With the appropriately titled "Omega" (the final letter in the Greek alphabet), Joss Whedon brought his literally mind-bending drama Dollhouse to a close for the summer, and quite possibly for good. The episode promised to reveal Alpha's past and his true plans for Echo. I certainly can't accuse Joss and Co. of not delivering on that promise. However, while the serial delivered a satisfying enough season finale, there are still a number of lingering questions about the Dollhouse, its owners and most importantly, its residents.
"Go help Victor! Quickly!"
The episode picked up pretty much right where we left off. It seems history is doing that thing where it, you know, repeats. The Dollhouse staff is in a panic after Alpha has once again demonstrated his abilities in their house. This time though, he left with Echo. Well, sorta... See, before they left, Alpha used Topher's lab to imprint The House's most popular active with a personality of his choosing.
While the staff can't find any evidence of it, Echo has been imprinted with a personality Topher created years ago. A man paid Adelle DeWitt's company to be the third wheel in a cross country crime-spree with a couple possessing personalities created seemingly not by Topher but by Tarantino. The two dolls chosen for this mission? Alpha and the Dollhouse's most popular active. Ah, it all becomes clear. Oh, the most popular doll at that time was... Dr. Saunders?
Pre-Alpha's "gifts", Dr. Saunders was known as Whiskey. Nice catch for those of you who noticed Victor, imprinted as Laurence Dominic, let that name drop last week.
The engagement goes wrong (this has been happening for a while, hasn't it?) and Bobby (aka Alpha), fueled by paranoia after repeatedly spying the Dollhouse's vans, tortures the man who paid to have him created. Being the giving lover that he is, Bobby includes Whiskey in fulfilling what I'm pretty sure was NOT his fantasy.
Back in the present, Alpha and Echo start their new life together by doing a little shopping. Some Tasty Couture, the clerk from the store...
"I can make this go away."
Ballard is still being held in Adelle's office after having been caught trespassing. Ms. Dewitt's feelings for the disgraced FBI agent changed very quickly, however.
Last we saw, she wanted to put him in Topher's chair. Obviously Ballard's investigatory skills impressed the head of Dollhouse: L.A. Now that Alpha is an undeniable threat, she needs Paul's help.
"I'm not my best anymore. I want to be my best. How can I be my best now?"
Whiskey... I mean Dr. Saunders is taking care of Victor, who is inherently designed to feel terrible about how he looks now. Saunders, herself a victim of Alpha, is not the person to turn to.
A flashback revealed that Whiskey's personality, or at least her name, is not from the mind of Topher. There was a Dr. Saunders 1.0. This Dr. Saunders, the one Alpha left looking like a "jigsaw puzzle" in "The Target", was an older man who gave out lollipops to the Dolls who paid him a visit.
This step back in time also allowed us to view Caroline's initial tour of the Dollhouse, first glimpsed in an episode earlier this year, from a different perspective. Alpha's perspective. It was love at first sight for him.
Now he's out there with an unaware Echo and every personality she's ever been imprinted with on a hard drive. Harking back to the "Briar Rose" theme of last week, Alpha presents his princess with her new throne, a crudely constructed version of Topher's imprinting chair.
Well, what's he going to use that for?
"Has it been five years?"
I'm pretty sure the only thing freakier than waking up and realizing five years have passed in an instant, is waking up and looking right at someone else in your body. That's what happened to Caroline. Former Tasty Couture employee Wendy was wiped clean and is now just a shell for Caroline.
The tortured Alpha blames the original personalities for all the pain and suffering they've gone through. In fact, he destroyed his own personality hard drive during his original reign of terror at the Dollhouse.
Now, it's time for Caroline's destruction.
"Whiskey, let Echo be No. 1."
Another glimpse of the past revealed the moment when Alpha scarred Whiskey forever. After overhearing the Dollhouse staff discuss Whiskey's popularity, Alpha offers a tip to Whiskey before using his pruning shears to bequeath his "gifts."
The staff manages to get Alpha into the chair and lull him into desiring his treatment. The desire doesn't last long and Alpha begins struggling. Thinking quickly, Topher imprints "kind of a greatest hits."
"Understand. Hell. Now."
Alpha "awakens" as the monster we know today. After taking out his handler (two words: Thumbs. Eyes.) Alpha went on his infamous killing spree.
"She will ascend. She will know. And she will kill you."
Well, obviously Alpha thinks he woke up feeling like a million bucks. He plans to give Caroline all the personalities she's ever been imprinted with and make her as "evolved" as he is.
After that, she'll use her new-found knowledge and strength to kill Caroline once and for all. Poor Wendy.
"Now I understand everything."
After an imprinting sequence featuring flashes from every episode this season ("Blue Skies!" and "Friends help each other out" jumped out out at me), Echo awoke empowered and extremely anti-Alpha.
Boyd and Ballard have teamed up to track down Echo and her captor. After discovering Alpha had an extreme hatred for his former self, they force Adelle into revealing who he was before being wiped.
Early volunteers for the program were selected from a number of different venues, even prisons. Alpha used to be Carl William Craft, a convict with a penchant for kidnapping, and as the crime fighting duo find out, left his only known victim's face scarred.
