House goes to rehab

Season 6, Episode 1

House season 6, episode 1, blew me away. It lives in my dreams and thoughts, it permeates my conscious and unconscious mind – Gregory House has a way of getting stuck in one’s head… my head specifically. The double length episode was beautifully scripted, expertly acted and provokingly emotive.

As a late comer to the House phenomenon, it took me all of three seconds to become an addict and I have since blitzed my way through five seasons of House’s misguided, misanthropic genius. House is testament to the fact that in many ways, series are far superior to films in their ability to bond with an audience; hours and hours of series screen time allow viewers to form an authentic attachment to characters. After watching scenarios and contexts unfold, we begin to feel like we know the people on screen, like we are involved in their heartache and happiness. We care what happens. We personalise scenarios and situations. We live the characters we love. It’s a surreal, therapeutic experience that is uniquely magical and a little dangerous if one does not have a firm foothold in reality.

Not all series I watch have the aforementioned effect on me but there are a select few that I invest myself in so greatly that when the show comes to an end, and characters are no more, I feel as if a friend has died. I cry, mourn, sulk… and then buy the box set. House is one of those series.

So, five seasons of baggage later House finally goes to rehab. The first episode of season six transports the viewer into the world of the mentally unstable. House overcomes his physical addiction to vicodin and, under threat of losing his medical license, is blackmailed into being institutionalised. Andre Braugher plays House’s therapist, Dr. Daryl Nolan, and punctuates the episode with a sense of gravitas and intellectual sensitivity. House being House fights The System tooth and nail until his own actions force him to acknowledge his brokenness and need for help. House begins to talk to his therapist and through a series of self-actualising moments, identified and deconstructed by Nolan, he begins to deal. And he begins to heal.

I have spent much time contemplating the complexity of the House psyche. He is a magnificent paradox; he saves lives but hates the lives of those he saves. He spits on the soul of humanity by sabotaging every single opportunity he has of forging an emotional connection with those he cares about in his weird, anti-social House way. But why? Why, why, why is House the way he is? The mystery is part of the allure. Figuring out House would damage the show’s alchemy. The consequent conclusion is that House shouldn’t heal – if he heals, he won’t be House. Just as House fears that taking the meds (that will help him mentally) will mess with his intellect and his reason, the part of himself he values most, the viewer fears that House’s medicated, therapised happiness will change his essence – we want him to be a dick, we like that he defies the values prescribed and dictated by society… it’s what makes him interesting. We are jealous of his anti-social misconduct – House unashamedly enacts how we feel, what we suppress.

Whilst I want House to be happy, I also sort of don’t.

The episode documents House’s internal struggle; as he wars with himself, bits of humanity emerge. When he allows himself to care, he is a beautiful human being. The episode is so utterly transfixing because House becomes vulnerable. He acts, not merely out of a moral obligation to the god of being right, but because he allows himself to care. His journey is raw, and brutal, and it is enveloped in a dramatic sense of emotional intensity that dictates audience reaction.

Do I think House will stop being House? No, I don’t. But I think he is perhaps more open to the possibility of connecting with others. House has developed as a character but it is easy to undo all that ‘development’. Has House really changed? According to his own mantra, as a human being, he cannot. How the brilliant Doctor deals with his sobriety, and whether he can maintain that sobriety, is what is going to make season 6 awesome.