Wednesday, April 8, 2009

'House' Stunner Still Creating Buzz, Backlash

*Spoilers from Monday's House ahead*

I just got around to watching the latest episode of House last night on my DVR. And, when I got to THAT scene -- the one in which Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn) was found dead from a single, suicidal gunshot wound to the head -- I was really thrown.

I thoroughly enjoyed last week's episode which featured a patient with "locked-in" syndrome, where most of the action took place from the perspective and line of sight of that patient who couldn't move and couldn't talk. It was quite different from anything I've seen on TV. (No, I did not see the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.)

So I had high hopes when tuning in this week, thinking that the writers might be on a creative roll. But to see that Kutner committed suicide (not on screen), without explanation, was a shocker. Dr. Greg House spent the episode flailing about trying to figure out why Kutner did it, as House repeatedly ambled around Kutner's apartment, seeking clues, noting that Kutner had passions and interests, and never seemed depressed, despite the tragic death of his parents when he was a child. House's grief took the form of an almost inhumane brutality when he initially blamed Kutner's grieving adoptive parents, knowing full well that they likely had nothing to do with Kutner's decision to pull the trigger.

Yesterday, news reports began to circulate explaining why the actor, Penn, had left the show House; he is joining the Obama administration. Yet today, the buzz about his character's suicide has not yet abated.

The New York Daily News reported that the show's creators hope that the episode will serve as a "teachable moment" and perhaps prevent some suicides, noting that the episode concluded with contact info for the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The Daily News quoted House producer David Shore as saying that while the audience still remains surprised, so does the show's namesake. ". . . [T]he biggest impact will be on House himself. The man with all the answers doesn't have one."

The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan hated, I mean absolutely HATED, this plot twist, saying on her blog:

"Everything about the death of Kutner . . . smelled of manipulation. And how about that online 'memorial' to Kutner that was advertised at the end of the show? Sigh. It just struck me as cheesy . . . How exploitative and expedient to kill him off so randomly."

While I disagree with Ryan's assessment regarding the decision to kill off Kutner's character by way of suicide -- I didn't feel manipulated, just shellshocked -- I do think the notion of an online memorial for the fictional character -- plus the Facebook page and the Fox "tribute" video -- is indeed creepy.

What do you think about the Kutner demise? Manipulative? Shocking? Brilliant?

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