House s8 ep 12

After I complained about the lack of Chase this season, he’s had back-to-back feature episodes. This week, still coming to terms with his stabbing, he’s on clinic duties when he encounters a postulant nun with a sore shoulder. She’s about his age and attractive, so while Chase is too cool to say ‘How you doin’?” we kind of know where this is going to end up, particularly when it becomes clear that she’s only very recently wanted to become a nun after encountering personal tragedy, and isn’t entirely convinced of her vocation anyway. It should be standard House, but it’s lifted by an excellent, non-showy central performance by Jesse Spencer – it’s no surprise that he’s already lined up a post-House gig (opposite H50’s Lori, intriguingly enough). On top of that there’s a genuine feeling that the Nun of the Week might not survive, and the whole thing is crowned by two or three terrific scenes with House, in which he shows just enough vulnerability to make us care. There’s also a silly-but-fun B-plot with House trying to find a way past Taub’s Krav Maga. I can see lots of reasons for lots of people to dislike this episode, well, lots. But I really enjoyed it, so there we go.

House s8 ep 11

Moody lighting, an in medias res opening, Jeffrey Wright as some sort of investigator, a grievously under-used David Anders as Patient of the Week – it looks like A Very Special. Last week, when I asked for a bit more Chase, I didn’t know that this episode would be a lot more Chase-centric, even though he doesn’t actually do very much at all for the first half (not, I should say, that I spotted that at the time).

Anyway, there’s been An Incident while the Patient of the Week is getting treated, and Wright is there to interview everyone and assign blame. However, his eventual conclusion – yes, House is a maverick with appalling working methods who nonetheless gets the job done – is no more or less than the central conceit of this show from episode 1, so it hardly counts as a surprise. Given that, the investigation looks like little more than a device to tell a standard House story in a slightly different way. In fairness House calls him on his cowardice, but that didn’t really redeem an episode which had a certain brooding atmosphere, but added up to less than the sum of its parts.

House s8 ep 10

An unusual cold open, with House on clinic duties treating Callie, a teenage girl who’s come in with her father. Except, as House quickly discerns, the man isn’t her father, and they’re both homeless; she pays her “father” off in beer then inexplicably starts bleeding from her ear, and all of a sudden Callie is Patient of the Week. The ethical wrinkle is that she’s underage and has run away from her drug addict mother, and doesn’t want her notified; also, she’s relatively content being homeless, and doesn’t want Social Services brought in either.

House is OK with this – or in any event he doesn’t really care; he just wants to reach the correct diagnosis, and is prepared to run interference to prevent Adams from turning her own rebellious teenage years into a reason to take Callie’s decisions for her – I laughed out loud when I discovered who he’d hired as a fake social worker. All in all it’s a good episode, with a top-class and plausible ending.

The B-plot is Foreman vs House again; I was a little concerned about House’s use of blackmail, but as ever Foreman and House are, in their own ways, several steps ahead of each other. And similar, of course. Apart, as House points out, from the limp. Talking of limp, though, the C-plot is another doomed attempt at providing Taub with something interesting to do; in fact, it’s so poor that it could be seen as an admission that the writers have just about given up. It’s particularly strange that Taub should get so much screen time when Chase sits most of the action out on the sidelines, making droll interventions now and again but little more. Bench Taub; put Chase in.

House s8 ep 9

In the first post-hiatus episode the Patient of the Week is a thirtysomething man with Alzheimer’s, brought in by his devoted but understandably stressed wife; he’s suitable for a drug trial, but he’s displaying symptoms of physical illness not necessarily related to his Alzheimer’s. In fact there is a kind of link, but of course it takes House and the team the usual 40 minutes to find it, and in a nice touch it’s someone else who gets the moment of revelation.

In the B and C plots, we have House vs Foreman, which is almost always watchable, and House vs Wilson, including another swift allusion to the fact that theirs is the only true love story in the show. On top of that the PotW and House vs Wilson storylines included aspects which might have been drawn straight from ‘Savage Love’, covering whether asexuality is a thing (correct answer – yes; the show fumbled this one) and whether the PotW’s wife was morally entitled to find physical affection elsewhere (correct answer – yes; the show did its usual trick of having House and his team debate the ethical choices of the patient and his family).

As this is now the final run of House episodes, it’s time to get nostalgic; this episode was entertaining, cleverly put together, amusing (I loved the business with the index cards), and thought-provoking. And they made it all look so easy. I’m going to miss this show.

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2012: House, Modern Family, Those Who Kill

First, two returning Unpopcult favourites: House is back tonight at 10pm on Sky 1 to complete what we now know will be its final run. Pre-hiatus I was rather enjoying this season, and with any luck everyone concerned will bring it for the remaining episodes. Modern Family, meantime, which probably has quite a few more seasons to go unless key cast members find something else to do, returns tomorrow at 8pm, also on Sky 1.

And some more Scanda-crime, as ITV 3 brings us Danish thriller Those Who Kill. Like Forbrydelsen it did very well with native audiences, is set in Copenhagen with a female cop in the lead, and has Lars Mikkelsen co-starring. Rather than being about one murder, though, it’s about a team which tracks down serial killers. Alison Graham in the Radio Times describes it as “efficient, if unpleasant”, which isn’t quite enough to convince me to watch. Anyway, if it were that good BBC 4 would have bought it (tonight, ITV 3, 10pm).

