For the second straight year, I again got behind on watching House. Something about coming home from university always puts me in a position where I choose Veronica Mars over House, and just don’t get around to watching it. As a result, I caught up on the first previous four weeks’ episodes over the past few days. With the episodes fresh in my memort, I feel like I had a great deal of momentum heading into this finale, and I expected things to come to a conclusion of sorts. And, in the end, it delivered: House leaves the airwaves with his team disappearing beneath him and preparing for yet another major change, and we’ll have to wait until next season to see how it pans out. With a case that relates to the key themes of the episode, and a focus on the interpersonal relations at Princeton-Plainsboro, “Human Error” lives up to the show’s higher standards.
Last season, House ended with a mind-bending trip into House’s subconscious after he is shot at the hands of a man angered over his wife’s death. It was something that felt important, final for that character, and was the kind of episode that House is often very good at. However, that doesn’t work as well here. The momentum building to this finale was instead much more mundane, following the story of Dr. Foreman’s impending departure. It’s not any worse: the last few episodes have held good momentum. However, it means that the finale will be of a different sort. It shows: David Shore, who wrote last year’s finale, is the creator and best writer the show has, and yet he wasn’t responsible for the finale.
As a result, unlike last year, we’ve got ourselves a story of the week this time around: a young woman from Cuba who has risked her life to travel to see Dr. House due to her degrading condition. House is apparently world famous, now, so her husband decides to get permission to arrive and see Dr. House…I guess. It’s all kind of skirted over, the international incident part of things, but the result is that House has a new patient to keep him busy…while he worries about Foreman. Without missing medical records (Lost after their boat capsized at sea), the case is a tricky one for House and the cottages…but it’s really the sideshow here.
The real story is the interactions between the three young doctors who have been with House for three years. The show hit a rough patch midseason with too much focus on House himself in the Tritter arc, but they realized soon after that House is a foil and not always the right center for dramatic tension. It is not always about what directly affects House, but more importantly about how those people around him indirectly affect his way of life. As a result, their drama, that of Chase, Cameron and Foreman, has become the central drama.
And the result was a fair amount of drama indeed. It’s been lingering ever since last season’s cocaine-laced sexfest, but Chase and Cameron’s sexual tension has been something that I’ve always enjoyed (Although that start bugged me. A lot). Over the past few weeks, Chase has spent every Tuesday informing Cameron, once and only once, that he likes her. It’s been subtle, simple, and has given the characters something to do. However, it has somewhat distracted us from Chase’s slow build into a voice of reason: in this episode, he calls House out on numerous occasions early in the episode for his behaviour in the Foreman situation, and he’s been doing it over the past few weeks. The result? House decides to fire him.
This leads to the dominos falling all around them, exactly what this episode needed to bring to the table. As House fails to find control with his patient, he loses control of his own team of doctors. Chase’s firing sends Cameron off the deep end, blaming Foreman and House and herself, in a way, for not giving in to Chase’s advances. Foreman starts to think House an even larger jerk, and gives up his home phone number. And Chase accepts his firing, kind of agreeing with House that he’s learned all he can.
Really, the theme of the episode is human error…but it’s a question of who the error is placed on. Is it House’s fault that the patient is dying, or that of his assistants? And is Foreman’s departure House’s fault, or rather his own stubborn nature? Who is really at fault in these scenarios, in these situations? It’s an interesting question, really, and it’s most difficult for House to answer: he’s spent so long disconnecting himself from his decisions, from his errors, that he’s finally starting to hit rock bottom over this case.
And yet, in the end the patient survived, even after her heart stopped and she was taken off bypass. And, of course, this is the symbol for everything in House’s life: the heart might stop beating, but there is always a chance that it can be brought back. And yet House can’t accept it: much as he couldn’t accept his own quasi-miracle at the beginning of the season, he can’t accept it in anyone else. He can’t accept that something just worked: he needs to know exactly what happened, even if she is seemingly doing fine. It literally becomes House vs. God.
And, in the process, people stop taking blame…kind of. Sure, Cameron gives up her anti-Chase commitment crusade and decides to make out with him on his doorstep, and House finally admits to Foreman that he’s an important part of the team and he wants him to stay. And yet, it isn’t that simple (It never is). The after-effects of Chase/Cameron are likely to be difficult (It’s never easy with Cameron), and House is goaded by Foreman into attacking him for being worse than House and for being miserable in his own way. It’s a brutal attack, and the result is that everything is just as messed up as it was before. House, thinking he had finally defeated God in his quest to solve the young woman’s case, in fact forgot about those around him: those people who really mattered most to him in his own ways. With Cameron handing in her resignation at episode’s end, House is now without almost all of his support systems (He’s still got good ol’ dependable Wilson).
On the whole, the finale did what it needed to do in a less complex fashion than what we saw last year: here, the stories of these characters came to a head with a case of the week that fit into the key themes involved. This year started with House struggling to come to terms with change from his drug-ridden state, and now he has to come to terms with change around him. His start? Replacing his Grade 8 guitar with a brand new one. Well, it’s a start.
And House does well with these endings, ones that lead into uncertain circumstances. As far as we know, all three of the cottages (Chase, Foreman, Cameron) are officially gone, and House will be faced with no one to listen to his diagnostics (I suggest he draft the people from the recent airplane episode, the young Chase specifically). We don’t know how it will change the show…but knowing the show as I do, something will occur that will get things mostly back to normal (Although I think that Omar Epps may actually be considering leaving).
But, until then, House delivered a finale that may not have broken any conventions, but certainly brought the personal issues between these individuals to a head. And, of course, there was plenty of “Human Error” to go around. I’ll be reviewing the season in detail in just a couple of weeks, where I’ll see how this finale fits into the puzzle. Want to have your voice heard? Send me off an email at cultural.learnings @ gmail.com with your thoughts on the finale or the season, and you’ll become a part of the process.