Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Would you like a final treatment - Dollhouse series finale

Dollhouse – Epitaph Two


The Dollhouse series finale last Friday was a strange affair. I’ve stuck with the series until the end, enough though I was not a big fan at the very beginning. And just as the show was really getting good Fox pulled the plug.

I still have not seen Epitaph One, the first season DVD set exclusive, so I was a little confused by the events of its sequel. I think my unease was also due to this episode’s faceless villain (we do see Harding in someone else’s body for a brief sequence). In the run up to this episode it was revealed that Boyd was actually the man behind the Rossum Corporation. I think I was still reeling from that information; plus, it was kind of hard to swallow.

With Boyd (Harry Lennix) out of the way, the Dollhouse gang in the future of 2020 was fighting mostly Mad Max rejects and nameless extras at that. There’s not a lot of food and water in the future but apparently everyone has a working machine gun and lots of ammo. We see Priya (Dichen Lachman) has made a life for herself and her son T in the hills away from the madness of the world. Anthony (Enver Gjokaj), who still uses his Active architecture to upload special skills from a weird iPod-like thing rolls up in his Road Warrior wheels and finally gets introduced to his son.

The gang led by Echo (Eliza Dushku) makes their way back to their old L.A. HQ. In the process Ballard (Tamoh Penikett) is killed in a manner even worse than the deaths of Wash and Book in Serenity: he takes a stray bullet to the head and dies instantly. Topher (Fran Kranz), who is mostly withdrawn in this episode, goes up to Adelle's old office and sacrifices himself while detonating his explosive EMP mind-fixer-upper (everyone in the world will revert to their original personalities). In his last split second of life, the old Topher peeks through as he stares at the photos on the wall and mutters, "Huh." Echo stays safely underground so she is not hit by the mind eraser-blast and now the world can finally wake up from its living nightmare.

Topher leaves Echo with one last imprint wedge, that of Ballard. Even though she lost him in real life she will now always have him literally in her mind. The last scene is of her lying down in her doll’s pod for the night, happy for the first time and looking forward to dreaming.

Along the way we get to see fan favorite Felicia Day again, as Mag, an Actual and one of the future freedom fighters alongside her friend Zone (Zack Ward). In their care is young Iris (Adair Tishler) who now has Caroline imprinted on her. (I’d like to a see an org chart showing who has been imprinted with whom. Or maybe not.)

There was a bittersweet quality to this final episode. (Are final episodes of beloved series anything other than bittersweet?) Like the series Lost, I think each episode should be viewed more than once, although I did not have that opportunity here, which contributes to that melancholy feeling. There were a lot of twists and turns in Dollhouse (A LOT); several were pushed or amp up by the need to properly end the series and not leave things dangling. As interesting as the storytelling was, once again in a Joss Whedon show it was the characters that really made it a must-watch thing: Topher (perhaps my favorite), Adelle de Witt, Victor and Sierra, Boyd, Ivy, Bennett and of course Echo. I've been really hard on series lead Eliza Dusku - I'm sorry but the first half of season one was pretty bad - but as the material got better she really stepped up her game and her performance greatly improved. You watched Dushku for her acting and not the tight tank tops. (But you still checked out the tight tank tops. I mean, come on, really.)

I think the Fox Network really dropped the ball on this one, seriously messing with creator Joss Whedon’s intended storyline to great effect at the very start of the series. It only got any real footing when it moved away from the poor stand alone episodes (that Charlie’s Angels one with the diva just kills me) and into the mythology arcs, exploring the themes of identity, property, choice, slavery. Imagine if Lost had been forced to do pedestrian episodes from the beginning. I don’t believe we’d have made it to this final mind-boggling season.

One day I hope to sit down and watch both seasons of Dollhouse (even the Charlie’s Angels one) on DVD and really immerse myself in this world and these fascinating characters. And I will be sure to stock my drawer of inappropriate starches beforehand.

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