When I originally watched the series finale of House, I was bitterly disappointed. (Some spoilers below the break).
I wanted him to kill himself. Indeed, I didn’t think the show could end satisfactorily any other way. House was a narcissist, an atheist, a drug addict, lovelorn, next-to-friendless (and soon to be just friendless, once the cancer claimed his best and only friend), borderline jobless and basically unemployable — relying on nothing but a string of personal connections to the office of the chief of medicine, manipulated by mindgames to stretch out the inevitable termination of his employment one grueling week at a time — and, oh yes, destined to return to prison for a petty act of vengeance enacted bitterly against the ex who rightly left him. Of course he needed to kill himself. The title of the finale was a permutation of one of House’s favorite sayings: Everybody lies. His other favorite saying was Nobody changes. Why should House be different?
So, yes, I wanted House to die. Don’t lie: you probably did, too. What does that say about us, about you and I, that we could not even muster goodwill for a fictional character in extremest agony?
House was a metaphor for modern man, but there are ways modern man can go that don’t involve being crushed under a flaming I-beam one floor down from the corpse of an overdosed patient after a brief and fruitless existential crisis. House took that other way. He followed the advice of The Last Psychiatrist:
“Help me, please, I think I’m a narcissist. What do I do?”
There are a hundred correct answers, yet all of them useless, all of them will fail precisely because you want to hear them.
There’s only one that’s universally effective, I’ve said it before and no one liked it. This is step 1: fake it.
You’ll say: but this isn’t a treatment, this doesn’t make a real change in me, this isn’t going to make me less of a narcissist if I’m faking!
All of those answers are the narcissism talking. All of those answers miss the point: your treatment isn’t for you, it’s for everyone else.
If you do not understand this, repeat step 1.
And that’s what House understood in the final, critical moments of the finale. What I initially mistook for a deus ex machina redemption was, in fact, not a redemption at all (but isn’t the fact that it isn’t seen as a redemption precisely that which makes it so redemptive?). In the final moments of the show, the show itself ceased to be House: House as the main character, everyone-not-House as the supporting cast. It became something else. Something better — something better, even, for House, though he probably lacked the immediate perspective to realize it. House, in other words, abandoned narcissism. He repented of the sin of pride.
Whether or not House secretly conspired to be reactionary entertainment, it succeeded at it. God bless them.