Thematically-linked spoilers for last night's episodes of "House" and "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I puff on my inhaler and enjoy some onion soup...
"House" and "Fringe" are far, far from the first TV shows to make their procedural storylines have some kind of thematic parallel to the personal lives of the regular characters. "Grey's Anatomy" does it four or five times a week, "ER" perfected the art of the sledgehammer parallel well before that, and even more high-falutin' dramas like "Mad Men" are fond of mixing its characters work and home lives. (Don Draper's ad campaigns are usually inspired on whatever problem he's dealing with at home, after all.)
But there's an elegant way to do it (again, see "Mad Men") and then there's the clumsiness that's infused so much of this season of "House." I don't miss the old team, exactly (though the Foreman/Chase scene reminded me that I did rather like Chase back when he got to say more than two lines an episode), but I do miss the days when the writers would try to make the patient of the week's story interesting in its own right, as opposed to an excuse for House or one of his associates to learn a valuable lesson about their own lives.
As I've said before, I think the writers find Thirteen to be vastly more interesting than she actually is, and I say this as someone who thinks Olivia Wilde is reasonably talented. I even liked a lot of her work in this episode, particularly the moments where Thirteen opened up a little with her patient/girlfriend and we got to see a human being instead of this not-so-fascinating thematic plot device. I'd even go so far as to say that "Lucky Thirteen" was one of the stronger episodes this season, and not for the promo-tastic girl-on-girl action.
I'm just tired of the doctors and the patients having the exact same problem, week after week. That's not what I watch "House" for, and I hope the writers eventually remember that.
(On an unrelated note, this is, as far as I know, Michael Weston's final episode. Ausiello said the spin-off's no longer happening, and if that's true, maybe Lucas can pop up again from time to time. He turned out to be far more entertaining than I expected.)
"Fringe," meanwhile, tried to address the gaping charisma vacuum that is its lead actress by making this week's case an excuse for Olivia to deal with some (step)father issues. (Why is Tony Soprano the only character on television who's allowed to be mad at his mother instead of his father? Is there some correlation between poor paternal relations and screenwriting careers?)
There were ways in which "The Cure" was better than many "Fringe" episodes to date. It was the first one, I think, where the case had absolutely zero link to Walter's old research, and possibly to the Pattern, and those repeated links were getting old. Several scenes were genuinely disturbing -- notably the mouse crawling all over the strapped-down kidnap victim before exploding, and then Olivia trying desperately to get her to inject the antidote into her neck before the head on top of it went boom -- though another one (the doctor shooting himself) didn't really work in retrospect. (Unless there's a lot more to come from Chris Eigeman, the doc didn't seem in danger of a fate worse than death that would merit suicide as the only alternative.)
And, yes, we need to on some level be invested in Olivia if we're going to care about the show. We've learned a fair amount about Walter and Peter's backstory already, so it seems only fair to do it with the other lead. I just continue to find both Olivia and Anna Torv to be flat and uncompelling, with or without the revelation about her past.
What did everybody else think?