Thursday, May 03, 2012

House Review: 8x19, "The C-Word"

DAHLINGS –
 
For the last few days yours truly has been insanely busy.  And I know how many of my beloved readers hunger for my reviews.  My Twitter feed has been filled with moans of "When, when?" Here you are, darling hearts.  Although I’m not sure what "The C-Word" stood for besides Cancer.  Caring?  Columbia?  Concord Grapes?  It was directed by the show's star, Hugh Laurie.
 
As I mentioned in my previous review, it's rather annoying that the show is pulling out this manipulative melodramatic twist for the last few episodes, but better late than never.  This was a complex episode despite some major flaws.  And by far the best this season.  
 
The heart of the show has always been the relationship of House and Wilson.  They have drugged each other, stolen from each other, lied to each other about matters great and small.  And yet the friendship continues.  (One might consider them two halves that make a whole. Or not.)  The regrettable loss of Cuddy has made the House/Wilson dynamic even more central.  This is why the show has been so difficult to watch it this season being tossed to one side in favor of outlandish plots and insipid characters.  Matters have not been helped by Robert Sean Leonard’s uninterested acting and Hugh Laurie’s phoning it in.
 
However, both actors brought their A-game, particularly Robert Sean Leonard.  This was a stellar performance, revealing more of Wilson than we have seen in eight seasons.  The darkness and anger that has been glimpsed sporadically in the past comes front and center.  Both House and Wilson suffer from an inner darkness that they medicate in different ways.  House is an antisocial drug addict; Wilson hides himself behind a cheerful shiny surface. As we discovered at the end of last week, Wilson has cancer, Stage Two thymoma. At the latest doctor’s office, House says, “How many times have I told you I wanted to be alone and you’ve made yourself a pain in the ass?  I owe you.” 
 
Unfortunately, the POTW plot is a straight rehash of “Finding Judas”.  Sick child of feuding divorced parents is put on a carnival ride by the father.  Disaster ensues.  Emily, the daughter, is either cute or crying “Ow, ow, ow!” She has a genetic illness, and her mother (Jessica Collins) is a humorless geneticist specializing in same.  It’s never clear what the father does, but he’s a lot more fun. Chris L. McKenna portrays the confused, loving father, creating a fully rounded character from sketchy material. For some insane reason, Foreman wants Dr. Mom to head the team.  Once again, disaster ensues.
 
Dangerous experimental drugs have been a go-to plot device last season and this season.  Last year House mainlined a drug that caused tumors in his leg.  This time the child is used as a lab rat by her mother, giving her daughter a drug that has not yet received FDA approval.   Joint custody is so not a good idea.

"Mommy's sorry for almost killing you, sweetie.  She'll be more careful next time."

Emily’s illness, as it turns out, is not caused by genetics but from a tumor in her heart.  House has been working with the cases less and less this season, so it’s Chase who gets to have Epiphany Face and solve the puzzle.  One suspects that the show is setting up Chase to be the team leader as the series ends.
 
And, of course, the main plot: Wilson is determined to use an extreme form of chemotherapy to blast his cancer.  It is literally life or death.  The inherent unbelievability of this plan is given what writers call “explainers,” those sentences that explain why a course of action is being taken that would otherwise make the viewer go, “Huh?”  It is clear that Wilson has an excellent chance of survival with traditional therapy (thymoma is almost never fatal).  The “explains,” if you will, are brought to the table when Wilson refuses to die in a hospital.  Then he produces a series of objects from patients who died unexpectedly of cancers with high survival rates.  House objects, but Wilson is determined to go through with it.   What else can House say but, “we’ll do it at my place”?
 
Once the medical equipment is in place, House raises a toast “to stupidity.” Before Wilson can agree, House goes on to give a blood-curdling description of what Wilson can expect. “Agony isn't a word or a concept. It's your only reality.”  He then asks, quite reasonably, “What are we doing here, Wilson?” Indeed, what are they doing there?  Wilson looks determined.  This is another moment that outlines how rickety the conceit is, but Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard sell it as well as they can. 
 
