Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dollhouse, "The Hollow Men": An excitable Boyd

Once again, press tour is going to keep me from having the time and mental energy to properly unpack last night's penultimate "Dollhouse," but I'm curious how people feel all the Boyd stuff was handled, and whether the events of the episode are compatible with what we saw in "Epitaph One" (specifically the E1 scene where Victor enjoys shellfish).

In case you missed the news, Fox is going to be one of the networks carrying the George Clooney-produced Haiti telethon this coming Friday, which means the finale will be pushed back to January 29. By then I'll be home and my brain will be unscrambled, so expect much longer thoughts on "Epitaph Two," and the series as a whole, then.

What did you all think?


The Amazing Acting Eye said...

Alan, have you seen Epitaph 2 yet? (The Squeakquel?) I'm wondering if you need to have seen Epitaph 1 for it to make sense. I have, but I have some friends who haven't had a chance.

Is E1 your favorite episode of the series?

I like the irony that the series' "best" episode never actually aired on television

Matt said...

Speaking of E1, Amazon has the Season 1 DVD/Blu-Ray as their gold box deal today--$18 for the DVD's and $26 for the Blu-Ray.

Dan said...

It seems clear to me that the Victor shellfish scene must have happened before Stop-Loss.

Unknown said...

Acting Eye, make your friends watch it beforehand. Seriously. I'm not Alan, but it's a direct sequel to that episode and features characters that only exist in the future, so...

I have been loving the last bunch of episodes EXCEPT this one, I'm sorry to say. It felt like they had to leave out a lot of stuff for lack of time, and it suffers for that. You don't find out THAT much about why Boyd did what he did, odds are you'll never find out why Whiskey did what she did (or how she got plastic surgery apparently DURING the thoughtpocalypse?!), and I'd still like to know what the hell is up with that.

Well, at least we got to see Victor do Topher again, and found out what happens when the third flower is green. RIP Mellie, for yet another dead love interest punch.

We just want you for your spinal fluid? What? Eh. Also, this seemed to be rather Star Wars-ish.

Miguel said...

Tim Minear actually said the Victor scene had happened earlier on, causing Adelle to turn; it apparently couldn't be worked into the script fluidly, so they just implied it had happened by having Adelle mention that execs were jumping bodies. The Boyd stuff was handled well if you don't think about it too hard, but it actually doesn't make any sense why he won't just tell them his plans upfront since his plan is to invent a vaccine.

Jess D said...

I found this episode very unsatisfying. I was hoping they'd have a good explanation for Boyd's end game, but they basically just made him evil and crazy. When all was said and done, to me, it felt like this was a twist that the writers came up with for the sake of having a surprising twist. Not something that had been planned for a long time.

At least I got to enjoy Amy Acker as Clyde and Enver as Topher. That took some of the sting out of the unsatisfying resolution for Boyd.

Jeff L said...

Knowing how rushed everything had to be, I'm willing to overlook some of the problems, but there were some real clunkers in there:

- "I love you guys" came from nowhere, and went nowhere. Seemed to be thrown in strickly for shock value.

- Spinal fluid? Everything Caroline went through, and all they need is spinal fluid? That's right up there with midichlorians.

- Blowing up the mainframe is supposed to achieve what, exactly? And didn't we learn a while back that the "mainframe" is actually all the dolls in the attic?

But there was also plenty to like:

- I could watch Enver Gjokaj do his Topher impression all day.

- "What did I miss?"

- Ignoring the old "you can fight it! Try harder!" trope, the end of Millie was pretty satisfying. Dramatic, surprising, and well played.

I enjoyed it overall, and am looking forward to the grand finale.

Anonymous said...

I saw Epitaph 1 over the summer and think I'm going to rewatch it before the next episode. I really wish Fox had just decided to air it. They could have kept up with the double features and aired this week's episode last week and Epitaph 1 and the series finale this week and have been done with the series already. Oh well. I did look at a recap of Epitaph 1, though, to refresh my memory and it says Saunders spends the episode waiting for Boyd to come back. Maybe that was a bit of foreshadowing about their eventual romance and about Boyd being mia because of what we saw last night.

