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Dollhouse: Epitaph Two, Return

Adelle: "You're not coming back."
Topher: "Small price to pay. I didn't want to cause any more pain."

Talk about going out with a bang, huh? I'd like to thank Joss Whedon for giving us such a positive ending. I honestly wasn't expecting it.

I almost can't believe how much I disliked Topher in season one; his death was so tragic. He literally couldn't live with what he'd done, so he took himself out as he fixed it. (I also thought it was lovely that the last thing he saw was the Battlestar remembrance wall.) Solid gold acting stars for Fran Kranz, not only for this episode but for the entire second season. Ditto for Olivia Williams. The tender way Adelle treated him, the things they said when they said goodbye, so moving. She loved him, and I don't mean in a romantic way.

Speaking of romantic, Paul's death got to me. Echo sobbing out her grief to Priya got to me, too -- and when she took his imprint inside of herself, I cried. Paul pointed out that Echo was a hundred people, but she was always alone. Now she has Paul inside of her, forever. That was actually more romantic (in a cool, sad way) than Tony and Priya living happily ever after.

I was proud of Tony for choosing to fight and to make a literal tech head of himself, even though it cost him years with Priya and their son. That happy ending was well-deserved. That Mad Max look with the tatts, ripped fatigues, and flash drives was a good one for him. Could someone please cast Enver Gjokaj in something cool right the hell now?

When they first started talking about what "the pulse" would do, I thought it would mean that all of our imprinted characters would lose everything they had become in order to save the world. Since there was nothing left of Paul but an imprint, I thought he would lose even more, and end up a vegetable. I'm glad the story didn't go that way, even though it would have been dramatically sound. A dramatically sound bummer.

The casting was a Whedonfest, and we even got a virtual mini-Firefly reunion. I loved that it was Alpha who left Paul's wedge on the Chair for Echo. I was a bit confused about how Alpha became a freedom fighter, even though it was referred to in "Epitaph One." What did I miss? Did he just evolve because of the multiple imprints? Or maybe because of Paul's?

Lots of symbolism, of course. The strawberries in their garden were a symbol of life and rebirth. I think my favorite was Tony and little Tony burning tech in a campfire together. I loved that the Dollhouse replaced their farm house and became their safe haven, the only way to retain their real selves and important memories. And the ending, with Echo going to sleep in an open, uncovered pod, was lovely. Pretty much said it all.

I'm so glad we got a second season. Yes, a lot happened in these past few episodes and it was rushed; it would have been better if there had been more time for the story to play out. But how could anyone complain about this finale? It was beautifully written and acted, satisfying and meaningful. I loved it.

Bits:

-- One good thing about Dollhouse was that they could literally get anyone to play Harding if Keith Carradine wasn't available. Or even if he was.

-- I'm glad that Mag and Zone made it. And Adair Tishler did a lovely job again, this time as mini-Caroline. I particularly liked her telling Paul that Caroline loved it when he was corny.

-- I'm sort of sorry that we didn't get to see Amy Acker one last time, although this episode was full enough. Ditto Reed Diamond. At least we saw Summer Glau one more time, and Bennett was the one who gave Topher the final answer he needed.

-- Loved the firefight with the freeze frames and the flashing light. There was music evocative of Battlestar Galactica when Paul was killed. I don't know if it was deliberate, but it was a nice detail.

-- If you didn't see it, "Epitaph One" is on the final disc of the season one DVD set. Here's my review.

Quotes:

Iris/Caroline: "Last time I was up here, it wasn't this bad. And I could see over the dash."

Zone: "And you didn't think to mention that Safe Haven was parked right next door to the freaking Death Star?"

Topher: "Reflection. Like an echo. Put things back the way they were, minds back the way they were. I can bring back the world." Nice symmetry, calling it an echo.

Echo: "Thanks for the insight, mini-me."

Paul: "This is where it gets interesting."
Mag: "It was dull?"

Paul: "I've been knocking ten years. You still won't let me in."
Echo: "I let you in a few times."
Paul: "When you were sure we were going to die. What happens if you're sure we're going to live?"

Adelle: "I'm very glad you didn't clean up."
Alpha: "No, it spoke to the schizophrenic in me. Both of them, actually."

Fabulous series finale. I only wish the series itself had been longer. Four out of four stars,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

17 comments:

  1. A series finale that only makes sense if one bought the season 1 DVDs for Epitaph One? What the heck?

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  2. I was bugging Billie to post her review soon... because I LOVED the ending! So many great moments. I started bawling when Echo lost control in front of Priya, and just never stopped.

