Universal // 2010 // 969 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 25th, 2010
"They didn't break me. I am broken." -- Dr. Gregory House
This review is going to contain spoilers for Season Four and Season Five, so if you haven't caught up yet, this is not the review for you.
I have to admit that I wasn't that broken up about Amber's death at the end of Season Four. Sure I felt some for Wilson, but I wasn't a huge fan of Amber's character and the writers' strike necessitated a little more rushing on the storyline than I would have preferred. Still, when the finale of Season Five revealed that House's night with Cuddy was an hallucination caused by Vicodin, I was floored. I felt sucker punched and emotionally gob-smacked. How though, I wondered, could they come back from that? House without Vicodin doesn't seem like House at all, and his problems have obviously come to a roiling enough boil that the status quo could not be maintained. Still, I believed and my faith in the writers was rewarded with a season that stays true to the characters, maintains dramatic interest, and isn't afraid to play with the House formula.
When we last left House, he was headed to a psych ward to get off the Vicodin. This seasons finds him dealing with life drug free as major changes shake up his colleagues. All twenty-two episodes of House, M.D.: Season Six are spread across five discs:
* "Epic Fail"
* "The Tyrant"
* "Instant Karma"
* "Brave Heart"
* "Known Unknown"
* "Ignorance is Bliss"
* "The Down Low"
* "Moving the Chains"
* "Private Lives"
* "Black Hole"
* "Knight Fall"
* "Open and Shut"
* "The Choice"
* "Help Me"
Too often, movies portray drugs as evil substances, and when otherwise whole, healthy, sane people take them, those people are turned into broken, unstable messes. While that may be true for some people, research suggests that more often than not the people who are broken on drugs were broken before they started using drugs. So, kudos to the writing staff of House for recognizing that fact. In the first moments of the double-length opener for this season we see House detox, but once the shakes are gone, the show (and House's doctors) rightfully focus on what's really wrong with Greg, and it's not Vicodin. This first episode ("Broken") plays out like a movie, and resets the character for the season to come. Instead of popping Vicodin and solving cases, House now has to deal with his trust issues, loneliness, and the general unfairness of the world -- and staying off the Vicodin. The House that emerges after this episode is a slightly tamer, more human beast, and more easily identified with as a result. However, because House is trying to change himself, there are fewer opportunities for the House of old, the vicious curmudgeon, to emerge. Instead, the writers have offered viewers a number of other consolations.
First, there's the "Will he or won't he get back on drugs?" storyline that pops up throughout the season. This could easily have been a crutch for the writers to build tension, but instead it only comes up occasionally, at appropriate moments in the season. More generally, House has an arc where he must find a way to fit himself back into Princeton-Plainsboro. Although he's a changed man, sparks still fly when he's challenged.
Second, the show picks up romance in a big way this season, though not in any kind of melodramatic soap-opera way. No, this season just deals with the romantic lives of all the major characters in some depth. Relationships are tested, tried, abandoned, and generally reworked throughout the season, and it gives us a clearer picture of the rest of the cast as House's antics take a slightly more backseat role.
Finally, the show is absolutely not afraid to mess around with its formula. From an episode where a patient posts his symptoms on the web and offers a reward for solving his case, to an episode that has the team going to a Renaissance Faire, there are numerous opportunities for the writers to play with the characters. The best example might be the first episode, "Broken," which doesn't even have a real medical mystery.
This DVD set of House, M.D.: Season Six is on par with other seasons. The video transfer is generally bright and clear, although I noticed a few instances where it looked like compression was making movement look jagged. I'm also thinking this season was harder to encode for DVD because it seems to play around a lot more with the visual style of the show than previous seasons. However, it's a total watchable set of transfers, though the clarity that is here makes me long for the show in HD. The audio is the usual dialogue-heavy mix, though the show's use of music is well-presented.
Extras include commentary on four episodes ("Broken," "Wilson," "5-9," and "Help Me"), featurettes that cover the first episode of the season, and Hugh Laurie's directorial debut on the show, plus a short film of footage shot on location at the psych ward to give the writers some ideas for "Broken." Taken together they paint a pretty clear picture of how the season unfolded behind the scenes.
Like the last couple of seasons that started and ended with a bang, some of the episodes in this season can get lost in the middle. Sure, there are some standouts, but compared to "Broken" and "Help Me," they can look a little anemic. Not every episode is going to be for everybody.
Also, a lot changes this season, and anyone looking for the week-in, week-out comforts of the first few seasons might not enjoy all the emotional upheaval this time out.
I won't give anything specific away, but for the first time in a long time (perhaps ever), a season of House, M.D. ends on a genuine moment of hope. By changing things up so completely, the show has hooked me again and I can't wait to see how a hopeful House develops. This DVD is everything fans have come to expect from the show, with a solid audiovisual presentation and a smattering of informative extras. This season might not feel as emotionally pyrotechnic as the last two, but it has a weight that will reward multiple viewings.
House, M.D. shows no signs of slowing down. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 969 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Short Film
* Official Site