CrazyCris said...

I'm not 100% convinced by the Biyd scenario, but I must say I loved Whiskey/Clyde! It kind of explains why in Epitaph1 she got left behind as the messenger...

What I'm wondering is where exactly will Epitaph2 take off... as a direct sequel to E1 or right after the last scene in this episode (which we might guess would lead to them breaking into the DH for the scenes with Adele, Tohper etc. which reminds me, doesn't seem like Echo/Caroline would have that much animosity left for Adele as we see in E1... from the episodes we've just seen all that should have been resolved...)

Dean Winchester said...

I so thoroughly enjoyed that hour of television. Everything that came out of Topher's mouth put a smile on my face, and I'm never going to complain about an opportunity to watch Enver's spot-on Topher impression.

I hope we're not going to have to wait too long for Whedon's next project.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I really wish Fox had just decided to air it.

Fox would have to pay to air it. They're not spending extra money on a dead show, particularly when they're already doing something fairly charitable in airing all the episodes in-season and not making us wait for summer or the DVD.

Mo Ryan said...

I think it's advisable to have seen Epitaph One before seeing Epitaph Two: The Squeakquel. If nothing else, Epitaph ONe gives you a sense of who the post-apocalyptic characters are and what their deal is. I think the mini-Caroline situation would be confusing rather than enjoyable in Ep 2 if you haven't seen Ep 1. Just my 2 cents.

Actually, not that I didn't enjoy Epitaph Two (I did), but at some point I'd like to watch Epitaph 1 and 2 in succession -- they'd almost work on their own as a sort of Dollhouse movie.

My husband kept thinking Topher was at the Dollhouse and I kept having to remind him -- no, that's Victor. Enver's voice sounds uncannily like Fran Kranz's when Enver's doing his Topher. It's pretty incredible -- the voice and the body language are eerily exactly perfect.

Stef said...

My favorite moment was just the very brief scene when Anthony/Victor and Priya/Sierra find Adele and Topher. Topher asks if Anthony is still Topher 2, and Priya says something like "No, he's himself... with enhancements." And Adele's eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. Well played, Olivia Williams.

belinda said...

I thought out of all the past 9 episodes (which were all pretty kickass, possibly due to the time crunch), this one was the weakest. It is also the one that does suffer from the time crunch, because the ideas they presented were intriguing (like Boyd becoming the doll and Echo the handler mirroring, or Paul deciding that it didn't matter that Mellie is a program because he essentially is one too, or the irony that Caroline's importance had nothing to do with her brain but her body, that Clyde and Boyd were lovers?, etc - just all these ideas) but none of that got explored in any deep way because of the need to cram everything before the end.

- I'm a little tired of good looking women having their brains blown in front of their boyfriends (and have their blood splattered on their faces too).

- I kind of love that even Boyd finds Paul irrelevant. I wonder if the writers put that in to say "Sorry, we didn't really get him either".

- The end scene was kind of crap. Understandably so, without the money for the effects, but I couldn't understand why bombing that one Dollhouse mainframe (and Boyd, whose shell must have better use than that) meant anything at all to the Scooby Gang, given what all the characters know. Or why we even need to see the Echo running from the explosion scene in the first place. Silly.

- The unfolding of Boyd's story was definitely weak. Probably due to the time crunch. Same goes with Whiskey, someone who we know, but only as a doll (or as an imprint of someone else).

Basically, there were a lot of holes in the whole plot section, like why Boyd didn't keep them captive in a safer manner, why Echo's team didn't tie Whiskey down, etc, etc - and a whole lot more than the other episodes, so this episode suffered from them.

But I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the finale.

Anonymous said...

I wish we didn't get a flashforward scene. I mean we all know Epitaph 2 is coming, so we didn't need a reminder. To be honest, as the camera pulled away, I kept waiting for something else to happen: like Topher being pickpocketed and the tech taken. Or worse, in all the commotion, the tech is accidentally dropped and found by a child, who innocently starts playing with it.

