⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 8 reviews.

tl;dr: Sherlock Holmes meets Scrubs. It could have been awful – in some ways, it should have been – but some genuinely interesting writing and the ever exceptional comedic timing/acting of Hugh Laurie make it a modern classic instead (even with the season four blip).

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I've technically seen season one (and two, and possibly three) of House before, having had an intense but short-lived fling with the show post exams in first year of university, but I remember very little almost a decade later. Interestingly, some of the main plot points that I do recall occur pretty early on, and the main story arc was completely absent. If it wasn't for the fact that subsequent events in later seasons are clearly memorable, I'd almost think I missed the second half of this season!

This time around that won't be a problem, as the second half of the season is weirdly, well, basic. Overall I'm glad I've revisited this particular iteration of the Holmesian mystery, but season one is a strange beast that never quite hits the flow. I was struck that the first episode felt like House; so often, American TV shows have pilots that just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, presenting characters that are often hollow shells or utterly different compared to what they become. Not so here, where each character and their various dynamics all felt incredibly familiar and fleshed out. It really helps launch you into the story and just leapfrogs a lot of the teething pains that similar shows go through.

That familiarity and rapidity continue throughout the first dozen or so episodes, until Vogler turns up. He's a weird character: a philanthropist millionaire who insists on running the hospital like a business, which seems counterproductive to his aims. He wants to solve cancer, dementia, and the other big nastys, but seemingly hates outside-the-box thinking and risk taking. In the world of 2020, with characters like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos running around, this feels strangely dull and unbelievable. Equally, as a non-American, I can't talk about the realism of a private buy out of a hospital like that, but if it is accurate than just wow that country is screwed up. Luckily, the Vogler plot line gets rounded off by the end of the season, because it isn't particularly interesting and feels more like a soap opera than a medical drama.

Which is a double shame, because slap-bang in the middle of that saga is the Three Stories episode where House has to teach a class about diagnostics. It's a beautifully surreal plot that constantly leaves you unsure of timelines and subtly toys with TV tropes, the fourth wall, and other normalcies in a way that a show like House rarely manages. It's fantastic already, but by the time you realise that one of those titular three stories is about House himself, it becomes a poignant insight into his character that really fleshes him out. It's exceptional TV and a fantastic hint at what the show could become.

Otherwise, I'm not sure about the high-tech medical CGI - it definitely hasn't aged well, and it adds little to the plot - but once you get used to it (and the producers realise how best to use it) it becomes manageable. Of course no amount of quibbles could ever overshadow the absolutely excellent performance by Hugh Laurie, leaving you with a solid, highly enjoyable show with interesting characters, some nice remixing of the Watson/Holmes narrative, excellent acting all around, and some really clever ideas.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

With Vogler out of the way and the main characters all well established, the second season of House is able to experiment a bit more and find its voice. Episodes like Acceptance and Humpty Dumpty let the show take a hard look at darker elements of American culture, namely capital punishment and the exploitation of immigrant labour, whilst House vs God is just a lot of fun. Interestingly, the episode about tick bite fever is the one plotline that has really stuck with me over the years since first watching the show; on rewatch I'm still a little confused as to why, as it's a good plot but nothing spectacular.

From a character level, the introduction of House's ex makes for some interesting plot development and back story expansion that plays out really well, plus the whole House/Wilson roommates experience is brilliant. It feels like the writers finally realised that this is Holmes/Watson after their glory days, meaning you can really dig into that dynamic in new ways. Plus, I continue to enjoy how much everyone on the show are just assholes. No matter how much you want to like certain characters, once every few episodes one of them will do something that firmly places them back in unlikeable territory. The only exception to this is Cuddy, who remains awesome throughout. They may have pushed this a little too far with Foreman telling Cameron they aren't friends and then trying to kill her to save his life, but it's a tense and well done episode so it almost makes it worthwhile.

Also, holy cameos Batman! Particularly midseason, there seems to be a string of episodes that feature actors who were probably unknowns at the time, but have gone on to be well known, particularly in the nerd community. Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Star Wars), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Thomas Decker (Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heroes), LL Cool J, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Jayma Mays (Glee), Michelle Trachtenburg (Buffy), Taraji Henderson (Hidden Figures, Person of Interest), and Randall Park (Antman and the Wasp).

