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House: Season 5 - Birthmarks (Review)

Hugh Laurie in House

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the latest episode of House: Season 5 entitled Birthmarks (as aired on Sky1 on Sunday, June 7, 2009).

What’s the story? While en route to his father’s funeral, House (Hugh Laurie) must help the team with a differential diagnosis on a young Chinese girl who has collapsed under mysterious circumstances.

Was it any good? So, House and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) finally got back together. That didn’t take long. But at least the way in which they did it was entertaining, if not necessarily in the best traditions of the series.

Every once in a while, the writers decide to take House out of the hospital and put him in a new environment. We’ve had House aboard a plane, and House being called to the CIA. This latest device took him out for a road trip with Wilson in tow in a device that reminded me of Dr Ross and Dr Greene in a long-distant episode of ER.

Needless to say, hilarity ensued. House did not wish to attend his father’s funeral but – in a clever early device – was duped by Cuddy into taking an injection for suspected exposure to Sars disease, only to find himself drugged and in a car when he came round.

The car, of course, was being driven by estranged best friend Wilson, who maintained he was only taking House to the funeral as a favour to his mother… not out of any lingering passion to maintain their friendship.

But, over the course of their journey, the two found themselves warming to each other, if not the circumstances of their reunion.

Needless to say, the episode combined humour, sardonic wit, medical dilemmas and poignant soul-searching to engaging effect.

In the comedy stakes, House continually proved what an obnoxious friend he can be by using everything at his disposal to thwart Wilson’s attempts to get him to the funeral on time. This included, somewhat hilariously, dropping Wilson’s car keys down a drain, and this his flash-light. In typical Wilson fashion, however, he had a spare torch!

Then, when least expecting it, House ensured that Wilson got stopped for speeding and the two were subsequently arrested over an outstanding warrant.

When they did finally get to the funeral, a little insight was once again offered into House’s tortured soul. He has, or had, daddy issues. His father, it seems, was a strict disciplinarian, of military persuasion, who had little or no time to bond with his son.

Not that House considered him to be a father either, having worked out at the age of 12 (no less!) that he wasn’t biologically so.

When the moment came to say a few words in his honour, breaths were collectively held (on-screen and off) to see whether House would do the decent thing and be respectful, or resort to his bilgerent normal self. He chose the latter, lamenting the relationship he had with his father, before stealing something from the coffin.

The gesture did, at least, provide the breakthrough he needed with Wilson, as the confrontation he subsquently had with his friend enabled them to put their differences aside and build a new start for each other.

It’s good for the show that Wilson is back… the banter between them is always sparkling and Leonard is one of the unsung heroes of its continued success. He’s also one of the few characters that affords us any insight into House’s feelings… a device that was once again tapped into by the writers once House finally came to realise that he had, indeed, just lost his father as the show drew to a close.

Five seasons on and House shows no sign of wear and tear yet. The device framing Birthmarks may have been borrowed, and may not have been entirely successful in places, but it was never less than entertaining, whilst reviving one of the best on-screen relationships on TV.

Read our review of the season opener

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