    I can't believe that Dollhouse went from what felt like a duty to watch (supporting Joss) to one of my favorite shows. Yes, even more than Angel. Season 2 was fan-frickin-amazing. I'm not going to bother with could have beens and should have beens, but I'm glad that the whole crew proved everyone wrong. Whedon is a master storyteller. And anyone who said that Eliza Dushku can't act should watch the meltdown scene. Was she right for a different-person-every-week role? No. But during the first season, all I could think about was her as Faith; by the end, I was like "Faith who?"

    Some of my favorite moments:
    - Alpha leaving Paul's wedge for Echo. He is the one who took him, after all, so what beautiful symmetry.
    - When Tony asked Echo where Paul was and she said that there was no one else. So sad.
    - I liked how they chose to name the kid "T". At first, I thought it was a sly reference to the fact that T comes between S (Sierra) and V (Victor), and the two characters met when they were literally nothing more than letters. (Yeah, I know U is in there, but that'd be weird.) That it actually turned out to be Tony was great.
    - Speaking of the kid, I was floored by how much he looked like both Priya and Victor.
    - Same for "mini-me"
    - The landscape architect part was great
    - Kilo being one of the Mad Max fighters. I didn't even realize until Echo told someone to put the little one in the infirmary.
    - Harding as "butterball" was great.
    - Loved all the tech sling ("log off")

    When I saw the ending last week, I didn't realize how they would connect the destruction of Rossum to Epitath One, but they did a good job with the throwaway that Echo's destruction of Rossum at the head caused the tech to go out of control.

    There are some things that they couldn't tie up that were two bad, such as:
    - Why *was* Adelle at Dollhouse? What good did she think she was doing?
    - The Senator storyline. It would have been great if he reappeared.
    - Dying to know how Alpha evolved.

    The only nitpick I had was that if this was 10 years later, couldn't they have at least *tried* to make it look like the characters aged a teeny bit??

    Fantastic finale, a great way to go out. I'm definitely picking up he Season 2 dvd... you don't really even need season 1 to enjoy it.

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  3. Forgot to mention another great moment: When Echo and Tony first dropped back in the Dollhouse, and some poor mope wanders by saying "I always try to be my best." Their reactions were great. I'd almost forgotten about that whole aspect of the Dollhouse, in all the recent frenzy with Rossum and Echo.

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  4. My best guess on the Alpha front is that maybe having Paul's imprint in his head altered him somehow. The world may never know.

    Excellent review. I feel like you really pinned down the things that worked about this episode. Overall, though, I felt like there were a few too many loose ends, even with the events of Epitaph One. I just wish we had a chance to see how these characters got from point A to point B. For instance, I felt like Tony and Priya's happily ever after had less impact than it might have had otherwise. The last time we saw them everything was still pretty cozy, so their reconciliation didn't really have much oomph for me.

    Then again, it wasn't like Whedon and company had much of a choice when it came to wrapping things up fast. Why do all the good shows die young? ;)

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  5. Loved the review Billie! It's always interesting to read your opinions and comments.

    That said, I'm not really going to miss Dollhouse. It hasn't been one of Joss' best series. While the second season was MUCH better than the first, it only became great in the last few episodes. If the series hadn't been canceled Joss would still be in the sluggish pace that dominated season one. Also, I kept noticing too many flaws and unfinished plot lines. Also, the romance between Paul and Echo/Caroline never really did it for me. I thought it was nice that he ended up in the mind-meld of Echo/Caroline, but that also raised more questions that we'll never know the answers to.

    I'm sorry if I sound so negative about the series in general. I truly did enjoy it. I just know that Joss can do better. The only thing I can't complain about is Olivia Williams. That woman is wonderful in every way.

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  6. I was talking to a guy at the gym today who mentioned he liked the show and he said he was confused as hell about this ep. Because he never saw Epitaph One. I tried explaining, but it didn't work very well.

    Lots of things to love about this one. Every line that came out of
    Alpha's mouth was great. And the characters from Epitaph One were just great. And everything that everyone else mentioned.

    Things I didn't like include:
    No Boyd. I know he got wiped, but he was one of the leads for 2 years and then he goes from good, to evil, to wiped, to gone in 2 episodes (well, 2 episodes plus 10 seconds.)
    Felicia Day is gay? Huh? Why are we developing characters when the show ends in 10 minutes? They could have used that 20 seconds for something else.
    I catch heat on this, but Eliza's acting in the scene with Freya and the smashing was just bad. It was the emotional high point of the episode and she couldn't pull it off. Felicia Day had a couple lines too where I thought to myself "Really, they couldn't have run that again?"

