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House: Season 6 - Broken (season opener reviewed)

House, Season 6

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 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 opening episode of House: Season 6 entitled Broken (as aired on Sky1 on Sunday, October 4, 2009).

What’s the story? House (Hugh Laurie) engages in a battle of wits and wills against the attending physician in charge of his detox program. When he starts to lose, House resorts to blackmail to gain the upper hand.

Was it any good? The sixth season opener of House tore up the rule book in more ways than one. By breaking with the usual case-of-the-week format and placing Hugh Laurie’s grumpy doc firmly front and centre, it enabled viewers to get a rare and fascinating insight into the tormented genius at, well, his most tormented.

Having taken the drastic decision to place himself under psychiatric supervision at the end of Season 5, House now embarked on a painful detox from viacodin, followed by touchy-feely soul-searching at the hands of the asylum.

In true House style, the first part was easy and an opening sequence brilliantly showed the detox process to the strains of Radiohead, as House visibly contorted, vomited and generally endured his own detox hell.

Thereafter, things became tricky. Keen to check himself out and get on his with life and career, House was thwarted at every turn by the facility’s bullish head (played with relish by Andre Braugher).

The battle of wits that ensued, as House attempted to turn the facility’s rules on its head, were fun, fascinating and a totally new direction for the show. Yes, there were obvious comparisons to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (and deliberately so), but just as that movie had its own lasting final act emotional kick, so too did this opening episode of House.

Each time we thought House held the upper hand in his dealings with Braugher, the carpet was pulled from under him. But never more so than during the final moments, as he took a patient suffering from a superhero complex (following the death of his wife) and treated him to a day at a funfair; only to watch on powerlessly as he jumped from the multi-storey car park in a desperate bid to fly.

The patient survived; but House’s resolve looked shaken and, just as Braugher was about to turn his back on House, the doctor issued a heartfelt plea for help.

I hope Braugher remains in the show for some time. He’s a good sparring partner for House and Laurie and Braugher clearly enjoy the match-up. It brings back memories of David Morse in season 4, and House is never better than when providing Laurie’s doc with a worthwhile adversary.

Intriguing, too, was his burgeoning relationship with Franka Potente’s visitor, which demonstrated more humanity than normal in House.

So, season 6 began with the expected flourish. It remains to be seen how quickly things will return to normal and when the series regulars will make their bow (only Robert Sean Leonard appeared fleetingly in this episode).

But the good news is that it’s going to be a whole lot of fun (and personal torment for House) in finding out. It’s a bold new direction for the show; but a good one.

What did you think?