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

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Reflection on The Final Problem: 'Everybody Dies'

'Everybody Dies' breaks the prescription mould of the procedural episode at PPTH. The episode begins with House in the dark, lying on a cold, dirty floor. From the dusty, dark quality of the opening scene there is a sense that the episode will take place, for the most part, in the shadows. House wakes up to find Kutner standing over him, a suicidal reference to his state of mind. In a TVLine Interview Shore describes how the hallucinations interact with reality, most amusingly when Kutner sticks a piece of gum on the sole of the dead patient's shoe. The patient, a heroin addict, works as a parallel for House himself. He pushes everyone in his life away and is openly an addict. However, he offers to take the fall for House's flooding prank when House tells him he's dying. He was prepared to sacrifice himself, as House does for Wilson. In true Housian fashion, the medicine appears to be more important than the patient, and House is compelled to tell him that he will live, only to continue uncovering the mystery, or so he says. So onto plan B.

As a reflection of the Holmsian detective style, there is no straightforward search for the truth. The episode is fragmented and does not happen in chronological order. In great part, the episode takes place in House's mind. Wilson dying of cancer forces House to reassess his own life, and when forced to go back to jail, he must either accept his fate or fight against it. As we all know 'dying changes everything', so in a true homage to Conan Doyle's 'Reichenbach Falls' and in a similar way to Moffat's modern day Sherlock, House decides to create a scenario in which his 'death' allows for a new life and time spent with Wilson. House sacrifices his chances of ever practicing medicine again, of living his past life, for Wilson. In the end, what makes life worth living for many of us, are the human connections we have (we need the eggs). 

I watched the episode in a more or less paralysed mental state. I was terrified of what the end would mean, not only for House, but for myself and so many others. Now comes the time when I admit that I initially interpreted the episode in a completely different way from the way it was intended. For me, House was hallucinating and seeing all those who had meant something to him in his past, and who represented a part of his subconscious, after tripping for the last time on heroin (a tribute to Holmes, no doubt). I believed that ironically, the moment he decided to live, to go on, despite knowing he would lose his friend, was the moment it was too late. I thought the plan to run away, continuing with the Thelma and Louise analogy from 'The C Word', was a plan that could never happen, created by House in hope. I wasn't under the impression House died when the building collapsed, (especially as a friend suggested a Holmsian ending), I believed it at the end, almost like a triple bluff or inception. I believed that what were supposed to be misleading clues, ie Dr. Nolan at Mayfield, were in the end real ones. What also led me to believe this was the song used at the end, what I like to call 'Amber's Song', 'Enjoy Yourself' (It's later than you think): the song she sang repeatedly to House while he was hallucinating in season 5. It has a melancholic tone which really tugs at the heart strings. The 'Dead Poets Society' reference, although more aptly applicable to Wilson, also made me question House's end.  But House survived the fire, and the torments of his mind and what's to come. This way the end is more open, fans can write endings for themselves, for the fates of House and Wilson. After all, Kutner does say: 'Death's not interesting. You exist for what's interesting.'

What I really enjoyed was the embedding of stories and the metaphors throughout the episode. House crashing through the weak floorboards becomes a metaphor for two stories: when House crashes through one floor to the other it suggests that it was a facade, a fake floor. The real floor lies beneath, representing the escape plan. The constant images of fire appear to signify an all encompassing destruction or end, the hell House is currently living in. The truth, that House is alive, becomes buried under piles of wood and burnt debris. When the building collapses two crosses can be seen in the framework of the wood, side by side, seemingly to mark House and Wilson. In addition, the repetition of House: 'He's happy', Amber: 'He's dead' points to House's plan to 'kill himself'. Only after the fake death can he be free and potentially happy with Wilson. House's understanding that their fates lie in his hands appears to come just after the moment in which Wilson tells him there is only one person he can count on. The axiom 'Everybody Lies' is present throughout, indicating the fake story.

I have to say, I did miss seeing Cuddy, she was such an important person to House. So it was fitting that she was at least referenced as one someone who really impacted House's life. Stacy's scenario was surreal. Seeing House hold his would-be child demonstrated just how much that life was not for him. House's mind can't help but think of a parallel life he could have lived, a life in which Wilson would not be dying. In 'The C Word' Wilson breaks down in a sort of existential crisis about how the universe is unfair and the pointlessness of life. In 'Holding On' House goes as far as to present fake patients Wilson saved, at the cafeteria, to show Wilson just how much his life has meant. House constantly asks Wilson (and others) to sacrifice for him throughout the series, Vicodin prescriptions, lying, alibis, covers... But in the final episode House makes the ultimate sacrifice for Wilson. As Foreman says in 'Holding On': 'Enduring pain to do some good for someone you care about...isn't that what life is?'

