House: Wilson's Heart (season finale)
"Are you sure it wasn't the bus that landed on her?" House.
The season finale of House packed a wallop. I let my Tivo get ahead of my watching it so I wouldn't have to see the commercials, and I had barely begun the episode when my next-door neighbor burst into my living room exclaiming, "Have you seen House???" We barely had time to hit the pause button while yelling at her to leave and leave quickly without saying anything. But that is the kind of impact this kind of episode has. The season finale, which started last week, covered a bus-load of big themes: fear, wish-fulfillment, anger, risk-taking, the nature of friendship, remorse, and love. The episode was written by four writers, including producer David Foster: that was one of my first clues that this episode was going to be significant. They called in the big guns.
We found out last week that Amber is the patient who is dying. House and Wilson hunt her down at the hospital she was taken to. She has been unconscious since the crash, she has lost both her kidneys, and her heart is racing uncontrollably. House convinces Wilson to pose as Amber's husband to get Amber transferred to Princeton Hospital so they can treat her themselves. In the ambulance, Amber's heart goes into V-fib, and Wilson begs House to impose hypothermia, lowering her body temperature and putting her heart on bypass to give them time to find the diagnosis without risking possible brain damage by re-starting her heart and having it continue to race. They get to Princeton hospital and the ambulance doors fly open, revealing a blinding white light.
The blinding white light is a symbol, just as both of the two parts of the season finale are packed with them. Let's explore it a little. Does the white light symbolize enlightenment, the answers they will find at Princeton? Or is it something else? Next, we see Amber in a bright, white, sterilized room. None of the normal blue or shaded hues they usually use in the series are present. Does this denote simply a sterile environment, or are we being given clues along the way? Well, obviously, I think there is something else at work here, and I'll talk about it more as we go along.
There are so many puzzles within the overarching question: What is killing Amber? Why was Amber with House? Were they having an affair? Is it important why she was with him? How can House unlock his brain to reveal the symptom he saw, the key to her diagnosis? House, suffering from the exhaustion of his concussion and the heart attack induced by the Alzheimer's medication he took in the last episode, starts falling asleep. His dreams are a little different from the hallucinations of last week.
Because the writers have taken on a bus-ride, which also represents House's unconscious, let's stuck with Jungian dream interpretation theory. In Jung's case, dreams are wish fulfillment. These dreams operate on two levels simultaneously. Amber first appears to House whole, unblemished and unharmed, and dressed all in red. She is a wanton woman, the color of both passion and blood. She pours them a drink, sherry, which not only gives clues to the name of the bar where they met (Sharrie's), but also serves to lower their inhibitions. If everyone in a dream is also the dreamer acting out different parts (we saw this last week with the bus driver who had a headache and bleeding ear, because he was both the bus driver and also a part of House), then Amber represents the part of House that really wants Amber to be attracted to him, just as he is to her. But the real purpose Amber serves is to remind House that he can send jolts of electricity through his brain to access his memories directly. Of course, Cuddy refuses to allow House to try this, because House could die.
In the meantime, the team is running diagnostics, and breaking into Amber's house. Now that is an interesting metaphor. In Freudian analysis, a house represents the subconscious. the psyche of the dreamer, but in this case, let's just stick with the home as a place that gives us clues. Kutner and 13 break search the apartment, and 13 is clearly disturbed by the signs of normal living there: Nail polish, dry-cleaning. It's an invasion of privacy of someone she knows, someone she hasn't liked. She accuses Kutner of not watching the sex tape because he is friends with Amber, when it is she who shut the computer, claiming irrelevance. She is projecting her own inability to be professionally aloof onto him. Kutner, on the other hand, is the only one who is not bothered by treating Amber. We learn that his parents were robbed and killed at gunpoint in their store when he was six years old. He has had many years to learn acceptance. Everybody dies.
The members of the team seem to represent the different stages of grief: 13 is denial; Taub is bargaining (maybe you had an affair; maybe you did drugs; maybe something can make a difference); Kutner is acceptance; Wilson is anger. 13 is unable to separate herself from Amber, who is the same age, female, and dying, because she might also be dying, albeit a great deal more slowly, from Huntington's Disease. House calls her on her inability to address her own mortality, and tells her to get past it and do her job or leave. The fact that 13 correctly calls House the king of his own inability to deal with his life head on doesn't matter in the power differential between them. House's neuroses don't interfere with his job, though the line "House is killing the patient" does seem prescient. Is he killing her with his inability to diagnose her, or because she was with him on the bus when it crashed?
