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Dollhouse — Episode 1.13 ‘Epitaph One’

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Watch It Here

Yes Yes Yes.  This is how you do it.

I’ve thought before about a show that has two different timelines going at the same time (although maybe this has been done before and I’m just not aware of it); anyway, regardless, this is a brilliant idea for Dollhouse, and vindicates what I’ve been saying all along: that the premise of Dollhouse is not the premise of Dollhouse.  That there was always going to be something more.

This episode is the equivalent to a teaser at the beginning of a novel: it creates anticipation for what is to come, setting us up beautifully for Season 2 (and perhaps even further than that).  We know the apocalypse is coming — now it’s just a matter of when, and we get to see everything that led up to its happening.

Along with the overall structural ramifications of this episode regarding the entire series, the storytelling and all the little details we find out are great too (aside from having the little girl as the ‘killer’ — that’s a bit annoying — but then she becomes Caroline reborn and so we’re forced to like her again — this show is fairly strange in that way, eh?): that ‘remote-wiping’ is weaponized and becomes the downfall of mankind (apparently China launches ‘wipe-bombs’ — hey, anyone wanna bet that this is actually the prelude to Serenity?  Those crazies did act a lot like Reavers, minus the cannibalism . . .); that Echo/Caroline has learned how to ‘live with/beside’ the other personas in her head when she gets printed (this is obviously going to be a major focus of Season 2); that Topher was basically the one who created the whole mess, from his ‘improvements’ to the chair, and a suggestion weaponizing it was his idea in the first place; that Olivia falls out with Rossum over the whole process, thereby becoming a ‘good-guy’ after all.  It’s all great, meaty plot stuff and how it plays out over the next couple of seasons will be great to see.  And once again, simply doing this — setting it up like this — is brilliant.

Little things:

— Did anyone else have to remind themselves that ‘the future’ — 2019 — is only ten years away (9 1/2)?  Their ‘future-speak’ was a little annoying, but, that’s actually how language evolves, and it made perfect sense within the context of the episode, so I got used to it after a few minutes.

— The whole ‘spiritual vs. tech’ thing is actually extremely annoying — that the Dolls, once they become ‘real people’ again, turn to some sort of quasi-Asian pseudo-religion to get them through, and Topher, when he makes his little cave, fills it with writings and trinkets which give off a vague idea of Buddhism.  This is annoying because I’m tired of the notion that’s surfaced in the last twenty or thirty years, that religion/spirituality and science/technology are the antitheis of each other — that you either have to be a sheep-like ‘seeker of the soul,’ looking for ‘the meaning of life’ in ancient spiritual practices or something, or you have to be a naïve atheist who believes that technology will always be used for the greater good and that science is the only thing that will save us from ourselves.  It’s annoying because it’s so facile — there’s never any in-between, any gray area in this debate; and because it’s such a tired trope already; and, because, as Joss is an actual atheist who has spoken out about his stance on religion before, I would’ve expected something a little more vindicating for the ‘science’ side, since in this trope the technology always turns out to be the enemy (the set-up of the Dollverse actually now pretty closely resembles I Am Legend, so you can read more about this topic here).  Although I guess you could argue he’s simply trying to show the argument instead of make the argument, which is fair enough, but, you know . . . maybe as the series goes on, there could be a little something about how the new ‘faith’ they have doesn’t give them any more comfort than the technology.  And, of course, remember, it will ultimatley be the tech which saves them in the end, for the tech holds all the answers they need, so . . . maybe that’s where the vindication will come from.

— The shower scene.  Obvious Hitchcockian overtones, but I have a question: if she hadn’t had a shower ‘in over a year,’ how was it that her armpits were so nicely smooth and shaved?  Ha.

— Is every season going to end with its own Epitaph episode? That would be cool.

And that’s it.  Season 2 can’t come soon enough, though it’s only be 13 episodes again.  Hopefully it really catches on and Fox orders a full 22 for Season 3.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, July 24, 2009 12:47 am

    The shower thing: There’s such a thing as a “whore’s bath” (for lack of a more polite way of putting it) where you quickly wash only what matters. That’s what I figure, anyway…

    I had no idea Joss was an atheist. You learn something new every day. I’m not sure what to make of the religion-y part, but the fact that Priya/Sierra seemed to be really irritated with the whole idea makes me think not everybody follows/believes in whatever has been set up. At the same time, it didn’t seem to me so much as being religious as just something done communally. I have to go back and watch it again, though. I’ll keep you posted.

