Guest Blogger Brother on House’s "Meaning"

I seem to have not just succeeded in getting my brother to watch House, I’ve infected him with my own brand of nerddom – the need to dissect the show. Serves him right, since I blame him for the fact that I know more about Dr. Who and Linux than I should. Anyway, he sent me an e-mail after my review of the season opener, because we also share the longwinded gene and he thought it was too much to be a comment to my post. Instead, I’m handing this post over to him because he’s a funny boy. Kinda smart too. And I’m sticking in some of what I responded to him, too, because it’s my blog, dammit.

Oh, and now that he actually reads this blog, you won’t tell him all the nasty things I’ve said about him in the past, right? So here he is, Big Brother Steve:

Like a lot of others, I was pretty disappointed. It’s funny how some of the things that bothered you bothered me as well. [Me: Not so funny, since I’m always right.] I normally like Wilson, but wanted to punch him in the face when he started going on about the “levels of happiness.”

I was a little taken aback by him jogging (though I actually liked the choice of Gorillaz for music). Ya, that seemed a little over the top, but isn’t it possible for the muscle to grow back? I can see it atrophying from lack of use while he was in pain, but once the pain is gone and he gets physical therapy, wouldn’t he regain some function? Not a rhetorical question, I don’t know if surgically removed muscle can regenerate.

[Me: I’m not a doctor, I just play one on my blog. But … some function, maybe, but completely limp-free two months after the pain goes away? He used to limp no matter how much or little Vicodin he’d taken. In “Three Stories” there’s a line where he says “because of the extent of the muscle removed, utility of the patient’s leg was severely compromised,” and in “Skin Deep,” Wilson did an MRI on his leg and said “MRI looks exactly the same as it did two years ago. Nerves don’t seem to be regenerating.”

Maybe it shouldn’t bug me that much, but the character has been defined by that disability, not just pain, and now it seems like they’re changing the rules. It’s not good to redefine one of the defining traits of your main character. It just seemed cheap, and they don’t usually go for cheap. They don’t usually lose me that badly on things just because they might be unrealistic, but it seemed a betrayal of the character, too.]

And yes, he did have a big change of character, but I was able to buy that (I didn’t like it, though). He’s experienced a huge change in his life, and has an outlook on life that isn’t filtered through a shroud of pain and painkillers.

As for not flirting with Cuddy, I guess one could attribute that to a change of character, although you’d think it would be easier to flirt when you’re not in excruciating pain. You could argue that he just wasn’t in the mood, he just had a revelation on a patient’s condition, and was focused on that.

I can’t imagine him asking for permission for a simple injection, though. He’s lied to get patients transplants, done procedures without consent, human experimentation (poor coma guy).

I had a huge problem with the ending. He “got lucky”? He’s been getting lucky for years (yes, that was an unfortunate phrase). Why all of a sudden do they feel this is different?

Anyway, the biggest problem I have is not the rationale behind House’s change of character (I’m not even going to start with everyone else’s change of character), but the fact that they’ve changed it. Like it or not, shows are written with formulas for a reason. We get comfortable with the characters and situations and enjoy seeing them explored. The best shows surprise us with believable twists to the characters (I’m not phrasing this well, but I hope you know what I mean). To change a main character’s character makes him no longer relevant to the reason we decided to watch his show week after week.

[Me: Exactly. I don’t care if this is part of a longer story where he discovers things about himself and ends up with the leg pain and limp back again or whatever, and he gets back to the same old House. If that’s what they do, fine, that could be interesting. I can’t see them have him be pain free and limp free and just a plain old drug addict, but maybe they could make that work. But whatever they do, TV isn’t about getting to an end point that’s interesting, it’s about each episode being interesting along the way.

Like you said, it’s not that I don’t buy that he might be more sober after a life-changing experience, but sober House is not why I watch the show. I don’t care if it’s reasonable to think he might have changed, it’s not reasonable to expect the audience to want to watch a character drained of what made him interesting. ]

I don’t want to watch “nice” House. I liked sarcastic, funny, flirty House. If I want nice, I’ll watch the spin-off show: “Wilson”.

The good news is, it won’t last. The bad news is, how long do we have to put up with this?

It was doubly disappointing because the season ender was so good. It was really anti-climatic.

[Me: Yeah, I got tired of writing the review – I find it hard to get into them when I don’t like the episode – and didn’t put in some stuff I meant to say, like that this one was actually written by the same people as the finale (plus a couple more. Maybe that explains why it was a bit of a mess). So even more shocking that it was so disappointing. Especially with the title (“Meaning” vs. the season-ending “No Reason”), I expected it to be more of a sort of bookend to it. We didn’t really get much about what meaning House took away from his big epiphany that it’s not all about rationality.]

And what happened to big-tongue guy?

[Me: Hopefully his testicles didn’t explode and his eye didn’t squirt out of its socket and House didn’t gut him, and they cured him.

Someone took my comment about the shooter as a criticism, but I actually meant that I’m glad we didn’t get closure. It’s possible they’ll bring it up as a plot again, though I don’t think so for some reason. And in any case, I think anything they do with him would be a letdown after how interesting his role was in the hallucination. I don’t need to see him brought to justice or anything.

