The End of House

Some time has passed, the nerve is not as raw, and so I thought I would share some thoughts on the end of House, MD.

I have watched House ever since the very beginning. Actually, before an episode had even aired here in Australia I was already looking online at quotes from the show.

House is my favourite show ever.

It thought the final episode was quite poor. Or, rather, I thought it was a pretty good final episode with one major failing.

The ending of a television show hardly ever happens on the shows terms. Most shows get cancelled abruptly, some are allowed to peter out. Very few end because the creators feel that they have accomplished all that they can, so in some respects the makers of House were in uncharted waters.

While there are many things that need to be considered in penning the end of a successful show, to my mind the most important is that all of the major characters are settled. Death is the most obvious option, but even consigning a character to endless continuation is a viable option. Sitcoms particularly go in for the second option.

The final of Everybody Loves Raymond just faded out at a point where everything was as it had ever been.

That 70s Show attempted to bring back all the characters who had left and tried to restore them to their original relations. It wasn’t entirely successful, but they had the device of the final stroke of the clock on New Year’s Eve, 1979, to mark the end.

Seinfeld tried to go for both finality, by imprisoning the characters, and stasis, by returning to the very first conversation—an awkward balance that has left me unsatisfied ever since.

Friends, of all shows, managed it more successfully. Each character was settled. Some, such as Chandler, Monica, and Joey, embarked on new lives. The others doomed to repeat the pattern of the previous ten years. Which was actually kind of perfect for Ross and Rachel.

The only drama that I have feelings about is The Sopranos. When it first aired it was attacked viciously. What sort of an ending was that anyway? But as time goes by the disappointment eases. Death and/or gaol were inevitable for Tony Soprano, and to end with either of them would have been derided as predictable. Instead we got an ending that was life as usual (with death and gaol imminent possibilities), a similar end to Everybody Loves Raymond but more dramatically pointed.

Which brings me to House. Wilson had a death sentence, as did Thirteen. Cuddy had had a new life for over a year. Foreman was Dean of Medicine. Cameron had a job and a family. And Chase fulfilled his role as heir apparent.

Everyone was perfectly settled. Everyone, that is, except House. House lost everything, and in five months time he was going to lose Wilson. The fate of House, far more than any other character listed here, was in flux.

Of course, the chances are that in less than a year’s time House’s self-destructive tendencies will win out. In fact, without his two support mechanisms, Wilson and puzzles, a grisly end is assured.

The creators no doubt thought that bittersweet was the better way to end, and yet it feels like the show drew the curtain before the final act.

Or maybe I’m just bitter the show ended at all.


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