Welcome to Dissecting House: a blog dedicated to the television show House MD, where analytical reviews of season 8 episodes are posted weekly.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

'Post Mortem' Episode Review

At the beginning of the episode, attached to the very open demonstration of death and loss, was a mixed feeling of horror and realism. Death staring at you in the face. Dr. Treiber begins the autopsy of a woman whose time of death has just been called. We explicitly see her heart being excised from her chest. The image of her heart being ripped out of her body makes me think of how House feels about Wilson dying of cancer. Dr. Treiber slices open his face during what seems to be a psychotic break, which House dismissively diagnoses as 'walking corpse syndrome'; another dark parallel to Wilson's current situation. Treiber won't trust anyone but House to take his case as he is obsessed with medical conduct and malpractice. Treiber is absolutely meticulous in his work, to the point where the final diagnosis comes in part from the soap with which he obsessively washes his hands. The soap, combined with the energy drink he consumes to stay sharp, causes hypothyroidism.

Wilson decides he will be 'indifferent', a term he uses throughout the episode to prove that he is letting go of any concerns, any feelings towards other people, in order to live a selfish and careless life. His overuse of the word indicates just how impossible it is for him to stop caring. Wilson buys, or more likely hires, a convertible red corvette to go on a road trip. He forces House to join him. Usually House would be raring to go, but from the moment Wilson adopts this 'new' attitude House's concern for him grows. Wilson says he wants to go and see Julie Christie, who he's had a crush on since he was young. He later admits that this is just an excuse to stay away from the hospital, as he's supposed to have an MRI of his thymoma in three days. Everything at the hospital reminds him of how real his cancer is, so he creates a false persona, Kyle, as a form of escapism. This was the guy who got the girl in high school. So, 'Kyle' eats the biggest steak anyone has ever seen, has a threesome, drives his car recklessly until it crashes. From the moment the car crashes everything becomes real again, the anger and frustration have been expelled (see 'Moving On'). On a side note, I thought it was interesting that House was knocked unconscious by the car crash. This might later be relevant.

Wilson can no longer show indifference and instead of abandoning an old lady with Alzheimer to get a taxi back, he stays, because that's who he is, and as the House axiom suggests, people don't change. Just as the lady would remember nothing and Wilson's kindness would have no lasting impact on her life, his friendship, and his acts of persistence and kindness have also rescued House many times, and in his case are life changing. Wilson doesn't abandon the lady just as he could never really abandon House. House pretends to be angry about missing the taxi, but on the bus he talks about how Kyle would probably have abandoned him (but Wilson hasn't). Throughout this Thelma and Louise-like adventure House looks at Wilson with expressions of deep fear and apprehension. Wilson is, in part, acting like House, and the reflection is disconcerting. Wilson goes overboard when he overtakes a very serious, solemn funeral procession to feel free, to let go of everything and just live for the moment.

Throughout the episode the team are looking for the cause of Dr. Treiber's condition, and Chase believes that the answer most likely lies with the corpses in the morgue. This would suggest that the dead not only emotionally but physically affect the living. Dying changes everything. This of course makes me think of House and Wilson. However, just as the corpses are not responsible for Dr. Treiber's symptoms perhaps what is happening to Wilson won't develop quite how we might believe. The House writers have this fantastic ability to create scenarios that we could never see coming, or at least not their full impact or extent. Chase heads up the diagnostic team and proceeds with treating Treiber as though he were representing House's orders. Treiber makes him consider his life as a doctor and how, by now, he should have progressed to running his own diagnostics team. The Chase arc in season 8 has been fantastic in my opinion, his relationship with House after the stabbing and in 'Blowing the Whistle' show the extent of how much Chase has grown and learnt. At the end when Chase is saying goodbye to House it was hard not to feel a pang in the chest, to see him thanking House, and seeing House recognise how much the experiences they've had have meant, with a Housian quip, a look and a handshake. It was even more poignant considering this is nearly goodbye for us as well.

By the end of the episode I thought I might go into tachycardia. The tension was overwhelming as I watched House cut his sentence short and stare at the monitor and then at Wilson. His solemn face of shock virtually unreadable. Has the tumour grown despite the drastic measures? Has it shrunk to virtual insignificance? Are there more tumours? It's hard to say. As I've said previously I don't think House can live without Wilson. For me, one of the most poignant moments of the episode was on the bus, when House says he could live without Kyle, implying he couldn't live without Wilson.

