In the twelfth episode of the first season of Dollhouse, Alpha’s plan is revealed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dollhouse.
Sweet jesus, this is a philosophically dense and complicated episode, one that reveals the machinations of Alpha’s plan while confusing me forever. That’s not a complaint, though, because I’m left with a whole lot of intriguing questions going into the finale and season two. So, while reflecting on what I just experienced, I also want to try to understand what it is that I just watched.
- The first big plot twist of “Omega” has virtually nothing to do with Alpha or Echo, at least not until you get further into the story. Dr. Saunders is an Active. DR. SAUNDERS IS AN ACTIVE. Oh my god, that is why Dominic (while in Victor’s body) screamed out, “Whiskey!” HE WAS REFERRING TO HER CALL SIGN. JESUS CHRIST.
- I don’t think I have ever been so upset at the reveal that someone is an Active. It was bad enough with Mellie, but I truly didn’t catch on to any of the foreshadowing around Dr. Saunders. Unlike the other Actives, she’s the only doll who truly understands what she is. She was programmed to be a doctor to Actives, so she of course knows what that entails. (Well, technically, she’s the real Dr. Saunders, but I imagine that Topher had to do some hefty rewiring in terms of the imprint Whiskey got because… well, Dr. Saunders was initially a dude, and I don’t think you could just put that personality into Whiskey’s body and not expect a riot.) I am endlessly fascinated by the implications of this reveal. Now we know that Alpha attacked Whiskey to impress Echo, and that instead of letting her go, the Dollhouse KEPT WHISKEY IN-HOUSE. Like, holy shit, whoever Whiskey once was, don’t you think suffering that was enough to complete her contract? Perhaps DeWitt thought this would be a risk, that Whiskey’s real identity might want to get revenge after what was done to her. I don’t know the truth, obviously, but it paints a less-than-kind view of the people running this place.
- The next episode might deal with it, but I suspect season two will have to address the fact that Dr. Saunders knows she is an Active. Will Topher just erase this part of her memory? Can he do this? Well, let’s say he can. I’m assuming that the best “plan” for dealing with Whiskey is just to give her a new imprint. If that’s the case, I’m not so sure he might do it. He seemed utterly devastated by Whiskey’s discovery, and it’s the first time I can recall him being so explicitly sympathetic of another doll. Is this going to be a way for him to start acknowledging how fucked up the Dollhouse is? And will Whiskey volunteer to give up the knowledge that she is an Active? I DON’T KNOW.
- Alpha’s composite event is finally explained in full, but I don’t know that it helps explain the events in “Briar Rose” all that much. Due to Alpha’s bizarre and violent obsession with Echo, he creates a misfire in the lab and gets all 48 imprints that he had once had put into his brain at once. That “event” we had heard about was 48 full people living in one body. It’s fascinating, then, how Nietzschean philosophy is weaved into Alpha’s understanding of this accident and how it relates to identity and sanity. Despite that 48 imprints were in Alpha’s head, he specifically chose his original identity as his inspiration for the attack on Whiskey and later the attack on Victor. One of the big reveals present in “Omega” is that Ballard was right: Topher’s machines cannot erase, in its entirety, the original identity of a person. That element – the core of these people – will always be there. So was Alpha’s past as Karl William Kraft the strongest element in a time of emotional need? Had the Dollhouse technology eroded away the very protections against this sort of thing happening? Oh god, this just leaves me with so many questions! So what aspect of Echo’s original identity is poking through?
- Anyway, looking back on “Briar Rose,” I’m curious to know what exactly we saw. It’s clear now that Alpha really is a genius, ostensibly so because he’s got 48 people inside of him. He is superhuman in that sense. That’s how he was able to orchestrate the remote wipe in “Grey Hour.” It’s how he was able to swap Wendy’s identity with Echo’s. He built his own chair! So I’m guessing that the real Stephen Kepler in Tucson wasn’t just murdered. Alpha took his personality, too. So, that leaves another question: Has Alpha been collecting imprints during his time away from the Dollhouse? Oh god OH GOD HE HAS, HASN’T HE?
- It’s clear from his interactions with Ballard that Topher truly doesn’t believe that he’s doing anything immoral. You know, I’d fostered this theory that he was simply in denial, that deep down, he knew what he was doing was wrong. But this changes things: he genuinely hasn’t thought about the implications of his work in the Dollhouse. Again, that relates to Whiskey’s characterization as well, so I’m eager to see if this will be addressed in the future.
- Where does this leave Echo? Her performance as Omega is thrilling, though I wish Dushku had experimented with more of the personalities within her. So is that who came through at the end when she confronted Alpha? Did we see bits of Caroline, the energetic and determined protester?
- What the fuck is Paul Ballard going to do? He’s in an awkward position, and I don’t know how he’ll put aside his own morals to work as… what??? What the fuck can he do for the Dollhouse? He hates what they do to the Actives! OH GOD, I NEED MORE RIGHT NOW.
- I made that comment during “Briar Rose” that I entertained the idea that the story foreshadowed Ballard saving Mellie/November over Echo, but that it couldn’t have ever worked. I’m writing this ahead of time, so allow me to predict that there was tons of rot13 laughing at my expense over this. I think Miracle Laurie is a fantastic actress, and I wish I could have found out more about her. But Madeline Costley is now free. My heart.
I seriously don’t know how there’s another episode. I know Whedon’s done this in the past, particularly with “Restless,” but I don’t care. THIS IS SO EXCITING! I like being surprised! BRING IT ON.
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