Series of Tubes: Dollhouse’s Penultimate Episode Soars

On some level, I expected tonight’s episode to be the first of a two-parter, but really, it was the second, wrapping up all the storylines from last week, while leaving one episode to deal with the post-apocalyptic future we saw (or didn’t see, because FOX never aired the episode) in “Epitaph One”. I should have expected that, since I knew the series finale was called “Epitaph Two”, but it was still a mild surprise to see so much wrapped up tonight.

After last week’s cliffhanger, we immediately jumped into a flashback, continuing the Boyd-Caroline meeting scene. Boyd gave us some nice exposition on Rossum, and how they got all the brain scans they used to create the personality profiles for the Dollhouse and set the stage for the rest of the episode’s revelations about Caroline.

Back in the present, Anthony (Victor) and Priya (Sierra) returned to an abandoned Dollhouse. Before we got anything more from that development, we got Boyd and Topher scrambling to bring a drugged-up Echo to Ballard, Adelle and Mellie. At this point, no one in the group has any idea Boyd is the head of Rossum. Strangely, Boyd keeps pushing Echo’s gameplan, for reasons that will become disturbingly clear later in the episode.

Back at the Dollhouse, Priya and Anthony come across a note on the imprint chair and debate whether to use it or not. I thought it was interesting that Priya used the phrase “no more technology”, since that was pretty much the mantra of the actuals in “Epitaph One” (remember “ditch the tech”?). Eventually Anthony gets in the chair, after a touching moment with Priya, and ends up imprinted with Topher, giving us another glimpse of Victor-as-Topher, which was probably the show’s comedic high point this season.

On to Rossum headquarters, where Whiskey is now imprinted with Clyde, Rossum’s No. 2 (behind Boyd). The scene plays out pretty much as expected, up until the end when Whiskey/Clyde says “this world is for people who can evolve.” Adelle responds “And does that include us?” to which Whiskey/Clyde asks forebodingly “Isn’t that what you’re here to find out?”. It’s a subtle hint to Boyd’s master plan.

Back at the Dollhouse, Victor/Topher eventually remembers he installed a secret camera and puts two and two together re: Boyd after seeing the footage. Meanwhile, Adelle pretends to go along with Whiskey/Clyde, as an underhanded way of finding out more about Rossum’s secret plan and hopefully meeting the founder (who she still doesn’t know is Boyd).

After some more fun with Victor/Topher, Priya re-imprints Victor with his original personality plus “enhancements”, that turn him into a super badass ninja fighter. He’s pretty fucking awesome, but I miss Victor/Topher. Also, I kind of wish Topher and Victor/Topher had gotten to interact. At the same time that Victor/Topher is going away, real Topher has figured out that Echo was drugged (he just doesn’t know by who) and he accidentally spills the beans about his Topher 2.0 Victor-Sierra plan to Boyd. It’s amazing how Boyd kept up appearances -- as Victor/Topher put it, “I don’t know whether to be pissed at him or ask him for his autograph.”

Finally, 23 minutes into the episode, things pick up, when Echo wakes up from her drugged state and remembers Boyd is the Rossum founder. Before she can get to Boyd, he has Topher finish off the remote wipe laser that he designed, under the auspices of using it to disable the Rossum guards without killing them. It’s amazing that Topher did it, even though he knew the potential for evil that it had. All along, we’ve seen how his scientific curiosity gets him in trouble, and with a scene like this, you can easily understand how he ends up in the state he was in during “Epitaph One.”

It seemed like Boyd was about to spill the beans to Topher, when Echo busted in and started kicking his ass. Then, before she could do any serious damage, Whiskey showed up to break up the fight, threatening to kill Echo and Adelle (who she was holding at gunpoint). Boyd admits to being the Rossum founder and explains the reason he brought everyone to Tucson:
“You’re here ‘cause you’re my family. I love you guys.”
Holy fucking shit. How fucked up is that? It’s the first really insight we’ve gotten into Rossum-Boyd’s mind, and it’s clear, at least to me, that he’s a special kind of criminally insane. Plus, the line itself was just laugh-out-loud funny. Eventually Boyd talks about how the imprinting technology is going to destroy the world, and how it can’t be un-invented.
“Do you want to be the destroyed? Or the destroyers?”
Before he gives that speech, he gives the twisted reason he picked Topher, Adelle and Echo, whose physical makeup makes her immune to imprinting.
“You’ve proven yourself in so many ways, I wanted you all with me,” he said. “Except for Paul. There’s always one relative you can live without. And frankly, I never understood what you saw in him.”
Speaking of Paul, while all this is going down, he and Mellie are busy destroying the cooling systems for Rossum’s servers, hoping they’ll overheat. The Paul-Mellie storyline was supposed to be touching, but I felt like I was over that in Season 1, so I didn’t need to see it here. Apparently Boyd agreed with me, since he activated Mellie’s sleeper functionality (using a recording of Adelle, since Adelle wouldn’t do it herself). Mellie was supposed to kill Paul, but their love for each other was too great, and she killed herself instead. It’s kind of sad to see Madeline/Mellie/November suffer this fate, but someone had to be lost in the fight.

Anthony and Priya show up to save Echo from the spinal tap, while Rossum security keeps watch on Topher and Adelle. This scene is definitely the beginning of the Topher guilt meltdown, which at least happens in comedic Topher fashion:
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.”
I had to pause the episode at this point to allow my laughter to stop, so I wouldn’t miss anything else. Major props to the trio of writers on this episode for keeping a humorous tone throughout what could have easily been an incredible downer of an hour.

Another funny moment comes just seconds later, after Anthony busts in and breaks them all out. Topher asks if Anthony is still Victor/Topher and Priya responds, “He’s Anthony... with some enhancements.” At that point, Adelle interjects with a “really” that wouldn’t be so funny, if it hadn’t been for the whole “Miss Lonelyhearts” storyline.

Strangely, the following Whiskey/Clyde vs Echo fight fell kind of short. While that was going on, Boyd and Paul had a reunion and Boyd went right into acting mode, before the trio ran into each other. Boyd was still trying to get Echo to go along with his plan, but she wasn’t having it, and they started fighting. I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out, but it turns out Boyd’s own plans backfired on him. Topher used the remote wipe/imprint device to turn Boyd into a shell.

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the ending, with Echo handing Boyd a grenade and having him talk into the center of the Rossum server room to blow it up. Also, Echo’s miraculous escape from the explosion was both fake looking and a little too unbelievable. For a minute there, it seemed like everything wrapped up a little too fairy tale-esque for Dollhouse. Cut to splash screen:

10 Years Later

See Paul and Echo battling through a post-apocalyptic wasteland and we’re all set up for next week.

As you can probably tell by this point, I loved the majority of this episode, and even the “fairy tale” ending turned out not to be so bad, since we got the glimpse of horror right after it. I would have liked to see Boyd’s story end a little less anticlimactically, but I did like that even he -- the head of the entire Rossum corporation -- wasn’t immune from the “thoughtpocalypse” he created.

On the whole, I didn’t think this episode was as good as some of the previous ones -- and there was nothing in this episodes along the lines of the Boyd mindfuck from last week -- but it was definitely among the best we’ve seen from Dollhouse. And after the unsatisfying conclusions to “Angel” and “Firefly”, it’s nice to get to see a Joss Whedon-helmed series at least get a proper ending of some kind.