The XX Factor

Television To Make You Angry

It’s May, the month of nice weather, pretty flowers, weddings, declarations of love, pregnancies, hallucinations, fatalities, cliffhangers and shocking twists. It’s the month of TV finales, wherein shows wrap up the season that came before, while providing incentives to watch the season that comes next, manipulating you into thinking “Finally!” and then “Really?!” in quick succession. House did exactly that last night with an episode stuffed with a possessed hand, a wedding, and a trip to the loony bin. Most importantly (spoiler alert), it was revealed that last week’s long-awaited “Huddy sex” ( that’s the official term ), in which Dr. House and Dr. Cuddy consummated their love-hate relationship (Finally!), was actually a hallucination (Really?!).

Ginia Bellafante, writing in the New York Times , took the mature view of this sucker punch. “Shamefully, I would have been overjoyed if the season finale had ended with House and Cuddy electing to spend the summer together in Corsica,” she writes. “[Though] this would have betrayed the show’s primary covenant-to keep House miserable-and entirely erased its integrity.” Other House fans, not professionally required to be rational, took a less subtle position. “REALLY, SHOW?/ That was a letdown/ Whaaaa? That was lame/ WTF show?? Seriously??” were the initial comments on a message board about the episode.

In other words, the House finale was a total success. Not in spite of being enraging and disappointing and manipulative and even a little cheap (hallucinations have been a twist on House before ), but explicitly because it was all of those things. Good finales don’t have to be enjoyable and satisfying (nice when they are, of course), but they do have to make you yell at your television. Come September, the agitation and anger will have faded and we’ll only remember that we really cared and we’ll show up to see if maybe, hopefully, Huddy get together this year, preferably not just in House’s imagination. Season finales are an exercise in a visceral, brute storytelling, the intent of which is to manipulate. That means that any and every cheap trick becomes acceptable and even laudable, so long as it works an audience up. (Hallucinations? Why didn’t they just say it was all a dream ?) So, during the coming weeks, expect to sit down on the couch and have your favorite show try to make you angry. It just wants you to care.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.