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House - "Born Again" (Season 9 Premiere Review)

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Written by : published Thursday 25th October 2012

So FOX's House returned this week for its ninth season. In the episode, "Born Again," little snippets are revealed about what happened between seasons, and there is some serious emotional depth. Sure, a few obstacles have to be overcome to return things to the status quo, but as usual, House manages to do so without leaning too far out of the realm of believability.

First, the tease. It's heartbreaking to watch Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) dying in that house on the beach. The beautiful scenery contrasting with his deathly pallor makes a real impact, and House's (Hugh Laurie) silent, stoic expression is perfect. Yes, maybe I would have liked to have seen House's reaction after Wilson breathes that last breath, but the scene is so artistic, teasing us without being explicit, and panning away before we become eerie voyeurs onto such a private moment, that one can't be upset. It is exactly how it should be done.

The "real" opening of "Born Again," after the tease, is brilliant. Having House just walk into his old office and pretend everything is the same is the right way to handle things, and letting his fellows shake their heads in disbelief is a great way to address the audience's own confusion. House has that swagger, that confidence, that lets him get away with more than most people. It's good to see that that hasn't disappeared in the time since we last saw him.

Of course, what we are all thinking is, "What is House doing there?" When last we see him, he is riding off into the sunset with Wilson, and then we see Wilson die in the opening. What come back now? It's pretty obvious that Wilson died months ago, so what prompts his return to the old halls?

The police business can't be brushed under the rug. It's not unpredictable that the patient of the week turns out to have some major pull and is able to get House a pardon, but after seeing how much softer and more attentive House is towards the POW, especially in contrast to the almost cold way that he stood all the way across the room from poor Wilson in the beginning, it works. Who wouldn't want to help that guy, especially after House saves his life?

And House being as nonchalant as ever, knowing he is going to get that pardon, but not telling a frantic Foreman (Omar Epps), who is doing his best to hold off the law, is just classic House. Managing to keep Foreman in the dark about House's role in even bringing the patient to the hospital, whom House must have met sometime after the opening tease, is quite an accomplishment. Thank goodness Foreman is so happy to have House back that he lets it go in the end without getting too upset.

Will House's softer side last? I can't imagine that it will, even with the episode title. One has to believe that he is playing the judge in the hospital to get off of the charges against him. But, at the same time, there are hints that he might also be trying to make up for how he treated Wilson. Did House really pull away from Wilson? Not holding his hand in the end almost seems cruel, but without knowing how he acted in the moments leading up to that bit, it's impossible to say for sure if he stayed a good friend 'til the end. This is a changed House, surely, as one cannot watch their best friend perish and remain the same. But how deep the change goes, or the true motivation behind it, dance, as always, in the glimmer of House's eye, rather than being revealed to the viewers.

Yes, "Born Again" may not even refer to House himself. It probably has more to do with the judge, who is struggling with his own religious beliefs. But even if House isn't sincere, seeing him humor this POTW in talks of god, and not just dismissing it as he may have done in the past when the judge gets too sentimental, is unarguably a change.

Quick side note, Stephen Fry (Bones, QI), who plays the judge in this episode, previously did a sketch comedy series with House star Hugh Laurie. So awesome to see them reunited, even if only for an hour!

It makes sense that Chase (Jesse Spencer) is no longer in the cast. He has a decent enough send off last season, and Spencer is starring in Chicago Fire now, anyway. But I am slightly disappointed that Dr. Adams (Odette Annable) didn't return, as I felt her character could have been explored a bit more fully. I guess a short run is the curse of many pretty girls on House.

That being said, it's cool that Taub (Peter Jacobson) and Park (Charlyne Yi) stayed. Their various reactions to seeing House, whom they believed to be dead until he suddenly walks in the door, is funny. Taub screaming like a girl and Park getting angry is wonderfully in line with their characters, and creates fantastic comedy in an emotionally heavy episode.

The poor replacement for House just doesn't stand a chance at keeping his job, right from the start. I really like the actor they have playing the new head of diagnostics, having seen him in other shows, even though I didn't expect him to join a series like House. Even though it would be hard for anyone to balance a character who is genius enough to be Park and Taub's boss, but is humble enough to agree to stay on with a demotion when House is offered the job back, I think this guy can handle it. I definitely sense his role will not just be milked for a laugh in the coming year.

That still leaves an opening in the cast. I think that House will probably just keep a team of three, but who will take Wilson's office? It's sweet that Foreman has left it empty all this time, and the scenes where each of the docs go in there are heart-wrenching. It's a loss felt on screen and off. But that's prime real estate in a busy facility. I don't know that I want Wilson's Chief of Oncology replacement, Dr. Jerry (Peter MacNicol, Numb3rs, 24), to move in, as I kind of am hoping that it will be a person that House can befriend, and I'm not sure Dr. Jerry is that person. But he could be an amusing side trip for awhile.

And finally we get to the final scene: Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) standing in the door of House's office. The camera cuts before either House or Cuddy say anything, but that brief bit is so ripe with the unspoken, it's going to drive viewers crazy for an entire week until the next installment! Does she know what House did for Wilson? She has to, right? Why else would she return? Will his selfless actions be enough to earn her forgiveness? What will she do if she learns that House killed Wilson, if he did indeed do so, which is hinted at in the conversation where Park accuses House of it, but is never confirmed? Would that change her mind, or make her see him as even more noble?

Rumor is that Edelstein has agreed to return full-time, even though it hasn't been confirmed by the network yet and her name is absent from this week's opening credits, but what will her role be? Foreman isn't going anywhere, and she can't just go to work on House's team. Could she take over Wilson's office, and in what capacity? Would the woman who became an administrator so young want to go back into endocrinology at this stage of her career? Or is she there simply as a love interest again?

Truly excellent start. Some may think that House has run out of stream after eight years and its almost cancellation last spring. But if future episodes hold up as well as "Born Again," we should all be grateful for the suspended sentence that both the series and the titular character have earned.

House airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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