They think Amber has lime disease, autoimmune disorders, Hep B. Everything fits; nothing fits. In House's next dream, Amber reveals her back to him. In this dream, she is bruised, blue, battered, and hooked up to the wires and machines that are keeping her alive. House and the team look at her lower back and see a rash there. The rash is a clue-- but it's not the only thing significant about her lower back. Her kidneys are also gone, destroyed, but this is never acknowledged as important, which is a red herring (or lack of one). I immediately thought of her kidneys when she revealed her back, but the rash threw me off, and it threw off the team, too. They correctly identified the flu, but they missed the important part.
Another small clue was the diet pills hidden in her vitamins: What other drugs was Amber taking? Wilson, in his grief, doesn't think of what else she could have been taking. He misses what is important -- not that it would have mattered anyway.
House and Wilson visit the bar and House vaguely remembers dancing with Amber, his arm draped over her. The bartender, played by Fred Durst, lead singer of Limp Bizkit, tells House, "She was your girlfriend last night." Girlfriend is defined as buying him drinks and leaving with him. However, this is all very misleading as well. Context is everything. It turns out that the most significant thing the bartender has to tell them is that Amber sneezed and he gave her a napkin.
As time passes without a diagnosis, Foreman becomes increasingly frustrated with both House and Wilson. He thinks Amber's heart needs to be re-started to check to see whether she is responding to treatment. Wilson goes ballistic. This episode brings home why doctors shouldn't treat members of their own family. They can't make rational judgment calls. For Wilson, everything hinges on stasis, keeping Amber suspended in time, on his not breathing, not moving, not acting, not deciding, because moving forward might signal her demise. But time is not on his side, and eventually, something is going to happen.
In a last, desperate attempt to save Amber, to find out what is locked in House's head besides the rash, Wilson reminds House about the electric voltage directly to his hippocampus, to reveal detailed memories. House asks Wilson, "Do you want me to risk my life to save Amber's?" This was a beautiful piece of acting between the two actors, as Wilson summons every year of friendship, every favor he has ever paid to House, and collects in one long look and a short nod. House acknowledges this with an even briefer nod of his own; he owes this to Wilson, and he knows it. However, we could also argue that House is in love with Amber, too, and that he is never altruistic: House is doing this for House.
Chase drills a hole into House's brain and House begins to put together the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. House was drunk; the bartender took his keys, so he called Wilson. Wilson was on call, so Amber came to give House a ride. She said she was doing it for Wilson. She had a couple of drinks with House at House's insistence, and then House walked out on the tab, so she ended up paying. Not exactly the role of a girlfriend. She followed House onto the bus to give him his cane. Her fatal error: helping House in Wilson's stead. She sneezed again on the bus and mentioned that she had the flu. She took her prescription for it, sealing her own fate.
The bus accident destroyed her kidneys, so the medicine couldn't be filtered. It was toxic. It adhered to proteins in her blood, so there was no way to filter it. She was dead before she was even transported off the bus, or really, as Foreman says, at the moment she went into V-fib in the ambulance to Princeton Hospital. When the doors flew open to reveal a white light, that showed us she was dead. She just had a few goodbyes to say first.
House had a seizure that put him into a coma, so, while he was unconscious, Cuddy convinced Wilson to let Amber wake up so they could say goodbye. I don't know about you, but when Amber figured out that she was doomed, I was sobbing. It really sucks to have to sit down and write a review when you feel completely emotionally ravaged by the episode you just saw. Amber and Wilson have a very touching farewell: She tells him it is time to go to sleep, and he asks for more time. She says they will always want more time. He asks her why she isn't angry, and she says that she doesn't want anger to be the last thing she feels. He turns off the bypass machine, and she goes to sleep in his arms.
The team, before this, has all filed in to say goodbye. Number 13, the one who hated Amber, is the one who hugs Amber. Psychologists call this reaction formation: You act so far against what you really feel that maybe nobody will notice your true feelings. Taub goes home and embraces his wife (bargaining); Kutner eats a bowl of cereal (acceptance), and 13 tests her blood and finally comes face to face with the fact that House's diagnoses are always right: She has Huntington's.
Everyone said farewell to Amber, but the only person who keeps a vigil by House's comatose self is Cuddy. "I'm here," she tells him when he opens his eyes briefly. House ends up back on a brilliant white bus (remember the brilliant white of the hospital room? Just like Heaven) with Amber. He wants to stay with her where there is no pain, where Wilson won't hate him for living when Amber died. Amber, who is still Amber even in death, tells him he deserves to have Wilson hate him. And then she tells him to get off the bus. House wakes up, and Cuddy is sleeping nearby. Wilson is standing and staring. He stays long enough to see that House is going to live, and then he turns and leaves without a word. Wilson=Anger. Let's see how long it lasts.
|No, but it was pretty good.||641 (20.4%)|
|Not my cup of tea.||94 (3.0%)|
|Yes-- I'm still discombobulated.||2407 (76.6%)|