House, “Selfish”

House is no longer going to be the series that it was in the early seasons. It’s now going to be about House’s relationship with Cuddy, primarily, and House’s “improvement” secondly. For some fans, that’s a hard paradigm shift to get behind. For me, I’ve more or less resigned myself to this fact and am ready to enjoy the series for what it is. And really, that’s what watching House comes down to these days. If you’re okay with House and Cuddy together, the first two episodes, including last night’s “Selfish,” have probably been damn enjoyable. If you’re not okay with that relationship, you might be ready to delete the DVR season pass.

Since I’m one of the former people, I’m satisfied with where things are going. Well, maybe not satisfied, but something better than ambivalence.

I have to give the writers credit, they’re diving headfirst into this Huddy thing with confidence and dedication. As I said last week, I never expected this series to actually tackle an intense romantic relationship with any substance or effort really, but they’ve surprised me thus far. Just like the premiere, “Selfish” devotes a good portion of its running time to the ever-changing dynamic between House and Cuddy, particularly at work.

And for the most part, the episode follows logical beats, puts the characters in mature conversations and moves the relationship forward. Both House and Cuddy are playing if safe with their interactions as employee and boss, which is obviously jarring for everyone else in the department, but logical for the two characters. They’ve had these wonderful moments in secret, but they’re aware of all the baggage between them and a good deal of that baggage comes from work-related events, so it has to be the thing they’re the most worried about moving forward. Will their work relationship kill their romantic one, or vice versa?

Though the episode tries to convince us that’s a struggle for both of them, it’s obviously more so for House because he’s used to completely ignoring what Cuddy says just to get the job done. Cuddy, while certainly able to stand up to House, oftentimes lets him walk all over her anyway, so I guess it’s more about finding a balance that’s honest and less combative. Of course, their issues with one another cause the case to derail a few times and before it’s all said and done, they’re screaming at one another in front of a pair of shocked and exhausted parents about Cuddy’s bureaucratic nonsense and House’s ability to bully patient families into doing what he wants.

It’s an uncomfortable moment, but a real one. They spent the whole case tip-toeing around one another and thankfully, they realize that won’t work. If anything, they’re just going to have to be brutally honest in hopes that they can separate the work and personal, if only a little bit. While that’s a novel idea that rarely works, I think that for these two wackos, it could. Cuddy’s obviously been turned on over the years by House’s act first, questions later approach (an approach which includes verbally destroying her), so it doesn’t seem like she’ll get too upset over that in the future.

The bigger question, however, is for House. Can he still be House if he’s trying to placate Cuddy, even if he says he won’t? Will his ability to diagnose by taking chances go away? This is a primary question the series likes to bring up every once in a while before dispensing with it (and House’s short-term happiness), but I think they’re ready to explore it more fully here. So there’s that.

Again, if you can see that this is the kind of series House is going to be now, there’s not much to dislike about this episode. The Huddy relationship is being handled even better than I suspected it would be, so that’s all I can ask for at this point.

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