Mark Watches ‘Dollhouse’: S02E08 – A Love Supreme

In the eighth episode of the second season of Dollhouse, Echo’s past romantic engagements become the targets of a murderer. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dollhouse.

God breathes through us so completely… so gently we hardly feel it….

Yet, it is our everything.

Thank you, God.


It is too fitting for me that a disturbing rumination on the supreme power of love (and what that means for the development of an identity) is named after John Coltrane’s unreal jazz album, A Love Supreme. While the album’s spiritual overtones may seem incomparable to what we just watched, I think Alpha’s reverence for love is not all that different from a reverence of God. (Which is not to necessarily conflate the two as identical, because they’re not, but just hold on, I’ll explain!)

“A Love Supreme” takes Alpha’s obsession with Echo to another level of terror because it’s beginning to warp into this horrifying jealousy instead of one based out of respect. And look, Alpha is not a respectful person, I get that. But in “Omega,” he believes that Echo is special, and that’s how his fucked up mind rationalizes what he does to her. After having stalked Echo all summer, watching her growing affection for Ballard, he wrongly believes that love can be quantified, that it can be studied, dissected, and analyzed in a way in which his composite brain can understand. He hatches a terrifying plot to get to Ballard, while eliminating every person who has ever claimed to love her in the process. It’s something that only makes sense to Alpha and no one else ever. How murdering past romantic engagements is anything but a sick revenge plot is beyond me, but I don’t have the same brain that Alpha does. That’s also why he can’t understand what’s happening to Echo, that she’s developing feelings for Ballard within her own personality and organically. No amount of programming is involved in the creation of a love supreme, and Alpha cannot understand this. It’s why he thinks the answer is in Ballard’s brain and not Echo’s. He thinks Ballard tricked her somehow. Well, perhaps “tricked” isn’t quite the right word. But Alpha sticks Ballard in that chair in an attempt to find whatever it is that caused Echo to genuinely love someone in her Doll state.

It’s fitting that this episode comes after “Meet Jane Doe,” then, and I’m continually surprised by how well this season is developing. Echo is gaining more and more control over her ability to access all of the past imprints she’s had dumped into her, and she also continues to grow an identity separate from them all. Unfortunately, Echo, Boyd, Topher, and Ballard must hide this from Adelle. I’m sad that Adelle is now the main antagonistic force on the show, but I do have to accept that her power play was real, that it wasn’t a trick, and that she chose to betray the others in order to regain control. In the process, she’s clearly growing suspicious of Echo’s abilities and whatever Boyd and Ballard are hiding from her. And this is why I love “Epitaph One.” I know in the future that Adelle will revolt against Rossum, so I want to know what the breaking point is. When does she change? When does she decide her own power issues are less important than protecting the Actives under her care?

Perhaps the fact that Adelle is now aware of Echo’s nature will change that. Now the team can’t ignore what Echo can do, as Adelle has witnessed a brief example of it. I don’t think she knows everything that’s going on, but she must have figured out that Echo has been retaining knowledge. On top of that, Alpha brings her photos of Ballard and Echo, so she also knows that Ballard was the one taking care of her during her disappearance. God, what a disaster for everyone involved. And since Ballard is now in a coma (HOW ARE THEY GOING TO RESOLVE THIS???), does that mean Adelle is going to take things out on Boyd? She must know he had a part in this! And how the fuck is Ballard going to get his mind back now that Alpha stole it?

The show continues to push its mythology forward toward an inevitable collision with the events we saw in “Epitaph One,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually saw a sequel to that episode. But I appreciate this episode mainly because it continues to build on the idea that Echo is her own person. I’m no closer to knowing whether Echo will be allowed her own body at some point, or if Caroline is going to return, or how all these plot pieces are going to come together. That’s what keeps me watching. And I’m also enamored that we can still get these thoughtful examinations of things we take for granted. “A Love Supreme” does work to advance the main plot, but I love the chance to think about what love means. It’s easy to see how various people operate out of love, and I think you could make a case that both Ballard and Alpha act out a spiritual reverence of Echo. They have polar opposite reactions to this, and we see the devastating and uplifting effects that love has on a person. So it’s not hard for me to draw parallels between that wonderful jazz record and this episode. This story is about the elation these two men feel for Echo; it’s about the elegance she demonstrates when she insists that the other Dolls in the house are people, too; it’s about how these two men choose to exalt love and the terrible and brilliant ways in which they do so.

Seriously, y’all, I love this show so much.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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