Unfortunately, nothing in season two lives up to the Three Stories plot from season one. They try something similar during the No Reason finale which is a solid attempt, but lacks the spark of creativity that the former episode had. House's descent into madness after being shot is well done, and keeps you guessing just long enough whilst letting you feel slightly ahead of the curve and begin questioning reality early, but it's still a little too obvious what's going on. I think the fish tacos were a step too far 😁 Also... the hell is that cliff hanger! I don't think I can ever forgive shows that literally cut to black as the main character is dying; it's unnecessary as the next season will already have been announced!

All that said, as a whole season, this is a clear improvement on what came before and nicely sets us up for something new in season three. The slow build of House's leg getting worse, then the unconfirmed possibility that his coma-induced hallucinations gave him a potential cure, is an interesting pivot. I'll be intrigued to see where it goes from here.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I said I'd be intrigued to see where the show went and it turns out we did get a cured House, albeit only for a few episodes. Still, getting to see a House that was lifting out of depression, sans cane, was an interesting direction to take the character in and helped flesh him out further. Unfortunately, the pain ultimately does return, and House ends up back on drugs as a result, leading us to the big villain of season three: Detective Tritter. A cop that House pisses off and ends up investigating him for drug abuse and negligence is an interesting angle for the show to explore and felt a lot more impactful than previous villains.

In general, the show continues on with its strength from season two. Earlier episode arcs, including Cuddy trying to teach House humility and the parasite-induced affections of a young patient, are fun diversions that help pad out episodes with character development. Other padding – such as musings about whether House is autistic – are a little duller and could probably just be cut out entirely.

The show also continues to have some impactful episodes. Standouts are the one where an overweight man (played by an actor I recognised from The Mentalist) refuses any treatment that is solely based on his weight, alongside the episode where a recent rape victim is only willing to talk to House. The latter, in particular, is a really solid examination of House's past and present character traits with some excellent writing. I also really enjoyed the pandemic episode on the plane, it balanced tension and humour really well.

As for the rest of the characters, I feel like most of them get left behind a bit this season. Foreman gets some development towards the latter half, and the fight with Tritter gives both Cuddy and Wilson some interesting moments, but Chase and Cameron feel a little worn out. They have a secret relationship to fill the gap, but it never feels all that interesting, and almost out of character for Cameron. As a result, the ending where all three are suddenly gone actually feels like a positive step for the show, and I look forward to see what comes next.

Season Four

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Oh boy, it's the writers' strike season. That strike killed so many shows, I'm almost surprised House wasn't amongst them, because this was not great. Despite the shorter season length, there's still very little to praise here past the initial setup.

Which is a shame, because I did really like the initial setup and would have happily watched more of that. I still think the best episode to date has been the one where House gave a lecture, so seeing him back in front of a classroom had me hopeful. That his class were actually job candidates fighting for a single position meant a wider cast and more intrigue, with some great characters. Once we'd eliminated the ones that were clearly never going to go anywhere (because they never said anything) it left a fun group and the show made sure to keep House's picks relatively consistent. Yes, I was rooting for the older guy without a license, because he was great at his job, but the show got rid of him in a logical way. The episode with the man that mirrored people's behaviour was a bit ridiculous, but worked well in weeding through those that remained as well.

Unfortunately, as the season continued it became less and less obvious why people were being cut. Most notably, the black Mormon doctor's dismissal felt lazy (even if he was the most likely) and the removal of "cut-throat bitch" (if House never learned their names why should I?) was obviously needed but not particularly satisfying. If that had been the worst transgression then fair enough, but then they brought Amber back, made her Wilson's girlfriend, and then killed her. What? And they revealed all of that with a weird finale that included multiple near-death experiences, some very strange procedures, several hallucination sequences (including one of Cuddy stripping), and a subplot that House and Amber were having an affair (which turned out to be utterly without pretext, which makes sense). It wasn't a good plot, to say the least, nor did it fit Amber's earlier personality well.

Although, at least she had a personality. Kutner seemed to yo-yo between loveable rogue to incompetent imbecile, 13 was just "mysterious" and then suddenly dying, and Taub is pigeon-holed as the cheating, greedy Jew. It's not the best look for the show, certainly. In the meantime, whilst I like that all three of the original students are back in the hospital, and feel like they largely patched up Cameron and Chase's character descent from season three, none of them really get any real progression. That's worst for Foreman, who was the reason the old crew all left/were fired, but is now back to exactly where he was. Worse, over the course of the season, his job seems to slowly dissolve from "oversight" to "just another team member", which feels weird even if I like having him back. Luckily, House is a solid enough character (and Laurie a good enough actor) that he seems to come through relatively unscathed.

In short, there's no way it can get any worse, so bring on season five.

Season Five

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

We're definitely out of the writers' strike doldrums, with season four delivering a string of some of the most enjoyable episodes for quite some time around midway through. The opening few episodes were still a little odd, but they had to deal with the fallout from the previous season and, for the most part, I felt this was handled well. House and Wilson's relationship feels strained enough that when they do patch things up it doesn't feel like a total cop-out. Similarly, the sudden Cuddy/House focus helps distract from the stupidity of previous episodes and feels like a natural progression. I like Cuddy's adoption arc a lot more than whatever happened to her last season as well.

In fact, most of the character's had much better arcs. Thirteen also had the ridiculous drama of her diagnosis and I felt that her and Foreman pairing off felt fairly natural. Cameron and Chase getting married was a solid decision, and Taub's indecision over what he wants to do was also solid. Basically, by the end of the season the core group of characters felt like they had meaningful and logical relationships with one another. Of course, the sudden departure of Kal Penn to work for the Obama administration meant that Kutner had to be rapidly written off the show. That's a real shame, as his character had done the largest 180 in some ways; he'd gone from loveable goofball to whacky, outside-the-box genius, and suddenly felt like a logical hire for House's team. That his suicide came the episode after he had a patient-saving idea hit all the harder.

His death was covered well, and I felt like both the suicide episode and the subsequent funeral were both dealt with neatly. Again, Taub's character was probably the most interesting and he played it extremely well. The moment at the end where he just breaks down in the hallway actually made me care about him a lot more than anything that had come before. The only downside to the arc is that it pretty much eclipsed Meatloaf being on the show, despite a brilliant performance and genuinely interesting storyline.

Individually, episodes with Jimmi Simpson playing a faithless priest that appears to be miraculously saved and then again when a deaf teenager is admitted who refuses to be treated for his disability felt particularly strong. The former was just a fun episode messing with House, whilst the latter touched on a societal issue around cochlear implants pretty well. Locked In tried hard and almost felt like a genuinely novel return to form but I don't think it quite nailed the whole Peep Show perspective camera work, and the beach scenes felt a little forced. I also had no idea that it was Mos Def (!) playing the locked-in patient until the credits!

Which only leaves the finale. I wasn't so sure about Amber turning back up; maybe it was meant to be Kutner but they let him off the hook to go play White House and brought her back instead? She was probably a better fit for the ultimate storyline, but it still felt a little weird – and worrying. Luckily I think they did salvage it with the final episode of the season. The whole Cuddy helps House go sober, they sleep together, House tries to determine how to go about making the relationship work, only to have it all come crashing down around him when he realises the entire thing was a hallucination was a great twist. It also made sense as to how he could get sober in a single evening. Still, that this makes him finally accept the need for help is an interesting move for the show and one hell of a step for the character, one that actually feels earned. This is a more caring House, one who initially goes to Wilson for help, then Cuddy, then ultimately admits his own failure. It proves that all the character work this season and in season three is actually going somewhere and, at this stage, that's important. Solid television all around.

Season Six

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

House finally feels like it's hitting some kind of stride. The opening few episodes to season six are some of the best the show has produced. Seeing House going through actual rehab and therapy, institutionalised and ultimately capable of personal growth, was incredibly well handled, extremely fun to watch, and a very interesting new direction. That it also gave us Captain Holt from Brooklyn 99 as his "nemesis"/psychiatrist was the cherry on top. Honestly, I'd have been happy for them to have stuck with this part of the plot for twice as long as they did, though what we got was great so I'm also glad they didn't needlessly stretch it out.

The evolution of both House and Wilson's characters as a result of all of that has been equally brilliant, and I've really enjoyed the increasingly complex dynamic between them and Cuddy. The individual episodes focusing entirely on both Wilson and Cuddy (one apiece) were also some of the strongest in the show's history, and really cement this as one of – if not the – strongest seasons yet. The moment in Wilson's episode when the rest of the team dash past with a crash cart and gurney was a brilliant piece of comedy 😂. I've also really liked the introduction of Lucas, the PI-come-romantic-rival; he's been played extremely well and it was great to see another person that could deal with House and let him strike up an actual friendship. I thought the House/Lucas/Cuddy love triangle was a bit weird, but I didn't hate it either (though see below).

The rest of the cast have been, well, less interesting. I don't really know why we had to go through the whole "everyone quits, the original team comes back, everyone quits again, a new mishmash team comes back" sequence. Foreman, at this point, is just a plot foil, though both 13 and Taub are increasingly enjoyable. Quite a few of the side stories, though, feel like drama for drama's sake (such as Foreman firing 13 and Taub's wife yo-yo'ing between various arguments). And then there was the whole African-warlord-murder plot. I actually thought the initial setup was done well. The team having to battle the moral dilemma of the Hippocratic oath vs saving a genocidal monster was fun and the fallout of Chase's decisions felt realistic too (realistic for House/TV, at least). Even the whole marriage-falling-apart over lies and trust thing was fine, but weirdly I just can't get on board with Cameron (who never stops being called Cameron, even though that isn't her last name any more) dumping Chase. Sure, I get someone not being okay with murder, and Cameron is an inherently moral person, but she was the one who argued for killing Dibala in the first place. She literally put the idea in Chase's head and almost acted on it herself, but then when she finds out that Chase actually did it she suddenly turns on the idea? The stupid thing is that there was no need for her character to take the "he's a warlord and should die" stance in the first place, but she did and it creates this dumb plot hole that is barely addressed. Even a one-line "I said it, I'd never do it!" would have been a little better than what we got, which was an incredibly brief admission when she returns for divorce papers.

Despite that, I actually don't mind her character leaving. Cameron was the best of the original trio in the early seasons, but honestly I think they'd just lost track of what she was to become. It would have been interesting to see her take on Cuddy's role part-time, but going back to House was a weird move and I'm glad they didn't make her stick around there. Plus, whilst I liked grown-up Chase, I do really enjoy him being back on the team properly.

Which really only leaves us with the big finale. As a show, House has this habit of wanting to create a bit, ridiculous plotline for the last couple of episodes, often involving House hallucinating or having a near-death experience for quirky, meta character development. They can be quite fun but they also routinely miss the mark and I was worried we were building towards a secondary relapse that could ruin an otherwise brilliant season. Instead, what we got was a particularly strong finish. Having House effectively trapped underground, having to deal with the human side of tragedy rather than simply solving a puzzle, was a great bit of character building and felt thematically on point for the season as a whole. I was less sure about the whole Cuddy being engaged, massive fight, final words part of things, but whilst it was a little over the top, it got us to a closing point that felt at least a little deserved. More importantly, the fact that the patient then died in the ambulance, leaving him incapable of saving her or doing anything, was the perfect tipping point for him to return to his final stash and consider drugs again. It was immensely powerful and I think a solid ending.

Of course, it does leave us with the question of what is actually real, a question the show itself acknowledged. Cuddy leaving Lucas having just got engaged is a rash decision and the timing is more than a little suspicious. There's every possibility that her appearance is a relapse of his own mental breakdown and I'm okay with that. We'll have to see where season seven goes!

Season Seven

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The seventh season teased the "Cuddy vs hallucination" mystery a little bit, but I'm actually really glad that it turned out to be real. Pretty much the whole season was centred around the ups and downs of House and Cuddy's relationship, which was a solid move overall. It was an entertaining arc that allowed both characters a lot of room for development and created some great storylines. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the breakup, but the cancer scare followed by House's relapse was at least a well-written reason, plus House dealing with it was a lot of fun to watch. And then that finale... it will be interesting to see how season eight rounds things out.