The writing and acting in this episode were phenomenal. The expressions House gives Wilson have ingrained themselves in my memory. The attempt to have fun and be carefree is tinged with the bitterness of a reality that awaits them, and us. Only two episodes left...


  1. Lovely :)

    It's nice that you mention the impact of the teaser. This rather shocking start with a death had me thinking "they are going to kill me" and coloured the way I went into the rest. Also cool is the importance of the patient being a pathologist, I didn't think of that before - and it turns out that it's not death, but the way he deals with it that makes the case. It seems oddly fitting to me that the final episodes of House are an exploration of this thing that nobody can run away from, just decide how they deal with it.

    It's interesting that you saw mainly fear and apprehension in House - yes, it was certainly there, some kind of uncertainty too, but he was also intrigued (as he always is by the surprising workings of Wilson's mind) and curious, and he did follow Wilson's lead, being supportive. He has been such a brilliant friend the last two weeks - telling Wilson that he appreciates who Wilson is and that Wilson shouldn't regret what he wasn't this week ranks really high - I'm actually wondering if there will be some kind of turn-around, if he will need Wilson as a friend to deal now. (Just speculation.)

    Robert Sean Leonard killed that scene on the bus, dear God. Actually, both of them have been nailing each and every scene lately. So good. (Also, bus symbolism, eek.)

    Oh, and Chase. I agree with you, his season arc has indeed been fantastic, and it was a brilliant scene there. Understated, as always, but it was really cool that House accepted the thank you handshake, and that Chase implicitely said that he's still there by asking to keep him updated on Wilson. And then Wilson asks "Why did you let him go?" and I was once again reminded that House is in danger of losing his sounding board and the person who knows him longest and best.

    1. I completely agree with you about House's expressions towards Wilson. There was more than fear and apprehension, he was mesmerised by his friend acting in a way that so drastically contrasts his usual self. The writers have written absolute House/Wilson gems recently and HL and RSL have played them spectacularly. I did think about the bus! and forgot to mention it. I thought about it when I considering House being knocked unconscious by the car crash. It's something I will be pondering...I like your analogy about the end, I hadn't thought of that, great parallel. Thanks Esther.

  2. This is superb in your insight, generosity, and capacity to see such gifted work. Better than anything written about the episode today. Thank you.

    1. Wow! That's a wonderful comment. Thank you very much. I really do appreciate it.

  3. Wonderful review as always!
    The episode was so brilliant! I loved almost everything about it (Adams got on my nerves, but the rest more than made up for that).

    I just wanted to say that I think that last look on House's face means that the chemo didn't work and that it is inoperable. It definitely wasn't foreboding anything good.

  4. Thank you! I think you are right, the look on Wilson's face when he saw House's reaction showed recognition of that fact the treatment had failed. I love that nothing was said though. It makes it much more meaningful in my opinion, that is nothing NEEDS to be said.

  5. Thank you for another brilliant analysis, Steph. I've always enjoyed reading other's reviews as they allow me to see the ep through a "different lens" which I've always appreciated. You pointed out a lot of the "House subtleties" that passed me by - particularly the medical particularities surrounding the hospital situation/POTW, so thank you for for that.

    I particularly enjoyed the Hilson scenes - their friendship is just so beautiful as we're nearing the end of the show, the writers/directors are brilliantly showing how deep and meaningful it is (gay or not - who really cares at this point....friendship is friendship, period - at least in my mind.) I thought the bus scene was phenomenal - the looks, the line where House said that he basically prefers W over "Kyle" in his own way- priceless friendship. And then the ending - heartbreaking.... The fact that Hugh Laurie can "say" lines of dialogue with a simple 3 second shot of his face....

    Again, thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us at the near-close of this wonderful journey.

  6. Thank you very much for your comment! The closer it gets to the end, the harder it becomes for me to write about such brilliant work. It will definitely be an emotional ending all round. I also absolutely loved the bus scene, it was so real, so honest, and meant so much to both of them. All of which could be seen by their heartbreaking expressions.