 It’s only a matter of time before Wilson is a grey-faced, vomiting mess.  Director Laurie chooses to shoot many of these scenes in tight close-up, letting us see into their emotional lives, particularly House.  House is tender with his sick friend, even with all of the snarky jokes he uses to cope.  He holds Wilson’s head when he throws up into an emesis basin, then wipes his mouth expertly and goes on to the next task.  This kind of care is exhausting, round-the-clock work.  The realism with which this is shown makes these scenes hard to sit through.  (Kudos to the makeup people.  Wilson’s pallor and cracked lips are heart-rending.)
 
House never touches anyone or lets them touch him, with exception of the women he’s been involved with.  With Wilson, the boundaries are dropped.
 

House giving the last of his Vicodin to Wilson.  

A million fangirls scream around the world

But then, crazed with pain and illness, Wilson lashes out at the unfairness of getting cancer, and spews out venomous truth at House.  House sits, hurt, and silent.
House is usually silent when the people he cares about rage at him.  If anyone has any thoughts about this, please post them in the comments.
 
There is an unfortunate cut at the end of this scene to cute Emily, asking, “If I die, will my parents get back together?” (Your faithful scrivener burst out laughing.)   
 
The parents reconcile and Wilson survives the treatment.  There is a reference to three days having passed.  Three days?  Three days?  The child had the usual dozen wrong diagnoses, then major surgery in only three days?  Wilson went through all of that in three days?  You might argue it’s “television time,” but the script itself says three days. Even though Emily is still going to die an early death, she’s okay with it and her parents reconcile.
 
Wilson apologizes for his splenetic remarks, then asks for one last thing: to make it to the bathroom.  House hauls him up and half-carries Wilson to the bathroom.  Wilson notices that House is in extreme pain and asks if how he felt is how House feels all the time.  House gives an answering grunt.  “It really does suck being you, doesn’t it?” Wilson observes.  “At least I don’t have cancer,” is the response.


However you choose to view their friendship, it is indeed true love.  It would have been perfect had the episode ended there.  Instead, House and Wilson return to work.  Wilson finds an open laptop on his desk, hits a button.  Journey blasts out, accompanied by a photo montage of House and two hookers clowning with an unconscious Wilson ala “Weekend At Bernie’s.” Your mileage may vary, but it was a cheap, jarring end to an otherwise excellent episode.

 
"When did I get the time, money and energy to do this? When my Vicodin's all used up? Ah, screw it.  Par-TAY!"

What did you think about the ending montage?  Feel free to discuss in the comments.
 
Random:
 
Why on earth did they do it in House's living room and not the bedroom?
 
Apparently Emily's parents have been raging at each other for years.  One wonders how long the detente will last once their daughter is back to dying on schedule.
 
What is with the cinematography this season?  Half of the show was almost pitch black.

Anything you'd like to say in the comments?  Just bear in mind that I am always right.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Episode - well, liked it better than recent ones. I watch House more because of inertia and respect for what it was in earlier seasons than anything else.

Ending montage - stupid, convoluted and kinda disturbing. It seems writers of House feel they really need to fit in a curve ball no matter what, even at the expense of ruining an otherwise good episode.

Maca said...

I personally liked the ending montage.
It was a bit abrupt change from the mood that had been built during the entire episode, but it was fun and reminded me of the usual House-Wilson games that have been happening since season 1 and you can't ask more than that to a show that is trying to die gracefully and won't have the change to develop a new level of the relation.

PS: you got me thinking with all the Chase taking the leadership idea.

infernus006 said...

The end montage jarred me at first too, which I'm sure was the intended response, because that was Wilson's own response initially: sheer disbelief, like totally WTF.

But then Wilson's hearty laughter that busted out as a result showed me just how much it really was a worthy deed done by House for the sole purpose of cheering up his ailing friend during such a rough time, when it was needed the most.

And considering the extra time and energy, not to mention money, that House had to spend to pull that off is also a clear testament of his dedication to his friend, knowing that it would take something that extreme to make Wilson laugh during the aftermath of such trying circumstances.

So basically, it was a fitting end as far as I'm concerned, and I don't resent it, just as Wilson clearly does not.

mydog8u2 said...

With the ending montage, I actually found it endearing. Hiring Hookers is a quintessentially House thing. I interpreted it as his twisted way of telling Wilson that nothing's changed, that he's going to be alright, and House wasn't hurt by what Wilson said to him in his moment of pain.

Besides, Wilson's dumbfounded expression, followed by ill-controlled laughter, was a priceless reaction that translated into something akin to "House will always be House".

I liked it :)