House, “Help Me”

“Help Me” was a powerful hour of television that also encapsulated my problems with House‘s storytelling approach perfectly.On one hand, this was the best episode since the amazing two-hour premiere, “Broken.” On the other hand, this was the only episode even close to the quality of “Broken,” meaning basically the whole season has felt like an uneven waste of time.

“Help Me” went a long way in showing us how House has really changed since his time in the mental hospital, but because we haven’t quite seen him act consistently all season, his actions here felt just a little off. Just a little though, because the writing was solid and Hugh Laurie was a powerhouse as usual. Making House come face to face with his main issue — if he does act better towards people, is it really worth it? — was a fantastic decision and even if the conversations around the leg were sometimes on the nose, Laurie sold them well and it was honestly just nice to have a patient that connects to a House story for once.

The episodes leading up to this one tried to touch on House’s change in perspective, but didn’t so as well as “Help Me,” as we saw the good doctor actually talk about his fear of becoming a better person and then getting nothing to show for it. Although some might say that’s House being too soft, I think it fits correctly with his slow change in perspective. He used to (at least appear to) not care about anyone else but himself. Now, he’s slowly realized that caring about people can help him come back from the anger, detachment and sorrow that losing the use of his leg caused — but it’s not easy. For someone who hasn’t cared about others for a long time, there isn’t going to be a light switch turned on where he is completely selfless or willing to be the bestest of friends to people just ‘cuz. He needs to know that all his transformation is worth something and with Cuddy getting married and Wilson pushing him away, he’s not really seeing that it is. And so to push that further by killing a patient he connected with so much is a great writing choice and made from one hell of an emotional moment in the ambulance. I was on the verge of tears.

But again, why can’t the writers even try to reach these levels of emotionally charged storytelling at any other point but the premiere and the finale? I’m not asking for an episode this effective each week, but it’s beyond pathetic that only three hours have been at this level of quality all season.

Of course, I have to talk about the Huddy interactions here. Despite his jealousy and sadness over her engagement announcement, I still thought that Cuddy’s rant to House about him moving on and giving up all the silliness was a little bitchy. I agree with Cuddy that some of House’s inability to cooperate her on what to do with Hanna was because of his hurt feelings, but also because of his personal experiences. Sometimes Cuddy can be self-involved as well and I don’t remember House particularly asking Cuddy to babysit him or tip-toe around his feelings. Wilson has been more open and honest with the reality of their relationship, while Cuddy has tried to watch over him without really talking about anything. But I still see her points for the most part.

As a fan of their relationship, I’m happy to see her come in at the last moment and basically save him from taking Vicodin. I think the groundwork has been laid for Cuddy’s feelings for a long time now, and it was stupid that the writers backed off of it at the end of last season after playing it so hard throughout S5. So I’m totally happy to see that story finally coming to a head. However, I do have three issues with it. First, though the writers hammered Huddy home in S5, it really wasn’t as big of a thing this season, and for people who might not have as long as memories, it does feel a little out of nowhere. Second, it feels like wish fulfillment for House. His depression and sadness was all about not having anyone reciprocate his newfound caring and he was really pushed to that limit in the episode. So to have him get exactly what he wanted in the end feels kind of like a cheat because he’s not going to continue to face that adversity if it was really just all about Cuddy from the beginning. It might have been better to have him flush the pills down the toilet and just sit there and cry. Finally, I know the House writers, they get bored easily. The House-Wilson drama post-Amber should have powered season five, but it was all good after a half-dozen episodes. So yes, I want to see House and Cuddy go for it. But I want to see them actually go for it all season, or for the rest of the series. Not have them give up after the events of the premiere.

But I guess we’ll just wait and see. For now, “Help Me” stands as one of the best episodes in the new-House era (post-season three), despite its partial cheat of an ending and the lack of build-up to certain events found within it. But damn if it wasn’t a heart-breaker.

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