I loved seeing Amber again, she was one of my favourite characters, especially as I am absolutely fascinated by House's mind and how it works. In 'Blowing the Whistle' I was convinced House's MRI prank was a way to check whether he was ok, as he showed real fear that his mental capacity and ability to practice medicine was declining. In clever Housian style, while House was worried for himself, and our focus was on him, Wilson was silently suffering with cancer, and the news came like a knife to the heart. So in 'Everybody Dies' we see a focus again on House's mind, on his ability to fabricate a fake death and get out of the back door of a burning building, magician style.

It was interesting to see Cameron again, playing with reverse psychology, telling House to give up like Wilson did. As it would be the last thing Cameron would say it was a suggestion that House couldn't possibly die, things would be the opposite of how they seemed. The funeral scene was touching, especially as the last thing House says before his fake death is that he can change, something he has fought against throughout the entire series. There is a bitterness that House is so selfish to end his own life, which is disproven when he survives. It was also odd, again surreal. It somehow showed that this scenario was a mask for what was really happening. The text Wilson receives from House was truly Housian: 'shut up you idiot'. Basically code for 'I love you'.

I really liked the scene where Foreman finds House's name tag and understands what he had seen: the crashing down of burning planks crushing House, when Wilson and himself stood before the building was an illusion created by perspective. Regardless of all their arguments, they were friends, and it's great to see him happy for House.

Seeing Wilson ride off into the distance with House was a bittersweet moment. House has always been weary of happiness, how short lived it can be, but this is a reminder of how much Wilson has represented happiness for House throughout their friendship. We also see that life goes on, Taub works things out with his daughters' mothers, Chase becomes the head of diagnostics, the wheel keeps turning. What a fantastic and complex ending to the show.

The Warren Zevon song is so incredibly fitting: 'Keep Me In Your Heart (For A While)', and there is no doubt that we will. Thank you to David Shore for creating such a profound and complex character, an antihero unlike any other. Thank you to all the writers, actors, directors and crew who have worked so hard on this global phenomenon of a show. Thank you to the fans, and now friends, who have made this experience even more special for me. Thank you to Hugh Laurie for being absolutely brilliant and for making me laugh, cry and most importantly, think.

Goodbye House MD.


  1. For me the important scene was the 'funeral' House had access to Wilson, obviously. He could have told him anytime that he was alive and waiting for him. but he waited for the most embarrassing moment possible. He choose a moment when Wilson was vulnerable after having left him grieving for days. He is still an ass, and I love that.

  2. Me too. House will always be an ass, but he's an ass that cares deeply about his friend. It was a perfect moment to inject humour into. The funeral was a solemn moment of reflection and in true Housian form it was undermined by House himself. Fantastic.

  3. Yes, and the egotistical sneak listened to all those people saying such nice things about him. How perfect that only Chase and Wilson 'honored' the reality freak by telling the truth, by embracing the man as he really was. I loved how Mom, Cameron, even Stacy romanticized him while Wilson (mirroring House's speech at his dad's funeral) actually stayed true to House

  4. Great final reflections. Its almost kind of surreal to think that the show we've loved for 8 years has finally ended.

    My only gripe with the ending was with the rushed funeral scene. I felt like many of the character's reactions to House's "death" were much too subdued for the sake of the pacing. With the exception of Adams and Park, House's fellows have been with him for many many years and have shared so much with one another. Its almost an injustice seeing someone like Chase, who spent over 8 years with House, reflecting on his time with his mentor/surrogate father figure/role model with a 2 second line/sound byte. (Even if the funeral technically turned out to be sham) However, I did appreciate the scene with Foreman when he discovers House's PPTH badge and realizes that he's still alive; the expression and smile of relief on his face spoke volumes to the affection and respect he had for House.

    It may be far fetched, but I'd love to see a TV movie special revolving House (a la the 24 Movie between Seasons 6 and 7). Only a medical catastrophe of the highest priority could prompt... say... Foreman to seek out a reclusive House to come out from hiding to join Chase and the rest of House's former fellows in averting a crisis of epic proportions. I don't think I'd be the only House fan to welcome such a production.

  5. Apologies for taking so long to publish your comment. Thanks for sharing your views. The first time I watched the funeral scene I did find it very surreal. I suppose that was somewhat intended as it was a farce. I think the finale could have done with being a two hour special though. Perhaps a few things could have been further developed.

    However, I loved the idea that House's hallucinations reflect states of mind and potential parallel lives/death: it was a clever way of allowing the audience into his mind.

    I'm extremely sceptical about a movie, but your version has been the best I've heard so far. So I do feel a little more open to it... I like the idea that House's genius would be called upon again.