Universal // 2009 // 880 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 25th, 2009
"This is Dr. House. He's too brilliant for introductions."
I had this to say at the end of my review of Season Four of House, M.D.: "I don't watch enough television to say that House is the best drama out there, but I do know that if there's a better show available I don't think I could take it. Season Four has kept the bar high and significantly raised the stakes for all the characters going into the (hopefully longer) Season Five"
I'd like to say I was wrong about being able to take a better show, as House, M.D.: Season Five takes everything about the series to new dramatic heights, and not only could I take it, I loved every minute of it. Although the season didn't take the path I (or anyone, really) expected, it did either tie up or significantly advance all the plots left hanging after Season Four's humdinger of an ending. This DVD set also ups the ante in terms of presentation, making it a no-brainer for fans of the show.
Last season it looked like things were over between House (Hugh Laurie, Sense and Sensibility) and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard, Dead Poets Society) over the death of Wilson's girlfriend. Meanwhile, House's old team is still working in the hospital, and his new team are getting used to dealing with House and their own problems, like terminal illness, adultery, and romance. All twenty-four episodes of Season Five are included on five discs:
* "Dying Changes Everything"
* "Not Cancer"
* "Adverse Events"
* "Lucky Thirteen"
* "The Itch"
* "Last Resort"
* "Let Them Eat Cake"
* "Joy to the World"
* "Big Baby"
* "The Greater Good"
* "The Softer Side"
* "The Social Contract"
* "Here Kitty"
* "Locked In"
* "Simple Explanation"
* "House Divided"
* "Under My Skin"
* "Both Sides Now"
Spoiler Warning: I'm going to discuss the general outline of several episodes in the format of "Patient X, with symptoms Y, has interesting tic Z" If you want to go into the season completely fresh, skip down to the audiovisual discussion in a few paragraphs. I'm also going to assume you've seen Season Four.
The fifth season of House could have been many things. After the high-density drama of the truncated fourth season I don't think anyone would have complained about a little breather in the next season, or, alternatively, a solid victory lap celebrating the amazing quality of the show. Instead, Season Five starts strong and stays that way for twenty-four glorious episodes.
The season can be split roughly into three parts. The first five or so episodes deal with the House/Wilson relationship that was so strained by Amber's death. I was afraid Robert Sean Leonard might be leaving the show, but that appears to be unfounded, as this arc brings to a boil many of the emotions obviously simmering between these two talented doctors. The middle fourteen episodes tend to be more scattershot, focusing on issues with other members of the team. We get some romance, some financial problems, and more than a few cool cases that challenge the beliefs of the team. Then, there are the last five episodes of the series, which for my money are even more intense and heartbreaking than the finale to Season Four. It's such a shocking, emotionally draining moment I was stunned for a couple of days after the episode premiered, like someone had kicked me in the stomach.
This season also provides some interesting cases, continuing the tradition from last season of providing cases that throw a mirror up before the team. We've a guy with locked-in syndrome who can't move or speak, another guy who's had his brain severed so he's got a hand he can't always control, and then there's the agoraphobic shut-in who shares a little too much in common with House for everybody's comfort.
House has also joined the ranks of those television series that attract high-profile guest stars. I've always been impressed with the caliber of acting for the patients on the show, even if I didn't always know the actor. This season sees a number of higher-profile guests, including Mos Def as the locked-in syndrome patient. Meatloaf also makes a fantastically haunting appearance as a terminal heart patient who has to make some tough decisions about his relationship with his wife. Also, although more of the faces on this season might be recognizable, none of it seems like stunt casting or an attempt just to get publicity, which is nice.
This season also ups the ante on presentation. I've always been pretty impressed with the video of House, but this season seems to be just a bit clearer, brighter, and more detailed. It's not a huge leap forward, but I didn't notice any problems with noise or compression, even in darker scenes. The audio is decent, offering easily understandable dialogue without overwhelming dynamic shifts.
Extras are pretty standard fare. We get several featurettes that cover everything from changes in Dr. Cuddy's life to accuracy in the writing and how the show gets casted. There's also a celebration of the show's 100th episode, and a commentary for the locked-in episode.
With a great opening arc and a stomach punch of a closer, the episodes in the middle can tend to not seem up to snuff. I'm sure divorced from the rest of the season they're all average or above, but sandwiched between such good writing, it's hard to appreciate some of them.
Dr. Cuddy often felt like an afterthought this season. Although she's obviously there a lot, I didn't feel like she was utilized as effectively as she could have been, even though her character goes through some important changes this season.
I'm left in much the same position now as I was after Season Four: emotionally drained and wanting more. House, M.D.: Season Five shows that the writers behind the show know exactly what they're doing and are almost certain to lead their audience to new dramatic heights. This is another great season given an excellent presentation on DVD, and fans are certainly going to want to pick it up.
I may be hallucinating from too much Vicodin, but I think this season is not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 880 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries