Finally, House, Season 5

Since I don't watch regular television anymore, I'm a year behind everyone else on shows. I don't actually mind this because it means I can watch entire seasons at once as single entities.

In some cases, this doesn't matter much, but with House, it actually does. David Shore always has an end game and, starting with Season 5, I've begun to think he has a long-term end game; House is headed somewhere definite.

But on to my review! There are spoilers (for those of you who, like me, watch things a year after they come out the first time).

Based on occasional comments from various people, which I may have misinterpreted, I assumed House was meaner in Season 5 than in other seasons. Quite frankly, I was prepared to have this be my last season. I don't mind witty snideness. I do draw the line at cruelty.

However, I didn't find House any worse than in any other season. This may be because I was House-less for about a year. Still, I thought he seemed more human--more concerned with the reasons behind his decisions--than in prior seasons. He makes more ethical-based decisions than in prior seasons, and he seems more alarmed by the possibility of long-term fall-out. In other words, I did not think he was just messing with Foreman and 13 (for example). I think he made a valid decision there. Luckily, Foreman and 13 were wise enough to find a non-confrontational solution.

Speaking of Foreman and 13, I believe in them as a couple far more than I believe in Cameron and Chase. Cameron and Chase's romance seems the result, mostly, of Chase's romanticism. What on earth would they have in common? She's totally high-maintenance; Chase is super-surgeon surfer guy. I like them both, but I don't believe in their long-term chances.

On the other hand, I do believe in Foreman and 13. They both seem more level-headed (yes, I think that despite 13's crazy behavior), and 13 has a objective caustic side that Cameron doesn't. This enables 13 to meet Mr. Logic half-way. I think this is, ya know, kind of important to a relationship. I just don't see a mental half-way mark with Cameron and Chase.

Back to House: I thought the season finale was much weaker than season finales of the past, but I liked where it left us. And the use of Anne Dudek and Karl Penn was inspired.

Segue: This is a case where I am SUPER glad I'm the kind of person who finds out the endings of things beforehand. If I hadn't known Karl Penn left to join Obama's campaign, thus putting paid to Kutner's life, I would have been unbelievably upset when I saw it happen. As it was, it was still very hard for me to watch that particular episode.

Having said that, 99% of the time, I think death is a cop-out. However, I do think Karl Penn's leaving was used effectively. I'm not sure what else the writers could have used to send House into his downward spiral: Kutner's suicide fit the bill. It left House with another death he "might" have prevented but one with no explanation (with Amber, House had the "story"), preparing the way for what I consider the true season finale: "House Divided" (and isn't the use of Anne Dudek awesome? It's like with Buffy: nobody ever really dies in David Shore-land).

Overall, the writing remains high throughout the season although I don't think Season 5 has as many classics as previous seasons. I did enjoy the "Death Cat," the private investigator (glad to know he shows up in Season 6) and, of course, "Birthmarks" (the episode with House and Wilson going to House's dad's funeral).

I did think Wilson bounced back a bit quickly from Amber's loss, but I also think the writers did a good job deepening Wilson and House's relationship. Of course, Wilson loves the craziness of House! He wouldn't have been with Amber otherwise. I was glad Wilson finally admitted that he gets as much out of the relationship as House.

On the downside, the writers are beginning to repeat themselves medically. They are also repeating themselves thematically, but I consider that a good thing and part of the David Shore program (Season 5 explores the issue of split personalities, for example). But many of the medical problems have come up before, only with different patients in different contexts. I don't really hold this against the writers. There are only so many muscles and bones in the human body. Granted, there are probably a few more "motives" for medical mysteries than for murder mysteries (which include just profit, rage/jealousy, gain/envy, revenge, and craziness). Nevertheless, there's a limited number of wacky illnesses out there, and House has run through most of the big ones.

On the upside, and returning to my first major point, I consider this to be one of the most sentimental seasons ever. And in a very grown-up way. Other than split personalities, the season focuses thematically on babies and marriage. Both receive refreshingly optimistic treatment. Taub and his wife stay together; Cuddy gets her baby and bonds with it; Wilson and House remain friends in their platonic marriage kind of way; both wife and girlfriend return to their split personality husband and boyfriend; parents are reunited with their estranged, guilt-ridden daughter. It is all done intelligently (the characters behave in accordance with their characterizations) yet also very sentimentally.

Frankly, I'm all for sentiment! I consider tragic endings for the sake of angst and supposed "realism" (which is usually just literary "realism," not actual get-a-job-and-pay-the-bills realism) unbelievably boring and pointless.

So kudos!! I'm going to keep watching. (In another year.)

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