Eight years of medical brilliance and chaos come down to an emotional series finale for House. Greg Kennedy looks at Hugh Laurie hanging up his stethoscope.
Medical series House to close its doors this week on OSN
First, do no harm. This principal precept of medical ethics is taught to all medical students - but apparently the lesson flew right over the head of Dr Gregory House.
For House, practising medicine has always been more about the puzzle and less about the people, kind of like Sherlock Holmes with a scalpel.
"There's also the implication of, in the art of the puzzle, that the person who thrives at puzzle-solving must be less empathetic, less emotional," says the British actor Hugh Laurie, who portrays House as a misanthrope for the ages.
For fans in thrall of Laurie's mesmeric performance - who wonder if redemption and a true connection to another human being is even possible for House - all hopes for a happy ending desperately ride on the series' grand finale, Everybody Dies, the 177th episode of this Golden Globe and Peabody-winning Fox series that premiered in 2004.
Arrogant, self-destructive and self-absorbed, TV's brilliant pill-popping diagnostician - the pride of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey - has made life a living hell for his patients, his colleagues, his true love (he drove his car into her house) and, especially, for himself. Yet there's something about this sociopath that still compels us to watch, to root for his squelched humanity to prevail.
"The past eight years have been an incredible journey for me and for a lot of other people, too," says Laurie. "I love the world of House. It can go from the broadly comic to the angry satire to the gut-wrenching tragedy to a horror movie in the space of seconds."
In 2008, House was the most-watched television show on the globe, with 81.8 million viewers in 66 countries.
To his credit, House's modus operandi of sewing chaos, thrashing egos, lying his face off and out-pranking fellow doctors has achieved mind-blowing cures - when not landing him in prison or a psychiatric hospital.
The biggest dramatic question of this entire series - and a story lever that never failed to ratchet up the tension - has always been this: what does it take to heal someone as messed up as House?
"The thing I find interesting about House as a character is his distance and his apathy - his removal from any kind of connection," says Robert Sean Leonard, who plays House's best and last remaining friend Wilson, who's now dying from cancer and fears he'll do so alone if House ends up back behind bars.
So, naturally, with viewer hopes running so high for his salvation, we find House - after failing to find a way to weasel out of his forthcoming jail time - cowering in a burning building. The notorious addict hallucinates that he sees people from his past as he asks himself his own big question - is his life not worth living anymore?
Without letting slip any spoilers here, sweet closure is coming - one way or another - in an emotionally awesome climax.
As the flames lick higher - while Wilson and the dean of medicine Dr Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) frantically search the city for the missing House - the curmudgeon himself just sits on a filthy warehouse floor, quarrelling with the parade of visiting spectres from his mind, as stubborn old Ebenezer Scrooge did with his Christmas spirits.
Even Dr Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn) - who committed suicide in the fifth season - shows up to plead with House to save his life while he still can: "Even with your subconscious, you're evasive."
House snaps back: "Is this hell? An eternity of people trying to convince me to live?"
As he reported for work at Fox Studios in Hollywood to shoot his last House scene earlier this year, Laurie told a documentary crew: "So this is it. Here's to the last day. Eight years. One hundred and seventy-seven shows. It's almost five million man hours. Or, if you prefer, 566.6 years. That's 4,074 miles of film ... and just one more mile to go."
The final episode of House is broadcast at 10pm on Tuesday on OSN First.