House Viewing... Given that each episode of House more or less follows the same rigid formula, each week's instalment can only really be judged as a success or a failure on the basis of how compelling the viewer finds the patient-of-the-week. Unfortunately, on these grounds, 'Runaways' doesn't exactly knock it out of the park.
This show has tackled the issues that result from treating a homeless patient before - as far back as 2005's 'Histories' - so Callie's 'character twist' doesn't bring anything new to the table. What's worse, once her formerly abusive mother Ellen (Darlene Vogel) arrives on the scene, the episode's primary storyline devolves into a clichéd 'damaged teen vs remorseful parent' plot.
The medical aspect of Callie's arc also fails to grab the attention - House's final diagnosis is not so much a leap of logic as a lucky guess. It pretty much comes out of nowhere.
However, to give the writers credit, the Callie / Ellen conflict does at least reach a satisfying and surprising conclusion - the homeless girl decides to return to the streets, convinced that she's better off alone, since her mother will inevitably revert to her old ways. This writer expected the pair to reconcile and head off into the sunset, so this bold ending came as a pleasant surprise.
Many House episodes compensate for a weak central arc with a string of interesting or amusing subplots, but again 'Runaways' falls down here. House's attempts to blackmail Foreman lead to further performance anxiety from the new Dean - yawn.
The final 'twist' - that Foreman enjoyed his affair because, like House, he enjoys danger - isn't exactly a revelation. Foreman's fear that he is turning into House is, again, an old theme - an arc that never goes anywhere.
And after a blessed respite, the dreary Taub returns, concerned that his baby daughters are boring - maybe it runs in the family? This plot gave us a fun, bonus Wilson scene ("I also have kind eyes") but had little else going for it. Less of Taub's home life please. A lot, lot less.
Speaking of Wilson, he plays a criminally small role in 'Runaways' - his interactions with House have always been this show's strongest source of humour and even a wacky clinic-set plot involving a pair of vomiting Civil War role-players couldn't make up for the lack of House / Wilson banter.
The problem with season eight of House as a whole is that the medical maverick's new team still doesn't quite gel. With her emotional protests, Adams (Odette Annable) is in danger of becoming Cameron-lite, while Park (Charlyne Yi) has drifted into the background after a promising introduction.
Chase has also been neglected this year - his sole purpose at the moment is to deliver to the odd wry comment. Here's hoping that the 12th episode in this current run - the promisingly-entitled 'Chase' - will buck this disappointing trend and provide Jesse Spencer with some juicy material to work with.
After last week's solid midseason premiere, 'Runaways' is a disappointment. Story-wise, it treads old ground and crucially lacks enough fun character moments to keep the viewer distracted from a mundane central plot. After eight years, is House running on empty? We hope not, but on this week's evidence, things don't look promising.
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