I really would have preferred something subtle that indicated Epitaph 1 would still happen, rather than being smack on the head with a flashfoward.

But I still enjoyed the episode. My jaw is still on the floor over that chilling end of Boyd.

Mo Ryan said...

The Enver-Fran stuff I was referencing -- which I loved -- was from Hollow Men. In case there was any confusion.

BigTed said...

There's one thing I didn't get (that maybe was obvious to people who were paying more attention): Now that we know for sure that Boyd is a doll, whose brain is in his head? (And if it's "the founder," does that mean we still don't know who that is?)

renton said...

Enver's voice is perfect. Do we know that Fran's isn't being dubbed over?

Fran tweeted a little while ago about going to his last ADR session, so maybe he's looping his voice into the scenes.

If that is Enver's impersonation, I'd like see what other voices he can do.

Chris said...


Do we know for sure that Boyd is a doll? He got hit with the big bad world-ending tech. The whole reason its world ending is that it can zap you whether you have active architecture or not...

Anonymous said...

@Jennifer More X-filesish for the spinal fluid?

@Jeff L I totally thought midichlorians at the beginning of the episode when Boyd mentioned the blood donor thing.

I completely agree with Jess D. The Boyd stuff was not given the depth of character change as on previous Whedon shows. Boyd is just a sociopath bent on destruction. He wants to destroy the world and stay with the people he is "closest" to him. He didn't have any larger plan which was disheartening. Whedon & co. have been better at this in the past. Jasmine for Cordelia and Illyria for Fred.

@ MoRyan don't forget how good Enver Gjokaj was at doing Laurence Dominic.

I am still left with the question who is Whiskey? I thought it would have been cooler to reveal Whiskey as Boyd's wife before she became a doll. This would have continued the same theme started by Sierra and Victor but would have been creepier.

I was very disappointed by how disjointed this episode was. However, I understand given the time crunch they were put under to produce the episode.

Unknown said...

I'll concede that preparing for the thoughtpocalypse must be very hectic, but shouldn't someone have remembered to disable the sleeper trigger in the Mellie imprint? "Ivy, by all means save yourself, but before you go could you please take care of the loose cannon in this program? We'll be taking it out for spin."

Anonymous said...

@Big Ted
Boyd was never a doll like Christian said. Topher developed this new tech that had the ability to wipe anyone even without active architecture. Adelle gave it over to Rossum without understanding its full potential. Topher used the tech to wipe Boyd to doll state which would be his most basic essential stripped away being so Boyd is still Boyd and Boyd was always the found of Rossum. My question is how come we haven't found out if Boyd has jumped into other bodies like Mr. Ambrose?

Billiam said...

Amidst all the action and tragedy, this episode sure had some great whit like "What did I miss?" and that wonderful exchange between Topher and Adele:

Topher: “I did this. I’m the one who brings about the thoughtpocalypse.”

Adelle: “Thoughtpocalypse?”

Topher: “Is brainpocalypse better? I figure, if I’m responsible for the end of the world, I get to name it.”

fgmerchant said...

I'm in two minds about Rossum. Boyd, while evil and a murderer, also wanted to create a vaccine to stop people from being wiped. Makes you wonder if they had let him create the vaccine, maybe the Thoughtpocalypse would never have come!

The whole, "You are still in there" moments seemed totally false to me. If that had happened to Echo, I might have believed trying that to stop a doll, but the others are full on Dolls that can NOT revert their programming just because they have feelings or are "still in there".

I didn't like the flash forward scene, seemed a little too on the nose to me. I agree with Anonymous@2:38, seeing the wiping gun just lying the wreckage waiting to be found or seeing someone pick it up would have been much better.

OldDarth said...

Disliked the Boyd character arc. Having Paul be the mole would have been much more palatable.

Knowing the outcome in Epitaph 1 there was no tension in this one.

Episode fail.

Billiam said...

In response to "fgmerchant":
While the idea of Mellie resisting seemed odd to me at first, I then realized that this was not the usual scenario of her being mindwhiped. This was responding to an extra bit of sleep programming: the Mellie programming would still be there. More bothersome to me was the fact that she came with them to Rossum at all.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Appropos of nothing, between this episode and the "HIMYM" 100th, it occurs to me it's been a big week for women in suits on TV.

