Spoilers for the "Dollhouse" season finale coming up just as soon as I call in a bomb threat...
Barring an unusually altruistic turn from Fox, "Omega" was likely the last episode of "Dollhouse" to ever air (though there's still the self-contained "Epitaph One" for the DVD set). And I can't decide how disappointed I am with that -- both in terms of how I liked the finale, and how much I'd want to see more "Dollhouse."
Most of "Omega" was terrific, a nightmarish meditation on the worst implications of the Dollhouse. We see through the flashbacks that Alpha was "broken" well before the accident with the imprint machine, showing that Ballard was right when he tells Topher that there are parts of these people that can't be erased by the machines. We find out (as many people guessed last week) that Dr. Saunders is really the doll Whiskey(*), imprinted with the skills of the real, male Dr. Saunders after he was one of Alpha's victims. And as Alpha plays his games with swapping around the personalities of Echo, Caroline, and poor Wendy the salesgirl, we see that, awful as the Dollhouse technology seems in the hands of people like Topher and DeWitt, it has the potential to become so much worse.
(*) When Joss Whedon did the conference call to plug "Man on the Street," he deflected some questions about whether Topher, DeWitt or Saunders might turn out to be dolls by saying that it wouldn't be a good idea to make the audience constantly question the reality of every character. Obviously, he had to dissemble a bit to avoid spoiling this twist, but I can't help but agree with what he said. It's an interesting twist, and tells us more about how the Dollhouse views both the dolls and the staff as fungible -- a kinder organization would have released Whiskey from her contract early and hired a new, real doctor -- but it just leads to more "Is he really a doll?" questioning that I think gets in the way of the show as a whole.
"Omega" was also a brilliant showcase for Alan Tudyk, even as it was yet another reminder that Eliza Dushku wasn't the best choice to star in this show, even though it was created with her in mind. Tudyk acted rings around Dushku here, suggesting all the personalities rattling around in Alpha's head in a way that Dushku simply couldn't when Alpha loaded all of Echo's imprints into her head at once. There are some things Dushku does very well, but versatility isn't her strong suit. There weren't any hints of the hostage negotiator or Patton Oswalt's wife or the safecracker; there was just Dushku doing another variation on Faith.
But what really frustrated me were the episode's closing minutes, where we jumped from Ballard catching the wedge with Caroline's personality to Ballard agreeing to work for the Dollhouse in exchange for November's freedom, with Echo back to being a doll, albeit slightly more self-aware than she was before. I just don't see the Paul Ballard we've been watching from the previous 11 episodes agreeing so easily to work for this monstrous organization, nor do I buy him deciding to save Mellie over Caroline (even with his guilt over how he abused Mellie), nor do I necessarily see the super-Echo of this episode agreeing so easily to go back to life as a doll.
It's entirely possible that a hypothetical season two of "Dollhouse" would include flashbacks to what happened at the power plant that led Paul and Echo to agree to this. (There was apparently more shot at that location, some of it involving Sierra and November, as this Fox publicity photo suggests.) But I'm dubious about the chances of a second season. And even if we get it, I still think there should have been more of a hint about how this happened. I recognize that "Omega" had a lot of ground to cover in the past and the present, but this was too important to skip over.
Now, as for "Dollhouse" as a whole, there were enough strong elements, and enough creative growth over the course of the season, that I'd be happy to watch it if it somehow continued. But I also won't be that upset if it's done. I feel like the improvement in the second half was more Joss Whedon and company making lemonade out of the lemons that are this show's premise and leading lady. Could they continue to find interesting takes on this material, with this cast? Sure. Whedon and his team (including Tim Minear, who wrote and directed "Omega") are talented enough to do that. But I'd probably rather see their talents applied elsewhere than to see this show revert back to Echo going on missions with occasional glitches of self-awareness.
What did everybody else think?