House, “After Hours”

When heading into a season finale, there’s always a danger of ramping things up too much. The desire to make everything seem MORE IMPORTANT and MORE URGENT is always there, especially for drama series, but it doesn’t always work in the context of the episodes that came before it. Histrionics for histrionics sake is never, ever a good thing. Unfortunately, after a mostly enjoyable season that only dipped its aging, wrinkling toes into the super-melodramatic pool a few times, House has gone off the rails a bit here in the final few episodes of season seven. Last week’s episode randomly dropped this leg muscle medication plot into the story and tried to make us care about it by implying House could be in danger. This week’s penultimate episode pushes that story even further too quickly and decides to maximize the melodrama with other characters as well, creating the most overwrought episode of the season.

In my review of last week’s episode, I discussed the odd decision in introducing the leg medication. I noted that it appeared out of nowhere and seemed only to serve as a way to exemplify House’s current state of mind and perhaps bring Cuddy back together. “After Hours” confirms those suggestions to a T, albeit with some excruciatingly intense self-surgery scenes that I could barely stand to watch. The way House was going, he could have done anything “insane” to prove that he was heading in the wrong direction and any of those actions could have brought Cuddy back into the fold. Instead, not only was the whole medication sub-plot dropped into the story out of nowhere, it was also rushed through in an instant. With a few moments, House realizes that his miracle drug might not be a miracle after all, discovers the tumors in his leg and begins operating on them in his bathtub. He calls for help and eventually Cuddy shows up to take him to the hospital. They discuss issues. And scene.

I just don’t get it. Not only was it misguided to introducing the miracle drug in the first place, but totally dumb to then use a device like that for less than two episodes. If you’re trying to introduce a possible game-changing element to your series, you don’t squander it away in the penultimate episode and leave the series with absolutely no momentum going into the final episode of the season. After the series brought in the drug and House’s surgery, it should have dominated both this episode and the finale. It’s an out-of-nowhere development, but one that could have provided some solid drama and tension (just take a look at those self-surgery scenes again). Instead, House’s tumors are already removed and now he’s vowed to make some changes, even though the promo suggests that he’s going to get EVEN CRAZIER next week. The episode was trying to sell us on the fact that this surgery and desire to fix his leg was all about House’s search for happiness (and thus it could be connected back to his Cuddy issues), and while I buy that in theory, the execution of it wasn’t sustained for long enough to really sell me on such an idea. Of course House wants his leg to be better, we’ve been down that road before. If you take another drive down it, you have to make the journey a bit more interesting the next time around. That did not happen here.

As House struggled to drunkenly remove tumors from his leg, the members of his team deal with their own personal emergencies, which were just as overdone and delivered in BOLD font as House’s story. When her former cell-mate comes to her door with a stab wound in her gut, Thirteen is forced to perform a diagnostic at home (the criminal doesn’t want to get caught by the police, yo). Her issues eventually lead Chase to join the party, and the two of them struggle and argue about the pros and cons of saving a life versus keeping your word. This discussion is mostly delivered through clichéd and hackneyed dialogue, but you probably knew that already. Also, they sort of have a slap-fight. That Thirteen, she’s a rascal!

Eventually, Thirteen and Chase learn that her druggie ex-roommate was actually a police officer and the reason she started doing drugs in the first place was because she couldn’t deal with her emotions and psyche after shooting a young criminal. This of course makes Thirteen start to consider what is going to happen to her in the wake of killing her brother. This isn’t the most terrible development ever, but we never saw the brother before she killed him. Hell, we didn’t even know he existed or that he had Huntington’s. This is just a beat the writers created after they knew Olivia Wilde was going to be gone for a bit, so the emotional investment is just not there on our end. I never thought about how the writers would try to bring Chase and Thirteen together over their respective “murders,” but it makes complete sense in House logic. There were hints at the two of them hooking up before she left near the end of last season, so at least they now something (awful) in common.

Meanwhile, Taub continues to be the worst. Poor Peter Jacobson. Here he discovers that he’s knocked up the hot nurse he’s been sleeping with, which sends him into a moderately self-destructive and self-serving tailspin. He reads his insecurities onto a stripper’s mole, gets thrown out of the strip club, decides to wait in the parking lot like a stalker, almost gets shot for being said stalker and then decides he wants to keep the baby and become a father. Just as Foreman said earlier, Taub would be a TERRIBLE father. This is such a stupid plotline that it makes me wish Taub was shot and killed by the stripper.

In a quick pre-episode interview with EW, EP Greg Yaitanes says that this episode is all about the characters being “emotionally exhausted from the journey they’ve taken all season.” If that were true, maybe “After Hours” would be a better episode. Thirteen has barely been on the series this season, Chase and Foreman haven’t had arcs at all and Taub sucks. House’s story is the only one that really fits that bill and it’s still a stretch. Unfortunate.

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