Tuesday, October 4, 2011

House gives up "Twenty Vicodin"

     As season eight of FOX's House begins with "Twenty Vicodin," the titular character (Hugh Laurie) is about to be paroled from prison after serving a year behind bars. Only five days to go, if he can stay out of trouble. A medical mystery presents itself, and House bonds slightly  with a prison doctor, Jessica Adams (Odette Annable, Breaking In, Brothers & Sisters), as they solve the case together. Remarkably, House puts up with tormenting from an enforcer (Jude Ciccolella, 24) and unrealistic demands without complaint, but just hasn't figured out what ails his patient (Sebastian Sozzi, My Generation). So at the last minute, House sacrifices his freedom to provide healing. This earns his another six months, but he was right.

     Many fans were furious about the season seven finale, when House drives his car into Cuddy's (Lisa Edelstein) house. They argued that this time he had gone too far, and that's indisputable. But from a character standpoint, especially when, as House says in "Twenty Vicodin," he knew no one was in any real danger, it makes perfect sense. Hopefully, this premiere will help ease that negativity. He has taken his consequence, forgoing a lawyer to earn a harsher sentence, and is punishing himself worse than anyone else can. He even tries to quit medicine, until he comes to understand that his gift for diagnosing, and the drive that makes it his obsession, is something he just cannot change about himself.

     The episode itself is pretty cool. Not because it's action packed. In fact, it's sort of the opposite. Not because it's a huge, dramatic stand alone feat, which has been done on House before, because the episode actually seems fairly mundane. But because "Twenty Vicodin" explores the essential character of House, who he is without all of the trappings of life he has surrounded himself with. He has no friends, no office, not a single luxury. Instead, in the absence of what most people typically define themselves by, he explores his self. In this, the episode soars.

     Details are an element that House does well, and once more, they are rule the day. House may have a big case to solve, but he also takes the time to help his roommate's pet cricket. The nurses and fellow prisoners trust him to monitor medications being given out. He is allowed to come into the clinic, something most prisoners probably aren't given the opportunity to do. He even gets away with giving a tracheotomy with a guard watching, and is never punished or accused of hurting anyone. And, of course, House only smiles at the very end, when he is proven right. He has reaffirmed who he is, and knows what he's good at. It's given him back his self worth.

     Where will House go from here? The preview for next week indicates he will soon be leaving his prison cell behind. While the jailhouse installment is cool, House will never work outside of the hospital for very long, so this is wise. Jessica is fired for listening to House, and since they work well together, he will probably try to get her hired, whenever he finds he has enough status to do so. But Cuddy is gone for good, a new boss will be in place, and his friendship with Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) seems finished, considering Wilson never visits him in prison. It's hard to blame Wilson for doing so, but this means House will not be resuming his life. Nor does Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) show up, even though House was there for her recently when she needed him. Things have changed, and no small effort will put them back to the way they were.

     Which makes this season of House exciting, and fills many fans, myself included, with anticipation. Make sure you watch House Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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Article first published as TV Review: House - "Moving On" on Blogcritics.

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