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House: "Remorse"

Illustration for article titled iHouse/i: Remorse
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Most of the critics I know think Brian Cox was the superior Hannibal Lecter, but I prefer Anthony Hopkins. Cox's performance is subtler, more realistic, and more dangerous—he's less a super-villain than a wolf that pretends it's a man. But Hopkins' theatricality is more appropriate to the role, because Lecter is a super-villain, someone of the Dr. Doom variety, whose arrogance and harsh punishment of fools makes him bizarrely admirable. Cox wouldn't have fit in Silence of the Lambs because it's impossible to imagine a more believable psychopath teaching Jodie Foster anything. While Hopkins' performance wore thin in the sequels (as much due to bad writing and familiarity as anything else), in Lambs, he approaches camp without descending into it, walking the line neatly between clownish evil and sincere, terrifying threat.

Given this, Valerie, the psychopathic Patient of the Week in "Remorse," should've been a treat. Beau Garrett played it as sort of a combination of Cox and Hopkins, with Cox's slippery calm and Hopkins' grin, and, while it's not exactly realistic, it at least could've been entertaining. Sometimes it was. The few conversations Valerie and House shared were enjoyable, although they point to a misread of the title character that's been one of my issues since this season started. But House works best when its patients skirt the edge of credibility without going over. (Keep in mind, I don't have a medical degree, so the vast liberties the series takes with actual medicine fly over my head.) Valerie's mental illness just seems a little too controlled, a little too cool, somehow. Like Hopkins' Lecter, she's what we secretly wish crazy people were like—Machiavellian monsters who always make it to the final reel.


Actually, my biggest problem with Valerie isn't with Valerie at all, but with the way 13 treats her. With Cameron now gone for good, it looks like the lone female member of Coke Zero has inherited her sister in medicine's moral outrage. 13 is so infuriated with Valerie's manipulations that she eventually manages to clue Valerie's husband in on his wife's infidelity, which pisses the psychopath off to the point where she's making anonymous calls to the Medical Board about sexual harassment. It's just tedious and melodramatic and one-note, a storyline that exists more out of a sense responsibility than anything resembling a purpose. Sure, 13's involvement eventually brings to light the actual cause of the PotW's problems ("Wilson's disease"—which made her into a psychopath. Cute.), but Wilde just doesn't have the chops to make this seem believable. If anyone could, really.

"Remorse" also marks the return of my two least favorite plots, 13 and Foreman's relationship, and the dreaded Chuddy dilemma. Both are ridiculous and irritating as they always are. (I feel like I'm still being punished for ever saying Foreman and 13 had chemistry together.) Foreman thinks 13 has to be "punished" for going behind his back. Since when? "Punishment" is a horrible, horrible choice of words too—there's a condescending, creepy vibe to it that isn't at all mitigated by their former relationship. We don't see a lot of Cuddy tonight, but Wilson's comment that Cuddy had been in love with House for years is a moderate piece of ret-conning; it doesn't explicitly contradict anything we've seen (I don't think), but it changes their relationship in a way I don't believe was ever really intended all along. I can buy Cuddy was attracted to House, I can buy House was attracted to Cuddy, but love? Even worse, that Cuddy has been pining all this time, just waiting for House to do something? That's insulting to both characters, and just lazy character work.


Valerie tries to convince House that he's just as much a psychopath as she is, which of course isn't true; but once again, we're back to How Gregory House Almost Learned His Lesson land. He apologizes to a fellow student he once screwed over, finds out the student failed med school because of House's tricks, and tries to pay the guy's mortgage. According to Wilson, this is all proof of House trying to avoid dealing with his real feelings. Hey, remember when Wilson was just as screwed up in his way as House was? I miss that. I miss not being sure how to feel about House's misanthropy, as opposed to now being reminded over and over that he's just cowardly and broken and needs to love. House was never the most nuanced series, but it used to at least try and avoid easy answers. These days, like Valerie before the cure, it keeps giving us the answers it thinks we want to hear.

Stray Observations:

  • Valerie discovering emotions by telling her husband he was a coward? Not bad. 13 immediately explaining to her that emotions hurt? Blah.
  • I need to use elevators more often, if only to increase the chance that I can say to someone, "We're almost at my floor, so I'll summarize. Your problem, not mine."
  • I've got "Shut up, 13" in my notes at least three times. This was not a good week for her.
  • Fingers crossed that 13 and Foreman making friendly tonight doesn't lead to them having sex again.

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