    Ooh, I remember that I loved the very beginning when random guy was calling Ballard brain dead and Paul just smirked. Good stuff.

    Oh yeah, plot hole: to get into the city they had a small army and a truck decked out like a tank. They had tons of guns, and a plan. And a highly trained FBI agent got shot in the head. When they cleared the dollhouse at the end, they had....Adelle, that one guy, and no guns. But magically they were alone. I couldn't help but think "Where did all the crazy people go?"

    But as it stands, some fun episodes, some fun concepts to play around with (Who are you if you are someone else?) but ultimately I doubt I'll ever watch again.

    Until next Whedon...

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  7. This episode was phenomenal. Imagine if Joss had had another season to set all this up, the emotional impact would have been even greater, but as it stands, I loved it. Everything was great...the farmhouse, the epic gunfights with the orchestra score. The actors playing Topher and Adelle in particular gave wonderful performances. I was surprised in the end how much I was attached to these characters.

    It took me awhile, but I finally became a fan of Paul and Echo as a couple towards the end of season two, and the ending scene with Paul in Echo's head was sad, in a beautiful sort of way.

    Some Notes:

    - Someone commented negatively on Eliza for her bad acting, but I thought she did a great job. In the end, I became invested in Echo, and I think she pulled it off.

    - Someone also mentioned missing Boyd, and I have to say that I did not. I never really cared about Boyd that much as a character. Even when he was a good guy, I felt like he was awfully passive and laid back about this technology surrounding him that he supposedly despised. I think I actually liked him more as a bad guy.

    - I want to see Olivia Williams in another series soon, as well as Enver Gjokaj. And Fran, and Tahmoh (which really says something because I very much disliked him as Helo on BSG).

    It's weird that this is the end. Part of me is in denial and still believes we will be getting another season in the fall. At least Joss and co went out in class...

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  8. Like ‘Omega’ I thought ‘The Hollow Man’ was a disappointing wrap up for the series’ arcs. Too much was done too quickly (necessary I know but unsatisfying nevertheless). But like its predecessor ‘Epitaph Two’ more than made up for all that episode’s shortcomings.

    This was a great way to close the show.

    Overall Dollhouse has certainly been a frustration watch. Some weeks it could be so bad you find you wanting to hunt down Joss Whedon, give him a great big Jethro Gibbs-style slap across the back of the head and tell him to do better because you know he can do better. Yet other weeks you end up going back to Joss, apologising for the slap and give him a hug instead.

    And this was defiantly a hugger.

    I want to ramble on and on about all the stuff I loved but I’ll just be repeating what everyone else has already said. I will say that after this episode I finally like Topher. Took two seasons, one mental breakdown and a noble sacrifice but I finally got there.

    So, despite all the ups and downs, a big thank you to Joss, his writers, their cast and crew and to Billie for all her great reviews.

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  9. I had a feeling we would disagree on this one, too, Billie. And it seems that I'll be disagreeing with most of the commenters so far.

    I didn't think this was a bad episode. It was perfectly functional, and I'm kind of glad to learn that Topher was able to find some form of peace/penance for what he'd done, but on the whole this episode didn't really excite me or move me. It just felt like an overly convenient way to reverse the apocalyptic future they presented in Epitaph One and then kill off a few more characters.

    My main problem was the focus on character relationships that don't click for me. As I said before, Tony and Priya don't have the same chemistry or dynamic as Victor and Sierra, so their trials and tribulations with their son just seemed kind of tedious to me.

    And Paul and Echo have never worked for me as a couple, so I was not feeling Echo's pain at all after Paul got killed. Truth be told, I didn't even care that Paul got killed. He was a much more interesting character in Season One. And his imprint ending up in Echo's head? Perhaps a nice gesture on Alpha's part, but I found it creepy, not romantic.

    I was kind of amused by the very obvious Road Warrior vibes coming off the techheads (which you noted). Gotta love a good Road Warrior homage.

    I guess the gas in Epitaph One was poison and Whiskey died. For what? To put Caroline into a little girl, when she turned out to be completely unnecessary? She didn't lead anyone to Safe Haven. And she didn't rescue anyone from Neuropolis. Echo and Paul did all the heavy lifting. She was just around to be called "Tiny Messiah" (funny) and "Mini Me" (not so funny).

