Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye, Dollhouse

"It speaks to the schizophrenic in me. Well... both of them, actually."

I think Dollhouse might be the first show in history to air a second part of an episode where they didn't actually air the first part. Anyone who watched the show on Fox but didn't buy the DVDs must have been scratching their heads at the "previously on" section at the beginning, which referred back only to "Epitaph, Part 1." I actually watched that episode right before the finale, and part of me wonders if it would have worked better as a 2-part finale.

I liked it, actually. I liked it a lot. I really enjoyed the Topher bits. This is the guy who, when I saw the first episode, I LOATHED him and wished he weren't on the show at all. And now, two seasons later, it's like he's the heart of the show. He's the guy who made the biggest journey and who becomes the tragic character at the end. Joss loves those guys. (Think Wesley on Angel.)

Joss also loves for someone to go boom as they're saving the world. Spike disintegrates. Wesley dies fighting the good fight. There's always someone who's gone at the end, and choosing Topher had as much impact on me as Wesley's death. I was gutted. Especially at his little, "Huh," as he looks at the wall of photos that always reminds me of the memorial wall on BSG.

Here's a question: couldn't they have put crazy Topher in the chair, wiped him and imprinted him with the old genius Topher's mind? Or was Adelle convinced that it would actually take crazy Topher to come up with the technology they needed to revert Earth back to the way it was?

I really liked the Priya/Anthony storyline. The Caroline/Paul one seemed a little overwrought to me... while I enjoy Eliza Dushku, I felt like her big breakdown scene screamed, "GIVE ME THE EMMY!" much like Angelina Jolie's big breakdown scene seemed overdone in A Mighty Heart. But that aside, when Paul died, I gasped, but not as loudly as I moaned sadly when I realized Priya and Anthony were no longer together. I loved their relationship, that idea that no matter how many times you imprint them or wipe them clean, they will still be drawn to one another. So I really liked how that storyline was resolved by the end.

Throwing Alpha in there as a nice guy seemed a little random to me. While I LOVE seeing Alpha, it's like he was added in just to throw out a few random jokes and be silly before completely disappearing when the going got tough.

Maybe it's because of how much I loved Epitaph 1, but that one seemed like more of a satisfying ending to the series than this one did. I will be haunted for a long time by Whiskey, walking the halls of the Dollhouse because she "has to wait" and refusing to leave, but once she realizes her work is done she gasses everyone, including herself, and just sits on the ramp, her legs dangling and her head calmly to one side as she slowly falls asleep forever. It was an incredible image, and nothing in this episode was quite like that. My husband (who hasn't watched an episode this season) loved the Mad Max stuff with the tech-heads, though, so it was definitely working for him.

"Epitaph 2" was more of a Coda than a finale. The previous episode was the one that brought the season's arc to a close, and this was the one that gave it its exclamation mark at the end. Once again, an apocalypse was averted and the world moves on to live another day.

What would be interesting would be to see Joss Whedon actually explore what happens AFTER an apocalypse, rather than the lead-up to it. Maybe that's why, of the three Whedon finales, Angel will always be my favourite. For me, they will always be rushing headlong into battle, and our imaginations fill in the rest.

I enjoyed the ending, and it left me with a feeling of emptiness and sadness, which is what all good finales do. Joss once again managed to give me heartbreak and laughter. But Dollhouse never resonated with me emotionally the way Angel and Buffy did. That's not a knock against the show -- it was always more a show of the head than the heart -- but while I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the other finales, this one I watched as if I were watching any episode of any show. Yet, I realized in watching this episode just how much these characters have come to mean to me.

In the end, Topher was the one who stuck with me the most, and if Whiskey haunted me from Epitaph 1, it's Topher who will stick with me in Epitaph 2.

Bravo, Mr. Whedon. May you continue to bring us great television, and may you finally align yourself with a network that will not only give you a chance, but will give your show a fighting chance. I can't wait to see what's up your sleeve next.


Anonymous said...

Like you, I couldn't stand Topher, and like you, his story affected me most. And I really liked Adele, in the end. His death was very Spike in Chosen to me.

I actually think Eliza acted for a second there, about half-way through the break-down. It wasn't a lot, but it was more than I'd ever seen from her before. I actually believed her. For a second.

What was with all the couples at the end? Potentially happy couples. Or at least two and a half couples. Joss? Is that you?

humanebean said...

Pity my sweetheart. She's been watching this show off and on since the beginning but I bailed mid-way through the first season. So, having not seen an episode all Season 2, I sat down to watch the finale with her. Can you imagine her frustration building as I ask things like "wait a minute - is this all happening BEFORE the other stuff? Or AFTER?" or "So, what happened to the other guy? You know, that guy who used to be on that OTHER show?"

The fact that I am still alive this morning is a testament to her patience (and poor aim).

That being said, I enjoyed the finale better than I had any of the other episodes I'd seen. Almost enough to at least go back and watch the first part of this two-parter. Overall, though, the characters on this show just never grabbed me in any way, shape or form like the cast of Firefly. Now THAT show should have run for 4 or 5 years!

Also, um, to avoid saying unflattering things about Eliza Dushku as an actress, I will quit while I'm ahead.

Verification word: "untabed" - where ta monsters hide.

Amanda S. said...

Not Fade Away is still my favorite of Joss’s finales, despite it not being the true Angel finale anymore (and I like the second one just as much. I honestly can’t choose between the TV ending and the comic ending), but this is definitely second favorite. Although, I agree that Epitaph One would have been a more satisfying (and beautiful, IMO) ending.

Also: I didn't love the characters the way I did his other ones, except for Adelle, but the deaths still really got to me.

Connie [@ConStar24] said...

i think u've got a really interesting idea: the world resewing itself after an apocolypse. With flashbacks as to what happened to cause the end of the world and how it got saved but the main story being how it will come back together. bringing the world back together, like Topher said, would be a hard job.

Ruth said...

Your comments reminded me of a comic book series called Resurrection, which explores that post-apocalyptic idea: