Wilson’s cancer is terminal, and he decides not to bother with further chemotherapy, on the basis that he’d rather have a decent quality of what life remains to him. House, who in fairness has never promised to be anything other than selfish, is furious, because chemo might prolong Wilson’s life, and House needs Wilson. And so the scene is set for a back-and-forth between the two of them, which is the main theme of the episode. Thirteen pops by at one point, as do some of Wilson’s success stories, including a boy whose cancer Wilson cured years ago, now fully grown and about to go to med school. (There’s a twist here, but the writers used this trick only a few episodes ago, and this time I was on to it.)
House’s default state of mind is a permanent, generalised but low-level misanthropy, like background radiation. So it’s both moving and thrilling to see him erupt with pain and anger at the plight he and Wilson are in; his response includes an act of vandalism which destroys the MRI room, long a viewer favourite. With one episode to go, it’s hard to escape the symbolism. In the middle of all of this there’s a Patient of the Week, and quite a good one too, but there’s no way he’s going to get much attention.
We’re so used to seeing House escape the consequences of his sillier pranks that the ending, in which his parole is revoked and he’s told to return to prison, was a genuine surprise to me at least. And it added yet another layer of misery: I don’t want Wilson to die, but if he does I want House to be there with him.
The writers are succeeding in giving the last handful of episodes a real emotional heft. This doesn’t necessarily make them the easiest of viewing, but once again ‘Holding On’ was absolutely compelling.