depressing hole you can find in New Jersey.” But Wilson doesn’t see that crashing into the house is closure. He sees it as a self-destructive act. Because he’s just as full as crap as everyone else that thinks they know how to read Dr House.

The ending with House finding a bar to match his mood on a tropical, sun-drenched beach made me cheer. It was the most surprising thing of the episode, to show everyone that they’re self-involved, projecting, and oblivious to House’s actual condition. While those closest to him ponder how close to rock-bottom House must be, the man has finally found a little bit of peace, albeit in a very expense way.

Normally I would condemn such a move on House’s character. Matt and I have even remarked on how House can’t find happiness (although I just think that’ll be the end of the show; Matt feels it’s completely antithetical to his character and he should die before finding serenity). But I think this fits. It’s very likely the fall will see the beginning of the end of House. From an industrial perspective, Lisa Edelstein has officially left the show and Robert Sean Leonard isn’t terribly enthusiastic about sticking around. Omar Epps, reportedly, will earn less for season 8 than he did for season 7. Who knows where Olivia Wilde will be by the time shooting starts up again? I think we’ve come to the point, narratively, where it’s time to wrap things up, too. After playing the Huddy card, there’s very little you can do with House without rehashing old storylines and it’s time for his walk toward redemption or at least something the audience can hold on to past the end. This is why I’m almost excited about season 8. Nothing to lose. It should (hopefully) make for some exciting television.

One last thing: you’ll notice I’m not spending any real time on Taub’s storyline. Because it’s garbage. When did House become a higher stakes version of Three’s Company? He’s like a joke. “I have two babies? Whoops!” He needs a catch phrase or something. “Raw dog gotta eat!” Was that too much? Anyway, it’s stupid. They’d better be planning a miracle for that story to work or I’m predicting a mysterious miscarriage over the summer for one of these Taub-lovin’ fools.

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