In the final episode of Dollhouse, the final stand against Rossum gets underway. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Dollhouse.
I admit that the end of this season is hasty, but I also accept that the people running and writing this show had to make-do with what they were given. Ultimately, I’m pleased with the way this show has ended, especially since “Epitaph Two: Return” wasn’t just about bringing an end to this show. Even if we don’t spend much time in this post-apocalyptic world, I appreciate the fact that we were still given more worldbuilding in the series finale.
Picking up right after the events in “Epitaph One,” this episode gives a chance to see what became of the world after the Rossum technology leaked out. If anything, “Epitaph Two” shows us that things are far more complicated than we ever suspected. Not only do Actuals have to fend off those trying to wipe them, but there are different factions in society. There are other Actuals who sell off one another to Rossum. Rossum itself is still active in Harding and Ambrose, who pass from one body to another, treating them as “suits.” And then there are the tech heads, who fight against Rossum by accepting their Doll nature and self-imprinting in order to gain an advantage. It’s to this last group that Tony belongs, which is a natural extension of what we saw in “The Hollow Men.” It’s clear to me that Tony became addicted to the idea of upgrading and enhancing himself after he did so to save his friends in Tucson. He spells that out to his team when he later relinquishes this all, and it proves to be the one thing that tears Priya and him apart. This is especially hard to watch because in “Epitaph Two,” we see the return of the family that Whedon loves so much. (And I do, too, let’s be real. It’s one of the most endearing features of all four of his shows.) Safe Haven is not only real, but the entire group has managed to build a life. This is what tears Priya up. She and her son have found a way to live a life devoid of the terrors of the world that Rossum ruined, and Tony isn’t a part of that.
Tony is instead living out a less horrific version of the nightmare that plagued him in the Attic. Seriously, the continuity here is brilliant, and I will forever love that the various writers get these characters so much. Tony won’t stop fighting, and he uses the thrill of battle to keep this cycle going. Like what we saw in “Stop-Loss,” Tony hasn’t figured out how to live a life devoid of the violence he’s so accustomed to, and it’s keeping him away from his family.
Even in the end, this show can’t resist tearing up my emotions.
And really, “Epitaph Two” does this in strides. I really felt like I got moments with all of the important characters. (That is, except for Whiskey and Dominic, who are unfortunately absent from this finale. I suppose I do have closure on Whiskey, given what I saw of her in “Epitaph One,” so I don’t want to be too picky. However, where’s Dominic? Adelle got him out of the Attic, right? I WILL JUST ASSUME SO.) There’s a lot of time spent on Priya and Tony (WHICH I ADORE). I get a lot of time with Adelle, who really is a sign of class, y’all. God, her journey over the course of this show has been so morally complex, but she really comes into her own by the end. Adelle has struggled with issues of control, and it’s clear that she’s learned when to relinquish it and when to own it. In a sense, she’s been the matriarch of the Dollhouse, and we see how she’s expanded that role in the future. In the end, though, she’s the one who leads the Dolls out into the world for the first time. If you think about those first few episodes, Adelle kept her emotions at bay. She was regularly vicious when she wanted to get what she wanted, but look at her here. She cares about these people, she cares about the future of the world, she cares about this family she’s arranged, and I’d even say she’s the head of it. She is in charge of the Dollhouse again, in this weird, fucked up way. feelings.
There’s even development for Zone and Mag. ALPHA HAS BASICALLY GROWN UP, HOLY SHIT. Like, y’all already know how much I love character development, and that’s a big reason why I was so satisfied with how Dollhouse ended.
But my god, two characters completely steal the show, and I’m incredibly happy that this is the case. Topher. Oh my god, Topher. Remember? Remember when I just wanted an episode featuring Topher coming to terms with the moral implications of his intellect? Do you remember those days? Okay, wait, that was like a month ago. Still. I just don’t expect shows to put their characters (especially straight white men!) through the difficult process of thinking about what they’ve done. AND OH MY GOD. Topher. In the end, Topher chose to save the very world he had doomed into an apocalyptic wasteland. He used that mind of his, the one that didn’t care about the ramifications of his actions, to start the process of undoing the damage to the world that he’d caused. And the person who helps him realize that his actions matter? Bennett. I thought the scene where he watches that instructional video was important for him to come to the realization that what we do in our lives can still matter. Bennett tells Topher (indirectly, of course, since I AM IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION REGARDING BENNETT) that our identity is formed by our actions in our own present reality. And even if this isn’t scientifically sound, it’s a wonderful thematic element to the Dollhouse. So much of this show centers on identity and the sometimes terrifying complexities that come along with what most of us take for granted. The dolls on this show started out as blank slates, and we were shown how whatever they did was erased at the end of their engagement.
But Echo was the exception. (Well, and Alpha before her in a way.) Echo proved that even with a constant tabula rasa state being imposed upon a person, she was still her own being. And while this wasn’t a universal case, nor was it as intense as it was for her, she helped Tony and Priya find peace. But what’s so sad about this is that peace is not that easy to achieve for Echo. She’s the hero of this peace, but she loses so much throughout this journey. Of course, the worst of this all is Paul Ballard. I was in shock when he was shot, especially because it happened so quickly and was so brutal. This couldn’t be it, I thought. But as Zone saved Mag and Victor was shocked that Echo was leaving Paul’s body behind, I watched as Echo shut down. Honestly, that wasn’t surprising to me. In an instant, Echo internalized all the pain and fear and grief she felt after losing Paul so horribly, and I imagine it was easy for her to bury that pain in any one of the imprints in her head.
It wasn’t until she broke down in front of Priya that it all came rushing out. Initially, I was confused by Echo’s criticism of Priya until I realized that she was talking about herself. Priya is complaining about someone in her life who loves her, and Echo just lost the only person she loved. I honestly think it’s the best acting we’ve seen from Eliza Dushku. Oh god, it’s just so heartbreaking.
There is something comforting about how this all ends for Echo, though I wouldn’t say she gets a happy ending. Alpha’s final gift to Echo is an imprint wedge of Paul Ballard. Since she can visit any imprint within her, it’s a way to keep Paul within her for the rest of her life. Sure, it’s weird, but look at the show we’re watching. Within the context of Dollhouse, it’s about as close to a romantic ending as one can get.
In a sense, there is an abrupt end to the show, but the story is still there. I enjoy that Dollhouse doesn’t end with the world being a perfect paradise. The team still has a lot to do. Adelle has people who need to be acclimated to the world. Anthony and Priya have an adorable son to raise. Alpha has to find out if he can live as the man he once was. And Echo still has Rossum executives to eliminate to ensure that this won’t ever happen again.
I guess it just makes me happy that in some way, Paul Ballard can be there with her.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and then we start Cowboy Bebop on Monday, and Princess Tutu will start Tuesday!
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