Anonymous said...

Boyd being left behind to blow up the Rossum mainframe struck me as a strange inversion of Miles Dyson in the Cyberdyne building. Especially with this episode, comparisons between the tech and nuclear technology were hard to avoid.

I wish that Boyd's master plan was explained a little better, because I wasn't too clear on the extent of his involvement in Rossum's more odious activities. Throughout the latter part of the episode, I kept thinking back to what Adelle said to Echo about idealists. Clarifying what was meant by "deserving few" would've gone a long way to solidifying how evil I consider Boyd to be.

Steve said...

Boyd wanted the vaccine so he and his chosen few could be safe from being wiped, not to prevent the Thoughtpocalypse. As he said, he wanted immortality. Implant his personality into a slave body, take the vaccine to make it permanent (or, more specifically, read-only), repeat as necessary forever.

Christina Harper said...

The only problems I had with the episode was with Fox. I don't blame Whedon or any of the cast. It's not their fault.

I'll probably cry like a friggin' baby when the finale airs. I was an avid fan from the series premiere. I've been watching it religiously. Topher is phenomenal, and, yeah, okay, I will cry.

It's not fair... :( They wipe all the good science fiction out before it gets a chance to play through the way it should and at a normal pace. Damn Fox Network.

Unknown said...

The oft-quoted end of the poem "The Hollow Men":

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Considering the episode ended with a bang, after all the talk about the end of the world and how to avert it, it makes me think that "the end of the world" is going to be explained by a revelation of a small detail that occurred just off camera -- the whimper. Something similar to how last week expanded on the whole "if I stay here, we both get pinched" thing with Caroline and Bennett. I actually have a specific theory, but I'll keep it to myself, in case it would be spoilery.

Drifter said...

Am I the only one who felt like the show is falling apart in this final stretch when it comes to production values? The fight scene between Echo and Dr. Saunders was incompetently filmed and edited. Amidst the million quick cuts there were numerous parts where the geography of who was where in the scene became confused and there was no continuity in some parts.

Also the blowing up the building scene was amateurish. Aside from it making no sense that our heroes evacuated the personnel of the corporation they're trying to destroy, they then stood and watched the building "blow up" a good 10 feet away from it. Thankfully there was no sign of external damage in the explosion, so why bother evacuating the people? Even worse - Echo's dramatic run down the hall with the explosions behind her cuts to a next shot of her already standing outside the building. I don't remember the last time I saw such shoddy directing/editing in primetime network TV.

On a positive note - the actors who play Victor and Sierra seem to be the breakout talents from the show that I'm most interested in seeing more of in years to come.

Number Five said...

I agree that the compressed time frame finally got in the way of the story. They just didn't have enough time to fully engage both the plot and the implications it brings up.

Turns out things were pretty simple:

1) Boyd has always been the Rossum founder (and definitely not a Doll, and it also doesn't look like he followed the Clyde 2.0 download/dump a body cycle). After Caroline started her anti-Rossum campaign, they (very illegally) looked at her medical test results, saw that she was special, and when they finally captured her, used their leverage to make her a Doll so they could see what happened.

2) Boyd's ultimate goal was to invent a vaccine, but to reserve it for himself and his "family" and elite friends. His speech suggested he wouldn't actively bring about the thoughtpocalypse (perfect portmanteau!), but was ready for it to happen.

3) Boyd decided the best way to do this was stick Caroline in the LA Dollhouse, protect her as her handler, and see what developed. It's unclear if Rossum's other senior leaders (Keith Carradine, etc) were ever involved, but it doesn't seem like it.

Some implications:

-- Boyd may not be a 10 on the Evil scale, but he's very close. His speech suggests he wouldn't wipe the world himself, but he regarded it as inevitable - and even so, if it happened in his lifetime the technology would have to come from Rossum, so he's pretty culpable.