    Why did Alpha want to revert to his original serial killer (or hard core criminal) personality? Just couldn't handle being multiple personalities anymore?

    It wasn't a terrible episode or a terrible finale, it just wasn't even close to what I was hoping it would be, and I feel like it undermined some of the impact and strengths of Epitaph One. Oh well. At least I'll have the really strong run of episodes through the middle and end of Season Two to remember fondly (not including the last two).

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  10. Nice review. I knew you will quote alpha.

    Although I agree that the episode itself was well written, and somtimes even moving (Except for the "Mini-Me" comment, that was just lame), Epitaph One was much better. I agree with Jess about most of his points and I add some of my own.

    The ending of the story had no purpose, no catharsis. It was like Weadon invented a nice magical ending that was out of place. If you change the world there must be a really good "lesson to be learned" from changing it back. It was as if the basic principle for which I love Weadon was missing, he said nothing grad about "the human condition".

    Weadon is a grate writer but this episode, unlike many other episodes, lacked depth.

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  11. Jess, hey sorry.
    Correct my last statement to "her points".

    Really sorry.

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  12. No worries, WhyMe. It is certainly not the first time that mistake has happened in internet land. The danger of a name that can be "his" or "her." :)

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  13. I miss Adelle. I miss Topher. I miss... grrr arrgh.

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  14. This episode won me over solely because of the characters. I loved how Pryia and Tony got their happy ending, I cried when Topher sacrificed himself and when Echo sobbed her grief and when she went to her pod with an imprint of Paul.

    I am so glad with this episode and glad Dollhouse was made. Dollhouse has some flaws but it is still compelling, interesting, food for thought and the actors are just wonderful.

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  15. ...AND crying now. Why do I let Joss do this to me? Paul's death just kills me. For me it's even sadder that he's in Echo's head than if he just died for some reason. He's death reminded me remarkably SPOILER ALERT of Anya's. Sudden, in the heat of the moment. No foreshadowing, no slow mo. There's no beauty in the tragedy. It's just horrible. I'd much rather have had Tony and/or Priya die. Echo and Paul never could get it together and that makes it so much sadder.

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  16. I will admit, I cried terribly when Topher died. I always thought there was a certain maternal love between him and Adele, kind of wanted her to be in her old office though- sipping a strong drink like she usually does.

    I loved the whole tony and priya happily ever after scene but I do miss that strong connection victor and Sierra had.

    I'm a bit unhappy with Paul and echo. They never announced their love for one another but I think the more important part was that they never realized they were evolving into stronger characters- well mostly echo because she kept worrying about meeting Caroline when she should've been accepting herself as a real person, which she did but towards the last few eps. I found it kind of saddening that Paul ended up in echos mind. I mean she's still lonely but I guess with Paul there she can be at ease with his death.

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  17. Missed Amy Acker. Missed the Senator guy. Even missed Boyd somehow even though I approve of what they did to his character. Paul's death itself was disappointing and I didn't really feel anything seeing it happen unceremoniously (they need to stop doing this 'realism' shit with deaths, what a waste), but I was moved by the ending with him landing in Echo's head. And her mandatory little meltdown actually did move me too, I thought it wouldn't! Good job.

    I think that's the last of the Whedon shows. I liked Dollhouse, and its myth, so I'm a little glad it was cancelled so Whedon actually had to write plot. The questions the setting itself raised were either not all that interesting or a little too much for me to really wrap my head around. I just wanted to see how people would rebel against the technology and not dwell on the tech itself and see it in meticulous action. It's just too pornographic (thank goodness it had to be on network television). The story once they had to rush was seriously compelling... good stuff when he's not allowed to breathe.

    Poor Topher. Loved Adelle and Topher in the end, their love is the only one I was really interested in. I'm gonna make sure my next show isn't one that's constantly talking about who's in love with each other nor leaning too heavily on the found-family dynamic. It's getting a bit much. Power in things left unsaid.

    "I thought you said there weren't that many of them!"
    "There aren't, it's just that they're all here"
    I don't know why I felt like paraphrasing that exchange used in this finale lol... I just liked something inexplicable about it.

    Thanks for covering the show. It might not be great but it's well worth revisiting after handpicking the right episodes. I still can't believe I was taken completely off guard by Bennett being shot in the head. I actually flinched, even though Topher and her kissing on a show like this was such an obvious red flag. I'm glad I'm an idiot about some things.

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