A review of last night's "Dollhouse" feature - which will be liberal with spoilers for the unaired "Epitaph One" episode, so read on at your own risk if you haven't seen it - coming up just as soon as my ass feels pampered...
These two episodes went a long way towards setting up the horrific future we'll see in "Epitaph One," with Echo trying to master her ability to tap into all her old imprints (and slowly falling for Ballard), Topher inventing the device that will destroy the world and DeWitt handing it over to Rossum(*). And intentionally or not, the two play off (some of) our knowledge of "Epitaph One." Now Adelle's interactions with Topher take on a different shade, as the two are equally to blame for the end of the world. And we know, of course, that Alpha didn't kill, or even permanently injure, Ballard, since he's alive, well and still partnering with Echo/Caroline down the line.
(*) Adelle's heel turn in these episodes was interesting not just because we know she'll rediscover her humanity in the future, but because it's rare to see a show take a relatively sympathetic character and have her do a terrible thing out of a sense of self-preservation. Yes, DeWitt gets to spare any of her dolls from having to go to what I'm sure would be a nightmarish house in Dubai, but her behavior late in "Meet Jane Doe" and throughout "A Love Supreme" suggests a woman who can see that the bad guys are going to win and needs to stay in their good graces. Very well-played, as usual, by Olivia Williams.
The episodes are so busy, in fact, that I have to wonder if they were written after the ratings for the first episode or two of season two had come in - and after it became clear the show's borrowed time was running out - or if Joss and company just decided on their own that it was time to start racing towards the apocalypse already.
But if the series has, in its final hours, become more and more about how the end of civilization will be brought about, it hasn't left behind its usual questions about identity, free will, human trafficking and the rest. As Echo becomes more self-aware, she goes through the same questions and fears that Dr. Saunders did: Why should I let myself be killed so I can give this body back to a stranger? Especially a stranger who might not be as wonderful as I'd been led to believe?(*) And playing a super-Echo who can tap into the skills of her other imprints without being overwhelmed by their personalities has been a good shift for Eliza Dushku.
(**) I know Joss doesn't write in response to fan reaction, but I do wonder if he, like the viewers, realized that Caroline was fairly unsympathetic whenever we saw her in season one, and decided to play into that here.
"A Love Supreme" was the stronger of the two hours, as it lacked the racist caricature sheriff characters from "Meet Jane Doe," while featuring the return of Alan Tudyk as Alpha and some of the best-looking sequences (courtesy of director David Straiton, who was also behind the camera for season one's hangnail-curing "Man on the Street") in the show's run. The switch to the new, cheaper filming style has really worked wonders on the visual palate, and that was really obvious in sequences like Boyd and Paul on the roof with Alpha, or Topher using the remote wipe device to de-zombie-fy Sierra and company.
Again, it's a shame that cancellation came just as the show was really finding itself this season, but at least it feels like there's a sense of purpose to these episodes as we head for the series finale, and maybe it's better for the show to go out with a bang - which the end of the world tends to provide quite nicely - then to linger as it tries to postpone getting to the "Epitaph" future by going back to more stories about botched engagements.
What did everybody else think?