Proving that not all big budget American dramas need to revolve around vampires or future predicting epiphanies of a two minute seventeen seconds duration and a script doused with the stage direction ‘insert explosion here’ in order to guarantee success; House is back for a sixth season. And kudos to Sky One on rectifying Five’s former mess, so not only has the gap between broadcast in the states and subsequently here been shortened considerably, but only seven days after viewing the awesome season five finale; we were treated to the season six premiere.
So where did we leave the grumpy medic all the way back in season five, well last Sunday? Following the shock suicide of his colleague Laurence Kutner (nerd fact of the day; actor Kal Penn was offered a job in Barack Obama’s office, hence the hastily written exit) House began to feel that he was losing his grip when he’d been unable to spot any clues of Kutner’s unhappiness. To add insult to injury, Wilson’s dead girlfriend Amber (from season four fame) started appearing to House as his subconscious. As his hallucinations relating to his vicodin addiction spiralled out of control, the sexual tension between House and his boss Cuddy reached scorching temperatures when they slept together. However, a Patrick Ewan walking out of the shower style twist was in store-it was just another one of his vicodin induced hallucinations! Ruined! This became the catalyst for House to check himself into the disturbingly gothic Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital or as Amy Winehouse calls it ‘home sweet home.’
From the opening moments of season six, episode one, devoid of the usual title sequence which has instead been replaced by an eerie black and white montage of House doubled up in pain as Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ chimes away in the background; we can already tell that there is something different and innovative around the corner of the bleak, ghostly pale rehab corridors. Other than Hugh Laurie, in a brave and bold move; no other reoccurring cast members (except for a miniscule appearance from Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson) appear, leaving the audience feeling as isolated and frustrated as our protagonist (or should that be antagonist?) Instead, within the walls of rehab, House is joined by a whole new bunch of freaks and weirdoes to feast on with his acid tongue and sarcastic quips.
On reflection, except for House avoiding medication and overall trying to beat the system, not much actually happened in this episode until the arrival of ‘Freedom-master.’ A delusional patient who believed he was a superhero. This led to House showing his caring side for a change by kidnapping Freedom-master and taking him to a fairground flight simulator. Sadly, this backfired, the whack-job thought he could actually fly and leaped off the roof of a multi-storey car park. Cue a simple yet sublime cliff hanger of House clutching Freedom-master’s bloodstained cape and muttering ‘I need help.’ We don’t know many shows that could stage a depressed, middle aged man with a limp saying three little words as a cliff-hanger and it still have as much gut wrenching impact as a bomb going off. Yet, House M.D manages it every time.
Overall, although the pace of the story needs to quicken to set the rest of the season on the right track, this was a chilling yet still charming portrayal of what happens when the doctor becomes the patient.