House s8 ep 8

The Patient of the Week is Tommy, an attorney who collapses with something that obviously isn’t going to be a heart attack. House thinks Tommy’s being poisoned, probably by his wife, because he’s House. (On that note – are we ever going to see Mrs House again, or has that storyline been deep sixed?) The usual search of the patient’s house turns up a cache of guns which Mrs Tommy didn’t know about; Tommy fears the end of civilisation, which is either reasonable, or a symptom of whatever’s ailing him. (As an example of the possible collapse of authority Park suggests the riots in London, which clearly had a disproportionate effect on the international media, given that most people in London weren’t affected by them, never mind the rest of the country.) There’s a bit about gun ownership, and Tommy and his wife learn one or two truths about their marriage, but only one or two.

The gun ownership theme is picked up in one of the subplots: Wilson is convinced that House owns a gun, which is a violation of the terms of his release and could see him returned to prison. House says he doesn’t. They spar, prank, and bluff. This is entertaining enough, but for greater emotional resonance there’s plenty going on with the team this week. Park wonders why she hasn’t been able to bond with everyone else; House, always relishing a chance to provoke a little tension among co-workers, is on to it: “People respect you. They just don’t like you”. Then she asks Chase out on a date, in a very good scene. And everyone wants to get Foreman laid, so he finds a married woman. This will end badly, one suspects. Not an all-time classic, but good, enjoyable stuff, with plenty of interest going on, and a nice bit of Ford product placement.

House s8 ep 7

Two patients of the week in this episode. PotW 1 is Iris, a moody teenage girl who collapsed at her birthday party. Unknown to her, her mother is giving her diazepam. Unknown to her mother, she’s pregnant and has a boyfriend who’s stashing hardcore porn at her place. Everyone lies, of course, but as it turns out Iris has a better excuse than most. PotW 2 is a four-year-old boy with lots of symptoms, the most important one to everyone but House being that he’s dead. House becomes consumed with solving the puzzle of the boy’s death to the point where he’s prepared to disobey Foreman and risk going back to jail. He works it out, of course, but not before we’ve had to confront the effect grief has had on the boy’s now-separated parents. It’s all gloomy stuff, and an under-developed C-plot, in which Chase seems to have taken up personal grooming in a big way, doesn’t really let enough light in for me.

House s8 ep 6

We’re all about the family on House this week. House himself adheres strongly to the Philip Larkin view of parenting, and keeps needling away at Adams to admit that she had a dysfunctional childhood. Taub is determined to stay in the lives of his daughters – now both named Sophie – despite his ex-wife’s desire to move away. And the Patient of the Week is a teenager who wants to follow in the footsteps of his deceased biological father and become a clown, rather than do what his stepfather wants and become a lawyer or something. In the first twist, we find out that the dead father is actually alive, this having been concealed from the PotW by his mother; the second twist is darker yet. And there’s a terrific little C-plot with House trying to stretch the conditions of his parole to go to a boxing match in Atlantic City. Perfectly acceptable all round, if a little short on the spark which turns a by-the-numbers episode of House into something better.

House s8 ep 5

Stockholm Syndrome week on House, as Chase and Taub are back for more, joining Adams and Park in the team. The Patient of the Week is Bob, played by Jamie Bamber, which seems to be big news for people who saw Battlestar Galactica, which I didn’t. (Yes, I know.) Bob is a family man and small-town hero, although as he was struck down with whatever he has during sexytime with the local beauty queen there’s clearly a bit more to Bob than meets the eye. Anyway, good guy Bob feels guilty, so confesses to his wife about the hookup. Then he needs a liver transplant, so the entire town descends on the hospital to be screened as potential donors, but Bob has lots more to confess to them before he feels worthy of their generosity.

The illness follows the usual Housian trajectory, although perhaps it’s a bit cooler than usual – a self-healing liver! Skin coming off! – but what really makes this episode is a twist that I totally didn’t see coming, which spins the moral compass of the episode and gives us a nicely uncomfortable ending. Good stuff.

In B- and C-plot news, Taub’s babymamas have both given birth, and he’s looking after the kids. This isn’t as entertaining as it thinks it is, but House’s desire to DNA test all concerned to establish whether Taub is in fact the daddy has more resonance. And the result of the renovation of House’s office made me laugh out loud. It’s also already obvious that Chase and Adams will be hooking up at some point, which would at least give Chase a storyline; despite the writers’ ongoing fascination with Taub’s personal life, Chase was MVP by a mile this week without really doing very much apart from look relaxed and save a life. Another strong episode.

House s8 ep 4

Perhaps my least-favourite of the season so far, but still watchable enough. Patient of the Week is a rich businessman, pondering whether to move his company overseas. With Cameron long gone, and Thirteen – the heir to her preachy throne – now out of the show as well, it’s Dr Adams’s chance to step up and berate the patient. I would be seriously pissed if I went to hospital and got homilies from the doctors, and as House points out she was sanguine about working with prisoners. Anyway, House uses his insider knowledge of both what his patient is planning, and his state of health, to play the stock market in the hope of making enough money to get the old gang (or such members of it as haven’t gone on to movie careers) back together. The new sidekicks continue to score – Adams is snarky enough and easy enough on the eye to be a less irritating Cameron, and Park has an awkwardness and edge to her which is unusual in House. Not bad.