This inspires Ballard to ask Topher for information of any violent outbursts during Alpha's days as an active. Topher supplies them with the address where Alpha and Whiskey went Natural
"Why don't you come back home?"
Alpha may be a genius but I don't think he saw this coming. Echo and all her personalities, understand that what Alpha is doing is wrong. She doesn't want to be like him and uses all the abilities imprinted in her to take him down.
After incapacitating Alpha, Echo releases "Wendy-line" from her restraints. Echo convinces Caroline that she should just, "come back home" after all this. Echo and Caroline have made peace with one another.
Like any happy relationship in a Whedon-verse, it's doomed to fall apart. Alpha regains consciousness and shoots "Wendy-line" in the neck.
And his new plan? Imprint Wendy's from all over this nation with Caroline and kill her time after time until he's bored.
After a fight and a chase, Alpha drops Caroline's "brain" in order to secure his chance to fight another day.
Back at the Dollhouse, Dr. Saunders has hacked the system and found the file on herself. She tells Topher she doesn't know why he gave her such advanced computer skills, as well as a hatred for her imprinter -- him.
This is most certainly a clue at a history we may never get to see. Let the theories fly. Sister? Ex-lover? Video-Game-Playing-Best-Bud? Fran Kranz definitely played this scene with a high degree of emotion for Whiskey to have been just another doll. It seemed like he was especially happy she didn't open her file.
Ballard isn't working for the Dollhouse just yet but per his demand, November will be given her entire fee and released from her contract ASAP.
The final scenes of the episode played as a montage to Beck's cover of The Korgis' "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes." This version of the song appeared on the soundtrack for the 2004 memory wipe love story Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Great Lines & Moments
Alpha: I mean, I'm not just Bobby.
Alpha's Handler: Treatment.
Alpha/Bobby: Yeah. Let's do that.
Topher: Why is there a tall, morally judgmental man in my lab who's not him?
Alpha watching his step.
Topher: He's like Soylent Green. He's people.
Alpha: How do you feel?
Echo: I'm with her.
Alpha: You are her!
Ballard: I still don't believe you can erase a person's soul.
Topher: Their what?
Alpha: A blood ritual! Yes! We shall have one of those!
Adelle: Carl William Craft.
Ballard: Three names... always ominous.
Echo: New, superior people with a little German thrown in... What could go wrong?
The one personality inside Alpha who was bluffing about destroying "the wedge."
- What exactly did Sierra and November do in this episode? I must have missed that line of dialogue. The two were imprinted and given nothing to do.
- Why did Alpha send Ballard the photo and video of Caroline in the pilot? And who were the man and woman he killed to get them? Was he all ready planting the seeds of his Stephen Kepler con?
- Who is the mole imprinting Dolls with glitches designed to communicate with Agent Ballard? Will he tell Adelle or Boyd about this mole?
- Does imprinting someone with all the personalities they've ever had violate Topher's rule of not being able to imprint on an all ready imprinted brain? I thought we were supposed to worry about implosion.
- What will become of Victor now that he's no longer his best? Imprinted as a doctor? Handler? Janitor? I don't see Adelle letting go of her fantasy so easily. I guess if she ever chooses to um, experience Roger again, then it will have to happen in a place with no mirrors. Hey, random thought I wish I had realized in time for the "Spy in the House of Love" recap, Roger is the name Victor is imprinted with when he goes on Adelle's Miss. Lonely Hearts engagements. Having grown up in Britain, the woman must have heard the term "Roger" in reference to sex. So, funny joke by the writers or by Topher? You decide.
- Won't November realize that it hasn't quite been five years since she volunteered?
I don't hold it against the writes for not answer these questions. I can only assume that writing for a television series perpetually, "on the bubble" must be incredibly frustrating. Could you imagine if J.K. Rowling had to worry about whether or not she'd be able to write the next adventure of Harry Potter before she finished the one she was currently working on?
Overall, I found the second half of this episode to be far more exciting than the first. The conclusion may have been missing finality but I'm okay with that. There's no reason to force in the answers to questions you had originally hoped to explore over five seasons.
Remember, Episode 13, "Epitaph One," will be on DVD and Blu-Ray July 28th.
So, what did you think about this pre-finale finale? How about the series as a whole? Do you want to see a second season of Dollhouse?
If you came to the show as a Whedon fan, did this intrigue or disappoint? If this is your first time watching a program from Mutant Enemy, were you inspired to want to check out any of their previous work?
What was your favorite episode? Least favorite?
Second Season Suggestions
- Sierra-centric episodes and story arcs.
- More of Topher's assistant and juice box fetcher, Ivy.
- An opening title sequence cut from the episodes in this first season.
- More flashbacks revealing the secrets and lies of the Dollhouse staff.
What unanswered questions or unexplored storylines are you dying to see played out in a second season?
Thanks for your support and comments these past few weeks. My hope is that I could provide you with at least one tidbit or perspective a week that you hadn't noticed or thought about. Now that you know all, go back and laugh at any blind alleys I might have gone down in my recaps. All I can say is, thank Topher I don't recap Lost.