Happy Belated Birthday, jalara!
Sorry I didn't catch you on the day. I suck at birthdays. :(
Anyway, on to the topic of this post. I've been reading quite a few comments about the House season finale, many of them surprisingly (to me) negative. I realize that not every story is to everyone's taste (and I can certainly think of any number of things about this one that might not have been to people's liking) but some of the reasons that have been given for the dislike strike me as... well, bizarre, to say the least (i.e. "I know it was all a hallucination, but here's my long list of inconsistencies, contradictions and other errors in the episode that prove it was badly written"). And even from those who enjoyed the episode I've seen some fairly odd interpretations of events (i.e. "This episode proves that House only sees Cameron as a sex object and not as a fully realized person, much less a doctor worthy of his respect").
Well, far be it from me to tell other people what they must or must not like. However, I do think that this was a well-written, effective episode and a perfectly legitimate season finale -- not as good as "Three Stories", of course, but then what is? -- and many of the objections being made about it are inconsistent, irrational, and/or the result of careless viewing. (Except for the "EW THAT WAS THE GROSSEST PATIENT CASE EVER" objection -- that one I entirely sympathize with.)
But anyway, gross-out factor aside, it was not a bad episode. Here's why:
1. It is not cheating for it to all have been a hallucination.
My favorite example of this objection came from an LJ poster who ranted at length about how being a writer herself gave her the right to condemn the episode as bad writing -- to which I say, pish-tosh. All being a writer gives you the right to say is that "If I had been writing that particular episode, I would have written it differently." Just because you personally dislike being "tricked" by the author doesn't mean that authorial trickery is evil. It can be done badly and often is, but it can also be done well.
Doing it badly means that throughout the story you give absolutely no warning, no hint to the viewer that what they are witnessing is not real -- and then all of a sudden Pam walks in on Bobby in the shower and it's obvious that the writer is just trying to have their dramatic cake and eat it too. Doing it badly means that everything that came before the big it-was-all-a-dream reveal is meaningless -- it has no lasting effect on any of the characters involved, and does nothing to affect real-world events in the future. If "No Reason" had been that kind of episode, I would have cried foul along with everybody else.
But as a matter of fact, not only were we given any number of hints and clues that House's experiences in this episode were unreal (try watching it a second time and you can't help but see them everywhere), but the hallucinations told us a lot of intriguing, even surprising things about House's innermost thoughts and feelings. We learned about his doubts, his fears, his desires, his perception of the people around him, and a number of other very personal details we'd previously only guessed at.
Furthermore, his hallucinations do have an effect on the real world, because at the end of the episode the newly wakened House asks for ketamine during his operation -- indicating that he's experienced a change of heart as a result of his conversations with the dream-Moriarty. For the first time, he is willing to risk his brilliant mind for the sake of physical and emotional comfort. That's significant.
2. Gross or not, the clinic patient's illnesses were not merely gratuitous.
In House's dream world, he represents his own intellectual side, while Moriarty argues for the emotional and spiritual aspect. Meanwhile the tongue-swollen patient experiences increasingly grotesque, disfiguring, and apparently senseless symptoms, the sort of things that would be anyone's worst nightmare, but might very well be House's in particular. For a man with an infamously clever tongue, who relies greatly on the evidence of his eyes to help him solve a case, and who fears emasculation (as most men naturally would, but especially one who is already missing a chunk of thigh muscle and probably struggles with pain-related impotence), the experiences of the clinic patient could hardly be worse.
Besides, we're invited numerous times to see the man as the expression of House's physical self -- when a hole is cut in his throat to let him breathe (parallel to the bullet that went into House's neck), and an incision made in his stomach (parallel to House's first gunshot wound), during Cameron's robotic seduction ("Have you seen enough?" / "No.") and also at the end when House murders the patient to try and pull himself out of the dream-world and the dead patient's hand falls open to reveal one of the bullets that went into House. Not to mention the parallel others have noted between House's conversation with the patient's "wife" about the disparity between her husband's attractiveness and her own, and his earlier remarks to Cameron about the illogicality of her attraction to him seeing as he (that is, House) is neither nice nor good-looking.
House is notoriously cavalier about his physical well-being, and that comes through in his indifference to the patient's suffering in this episode, as well as the patient's own rather stoical aspect. However, the patient's eye hemorrhage and House's collapse in the hospital corridor come close together, suggesting that House realizes his intellectual self is not entirely independent of the physical as he would like it to be.
3. Yes, it is a good way to end the season.
This episode forces us to question House's relationship with and attitude to the people around him. We now know, for example, that he identifies more with Chase and has more respect for Chase's intelligence and ability as a doctor than he's previously let on. We also know that he respects Cameron's intelligence (the poster who said that House sees her only as a sex object in this episode seems to have missed several key scenes, particularly in the beginning where House makes a vague "trash" analogy that Cameron not only understands but goes on to explain its medical significance with impressive clarity -- right in the middle of one of those sexually charged moments, no less) and that he is still strongly attracted to her. We have learned that House perceives Cuddy as still struggling with guilt for her part in the infarction debacle, and that he does not entirely trust Wilson to respect his autonomy when it comes to his own medical care -- and that he fears a conspiracy between them, albeit a well-intentioned one. (I should also note that in House's subconscious Cuddy is not at all sexualized, which I found quite interesting.)
And, of course, we now know that House is struggling internally, as well -- that he's aware of the limitations of logic and reason, and secretly fears the possible repercussions of his own brutal honesty. Those are some pretty big revelations right there. Sure, we might have suspected before that House wasn't as confident as he seemed and might be questioning the validity of his approach to life, but now it's been spelled out for us.
The writing team were on record before "No Reason" aired as saying that the things we see in the finale will affect the relationships and behaviour of the characters going into Season Three, and I see no reason why this shouldn't be the case. Plus, we will have to wait until S3 to find out why the real-life shooter (who may or may not be named Moriarty) went after House and how well House recovers from his injuries, as well as whether the ketamine makes a difference to his leg pain post-surgery, and those are intriguing enough questions to make for a good cliffhanger, I think.
I've watched the episode twice now, and while I won't say it's the best thing ever, I think there's enough there for some pretty meaty analysis and speculation, and it hasn't done violence to my understanding of the characters or screwed up the balance of the show, which is all I would really hope for in a season finale.