I guess same with big-tongue guy – he wasn’t really the point, so it might seem weird to bring him up again long after he should have been either cured or killed.]

Thanks guest blogger bro! Soon I’m going to get you obsessed with Canadian TV, right?

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7 Responses to Guest Blogger Brother on House’s "Meaning"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’d just like to remind you guys who have apparently decided that a bum, painful leg is what defines this character; that (not only is this a run on sentence)but also that the writers have defined House as being “pretty much the same” BEFORE “the leg”.(nasty, self absorbed,rude). Both Stacey and Cuddy, two characters who knew him “pre leg debachle” have said so. And the man himself has defined himself as a “jerk” many times. Why tie him to a leg when there are so many other defining characteristics of this guy that the writers will no doubt screw-up?…Besides, he’s going to have to mello a tiny bit if we ever want to see him as a dad!!! (D0 we?)

  2. Systemaddict says:

    I won’t really comment on the episode, I saw it- didn’t think too much of it- but I only get to see house rarely…so…

    As for the muscle in his leg;

    Muscle tissue will regenerate. Depending on therapy for the muscle, this can happen fairly quickly, but typically is a long process, barring mass amounts of protien injections and the like.

    The nerve damage though, is far trickier. Much longer process, if ever at all.

    Only reason I bring it up is because- it’s feasable (especially in this shows fudge medical realm) that his muscles would allow his body frame to resume running. The nerves would provide him with some mobility issues though- most likely, a limp.

    I’m sure this isn’t something that would bug a lot of people. It did bug me a little…

  3. Diane Kristine says:

    It’s bugged a lot of people on the Internet, at least, partly because there’s concern it’ll be permanent, and then he’s just a jerk of a drug addict, which is trickier to empathize with. As they’ve said in the show, and as the writers have said in interviews, the fact that his damage is physical as well as emotional lets you get away with more. It’s easier to overlook fudged medical facts when they don’t change character. Sure, he was a jerk before, but was he a drug addict before, and would we have watched the show about just a jerk, without him being an egotist who struggles with a diminished sense of self-worth?

    But the medical is far from the biggest thing about the episode that didn’t work. A few things that have been hallmarks of the character were fudged.

  4. Suldog says:

    I still say we’re not out the other end of the shooting and much of what we’re seeing is being played out in House’s head.

    I sure hope so, anyway.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I… don’t think House’s character really changed at all. He really wasn’t any kinder than he’s ever been before. Telling the patient’s kid that at least the dad knows how miserable his life is… That’s typical blunt, harsh, Housian comfort. Not what overly nice, concerned doctors would tell someone. He wasn’t any nicer to anyone. He took on a case that was fundamentally different from what he usually takes on, so yeah, he was trying to change, trying to be… not nicer person, but a better person. A person who helps people in meaningful ways even if he doesn’t get anything out of it but… knowing he helped someone. That didn’t work for House. He tried it out and it didn’t work – and he felt pretty bumbed out about it not working, felt that maybe everyone was right and he was a horrible person.

    But the thing is, House ISN’T actually a horrible person. He says mean things to people, he’s insensitive, rude and has a caustic sense of humor. So what? Lots of people do. He’s not a nice guy – but he’s not a bad person. We have in fact seen him be much mellower and nicer in the past. Remember episodes like “Control” and “The Socratic Method,” and “Autopsy” and many others. House can sometimes be very sober, and he has always had compassion. He just doens’t show it very often.

    House felt like the same old House to me.

    (All that being said, there was a lot about this episode that pissed me off, and overall, I was rather disappointed – but not by the characterization of House.)

    -Steph

  6. Diane Kristine says:

    That would seem to indicate a problem with the writing, since we’re told throughout the episode that he’s different, and trying to be different – not the same old House. It did feel very much like we were told rather than shown the difference. I didn’t think his medical skills were as different as they kept saying, but I definitely didn’t find him as fun or funny as usual – no caustic sense of humour, no gleeful fun at others’ expense, very little sense of humour at all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The telling not showing thing was actually something I ranted about at length in my Livejournal. That’s a problem they’ve had in general, not just this episode, but I think maybe this ep in particular… needed some subtley and some showing not telling.

    It wasn’t a particularly funny episode, but House is just sometimes funnier than other times. And he doesn’t need to flirt with Cuddy in EVERY episode. He didn’t last week, he did tonight. Shrug. There were a couple good moments last week though. In fact, I laughed out loud at his response to Cameron asking (after she witnessed him being thanked) if he was embarassed: “For you! She saw you coming and thought you were a 14-year-old boy. I set her straight.”

    In regard to the other stuff in your review though, I definitely agree. They did change the nature of his disability and I do find that really irritating. But I guess it’s because, here, they actually were trying to show, not tell. They had to give us a visual of him being not in pain. Just like they give us a visual of him thinking. Thinking = throwing/bouncing balls, twirling a cane, pacing, etc. Being pain free = running, skateboarding, skidding around, etc.

    I’m just going to say it’s artistic license and that it’s almost representational, and that since it’s temporary, after it’s gone I can just pretend that his disability has always been the way they always implied it was before.

    -Steph

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