House” is back, and while we’re all wondering just how much longer it can last, this week’s episode did such a good job of keeping us glued to the TV screen that we didn’t have much time to think too hard on that question. For the first episode of the season, it’s definitely starting things off on the right foot. Read our review to see what we mean. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Greg Yaitanes
  • Writer: Peter Blake
  • Cast: Hugh Laurie, Odette Annable, Thom Barry, Jude Ciccolella, Jaleel White

Episode Title: “Twenty Vicodin”

In the wake of last season’s ending, House finds himself in prison with five days left on his sentence. However, with fellow prisoners demanding an “exit tax” of twenty Vicodin pills breathing down his neck, House is finding it difficult to finish off his sentence while maintaining good behavior. To top it off, despite insisting that he has no plans to return to medicine, a sick prisoner causes House to put his own freedom at risk in order to diagnose him.

The Good:

  • True Tension: In any genre of film or TV nowadays, it is rare to find a story that truly keeps an audience in suspense. We’re too familiar with the conventions of these types of shows to ever really feel as though the characters we care about are at any real risk. Thankfully, the creative team behind “House” is very talented, and this week they served up an episode which had us wondering just how everything would turn out for those involved. To the writer’s credit, this episode doesn’t quite wrap up the way we expected it.
  • House is…well, House: The reason we keep coming back to “House” probably has less to do with the medical mystery aspect of the show, which has become formulaic, and more to do with the fact that House is one of the most compelling characters on television. A cynical, depressed genius with little to no concern for etiquette or “playing nice,” he’s not the kind of market-tested protagonist that greedy networks so often try to push on a viewing public too bored to complain. This episode managed to renew our interest in him rather skillfully. He starts out as nothing more than a sarcastic convict looking to get out, but when his obsession with solving medical puzzles kicks in, he’s back. The rule-breaking doctor who kept this show alive this long hasn’t gone anywhere.

The So-So:

  • Side characters: We know that House wasn’t going to spend the entire season in prison, so as a result, we also know that many of the side characters featured in this week’s episode won’t be around very long. While some recognizable character actors–including Jaleel “Urkel” White–do a great job with the limited roles they have, it does seem like this episode relies a little too heavily on prison movie stereotypes at the expense of authenticity.

The Bad:

  • Where to? Last night’s episode didn’t really give us all that much to genuinely complain about, but it may have left some viewers unsatisfied. After a season finale that arguably involved House’s most shocking act of sheer insanity yet, viewers are going to want to know where his character will go from here. The last few years of this series have seen House recover from depression and addiction, only to sink right back into his old ways. We want to know whether or not his character still has room to grow. All we got from this episode was the knowledge that he’d be getting out of prison.

Overall:

A tense season-opener assures us that “House” hasn’t lost the magic. True, the biggest issue this season will the development of House’s character, something which wasn’t truly addressed last night, but overall, we were too damn entertained to care. For mainstream television, you could do a lot worse.

Rating: 9/10

“House” airs every Monday night on FOX!

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What did you think of last night’s episode? How do you feel about this season?