Universal // 2012 // 965 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 21st, 2012
"Ethics is not my strong suit." -- Gregory House, M.D.
The current landscape of twenty-first century dramatic television owes a lot to House, M.D.. Of course, we could argue that his sociopathic antics have a precursor in Tony Soprano, but Gregory House is real starting point for the current obsession with men who are both roguish and exceptional. Tony Soprano is too ordinary to be the origin for the men in shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. No, Greg House is their televisual paternal figure, but even he can't diagnose forever. Though House, M.D. Season Eight isn't the most perfect ending for the series (what, after all, could be?) it is a better ending than it could have been. Though we don't know what's ahead for television in general, at least this final season didn't ruin anyone's legacy.
When last we saw Gregory House (Hugh Laurie, Street Kings), he had just ran a car into the side of a house in a fit of pique over his failed relationships. Season Eight picks up almost a year later. In the intervening time, House spent three months out of the country before allowing himself to be sentenced to jail. We pick him up again with a short stretch to go, but when a fellow prisoner presents some weird symptoms, House risks his freedom for another puzzle. Before long, he's out on parole and working for the new Dean of Medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro, though with the threat of a return to jail hanging over his head. All twenty-two episodes of the final season are presented on six discs.
For about two thirds of the final season, I was expecting the final episode to be a "gotcha." It seemed like any minute, the show would reveal that everything that had happened that season was the result of some kind of dream created by House's subconscious. The feeling is abetted by the fact that everything about Season Eight feels like the past few seasons -- there are some new interns, some romantic drama, the continuing bromance between House and Wilson -- but knowing that the end is near gives this repetition a strange feeling (and the episode where one of the new interns is on acid doesn't help).
Much like the other season, Season Eight's tension follows an inverse bell curve: the first few episodes are tight, and fraught with tension as House (and the audience) adjust to his new situation. In this case, he's lost Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein left the show completely), has a pair of new interns, and his boss Foreman can now send him back to jail if he misbehaves too severely. I don't want to give too much away, but on the flip side, House has a lot of emotional stuff to deal with at the season's end as well. The last four episodes or so are similarly fraught as House negotiates what might be his biggest challenge yet.
The show ends on a note that both resolves all the current storylines without being overly cheap or fundamentally selling-out the characters. House is, fundamentally, a tragic figure. Tragedy requires an ending that is both surprising and inevitable. House, M.D. gets an ending that is both. While it's not a perfect ending, it is one that fans can feel good about.
In between, we mostly get a decent, though not great, season of House, M.D.. There seems to be less of an emphasis on the medical mysteries this season (like they were running out of crazy cases to emulate), and more of an emphasis on character. The two new interns are fun, and given another season could have become strong members of House's team. Here, they're mostly used as foils for the returning cast members. A significant thread involves House's marriage to a woman looking for citizenship, which provides a much more effective storyline than the initial impulsive decision would have suggested.
Much like the last several seasons, this one gets a solid Blu-ray release. The 1.78:1/1080p VC-1-encoded transfer is bright and clean. Detail is strong throughout, and colors (especially blood red) really pop off the screen. No significant compression artifacts show up to mar the appearance of the show. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is similarly impressive. Low end gets used a surprising amount for a dialogue-heavy show, and that dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
Extras include a trio of documentaries. The first involves Hugh Laurie questioning those involved with the show about what they'll miss most once they're off the air. The second focuses on Hugh Laurie's first turn as a director for the series, while the third involves a postmortem on the series finale.
For some, House, M.D. may have been over with the crop of new interns back in Season Four, or maybe when House and Cuddy kissed for the first time. Some, watching this season, might wish that the show had ended with the final shot of Season Seven. I can't totally disagree. Though my feeling is Dr. House at half-speed is better than no Dr. House at all, those who really want the character to go somewhere might be better off without these twenty-two episodes.
One spoiler I will say is that Lisa Edelstein is completely absent from this season. I understand outside of the show she wasn't particularly happy with the way her character was going (and I don't necessarily blame her), but her total absence hurts the show's finale, if not the entire season. Similarly, Foreman's character gets a bump in pay grade for doing her job, but precious little else. His character has gotten sadly boring.
The packaging for this release is also a bit suspect. Inside a cardboard sleeve, you find three spindles for six discs, which means they're stacked on top of each other. I can see this being a nightmare for some if they come loose and a minor inconvenience for others, since it'll always seem like the disc you want is buried under another.
No, not the best season, between the medical mysteries, character development, and train wreck fascination of where Gregory House will finally end up, House, M.D. Season Eight (Blu-ray) is worth picking up for fans. The mighty may have fallen far with this Final Season, but that only shows just how high they'd flown.
For eight years of faithful service to television...Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 965 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated