And so it ends. Thankfully this time Joss Whedon has the opportunity to actual finish the storyline of one of his original stories.
“Epitaph Two” ends what has been a fairy tale story of modern broadcast television in itself. It was merely a year ago that we were all commented on the fact that it was a minor miracle that Dollhouse was renewed for a second season. For the entirety of the second season, the writers took this idea to heart and made sure to move away from the episodic collection of random stories to evolve the show into a (half) season long cohesive saga that kept the viewer engaged the entire time.
“Epitaph Two” is no doubt a mass frantic race to the end of the story. Picking up right where we left off in “Epitaph One” (which was only available on DVD), we find Zone, Mag, and little Caroline trying to find their way to the Tuscon safe house, hopefully to find Echo again. Unfortunately, they have entered Neuropolis, the central mecca of insane corporate control that remained after the fall of humanity and the Rossum Corporation, and are quickly captured. While there, we find that Echo and Ballard let themselves be captured as a plot to extract Topher. Harding and Ambrose are even still around and have been jumping bodies for the last 10 years.
After a simple escape, we find that DeWitt has created a number of new houses, safe houses for actuals who have survived the carnage. From there, Topher talks about a plan to revert all the damage done years ago and restore everyone to their former state, but in order to do so, they must return to their former home, the LA Dollhouse.
NOTE: If you have NOT SEEN the movie SERENITY SKIP THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH Of course being a series finale, Whedon does not disappoint and of course will kill off yet another major character; it’s one of his defining writing traits. The way Ballard dies, though, is actually very reminiscent of Wash’s death in his other cancelled too soon drama Serenity. Paul, like Wash, dies suddenly and unexpectedly as he stops to help Mag who has been shot in the leg. There is no lead up, and there is no foreshadowing. Once again, Whedon kills off a character tragically with absolutely no time to remorse. Even the dialog afterward (“That’s all of us seal the door behind us.” “What about…” “That’s ALL of us.”) is the same dialog used in Serenity. War is inherently chaos, and Joss understands that in battle, you don’t have time for extended death sequences. Death is sudden.
In the end, while completely frantic in pace, “Epitaph Two” provides the closure for a storyline that never had the chance to truly grow out of it’s infancy. Topher sacrifices himself to prevent more harm to the world, and everyone wakes up from their nightmare, only to find an even bigger nightmare to rebuild. For a show that has spent the last 13 episodes showing the bleakness of everything, it ends on a hopeful note that maybe they can rebuild the world.
It’s been a good run of a series, though I wonder how much better it could have gotten with another season. Originally slated for five seasons, I’m sure we would have gotten much more backstory as to how the fall of humanity actually happened. Ironically, though, I think it’s the fact that the show was canceled which allowed it to finish it’s run on a very strong note. The first season, granted, was almost just a collection of random engagements with no true storyline arc advancement. On the other hand, season 2 has had the opportunity to move the storyline at a breakneck speed, concentrating not on the engagements, but the evolution of Echo and her mission to take down the Rossum Corporation. This last season has been filled with action, drama, and intrigue, something that couldn’t exactly be said about the first.
I’m glad that Whedon had the opportunity to complete a story line he created on his own terms. Somehow, I wonder if Fox felt some guilt over their treatment of Firefly, and the venomous hatred they received from the fans, not completely because of the cancelation, but the cancelation without any answers. Serial shows such as these live on engaging the audience over multiple episodes.
They are novels for the television age, and like a novel, you cannot simply cut out individual chapters and hope they will serve on their own. Great novels, and likewise great serialized shows, take time to develop a story, characters, and interest. ABC took that risk with Lost, and while some might argue it has gone on a bit too long without direction, no one can argue that ABC is committed to not leaving the story unfinished.
While Fox might still have some ire from fans of the Sarah Connor Chronicles and it’s unfinished story, they surely have built some good will back by allowing Whedon to finish his latest television saga.
- The episode begins with a quick flashback to “Epitaph One” scenes, many of which I’m sure will confuse the hell out of any viewer who has never seen it. The episode itself even assumes you have seen it, as it makes no efforts to explain what has been happening.
- How does Mini-Caroline remember and know about the safe house? Did they make a print of her mind a long time after the apocalypse?
- In ten years, both Echo and DeWitt, and even Topher show obvious signs of aging, while Ballard, Pryia, and Victor do not?
- “World still needs heroes kid.” “Wow, did you really just say that?”
- Even Alpha has lost the will to fight, and would rather live in peace with a bunch of empty state dolls in the LA office. There must have been some serious battles and bonding between him and Ballard as you could see the sadness in his face when he learns of his death.
- “Because we’re not freakshows…well ok maybe I am..and Echo…and Tophers a little off” – Alpha
- When was Ballard’s imprint taken? Was it after the fall or was it the imprint from when Alpha destroyed his mind? It seemed like it was a later one.
- What happens in a year? What will they find? What happened to Rossum? Were there any Rossum survivors? Can’t they rebuild the wiping technology again? What will Alpha become?
- While the series ends on a final note, there is still the obvious opportunity for new stories in the form of mini series and movies. What happens in a year, for example? Echo and her team will still have to go around the world to hunt down and destroy the last of the Rossum technology.