-- I see some underlying logic to Boyd developing Echo and the vaccine mostly in secret, where he had control as her handler and could avoid the possibility of being assassinated/losing control of Rossum and the vaccine to someone like Clyde 2.0 or another exec. But yeah, his endgame plan to allow Adelle's crew to enter Rossum HQ, clear out the guards, and then think he could almost single-handedly control the outcome was arrogantly stupid. Between that and the messianic Noah's Arc welcoming of doomsday, he smacked of a 60s Bond villain.

-- However, Boyd's wipe and the two-way nature of his bond with Echo turning him into a willing suicide bomber was a deliciously and savagely ironic ending for him, in the finest Twilight Zone style.

-- Caroline/Echo is special because of some unique genetic trait, but she wouldn't be the world's savior without developing the ability to composite. I like that the compositing was still a key element, but I agree it feels a little silly to have it come down to a spinal tap. I was hoping she could somehow develop the ability to resurrect a wiped mind's original personality or something along those lines.

-- OK, so when Topher wipes Boyd and the good guys are back on top, the two keys that could save humanity are the already drawn spinal fluid, and Echo's body. So their response is to blow up the first and put the second in danger by making her last out of an exploding building?

-- If anyone should have been last out it was Paul, because Mellie/Madeline's death is on his (and Adelle's) hands. So they rescue her from the DC Dollhouse, only to resurrect her as a Doll personality, not her real self, and then bring her into an extremely dangerous situation? Reprehensible.

Despite some flaws, it's been a great run. Can't wait for the finale!

Corinne said...

@Drifter I read somewhere (Maurissa's twitter, I think) that there were massive budget cuts on S2. This is probably why the ep looked as it did. Also, a great deal of S2 was shot digitally.

Damn you, FOX.

Anonymous said...



Our Gratitude Journal said...

Epitaph II: Back in Action!
Epitaph II: The Return of Echo
Epitaph II: Echo Strikes Back
Epitaph II: The Final Insult

bakija said...

So I should probably go back and rewatch The Attic to have this make more sense, as I'm probably just confused, but:

Wasn't Clyde, the second Rossum founder the guy who was trapped in the Attic, trying to kill off the main frame/attic/matrix system from inside? And if so, why on the outside, was he both still there and still evil? Was that throw away line from Amy Acker about "some version of me is stuck in the attic" at attempt to reconcile this questionable plot thread?

Stephen said...

Peter Bakija: this is actually spelled out in "The Attic": Clyde mentions that when he was put in the attic, the then un-named co-founder of Rossum created a Clyde 2.0, with the original Clyde's memories & skills, but with some character traits (the ones that would hinder the co-founder's plans) stripped out -- a loyal version of Clyde. We saw this Clyde 2.0 in a different body in the flashback at the end of last week's episode ("Getting Closer"), too, where he mentions he's used a lot of bodies. So this, at least, is consistent.

bakija said...

Stephen wrote:
>>this is actually spelled out in "The Attic": Clyde mentions that when he was put in the attic, the then un-named co-founder of Rossum created a Clyde 2.0>>

Oh, ok, that makes sense. Yeah, it seemed likely that rewatching The Attic would have had a reasonable chance of answering my confusion. So the Clyde inhabiting Whiskey is an evil refit of Clyde, and the Clyde in the Attic is the actual Clyde. Reasonable.

In a mostly unconnected analysis, it seems as if Boyd's plan all along was:

A) Make Caroline a doll. As she had special biology. And turning her into a doll would develop this special biology.

B) Watch over the development of Echo as a doll, as due to her special biology, every time she was imprinted, she became more and more immune to being imprinted. To this end, Boyd posed as a handler to make sure everything went according to plan.

C) When Echo developed the optimal biology (which could only happen as the result of being imprinted over and over again over a period of time), she would be harvested for the purposes of making a vaccine that prevented being mind wiped. Presumably so that Boyd and his selected circle could become immune to the inevitable thoughtpocalypse, preserving some amount of society.

