by Rob Boylan
I hadn't planned on writing anything about the finale of House that aired Monday night to mixed reviews. For one thing, I didn't watch it until later that night because I was watching hockey.
Also true is that, despite an apparently changing wind that has stirred everyone but me, I don't really like TV. No, strike that: I like TV, but the stuff I like is usually so weird or specific in its appeal that it ends up cancelled. So what I really don't like is investing time and emotion into something that some douchebag in Hollywood is waiting eager to yank from the schedule. But I found space in my life for House, even though it wasn't until they were mid-way into the sixth season before I started binge watching it (honest: my dog jumps up and runs to the backdoor whenever he hears the House end music because he knows I'll actually let him out now.)
So House dies. Or he doesn't. Maybe he's David Copperfield and actually did get out of the burning warehouse as flaming ceiling joists rained down on him and became a good guy for Wilson's sake.
Or maybe House died when the ceiling caved a foot from where he was standing and Wilson became so distraught that his brain snapped and overcompensated for the loss of House by turning itself into House: a hallucination factory, creating a world where House is a better, nicer guy, so Wilson can die himself in a sated peace that he never had in life, because House really was an ass.
I have no idea. House is a show that prides itself on its mindgames and pulling the rug out from under our feet, but its also a show that has been on life support for two seasons. I don't really care all that much if it was a mind game, or if it was sincere, or if it was a sincere mindgame. Basically, I'm just kind of glad that it's over now.
Finding a perfect ending for a series as popular and long running as House was isn't easy, I know. It's impossible to please, impress and entertain everyone once expectations get that high. Lincoln said something to that effect, didn't he? Smart guy.
Seinfeld, for instance, disappointed a lot of people (though personally I loved it) with its finale, a which was written by a returning Larry David. The premise, that the group had become so insulated, so anti-social, that they would be arrested on a good samaritan law, was genius, I thought, and though the parade of guest stars wasn't the most original thing in the world, and some of the references were a bit of a stretch (Judge Vandalay mostly), every bit of it was hilarious or in some way befitting of the end of a long running series.
Of course people complained. Because, I guess, that's what we do best. Lost and 24 and a whole lot of other shows that I never watched felt the same rejection from their fans too.
In a strange and kind of backward way, Fox did a huge favor to Married with Children by cancelling it without giving it a series finale, though the season finale -- Kelly's wedding -- did have something of a doomed ending feel to it, though it was so unmemorable I only have a vague recollection of it. I'm pretty sure Kelly ended up not getting married, and perhaps Al beat her boyfriend up.
Fox were dicks about the way they did it, but she show did need to be put out of its misery already. Like House, Married had long since run its course, and like House, there would be no satisfying way to go out. Instead, Married got to go out basking in loud support from fans who were angry at its cancellation, which was somewhat presaged by NO MA'AM's outrage at the cancellation of their beloved Psycho Dad.
There was nothing about the actual show's ending to whine about, nothing for critics to judge, because the show had just ended so abruptly, the weight taken entirely off of its shoulders by Fox execs.
Like Married, House's finale was not a memorable one. It's been five days and I haven't thought about it since I watched it. House has had much stronger season finales (like the "House's Head"/"Wilson's Heart" tandem that the series finale, "Everybody Dies", sort of imitates) than its series finale. That's okay. A lot of shows suffer from this. Even The West Wing was never able to rise up to the heights of season 2's final episode, "The Two Cathedrals" (aka The Great Single Episode of Television Ever).
Instead, I found myself thinking about the series finale of The Sopranos, "Made in America" and the simple, understated brilliance that David Chase brought to the screen.
The quiet shock of the half-gentle, half-violent black screen that ended our time with Tony and his two families made me shake in my seat as I sat with my family and a friend watching it.
Like everyone else, we thought for a moment the cable went out AND AT THE WORST TIME EVER! until the credits began rolling.
And then there was the whirlwind buzz of excitement and confusion. Did Tony get whacked, or was that just his life, jumping at every noise, hoping it wasn't the end? As a child, my favorite books were choose your own adventure books, and David Chase fulfilled my love of them with his non-ending. Each choice has its positives and negatives to consider.
I chose to believe path 2, that Tony doesn't get whacked, but has to live his life in fear and panic, looking over his shoulder, afraid for himself and his family. Will it be the silent bullet to the back of the head like Phil Leotardo, or a snatch a grab torture job, like Vito Spatafore got?
Or would it be the wailing sirens and screaming feds that Henry Hill got in Goodfellas?
Rightly, most of the focus is on the last scene in the show, not the soap opera that led up to it (though Phil's death sure was a talking point).
It's was a poetic ending on the part of Chase to give us a question instead of an answer, to stick with six years of character and not have anyone change their ways (aside from AJ, who, God willing, will catch a stray bullet), and I'll be sad if he ever chooses to spill the beans or make a Sopranos movie. It's not required. It's better this way. Five years later and it's still thought of with wonder. In 10 years, I'm sure it'll be the same, up there with the M*A*S*H, Wonder Years and Newhart finales. House has its great episodes, like "Three Stories", "Frozen" and "Locked In", but "Everybody Dies" is not destined to end up on that list.