September 21st, 2009
“You’re not God.”
There was a lot of response to “Broken,” as there is to many House premieres and finales. House, like many other shows which on a week-to-week basis only seem to dabble in serialized storylines, likes to pile on the sudden tension in the late and early parts of each season. It’s the time of year where Amber dies in a tragic accident, or when House begins hallucinating due to his use of Vicodin, or when House gets shot and goes into a dream-like state and regains some use of his leg. In all instances, the show presents us with a simple question: what if Dr. House changed? What if, after losing Amber or having his leg fixed or firing all of his fellows or the suicide of one of his fellows or (in the Season 5 finale) being institutionalized, he grows up in a way that changes his dynamic with the people around him and how he does his job?
Every year, however, the same thing happens: he and Wilson reconcile, he convinces himself his leg isn’t better, he hires new fellows and everything effectively goes back to normal. House is, ultimately, like every other procedural in that there are parts of its identity which cannot change as fundamentally as the finales want us to believe, the premieres always designed as a first step to righting the character’s universe. This is something that I’ve complained about in the past, but I think I’ve finally come to terms with it.
“Broken” is certainly, at the very least, the most impressive effort yet to make House’s re-entry into his world both believable and not without consequence. Taking the form of “House: The Movie,” ditching the entire cast save a cameo from Robert Sean Leonard in favour of a collection of doctors, patients and visitors from Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, the two-hour episode takes the time to go through every stage of House’s process. It allows us to see his usual behaviour, conniving and manipulative, and then to deconstruct it in a way which never feels preachy, and which in the end reveals a character who remains acerbic and charming but who does seem a lot closer to what one might consider happy.
And while only time will tell how far these changes go, I’m not really concerned: long-term change or no, this was an extremely compelling two hours of television.