25.8.09

Dollhouse Episode 13

Hey, Fox! Do you HATE the television shows you make? Do you KNOW what good TV looks like? Do you even know how to WORK a television?

It sure doesn't look like it from where I'm standing.

The last episode of Dollhouse's season one was never broadcast in America. Which is INSANE, because it is by far the best episode of the show so far. It should never have been a bonus on DVD. It should have been the climax of the series' 13-week run.

Some notes:

Let's start small. The bulk of the episode is a things-going-bump-in-the-dark horror. And it's important to stress just how well this is done. Especially when Amy Acker turns up. And THAT TWIST just came out of nowhere! Awesome.

I'm pretty much in love with this Zone guy. Some words of wisdom:
'Money, man. It's, like, the main ingredient in crazy.'
and
'If you point at the frikkin chair, I WILL END YOU!'
Brilliant.

The actress playing the little girl can teach the cast of Harry Potter a thing or two. Incredible.

The flashbacks show some wonderful character moments. DeWitt cradling Topher, Sierra and Victor putting a brave face on things, Security Man back from the dead and manic with gallows humour. This is a fine cast. I'm glad we'll be seeing more of them next season.

The writers pull a little Dark Knight Returns number. The entire episode we are waiting for Echo to show. And then, in a manner strongly reminiscent of River at the end of Serenity, she arrives, all business. Her job, to lead the survivors of the apocalypse to safety (twice). Only Echo, or should I say Caroline, knows the way. The message is clear. Caroline has the heroic qualities needed to resist and reverse the multiple evils inflicted by the Dollhouse.

The only problem here is that the show hasn't really given us enough of Caroline so that we really understand why she's special. We have only glimpses of political activism and carefree youth. Now, I know that Caroline is supposed to be strong minded, politically active, suspicious of authority and yearning to understand her true purpose in the world. But I really need to see it. The ideas in Buffy would lack all force if we didn't know Sarah Michelle Gellar's creation intimately. Dollhouse requires the same medicine. My worry is that Eliza Dushku won't be able to pull that off. As I've mentioned before, she doesn't do earnest goody-goody very well. Then again, her acting ability has noticeably grown with the show. So maybe it'll work out.

Gotta love the final shot's nod to the closing scene of Fight Club. There are definite parallels here. Both works are about the enemy living inside your brain, controlling what you think. Both show you a way out, although Dollhouse is somewhat more hopeful -- rather than staying in the dark listening to the Pixies, the last guys standing (looking much like a new family) climb a rope-ladder to the heavens, and presumably, to freedom.

The apocalypse is caused by China using Dollhouse tech as a weapon of war -- wiping a large portion of the US population with orders to kill anyone who wasn't wiped. China is an apt choice of aggressor -- being a state that still actively attempts to control what its subjects are thinking. Apocalypse here is equated with the destruction of freedom of thought, which rather nicely boils down the basic point of the show. ('Use an Apocalypse' will probably be rule number one in Whedon's How To Write Like Me guidebook).

But it works. If this was the last ever episode of Dollhouse, I would have left the show content. 'Epitaph One' gives a completeness to the series, in the same way that Serenity completed Firefly, and 'Chosen' completed Buffy. The show said what it wanted to say. Even if it wasn't perfect -- the plots made no sense, characters had no arcs, it wasn't funny -- it had revolutionary ideas that sparkled like diamonds in dull rock. It was interesting in ways that few television shows are. Well done, Joss. Good job. Now go make some more Dr. Horrible.

But wait. There'll be more where that came from. Season two is gonna arrive at the end of the year. And don't you worry. Dollhouse's theme is endless. There's plenty more to say. And if Whedon fixes the nuts-and-bolts issues with the series, we'll have another classic on our hands.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous2.9.09

    I'm not sure that the Apocalypse was caused by China but rather by the wealthy elite. This was hinted at when Victor is being controlled by the man from the main dollhouse telling Adelle that they are giving their customers "upgrades" and letting them buy actives bodies. And again when Topher describes making the imprinting process wireless.

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  2. Oh, really? My bad...

    American corporations also actively try and control what we are thinking, so I think the general point still stands. I hope...

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