May 19th, 2008
Last week, I thought House was style over substance for 55 minutes before, in the final moments, it transcended into something more interesting – suddenly, a rather pointless and indulgent episode took an intensely personal turn, and “Wilson’s Heart” had a lot more dramatic resonance by default. Placing Amber in danger is actually an incredibly smart move, mainly because we really don’t know what will happen.
Anne Dudek has been enough of a revelation as Cutthroat Bitch that keeping her in the cast could be a theoretical option, or at least keeping her alive long enough for her to appear as a recurring character. At the same time, this episode in particular did a great job of escalating tension to the point where Amber’s death could fundamentally change these characters enough to justify the whole selection process that resulted in three new cast members in the first place.
The result is a finale far less interesting or eventful as last week’s finale, but a hell of a lot more tension-filled, and with a lot more dramatic interest – I didn’t really care about House’s head games last week, but this is the most that I’ve cared about a patient on the show in forever. And in a procedural show that is too often self-centered on House, it was great to see a final hour that barely even dealt with his head in favour of Wilson, 13, and more people who really needed their time in the sun.
And yes, this is Wilson’s episode: Robert Sean Leonard does some great work as a man whose heart is dying in front of him, and who is discovering both how much he cares for Amber and how much he is willing to sacrifice for her safety. That this extends to allowing House to risk his life, latching onto House’s willingness to earlier in the episode ignore his own intuition to respect Wilson’s wishes. It’s not an easy journey, and his character is at a point of desperation where we rarely see characters on the series beyond major traumas.
The entire storyline plays out at the right pace, although I am a bit disappointed that the storyline is ultimately as much about House as it is about Amber and Wilson, too much so. Placing House in peril after his ridiculously risky and unrealistic electroshock stimulation is too easy, especially as it takes away from the emotional revelation that Amber is doomed to die. Putting House into a coma at the same time seems to cheapen that moment, especially because it dilutes rather than doubles Wilson’s tragedy.
I will be incredibly angry should Anne Dudek be robbed of an Emmy nomination for her turn in this episode: she did absolutely amazing work in dream sequences, the final sequence with Wilson, and everuthing else. I was glad that they let House sit in his coma for a while and focused exclusively on that moment, it helped to avoid cheapening that part of the story. I honestly didn’t care much about House by the end, so him being in a coma didn’t do much for me. Rather, Wilson and CTB’s final moment was certainly memorable, and definitely something to behold dramatically for the series.
The episode is also a tale of trauma for 13, who has serious issues treating someone she knows when she is also someone she knows, and she could be dying, so she finds it extremely thought-provoking. Her final moment with Amber, after everyone says their goodbyes acknowledging they liked her more than she liked them, seemed like it could have been a nice reflection on her character, but the episode didn’t find time for it.
And yes, ultimately, the episode attempted to come back to our various characters: we had 13 find out she does in fact have Huntington’s disease (Well, there’s her out), we saw Taub use Amber’s death as a reason to become closer to his wife, we saw Kutner eat cereal while watching television, and we saw our old fellows getting together at a bar to, well, we don’t really know what they were doing. It felt incomplete however: if this was the resolution that was designed for these characters, it seems a bit too simple – I still don’t know if we really figured out why we went through this whole exercise except that Amber was the best character to emerge from it, and the show just killed her off.
This isn’t particularly fair: I felt that the final moment where the new members decided to go visit Amber was heartfelt, but how does anything in an episode (Including 13 finding out she’s going to die) compare with Amber’s passing? It seemed like they were trying to do a lot, especially when you factor in House almost dying, with an episode that might have been best served as a more minimalist story…but that wouldn’t be able to live up to the sense that finales need to be big and broad. By episode’s end, I kind of wanted House to just magically get better or figure it out so we could move onto the emotional beats.
The one thing that the episode deserves a lot of credit for is, without question, is that it left things on the right note: leaving us pondering whether House was dead or not would be cheap, but leaving the House/Wilson tension in play for next season is far more interesting. I am actually looking forward to seeing how these characters grow, and how their relationships change – sure, it doesn’t involve the characters who we were supposed to see change over the season, but I’ll take it.
- But seriously, FOX – you better damn well push Anne Dudek for a Guest Supporting Actress nomination at the Emmys, or I will hurt you. Still, killing her does raise potential for her small Mad Men role to grow with her awesomeness, so we’ll see how that goes.
- Cameron got the short-shrift in this one – Foreman got to work with Cuddy to smack down House’s indecision, and our pal Chase got to do all sorts of more surgical procedures as the only working surgeon in the hospital. Cameron? Got to do nothing.