[Review] - House Takes His Reichenbach Fall



Last Christmas, I thought it was remarkable that we had, in the final episode of the Sherlock Series 2, and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, two concurrent adaptions of the same story (The Final Problem), to contrast and compare, and analyse. For someone like me, who loves digging into the minutia of performance and writing, it was Christmas (literally and figuratively). But I was wrong. Because Monday night, about twenty four hours after PBS aired Sherlock's finale for American audiences, we got a third version in the House series finale, Everybody Dies. The Final Problem would have probably been a better fit for a title, but would have given away the ending for anyone in the know.

This post contains spoilers for the series finale of House, the season finale of Sherlock, the ending of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and a short story written 119 years ago. You have been warned, now hit the jump.

Still with us? OK.

For the whole eight seasons House was on air, I was a fan. I defended the show to people. I defended it's lack of character development, it's frustrating returns to status quo, it's apparent unwillingness to stick with interesting changes in setting, style or story for more then a couple episodes. Why? Because I liked Greg House. I liked his attitude, I liked his behaviour, I like his obsessions. Even when the writers started taking it to extremes, seeing what they could have House do and have him get away with, even when it strained believability. On any other show, he'd have been written by David E. Kelly. Because, as I've just heard Neil Gaiman say, "people don't have to like you if you do good work, and it's on time." Nice isn't important, interesting is.

Do you know why CBS' Elementary will fail? Other then it looks like crap? It's because the Americans modernised Sherlock Holmes eight years ago, and Johnny Lee Miller is no Hugh Laurie. I don't care how much David Shore protests, House is obviously Holmes. House and Wilson. Plays a stringed instrument. Addicted to a powerful narcotic. Crossed paths in his first adventure with Irene Adler. Was aided by Irregulars. Believed that rational thought was paramount, and that only irrefutable evidence should be considered when making a deduction, but that human nature often gives away vital information.

The final episode was one of introspection for House, and reminded me of the best episode the series ever did, season one's Three Stories. As visions of his past failures appeared to him as he lay trapped in a burning building, while he decides if he wants to die or not, House grapples with his worst enemy - himself. House always lacked a Moriarty, despite short-lived villains appearing season by season, expressly because he was it, and this episode drove it home. His Moriarty appeared as the friends he couldn't save and the loves he had lost (I was slightly disappointed by the lack of Cuddy, who I felt might have had more of an emotional impact as his final ghost-of-Christmas-past). And, in the end, like all Holmes', he grabbed hold of his enemy, and pushed off.

That is the brilliance of House's solution to the Final Problem. This time, Sherlock didn't make it. Neither did Moriarty. Despite House's assertion that nothing changes, he did. Sherlock always returns to his life, but House never can. Maybe he'll go off to Europe or Japan and study dark matter under an assumed name, like he pondered at the start of the season, but that doesn't matter. For once, in eight years, he made a sacrifice, and then he was gone.

What I never realised until the last scene, which looking back on it now I should have realised somewhere in season 2, is that Foreman was this series' Mycroft. As good or better then House, but different in a way that means he'll never be as successful. It was driven home all the more this season, with Foreman becoming the boss, an empty authority over House just like big brother Mycroft always has been to Sherlock. So it was fitting that the two who would hunt for him the longest, and be there at the end, would be the two he had the deepest connection with: his partner, and his rival.
So, who did it better? Well, House benefits from never coming back. There is no need to resolve his situation, the show is done. So, his can be the most bold, and the most satisfying. Sherlock's was more emotional, more striking perhaps, but it's somewhat undercut by knowing that next season, he'll be back and it'll be business as usual. Downey Jr.'s reveal was played for laughs, and will probably return in another film to fill out the franchise trilogy, but who knows.

I think they cannot be compared, because they each say something different about the same character, each examining the same solution to the same problem from a different perspective, like looking at a sun beam through a prism. But I think they deserve to be discussed and dissected, and that anyone who gave up on House years ago ought to watch the finale, if only for closure.

But, no Stephen Fry, so minus several points for that. I get that Kutner and Co. had emotional resonance, but couldn't Fry have been the embodiment of his subconscious? Would that have been so hard? Having Fry and Laurie play Bond and Blofeld for one last hour? It sure as hell would have been fun.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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