Friday, April 15, 2011

Pardon the Interruption: House 7:18 - The Dig

Overall: 7.5

This episode is well-written and well-performed - no doubt about that - but I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I'm not comfortable with the message it sends.

Plot Synopsis: has a basic recap here.

The Skinny:

This episode is a textbook illustration of why SABR Matt and I opted for the three-dimensional scoring system. You see, we wanted a tool with which we could praise the art of a particular episode while at the same time critquing the worldview which informs it. The Dig is very good television. Unfortunately, its worldview is profoundly troubling.

Thanks in part to the emotionally evocative writing, I feel nothing but sympathy for Thirteen in this episode. Of all the ways a man or woman could possibly die, Huntington's chorea is probably one of the most humiliating. In the later stages of the disease, many victims end up in state hospitals or nursing homes; in any case, a sufferer is rendered totally incapable of taking care of his or herself. I can understand why someone facing such a future should wish to avoid it -- and I especially understand why Thirteen would embrace euthanasia, as she has always had trust and intimacy issues. For goodness sake, it took ages before we even learned her real name!

Was this episode entirely in character? Absolutely. Did I like the match up of Thirteen and House? Of course! I particularly liked Thirteen's going all out to beat House's young rival at the spud shooting contest; I thought that was cute. And whatever you may think about euthanasia, the fact that House was willing to reach out to Thirteen at the end and offer her what he thought she wanted shows that he doesn't have a Rubik's cube where his heart should be.

Still, the compassion that Thirteen offered her brother - and the compassion that House offers Thirteen - is ultimately a distorted compassion. It presumes a godless universe - or, at the very least, it presumes that God is indifferent to our anguish. Moreover, what the supposed "mercy" of euthanasia really does is free us from the responsibility of enveloping the terminally ill and disabled in our midst with loving care. The conscious motives of euthanasia's proponents are no doubt benign, but in advocating the needle - the fatal dose of morphine - they are advocating what is convenient for the rest of us. Euthanasia spares us the sorrow of looking upon the sick and the dying. And its logic is inexorable; in Holland, where euthanasia has been decriminalized for quite some time, many patients have been euthanized without their explicit consent. The slippery slope is real, folks; once you accept the premise that some human lives are simply not worth living, you open the door to evil.

Writing: 9.0

As I said, this episode is entirely in character, and its tragic notes have real emotional impact.

Acting: 8.5

The acting is also quite good. Specifically, Olivia Wilde proves that she doesn't deserve fandom's constant abuse.

Message: 5.0

I'm not going to be too harsh with this score, as I can see why euthanasia is such a beguiling temptation in this day and age. As an obedient Catholic, however, I can't in good conscience embrace the episode's fundamentally positive portrayal of the practice. See above.

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