Check. So I'm ok with that. That being said, the episode itself seemed a tad rushed (understandably) and left a considerable amount of things hanging (i.e. why did Saunders kill River? If she was doing so under orders from Boyd, that makes limited sense, as Boyd seemed invested in his tech people [see: how he dealt with Topher]; if she did it just to punish Topher, why not just kill Topher?; How does Whiskey end up with a healed face and left as a messenger? When does Reed Diamond get out of the Attic--like, they got him out last episode, which made sense storyline wise, but then they put him back in. Wha?)

Well, at least I'm looking forward to Epitaph II: Electric Boogaloo.

Jim said...

Peter D. Bakija said: "So the Clyde inhabiting Whiskey is an evil refit of Clyde, and the Clyde in the Attic is the actual Clyde. Reasonable."

What's so great is that insane scenario actually is "reasonable" for this show. Love it!

Tausif Khan said...

@Peter D Bakija
Thanks for connecting that Boyd wanted to get the anti-wiping juice from Echo's spine with how he wants to maintain control in the apocalypse. I missed that connection and makes Boyd make a lot more sense.

However, I don't buy it because it does not fit with the themes of the show. The main theme I saw and loved was the one of individual consciousness and the power of self/will to power. Alpha is the same as Echo. I believe that Madeline's consciousness made her not kill Paul. The idea of rising consciousness was driving the show (The Matrix being an influence). Topher remarking that the body is just hardware and software was to me to demonstrate how little he understood about humanity.

I don't buy this whole explanation of anti-wiping midichlorian juice.

Unknown said...

At the end of the episode (before the flash-forward) I turned to my husband, "And now they have to kill Topher, obviously." (Since he's the one with the tech know-how in his head.)

The whole ep felt very uneven to me, like they were racing toward a conclusion and were going to get there come hell or high water.

Enver as Fran: always a plus!

Anonymous said...

I agree that while the changeovers made some sense, it was definitely rushed and forced- there really was no reason for Boyd to take anyone but Topher along. Except that he's pretty darn insane.

Perhaps Echos Super Juice will be the savior of humanity? Like the Special Scythe in Buffy, distribute the power to everyone and it works.

Amy Acker is again totally amazing and I felt more for her character this episode than anyone- she's the literal doll here, used and abused and tossed around, risen to number one, replaced and forced to be an ineffectual doctor with a hatred of her creator, theoretically freed only as part of a larger game of manipulation. The only reason Clyde would have chosen that body is to gain an emotional edge over the gang.

I'm also VERY UNCOMFORTABLE with how they dealt with Boyd. I know they feel like they are fighting a war and casualties are part of that war, but they didn't just knock him out and leave him to die, they intentionally set him up helpless and unwillingly to choose to kill himself. That's as bad as any of the Dollhouse stuff and at least they got consent of the dolls first.


Hatfield said...

Just curious, EmeraldLiz, why did it bother you so much that they killed Boyd? I'd say he earned it

Anonymous said...

Oh no, Boyd being killed is fine, necessary understandable.

It's HOW they did it which troubles me, not in a plot way but in an ethical treatment way.

Mercy is the sign of an honorable man. I'm not sure we can say Echo is even just all right after that.


Caravelle said...

fgmerchant (and others) : I'm in two minds about Rossum. Boyd, while evil and a murderer, also wanted to create a vaccine to stop people from being wiped. Makes you wonder if they had let him create the vaccine, maybe the Thoughtpocalypse would never have come!

Boyd wanted a vaccine so that he (and a few chosen friends) could be immune to the technology he was going to use to take over the world. That's not being good, that's being non-stupid. He was still going to deploy the tech in the first place.

One could argue that the tech's invention was inevitable anyway - and in the real world this tends to be true, but in the Dollhouse world it's pretty clear that tech is completely out of the mainstream and existing only because of the very directed efforts of Rossum and a few super-geniuses.

Caravelle said...

Hatfield : I also didn't like how they killed Boyd ("didn't like" as in I disagree with the characters doing it, I actually like that the show went there). Because Boyd died when he got wiped; what they actually killed was a doll, and those are innocence and trust personified. Sending one to kill itself would have been utterly abhorrent to all the other characters... but this one looked like Boyd so it was okay.