House: Broken (season premiere)
by Jonathan Toomey, posted Sep 21st 2009 10:03PM
(S06E01/S06E02) "Oh, I'm sorry, is suicide taboo? Gosh, if I've broken a rule on my first day, I will kill myself." - House
This is not the House we know and love - both the show and character. While the lack of any resemblance to the typical medical procedural we're used to might have been a turn off to some, I feel pretty confident in saying that tonight's premiere will likely go down as one of the best episodes of House ever - regardless for how long it runs.
After seeing House check himself into a psychiatric hospital after last year's hallucinations and subsequent break-down, there's been one big question bugging us all and I pointed it out earlier today in my preview - is he or isn't he crazy? While we got our answer, it really doesn't matter because there was a whole lot more at stake than House's mental prowess in "Broken."
So let's get the obvious out of the way - House isn't crazy and the hallucinations of Amber, Kutner, and Cuddy were all a direct result of House's addiction to Vicodin. After seeing him go through what appeared to be a pretty painful bout of withdrawal, the voices in his head went bye-bye too. However, that has nothing to do with the fact that House does have problems aplenty, of which his drug habit was just one.
Fortunately for him, Mayfield's head, Dr. Darryl Nolan (incredible turn by Andre Braugher), knew better and even though House could check himself out anytime he wanted, Nolan made a pretty good point - if House only intended to get clean, then why did he go to psych ward and not a rehab facility? That and he promised to not write a a letter of recommendation should House you know, ever want to be a practicing doctor again. Guess who stayed committed?
Throughout the two hours, we saw House scheme his way through just about every trick in the book. Unfortunately, Nolan knew all the tricks. It was incredibly fun to see House continually outsmarted since it's always been the other way around. He stopped taking his pills? Nolan knew and tested him by subbing in a placebo. House tries to start a riot? Nolan defused it and gave in to House's demands immediately.
The thing that amazed me was that House didn't necessarily give up, but he started conceding more and more to the point where he had no next step other than to actually try to get better. He never gave in like this when David Morse's Det. Tritter was in his way. It seems as though House has more of a connection with Nolan and that aided in his submissiveness.
Once we realized that Nolan was smart enough to anticipate House (like with with sugar pills) it started making you wonder, as a viewer, what was real and what wasn't. I found myself constantly trying to figure how Franka Potente's Lydia could be a plant for Nolan, simply there to try and elicit certain emotions out of the normally emotionless House. She had to be a phony, right, because who would want him?
Once it was clear that there really was an attraction, it was amazing because we saw all these layers peel off House. The man cried! I mean, c'mon - after all he's seen and done, it finally took nothing more than another human taking an interest in him to bring on the water works. Saying "that's deep" would be the understatement of year when it comes to House.
The turning point - taking Freedom Master to the amusement park only to watch him jump off a parking garage when they left - was truly incredible to watch because for the majority of that arc, it felt case-of-the-week-ish. You thought House had him figured out and Nolan didn't. Of course, it turned out that House did know something was up and it all came together when Freedom Master gave Annie her music box back. However, how much of that was really House's doing? It was much more revealing to see him adhere to Nolan's mandate of "move on" instead of "fix." The solution came when House finally accepted that he was wrong and apologizing was enough.
A few more thoughts on "Broken" --
- Kudos to the supporting cast. Seeing Robert Sean Leonard's Wilson finally get to tell House "no," and mean it, was priceless. Plus Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alvy) and Curtis Armstrong (Richter) were both spectacular as House's fellow patients. Alvy was especially rewarding as we saw him go from looking up to House to resenting him to finally wanting to emulate him and get better.
- One thing that struck me? House is an incredibly intelligent individual, yet so much of Nolan's advice was obvious and all of it was news to House. I can't think of another moment in this series, even when we flashed back to his injury and Stacy (Sela Ward) in season two, when House seemed that vulnerable.
- Token irony? House ended the one true connection that he made, with Lydia, by helping her sister in law and thus allowing Lydia and her family to move. Sad, really. But again, and I'm not sure why I can't shake it, but doesn't it still feel a little set up? Like it was supposed to play out this way?
Now the hard part comes. How does this new and improved House fit in with his old team at his old hospital with his old boss and when he's surrounded by everything that shaped him into his old self? Has House truly kicked the pills? Sure, I say yes. However, even though his hallucinations seem to be gone too, how do we know there isn't still something wrong with him?
Nolan let House into his world when he asked Greg for a consult with his brain-dead father. He let House see him at his weakest. Part of his therapy? Or perhaps a veiled admission that while House may be able to diagnose all the patients he sees, Nolan can't. House isn't the same person anymore thanks to his vacation at Mayfield, but does that mean he's better?
[Watch full episodes and clips of House, as well as other shows, over at SlashControl.]