Tuesday, April 07, 2009

House 5x20: "Simple Explanation"

Don't read any further if you didn't watch yet and don't want to be spoiled. I say this as though there are tons of people reading this blog, ha!

The previews had me thinking that last night's House was going to be a Very Special Episode™, so I was only half paying attention during the first several minutes, which made Foreman and 13's discovery all the more abrupt and unsettling.

I certainly didn't expect Kutner to die, and upon learning he had, I certainly didn't expect it to be from a suicide. I think the most deft and sort of meta aspect of this episode was that viewers' reactions mirrored the characters': utter confusion and denial.

From reading some message boards at Television Without Pity, I found that many viewers were extremely angry and disgusted with the way Kutner's death was handled. There were many pronouncements of "Fuck you, show" and "I'm not watching anymore," which, that level of vitriol directed at a television show when there are all sorts of outrageous things happening out here in real life--kind of absurd. But others made the critique that Kutner's suicide was a contrived way to pull the heartstrings and make an Emmy bid.

I'm sure the spectre of a possible Emmy win is always looming over showrunners, but I disagree that this was a contrivance. This was possibly the biggest infusion of reality that an often bordering-on-sci-fi show has ever had, which is perhaps what made it so jarring: it's not just realistic, it is real. Can we ever really understand why someone has made a decision to end his or her life? Sometimes there are what we think of as "signs," sometimes there aren't, but it's always incomprehensible to those left behind.

13 mentioned that with 25% of suicides, there are no outward signs. House disagreed: for 25%, their so-called friends and loved ones were simply too self-absorbed to notice what was going on. House, of course, would say this: his reliance on rationality and logic has a near-religious intensity. The show has emphasized, over and over, that pretty much the one thing keeping House from succumbing to his own misery is his passion--and singular talent--for solving puzzles. Perhaps the saddest aspect of the episode for me was House's insistence that Kutner had been murdered, since there was no explanation for why he'd kill himself; this was a childlike denial of not only Kutner's tragic death, but the truth that we are all essentially mysteries to each other. Human beings ultimately can't be puzzled out. It will be interesting to see how this realization resonates for House throughout the rest of the season.

And if you're interested, check out this interview with actor Kal Penn: apparently his reason for leaving the show is that he's going to work for Obama! Kudos to him for leaving an extremely profitable job to dedicate himself to public service--seems like quite an unusual decision.


marie said...

i actually really enjoyed the show. i think it showed a lot of raw human emotion. For example how Taub completely ignored the situation and became so intensely focused on helping the ailing couple. So many people do that in real life when faced with tragedy. Also, how Foreman pushed everyone way. Very real and emotional, even if it wasn't outwardly emotional. Great episode!

just wish that i hadn't read people's status messages on facebook before I watched the taped episode. totally ruined it for me!!! now i learned my lesson for next time, avoid facebook before watching any shows!!!

Jeanette said...

Kutner was a terrible doctor. My preference of treatment would be:
1) House (except I want "treatment" from him
2) Foreman
3) Taub
4) Cameron
5) 13
6) A banana
7) Dr. Kavorkian
8) Xenu
9) Chase

marie said...

dont forget dr. seuss on your list.

Alanna said...

I was once treated by a banana, it was very gentle.