In a previous analysis, I explained how an episode was constructed. Through an example, (Lockdown) I tried to analyze the writing of a whole episode.
What I propose here is to do the same kind of analysis but to extend it to the entire series. I’m gonna explore how each season is build to understand how each arc leads to another and how each season leads to the next one. Watching the whole series again, it is interesting to see the patterns and the way House’s story is told. The first three seasons seem to form a chapter and the next three ones another. That’s why I decided to divide this article in two parts.
The first season’s main subject seems to be the ethic. That’s what the “Vogler arc” is all about. That being said, another arc will emerge on a more personal subject, surprisingly meeting this one. At first, this season is more build with independent episodes that nothing really links to one another. It is really a medical procedural show. In that regards, it is only when we see the complete season that we can appreciate the inner construction and how it slowly ended the way it did.
Things get serious in Sports Medicine (01x12). So far, the characters past and stories were addressed individually. Here, House awkwardly asks Cameron to go with him at a “Monster truck” event because Wilson can’t. It is the first time Cameron & House are spending time together outside of work and it is also the first mention of Stacy. We don’t know exactly who she is, but it is clear that she was important to House at some point because Wilson is afraid to tell him he is having lunch with her. At the end of the episode, House admits to Cameron that he lived with someone for a while and we can guess it is Stacy.
Then, she won’t be mentioned again, the writers developing the storyline of Cameron’s crush on House instead. This is a very clever misdirection from the writers’ part. The House/Cameron storyline has several goals:
- Exploring and deepening Cameron’s character and her “neediness” issue.
- Exploring a new layer of House’s character by slowly unsettling him.
- Preparing the House/Stacy future storyline
Contrary to what some fans think of her, Cameron is not a pathetic young lady having a high school crush on her older mentor. I believe House’s admission that he lived with a woman for years made her brain tickle. Perhaps he was not always the miserable, sarcastic jerk he seems to be. Who is the real House exactly? Cameron is curious and she will take advantage of her interest in House to “investigate” him.
She asks him point blank if he likes her, tells him matter-of-factly that he surely does despite his denial and she even asks him out. House is clearly unsettled by Cameron’s behavior and this new dynamic between the both of them. He doesn’t know what to do. He feels a little cornered as we can see in this scene with Wilson in Role Model (01x17):
W: “Dr. Cameron is getting to you. Well, I guess you can’t be around that much niceness and not get any one on you.”
H: “Is that why you haven’t put the moves on her?”
W: “What makes you think I haven’t put the moves on her?”
There, House stops and stares at Wilson falling for his friend’s trap. Wilson realizes that this question wasn’t so innocent and that Cameron obviously put the moves on House. House, as his old self, tries to laugh it off but we can see that, beyond the joke, he is nervous. He would have not fallen in Wilson’s trap otherwise.
The main difficulty for House is obviously to try not to let himself affected by the change of dynamic with his relationship with Cameron but the situation with Vogler makes it difficult for him. Indeed, things worsened so much with the new boss that Cameron decided to quit. House respects her as a doctor, but telling her this can be perceived by her as more than it is. Yet, he has to find a way to tell her he doesn’t want her to leave. Cameron, for her part, is determined to see beyond his mask. When she asks him to dinner it is almost as a dare. House is surprised and, I believe, a little worried.
Did she unsettled him enough to make him lower his guard and learn more about him? Will this lead to something for her?
The date in Love Hurts (01x20) is great. House finds a way to make her understand that he is not personally interested in her and that her interest in him just emphasizes her own issues. This is a good start point for Cameron’s character to grow. She likes House just because he is damaged and that’s what she needs. It’s her pattern. So now she will have to find a way to overcome this issue and break this pattern.
It also indicates how House is not good at regular dates and shows us his self-esteem issues.
The next episode, conveniently introduces Stacy’s character, which will show another side of House. She was just mentioned once, so the audience had the time to forget her and be into the whole House/Cameron thing therefore her appearance remains a surprise even if it is logical.
The “House/Cameron arc” was clearly written to prepare and introduce the “Stacy arc”. In Honeymoon (01x22), Stacy delivers some information about House & her and also on their past together to Cameron because Stacy realized that the young doctor was interested in him. This talk is a good way to discover something new about House, but it couldn’t have worked if Cameron hadn’t have had a crush on her boss.
Wilson’s lunch with Stacy leads to House going out with Cameron with brings her interest in him. Then, this storyline gets intertwined with the “Vogler arc”: Vogler’s plan leads to Cameron’s departure, which leads to House going to her apartment to rehire her, which leads to the date. All those events logically followed each other to smoothly lead to the second season.
The second season opens with a new emotional, in love, House. It is not sudden thanks to the build up of the first season.
At this point, House & Stacy relationship is complicated. We don’t know how it was before, we just know it ended badly after House’s infarction and there are still unresolved issues here, mainly: his leg. House tries to open up but, at first, they have to reconstruct their mutual trust. He also tries to reconnect with her through immature games, which is clearly the wrong way to do it. So they are gonna to tiptoe around each other for half a season, even considering starting over together, but they are in a different place now. The situation is different. Mark, Stacy’s husband, is frustrated by his new situation as a cripple, bringing frustration and problems in his relationship. Consequently, Stacy begins to have doubts on the solidity of their marriage and is more vulnerable. House doesn’t help of course. He wishes to interpret her vulnerability as a sign for him to make a move.
However, they are not like they used to be. He is constantly in pain and it changed his way of interact with people around him, while she is married.
They didn’t fundamentally changed but the context is not the same. There is probably still no real place for her with him as she said in Honeymoon and, deep down, he still didn’t forgive her the decision she made regarding his leg. Moreover, she loves her husband and is not prepared to leave him. House opened up to her but they are not capable of talking about what really matters, about the past. The unresolved issues don’t disappear on their own accord, and House & Stacy have to face the fact that they pursued each other again for the wrong reasons. House, thus, breaks up with her.
