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House: Season 4 - Alone (First episode review)

Hugh Laurie in House: Season 4

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the first episode of House: Season 4 entitled Alone.

What’s the story? House (Hugh Laurie) must diagnose a young woman who survived a building collapse but is now suffering from a mysterious fever. Trouble is, without a team behind him, he’s proving a little less effective. Despite the protestations of Dr Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and Dr Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), however, he refuses to start recruiting – until they’re forced to take desperate measures…

Was it any good? It’s been said, many times, that House works best because of Hugh Laurie. Take him away and it functions less effectively. Remove some characters completely – such as his bickering team – and we probably wouldn’t notice. Well, that was put to the test in season four opener Alone and it did put forward some interesting revelations.

While Drs Foreman (Omar Epps), Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) certainly remain the least interesting aspect of the House ensemble, their absence was missed as it deprived House of anyone to bounce ideas, put-downs and sarcastic observations off. Attempts to fill in the void by “employing” a cleaner, or using Dr Cuddy, were amusing. But it did diminish, somewhat, the plight of the “patient of the week”, whose woes played second fiddle to House’s own, lonely musings. Still, the guitar kidnapping was highly amusing.

Digging a little deeper: House: Season 4 started with a bang (the collapse of a building) but ended with kind of a whimper. It consistently entertained but lacked a certain urgency, while Hugh Laurie seemed grumpier than usual as he attempted to conjure a diagnosis alone.

It says much for the under-stated work of Epps, Spencer and Morrison that their absence WAS missed more than we could have anticipated. Or maybe it was that the case of the week wasn’t quite so interesting, despite delivering a rather neat twist.

In human terms, however, the episode lacked much soul. House showboated and diagnosed mostly accurately, but was so pre-occupied with proving that he didn’t need a team around him that he failed to realise the patient he was treating was not the person he thought she was. Rather, a look-alike pulled from the same rubble of the collapsed building.

It meant that the various put-downs he delivered to the woman’s distraught mother and boyfriend seemed particularly callous in light of the final revelation.

That said, Laurie remained on top form, his acerbic wit and grumpy demeanour as riveting as ever. It’s just that he was slightly less sympathetic with it, his sociopathic tendencies allowed to run away almost unchecked.

Robert Sean Leonard continued to excel as House’s long-suffering best friend and colleague, Dr Wilson, who was forced to resort to “kidnapping” Greg’s guitar in a bid to get him to start recruiting. It was a clever and highly amusing plot device that provided ample opportunity for the two of them to further their wonderful banter, as each tried to get the better of one another (House, of course, triumphed when he took one of Wilson’s cancer patients).

An enjoyable season opener, then, but one that didn’t quite grip as the best episodes have in the past. It should, however, be very intriguing to see how this story arc develops and just when House will cave to the inevitable pressure. We’re certain it will still be on his terms…

What did you think?