“Dying Changes Everything”
I find films quite easy to review. Plays, documentaries even, but ongoing TV shows? Not easy, even ones like House, which I’ve enjoyed for many years. It’s a rare thing for a show to be able to keep its sense of freshness, where anything can happen (whilst rarely actually happening) in a market with an increasingly short attention span and a near infinite number of channels and websites to surf through. Yet House series 5 starts out with a vitality it hasn’t shown for years. Where series 4 kicked off with a gimmick (which overstayed its welcome), this season opener gives supporting cast members Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) centre stage, and because the quality of writing is still top notch they’re more interesting than at any previous point in the show’s lifespan.
Of course they play second fiddle to Hugh Laurie’s House, as dryly witty, arrogant and ascerbic as ever, who this time has to pay a severe price for his manipulations of his friends. Wilson reveals that he really doesn’t hold Amber’s death against him – he’s just had enough of him and wants out – so he announces his departure. And even though House eventually shows contrition it makes no difference – he really does leave. Where this will lead is anyone’s guess, and considering how important their friendship has been, it gives the status quo a far heftier jolt than changing his fellows! In some ways more interesting than that though is the journey Thirteen makes, watching this week’s patient struggle against death, but also with her position in life. Thirteen now knows her lifespan will without question be curtailed heavily and wants her life to have an impact and greater meaning; the patient however, also facing an early death, has accepted her lot as a follower – their clash forces Thirteen to reflect on her own worldview and her perspective as a doctor. It also makes her a far more interesting fellow for House, who makes his thoughts clear.
Granted it’s frustrating that Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) haven’t properly returned to the fold and remain bit players in the show which made the actors’ names, but it’s something I hope for later on in the season. Laurie meanwhile continues to exude effortless charm, authority and dislikability in equal measure, and remains in full command of every scene he’s in. He remains at the top of his game, imbuing House with far greater character in facial tics, a glance, a glare or unreadable gaze than his script could ever hope to. If House can continue to play at this level – simple stories, high quality acting and not be dependent on past continuity, there’s no reason it couldn’t run as long as Law & Order.
House season 5 is on Sky 1 at 9pm on Sundays and is not to be missed