As at least one of the top reviewers for this episode noted, this episode is "perfect," and exhibits a depth unsettling for TV writing. As someone whom some might consider a film snob--with Fellini and Tarkovsky in my repertoire of favorite directors, and standards for screenwriting right up there with the Coen brothers--I really can't help but noting the distinct, but very welcome, out-of-placeness of this sort of quality in television. Many people have focused on the young girl, who does indeed do an excellent job in this episode and deserves commendation for her performance, but the character development of the show's eponymous Gregory House is gigantic in this episode. House's performance is extremely layered, I'd almost say the overall feeling of the episode embodies a more realistic--and therefore more touching--Scroogesque sort of story of subtle redemption. The very caustic behavior of House is harder to tolerate in this episode because of its direction at the character of a 9-year-old girl with terminal cancer; in this episode there's nothing funny about his jibes, which often form the cynical comic relief in this series. At one point, House's outwardly callous cynicism, in scoffing at his young patient's bravery in the face of death, brings a disgusted and nearly speechless Wilson to genuinely tell him to "go to hell." The emotional rawness is magnified by the complexity of Greg House's utterly screwed up and miserable character, who we see is part jealous of and part confused by his patient's love of life. The episode does an excellent job showing House's misery in contrasting him with his brave young patient. In an Oscar-worthy scene between House and Wilson in House's office, we see Dr. House using a razor to break up diphenhydramine, in order to circumvent the blood brain barrier and treat his cold, as Wilson asks him, with little surprise in his voice "...you're treating your stuffy nose with cocaine?" Here, House's misery and nonchalance about the future course of his life is beautifully rendered, as he quips, "unlike her, I've got the luxury of time," to Wilson's observation that the girl, though dying, enjoys life more than he does. Wilson's sad but genuine response that "she could outlive you," is made of greatness. Hugh Laurie's acting is beautifully sublime as the aloof House melts just a enough to see his discomfort with his own emotions as the young patient gives him a hug at the end of the episode, as she tells him to "take a walk next time [he's] outside." As the episode ends, we see he is following her advice to stop and smell the roses, and this seems like the first step that the series makes toward hope for Gregory House. So there you have it; I think this episode's genius lies in showing some of the coldest, most bristlingly mean sides of House's character alongside some of his softest and saddest, which ultimately makes you feel most sorry and empathetic for him. A classic episode that makes me yearn for the grumpy Gregory of the first three seasons.
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