With all the talk about the new Sherlock Holmes movie — starring Robert Downey Jr. as the idiosyncratic detective and Jude Law as his sidekick, Dr. Watson — it is both enjoyable and instructive to revisit the modern incarnation of the Holmes story, Fox’s “House,” particularly as Monday’s return relates directly to the Holmes character.As “Painless” opens, we see Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) in the bath, knees drawn up to reveal the massive scar that is the symbol of both his constant pain and his Vicodin addiction. (Holmes, too, is an addict, cocaine being his drug of choice, propelled by a severe tooth infection.)
Thanks to Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) — who seems to know House better than he knows his misanthropic self — House will encounter a patient in far greater, more pervasive pain. Will the not-so-good doctor solve this baffling case? The answer is, of course, elementary but not before we delve deeper into the quirky characters of the Princeton hospital, which only raises more questions.
Did Dr. Taub (Peter Jacobson) try to commit suicide once? Can Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) separate his feelings for Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) from his quest to treat her Huntington’s disease? Why does Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) think that she can’t be an effective administrator and an effective mom to foster baby Rachel? And if she wants to be a stay-at-home mom, why can’t House let her go?
More to the point, why does House make a distinction between himself as Rational Man and his own long-suffering Watson, Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), as Rationalization Man?
The questions persist into the series’ 100th episode (Feb. 2) as the team takes on the case of a suddenly stricken, world-renowned cancer researcher who has chucked her career to pursue her passions and be “happy”. Is happiness doing what you should or what you want?
House’s obsession with following his own inner logic — he’d rather be right than happy, or being right is what makes him happy — is very Holmesian. Like Holmes, House is a head-over-heart guy.
The problem with that is that life is rarely rational. The need to impose your own order on a disordered world can lead to some very irrational responses. (Check out Monday’s balmy subplot involving House’s plumber.)
In this life, insisting on making sense can be the most senseless thing you can do.