Recurring Cast: Hugh Laurie, Jennifer Morrison, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, Robert Sean Leonard, Lisa Edelstein
House, both the show and the character, are endlessly confident. There is something very capable about this show in the sense that it trusts its own game plan, and in attacking each episode, with a strong gut feeling that we will be entertained and captivated, the sure-footedness bleeds into the material. House is a show that can do no wrong. Season One was good, but perhaps Season Two is even better, every episode offering a reliable thrill ride.
It is also very obvious now we are two seasons in that House isn’t about to change its style any time soon. The problem with confident story-telling is that there is sometimes a certain rigidity in the season’s structure. House has a formula and it very rarely strays from its path of choice. By the midway point in the season, you have the show figured out down to the buttons. There is a patient, a mysterious illness that needs some House diagnostic genius and several stock House moments down the way. Morrison, Epps and Spencer are still held back by the fact you can second-guess what each one of them is going to do. Foreman is the only character we could argue shocks, especially his relationship with Cameron in the second half of the season. What the show could really do with is some ongoing story arcs. The first half of the season gives a narrative a good college try. As Season One ended, it was revealed that Cuddy was going to employ House’s ex-wife. Season Two sees the pair of them constantly butting heads, House’s usual malicious manipulating coming into play. The fun is trying to figure out what House wants from his new target. Does he want her to fall back in love with him? Does he want to prove a point? Is he trying to wreck her new relationship out of some misguided sense of vengeance? Or, most likely, even House doesn’t know what he wants, backing up the idea that he is an impulsive child as well as a genius doctor. However, when the season hits the midway part, it gives up on this storyline, changing the pace of the show. It becomes less about the season as a whole and more focused on the particular mystery at the heart of the episode. There are a few episodes that connect into each other. Wilson falls out with his wife and moves in with House. A shocking moment for a character in one episode is established further down the line, so each shock feels important, rather than simply servicing the plot of a singular episode. Maybe this is for the best. House’s second season doesn’t feel the need to force a plot down our throats all the time. Each narrative detail is brought up until it feels the like the right time to move on, therefore there is never any dull side of the season that we end up wishing would go away. Perhaps if the ex-wife narrative continued for the entire second season, we would have gotten bored. House’s formula might be seen as a problem, but its pace might also be the reason it is so successful.
And in truth, Season Two does boast some of the stronger episodes the entire series had to offer. While there could be argued to be a sore lack of stronger season narrative, what House does give us is a guaranteed set of set-pieces and emotional arcs week in week out. Not many shows can boast a consistency as solid as House’s. There is a surprising lack of dud episodes in Season Two; I would go as far to say there isn’t one dull moment. Therefore, it stands to reason that rather than dismissing House’s lack of focus, we could say that it is one of the things that keeps it as good as it is. There is a certain level of talent that goes into the writing of this show where we can go in, almost knowing the exact beats we are going to get. Look at the running time during a viewing and you can pretty much second-guess which diagnosis is the correct one. However, despite all of this, House still grips you from the moment we hear that Massive Attack opening. We always get wrapped up in the lengths House goes to save his patient, the emotional struggles of each character, both regular cast and supporting stars… even the epiphany moment at the end of each episode doesn’t really feel like it is getting too old. The writers, in being determined to stick to this formula, are pushed to find new and exciting ways to constantly reshape the playing field. This is the secret weapon that keeps this show so current. The box House is trapped in is much larger than anyone realises. One episode sees House have to diagnose a dead girl that died of unknown causes, so he can use her heart to save the real patient of the show. Another episode sees House find a patient that has the exact symptoms of a mystery from the past he couldn’t solve. The similarities to House and Sherlock are recklessly flaunted, but they keep the show alive. There are too many highlights to the season to list. I adore the finale of one episode that sees House kidnap a patient to buy him more time to find an elusive tic. One double-parter sees Foreman as the sick patient, hitting a season high in terms of emotional drama and raising the stakes to their highest conceivable point. And the finale, while again frustratingly lacking in any existing narrative before the show kicks off, is one of the best Houses to date. While diagnosing a patient, House is shot by a scorned patient from the past, meaning he is forced to solve the case from a hospital bed. It is a master-class in suspense writing and shock twists. House Season Two might be the season that has the most hidden gems and a good source of finding the classic House episodes that you remember so fondly from the series’s early days.
Final Verdict: House’s second season gets even stronger with more confident story-telling and thinking outside the box episodes.