Elsewhere, season seven never quite lives up to the heights of the previous series. Foreman continues to be stalled as a character, Taub finally broke things off with his wife (though I did enjoy the Taub/Foreman friendship), and 13 was suddenly written out, though I thought it was treated well. Chase feels a lot more settled; I like that they keep hinting back to his murder plot rather than glossing over it, whilst allowing it to be something moved on from most of the time. Ditto for Cameron, who is obviously actually out of the show for good. Still, whilst Chase and Wilson both had nice moments, I'd say neither character had much movement – in fact none of them really did. This was the House x Cuddy season and that's okay.

I'm less okay with Masters. I liked the idea of a prodigy to foil House's own genius, but she just felt like a proto-Cameron, all morality and little real substance. Plus I never warmed to the actress, who just went with "pouty" for the majority of scenes. Some of her plotlines were fun, but I think the character ran its course and hope she stays out of the next season.

Overall, the penultimate season was a fun ride which helped wrap up a lot of long running story threads. I'm still a little hopeful about House/Cuddy, but won't be mad if they go in a completely different direction. I still feel a little cheated that after six seasons of build-up, Cuddy dumps House over a single vicadin pill, despite everything else he's achieved since rehab. Still, it feels like the writers have a clear path forward and at this point I trust them to do the show justice. One more season to go...

Season Eight

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

So it's done 😥 Eight seasons later, the story of Doctor Gregory House is rounded out. I wondered how they would draw a line under the story, but never guessed the route that would actually be taken (even if I accidentally saw that the final episode was called Everybody Dies and spent the entire season trying to work out if House himself would be killed – a great pun too by the way). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The season starts with House in jail following his car + house + Cuddy incident. Jail is another fun reinvention for the character but it never quite hits the high notes of his stint in the psych ward, so I'm glad it only lasts a few episodes. The reveal of Foreman as the new Dean of Medicine was a nice touch and House's early "release" to being under house arrest leads to plenty of fun story moments in the first half of the season. I like how they deal with the wider team as well, all of whom have left the hospital whilst House was in jail. Taub and Chase returning gave a nice sense of continuity, whilst the new characters of Park and Adams allow the plots to mix things up a little. Best of all is how they deal with 13, getting her back to the brink of returning only for House to deliberately sabotage it and allow her to enjoy life; it's a nice moment that rounds out their particularly nuanced relationship neatly and reminds you that, of all the characters, 13 may be one of the best the show created (despite an incredibly rocky start with the writer's strike). Oh, plus House's wife returns for a surprisingly fun will-they-won't-they storyline that obviously House screws up.

Of course, the second half of the season then pivots to focus in closely on Wilson and House, which feels both fitting and leads to a really solid finale. Wilson's initial anger and reticence are done well, but the reveal that he's dying was a great moment. House's denial, the insane chemo plan, the terminal diagnosis, House actually being there for his friend for once, and then to have the return to jail pull the rug out... it's a rollercoaster and a very fine piece of storytelling. And then the finale. Everybody Dies. Wilson has months left to live and House goes on a suicidal bender, sees the (often literal) ghosts of the past (a great trip down memory lane for the show, though notably still no Cuddy), before seemingly being engulfed in a burning building having blacked out on heroin, in front of Wilson and Foreman no less. House is dead. Except of course he isn't and somehow the show pulls off the Reichenbach Fall in its final moments. I was unsure right up until Wilson's rant at the funeral; the moment he started I knew House would interrupt somehow and the phone call was a brilliant touch. I won't lie, I teared up a little as the two friends rode off into the sunset on their motorbikes; one dead, the other dying, enjoying the last weeks they have. 😭 A fitting ending for both characters.

Overall, the eighth season doesn't have any truly stand-out moments beyond the finale itself, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. New characters are fun and fresh, old characters get solid arcs that round out their stories nicely, and of course the big reveal at the end ensures that there is a finality to the story. House is legally dead and if he ever reveals himself he'll be stuck back in jail, probably for even longer given the whole death-fraud thing. He'll certainly never go back to medicine, so the show is done. And that's okay. Are their better seasons? Sure. Did the best episodes all happen long ago? Yep. But it's a solid ending to a highly enjoyable series and the overarching story sticks the landing. What more could you want?

PS The weird inclusion of a pseudo-documentary as the "final" episode of the season was a bit strange, though it was fun getting to see Hugh Laurie just dick around for 40 minutes 😁

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