This arc and its abrupt end will make House to think about his loneliness and unhappiness. He is gonna refuse to face it which will cause more pain in the leg.
The post-Stacy episodes are exploring the psychological aspect of his pain. Of course it does not deny the purely physical aspect of it. After all, an important amount of muscle is missing in his thigh. However, it is interesting to see how his mind can have an impact on his pain level. House is really a tortured soul and he feels so much. His propensity to avoid confronting his past and decisions he took in his personal life, to obscure his issues, has naturally a consequence on his life. His leg is a sort of barometer of his mood and psychological health. Wilson tries to reason him about this but the grumpy doc just downright denies his break-up with Stacy affected him more than he is willing to admit it, even though his leg hurts him more. “More pain, more pills” is his truism in Skin Deep (03x13). Cuddy will have to confess that she gave him a placebo instead of morphine to make him think about all this and then look for another solution.
Those arcs both lead to House's decision to actually do something drastic against his pain. House apparently did a lot of research about the medical possibilities, for him, to do something for his leg and to help reduce or even remove totally the pain. So all this leads to the Ketamine treatment. Interestingly, he remembers the possibility of this treatment after being shot and during a kind of hallucination that will make him choose life, and moreover, a better one. In his hallucination, he has a sort of brainstorming about himself and his life and decides that, if he wants to live anyway, might as well make an effort and to try to have a better life.
Just like for the first season, everything is coherent. The Stacy arc leads to more pain, which leads to the Ketamine treatment.
This treatment will work for a while just enough to make us see a whole new House, pain and drug free, without a cane and more relax. Just like for the second season, this new House doesn’t come all of a sudden. It isn’t a shock to see him like this thanks to the build up of season two.
This glimpse of this new House emphasizes his need of painkillers and how his pain affects him as a man and a doctor. House is a different person when he is pain free. Nicer, happier, more relax. It’s like a weight was put off his shoulders. Unfortunately, it is only temporary. The pain will return after three months and, after three episodes in the third season, House is back to square one. House is really more of a jerk when he is on drugs. This time it is worse as House is clearly frustrated by the failure of the Ketamine treatment. That’s where the “Tritter arc” begins. This season deals with House’s addiction and stubbornness. His refusal to face his issues is gonna have a lot of repercussions on everyone.
Tritter appears for the first time in episode 5, Fools For Love. He is a clinic patient and House, frustrated and annoyed as always to have to do clinic duty, lashes out at him. I find House particularly unpleasant in that scene. Tritter, not being the nicest person in the world, trips him. “Treat people like jerks, get treated like a jerk”. Turns out, Tritter is a cop and a ‘holding grudges’ kind of one for that matter. This will lead to serious consequences for House, and his stubbornness will be confronted to Tritter’s determination to bring House down.
Tritter will make this personal but it is also clearly House’s refusal to admit his addiction issues that will affect everyone around him. There is no doubt that House need the pills for his pain problem but, after three years, we all know that he has an addiction and that the pills has an impact on his mood and behavior. This arc provides a good example of it. As things get worse for him but also for his friends and his team, Cuddy has to reduce and control his doses of Vicodin. As a result, House is in obvious withdrawal and it makes him less focused and more aggressive. He is incapable of solving the case in Finding Judas (03x09) and is cruel to Cuddy, telling her she would suck as a mother. However, he still believes he doesn’t have a problem and doesn’t need help. Every episode of this arc makes House’s addiction’s issue obvious. His denial just makes it worse. He is under a lot of pressure and puts everyone in trouble until he crosses a line. In severe withdrawal, in need of drugs, he steals Oxycodone from a patient and overdoses on it. All of this leads to Wilson lying to the police and losing his ability to treat his patients and Cuddy fabricating evidence and becoming a perjurer to save him.
This “Tritter arc” doesn’t lead to a next arc right away but have a strong impact on House. We’re able to see him in a new light. Even if he cheats in rehab and keeps taking Vicodin after that, he gets closer to his friends Wilson & Cuddy, knowing fully well he owes them (and especially the latter) a lot. He doesn’t really argue with Cuddy in the beginning of One Day, One Room (03x12), helps Wilson with his difficult cases like in Family (03x21) and most of all, he is himself again, focused on his cases, meddling in Wilson’s and Cuddy’s lives, playing games with them.
Everything is fine until his authority get discussed again. After a particularly difficult case, Foreman decides he doesn’t want to be like House and resigns. Even if I think Foreman is wrong, as I don’t believe he is like House, it is interesting to see him confronting House about not being such a great role model for his employees. The “Tritter arc” didn’t show House in his finest hour and he is now more vulnerable in his position as a boss.
As the season comes to an end, House, who is a creature of habits (lives in the same apartment for 15 years, plays guitar he owns since the 8th grade, as Wilson reminds him) and who hates changes, slowly realizes that he has been with the same team for three years now and a change may be needed after all. So, in the end, he comes to terms with Foreman’s departure, fires Chase saying that he doesn’t have anything to teach him anymore and that “it’s time for a change”, and accepts Cameron’s resignation. House is okay with this turn of event, almost surprised to say so to Esteban, his last patient’s husband, in the end of Human Error (03x24). He even buys a new guitar, symbol of his acceptance of this change.
This season’s ending really looks like the end of an Era. The first three seasons explored House the doctor, the genius and his way of thinking and also what kind of life he has. The show was very formulaic. However, the more it went, the less it was procedural and as season three ended, a new Era and a new chapter begins. It’s gonna be a very dramatic and depressing one. The show will explore House’s tortured soul, focusing more on the man than on the medicine, becoming even more and more a character study.