Non-Linear Narrative in House S07 E13

House and his new child friends wait in the principal's office

House: You know, I gotta tell you–there’s bossy, which can be sexy, and then there’s bitchy, which–

Girl: Finish the story!

This was a cute episode of House, but not particularly deep. It does, however, provide a good opportunity to think about non-linear narration. The basic premise is that House and two elementary school children are waiting for the principal to arrive. All three are guilty of some misdeed, and with a little bit of forced dialogue, they soon find themselves swapping stories. As House explains why he’s in trouble, he pauses once in a while to question the girl and boy. House is a character who deals in information and the revelation of secret knowledge; if he’s going to explain his story to the kids, then he wants to hear theirs as well.

The non-sequential narrative results because the respective stories of House and the kids are integrated into the semi-natural flow of their conversation. As House and the girl spar about who should be the first to divulge personal information, we see flashback scenes of the events they experienced earlier. Although the girl’s questions are pointed, and House finds himself exposing more than he’d intended, his initially evasive answers mean that we’ll need to revisit some scenes more than once.

When non-linear narratives are presented well, we sense no disconnect between scenes, even if they take place minutes or days apart. A non-linear narrative can also provide some mental stimulation to an otherwise bland plot. I don’t consciously re-position the narrative in chronological order as I watch, but I do tend to pay closer attention to somewhat tepid dialogue when I know that it’s introducing a sequence that occurred in the past.

I liked the use of a non-linear narrative, but the elementary school setting was unfortunate. There weren’t nearly as many acerbic remarks from House, and the few that we did get were somewhat meek in comparison to his usually acidic repartee. House is best when he’s not mellowing himself in order to interact with children or submitting to Cuddy’s reasonable household demands, but I suppose this true-love version of House is a little more humane. Then again, I do enjoy watching him torture Wilson. Stay tuned!


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