In the seventh episode of the second season of Dollhouse, this is all a hot fucking mess, y’all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dollhouse.
It really is a testament to how great the storytelling is on Dollhouse that “Epitaph One” didn’t ruin season two. We know how so much of this “ends” in a sense, and yet I’m glued to the screen for every episode this season.
And it’s weird to say I’m enjoying this show because it’s not like it’s easy to watch it. It’s the opposite, really, and “Meet Jane Doe” is yet another example of how well the writers are able to navigate such a complex story and keeping it engaging and exciting.
So, let’s talk about the two major plots in this episode:
I’m getting a clear picture of how the events in “Epitaph One” came to be. While I think Adelle’s story really provides most of the new revelations, Echo’s journey in the three months away from the Dollhouse is integral to help understand how that future world can even exist. Drifting across the United States with a confusing mess in her brain, she ends up in Texas, where she inadvertently gets an immigrant woman arrested after trying to help her get some food. More and more, we see how Echo is developing as a personality independent of all the other imprints within that brain, and I think Echo’s stunning generosity in trying to get Galena fed over her own hunger is a sign of that.
I was then prepared to yell at this episode because Echo had gotten someone who was clearly an immigrant arrested, and I knew the story wasn’t going to deal with it at all. My god, I loved being wrong. Paul’s training of Echo – which seems to have lasted weeks – is centered around a test of Echo’s abilities. Can she successfully navigate through any number of imprints in the field? What are the physical ramifications of this? But it was touching that this was also about saving Galena, about giving her a chance to have a new life. Her treatment at the hands of the guards is an example of how institutionalized racism affects people who are viewed by the system as nonhuman. That’s evident when one of the police officers wonders why Ballard would even waste time on someone who is a nobody. But Echo doesn’t have to save Galena, and she does it anyway.
So what does this mean for Echo? More than ever before, Echo is clearly an identity in and of itself, and it’s one that Echo does want to give up at the end of this. For Echo, giving Caroline’s body back to Caroline means that Echo dies. On top of that, this episode expands upon the images we saw in “The Left Hand”: Echo might not even like who Caroline was. Bennett’s perception of Caroline is horrifically negative. That means we’ve got yet another aspect of this story to consider. Will Echo willingly give Caroline’s body back to her? I don’t know that she wants to anymore. Her attraction to Paul is yet another affirmation that she wants a life of her own. Despite that Paul respectfully declines her advances because he doesn’t think it’s ethical of him, she instead shows him that she is her own person, too. And that person – Echo – wants to romance Paul.
I admit it’s a terribly complicated situation, but I was at least happy to see a scene that had an implicit discussion about consent. Echo wanted sex then, yes, but she also wanted to be seen as an independent being, too. And that’s important.
Oh, Adelle, what have you done? In the wake of Echo and Ballard’s disappearance, “Meet Jane Doe” reveals that Adelle has essentially been demoted, that she exists solely to be embarrassed at the hands of Harding constantly. I will celebrate the day that his face is ripped off. I hate him SO MUCH. I hate seeing Adelle relegated to such a demeaning role because she chose to care about the well-being of the Dolls. (Well, more on that in a second.) So when she finds out that she needs to send some of her Dolls to the new Dollhouse in Dubai, you can see the rage settling in on her face. Everything has been taken from her. She lacks the power she once had.
It’s obvious now that I misjudged that rage. I believed that at heart, she was more angry at the treatment of the Dolls than the loss of her control. However, when Topher reveals to Adelle the “unnerving” plans that Rossum has for their mind wipe technology, I falsely believed that this was the start of her rebellion against Rossum. I mean, I’m meant to think that because Adelle has shown far more moral range than Topher has. And Topher is extremely upset during that sequence.
And yet, I was wrong. It’s Adelle who furthers Rossum’s agenda, and she does it to gain the control she lost. She can pretend it’s because she cares about the Dolls, but she just gave Rossum a weapon. I kept waiting for a twist, something that would reveal to me that this was some sort of plan for her to destroy the schematics that Topher drew up. But she really did choose the most selfish option here. And it is in this moment that the two storylines converge. Adelle swears she won’t let anyone take this all away from her, but she has no idea that Boyd and Ballard are working behind her back with Echo to bring down the Dollhouse from the inside. Is this the reason Adelle is so apathetic in “Epitaph One” when Echo returns? Does she believe she doesn’t deserve to be saved because of what she’ll do in these episodes? Hell, the end of “Meet Jane Doe” shows us just how ruthless Adelle will be. Echo has to go into isolation.
It’s hard seeing this because I held out hope that Adelle would choose something better than this. But I’m wrong. My god, this is going to be difficult to watch, isn’t it?
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