Mark Watches ‘Dollhouse’: S02E12 – The Hollow Men

In the penultimate episode of Dollhouse, the L.A. team races to Tucson in order to stop Rossum’s plan for world domination. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dollhouse.

Well, it’s really coming to an end, isn’t it?

  • Now, all the narrative ties present in “Epitaph One” have been closed, and I think it really is one of this show’s strong points. It was risky to give us the future like that, but I’m personally quite satisfied with the way this has turned out.
  • On that note, I think the difficulty Dollhouse faced from the very beginning was that a show that’s so inherently uncomfortable and disturbing made it difficult for people to connect to the characters in any normal way. (Plus, Dollhouse pre-dates the recent trend of shows that are about amoral or morally ambiguous characters, so it could just be that it was before its time.) That being said, I am certainly at a point with Dollhouse where I’m impressed with the way these characters were developed. In particular, I can’t believe that I grew to care about Echo as a separate person than Caroline, and that Caroline ended up being a bit of an asshole. I’m fascinated with how perception changes over the course of a fictional narrative, and Dollhouse definitely knocked this one out of the park.
  • It is a treat to see Topher!Victor again. Enver Gjokaj, I just don’t get you. It isn’t fair. You should be on every television show.
  • The framing device of “The Hollow Men” that gives this story such a fascinating edge is the fact that the entire time, we know these people don’t win. We know certain ones don’t make it to that future timeline, and we know that Boyd is actually the villain. Yet even as the various characters learn what’s truly at stake (and how someone close to them betrayed them), they still believe they can take down Rossum. “Epitaph One” doesn’t negate what we see here. The character development still matters. Victor and Sierra chose to come back to the Dollhouse, they choose to imprint Victor with Topher 2.0 in order to save their friends, and they still choose to infiltrate Rossum’s headquarters, despite that no one would have blamed them if they decided to skip town. Y’all know by now that I’m a big fan of stories that matter, and I’m glad that this one does.
  • Amy Acker as Clyde 2.0 inside of Whiskey. THIS SHOW HAS THE BEST CAST, I SWEAR.
  • Dollhouse has introduced me to a new kind of agony: watching a character you previously loved manipulate another character you love into unwittingly ending the world and knowing you can’t do a damn thing about it. My god, watching Boyd manipulate Topher is fucked up on about a billion levels. IT HURTS. And I’ll get to Boyd’s justification next, but let me just say that I refuse to believe that love can lead a person to lie to someone they care about in the way that Boyd does here. He is clearly aware that he’s manipulating Topher, and GODDAMN YOU, BOYD, I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU.
  • What frightens me about Boyd is that while I think his idea of “love” is gross, I can’t deny that he truly believed he had good intentions. He believes in the inevitability of world collapse due to the mind wipe technology, and everything he did to the people before him was a test of worth. He loves these people, and he wants to save them instead of letting them die with the millions of others when the Rossum technology escapes. As hasty as this development is, I’m willing to roll with it because it’s a disturbing twist on a common Whedon theme: that of the importance of family. On all three of Joss’s other shows, we see how a ragtag band of people form a family around a common, chaotic cause, and we see how important that is to their success and growth as people. Here, though, Boyd forms a family through manipulation and obfuscation, and while I’m certain he cares a great deal about them, he has instead brought about the destruction of the world.
  • I believe this is directly contrasted with the sacrifice of Mellie, who also grew close to this “family” she had, but when she realized the horrific power she held within her, it was more important that she sacrifice her own life instead of hoping for the best. Even in her final moments, she asserts her humanity, her love for Paul, and insists that it was all real. It is the polar opposite of what Boyd does.
  • “The Hollow Men” finally answers why Echo is special: something in her spinal fluid has helped her to resist wiping, and this can help Rossum develop an immunity to wipes in the future. It’s this key that Boyd wants to give his “family,” and he is a horrible person. I JUST NEED TO SAY THAT. You want to harvest Echo’s spinal fluid to develop a vaccine for the important chosen ones to withstand the global apocalypse? Man, you are fucked up, I swear.
  • This show has some really intense fighting sequences, y’all. Clyde!Whiskey and Echo’s battle is ridiculous.
  • Now I find out why Boyd is absent in “Epitaph One.” Topher wiped him with the very weapon that he tricked Topher into making. And Boyd is left in the tabula rasa state, and he does his best: strapped with bombs around his torso, he obeys Echo’s command and pulls the pin on a grenade while destroying the heart of Rossum.
  • EXCEPT NO, THEY DIDN’T, AS THE BUILDING NEXT TO IT IS CLEARLY A ROSSUM BUILDING, TOO.
  • Can I break your heart again? In “Epitaph One,” Whiskey stays behind so she can wait for Boyd. This means that she was wiped after the events of this episode, and no one ever told her that Boyd was dead.
  • My heart.

So I’m guessing the finale will have to address the future. The full story of the past has been told, so now we just need to find out if Echo does make it to Safe Haven, and if the destructive forces of Rossum and their tech can even be stopped. Oh, I’m ready, y’all. Well, I’m not prepared, obviously, but I’m so excited to see this finale.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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