    As far as Topher goes, I’m going to bank on the idea that he was suffering from Winifred Burkle Syndrome. The mad rambling and writing on walls (and the fact that Topher’s a genius) is very much Fred during her earlier appearances on Angel. The books, I think, are probably Adelle’s doing. Speaking of: Could she have become any more of a mother figure to him in this episode?

    • Friday, July 24, 2009 1:51 am

      Yeah, good point — I forgot to mention the whole Adele/Topher Mommy/Hold Me thing. Another interesting sub-plot to explore in Season 2.

      As for the ‘religon-y’ part — well, you might be right, maybe it wasn’t necessarily meant to have obvious religious overtones, but that was the way I took it. Maybe Joss or someone will comment on it more at some point, or we’ll see the issue further explored later.

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, July 30, 2009 9:27 am

    Did this episode actually go to air? I feel like it was a sort of goodbye for the series. Like, hey if we get cancelled, this is where we were going… Too bad eh? But now that they are going to go through with a second season, it is going to be amazing to see how they integrate this into the whole lore/premise/plan of the show.

    I would love to see now/10 years from now in the same episodes. LOST has sort of been doing that for the last few years. Seasons 1-3 had stuff happening in the present, on the island, with flashbacks to stuff up to 50 years before. Then in Season 4/5 they threw in flash forwards to a few years in the future, as well as continuing flashbacks and present stuff. It was really well used for the season 3 finally, but not so much for the rest of it, in my opinion.

    Can’t wait to see what Season 2 holds – and my Season 1 box set has been shipped, so I’m looking forward to extras!

    • Saturday, August 1, 2009 2:14 pm

      Hey — don’t ruin Lost for me!

      And no, this did not go to air. So far the only legal ways to have viewed it are 1) at the special Comic-Con screening or 2) on DVD. Whether or not it will go to air before Season 2 is, I believe, still up for debate.

      • tgjkennedy permalink
        Thursday, August 13, 2009 10:06 pm

        Sorry! Not really a spoiler… but go watch it. It’s semi-ridiculous but still good. And starting January it’s the last 18 episodes, so you’ll actually get to have all the answers without having to wait YEARS.

  3. SarahP permalink
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 10:30 am

    iTunes Canada has it for download now too. Just watched it. I didn’t really pick up on any coherent religious thing, but then I was interrupted several times while watching, so maybe I missed some lines. I think it would behoove Fox to air this episode just before or as the 1st episode of Season 2.

    • Sunday, August 16, 2009 11:59 pm

      Yes — there is much behoovement.

      But what did you think of the actual episode and the direction the show is taking?

      • SarahP permalink
        Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:05 am

        I was good. I mean, I’m not wildly enthusiastic about it yet, but I remember the first year of Alias being something like that, and I ended up loving it. It would be neat if this tied into Firefly, mostly ’cause I loved Firefly. I felt there was a lack of buildup to the dramatic change in direction; there was a lack of anticipation, and anticipation of change is a large part of the enjoyment.

        I do think, by way of constructive criticism, that the little girl shouldn’t have looked so much like Caroline; I assumed from the first time I saw her she was really Caroline and that she killed the bathing beauty.

        • Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:45 am

          But she only became Caroline after. And I didn’t actually think she looked like Caroline. But I did think she killed Shower Girl.

  4. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 10:04 pm

    I got to see it again recently on my Season 1 DVD. Whoot! I’ll be watching the commentary eventually… but I did watch the original pilot, which was also included and HOLY CRAP it’s the biggest mess I’ve ever seen. Kudos to everyone who suggested they reshoot it. If they hadn’t, I may have sworn of Whedon for good after the first episode.

    Also good news — Season 2 premieres September 25th. So soon!

    • Sunday, August 16, 2009 11:59 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t even bother watching it. I didn’t want to know.

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