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'Dollhouse' series finale: 'Epitaph Two: Return'

January 30, 2010 |  8:47 am
Paulecho Not enough time. For this storyline, for what we'd seen of these characters and this series, "Dollhouse's" "Epitaph Two: Return" finale episode wrapped things up pretty nice and neat for the most part. Been trying to avoid the possibilities left on the table here: the story lines they could've delved into, the technological and moral quandaries they barely scratched the surface of, the endless opportunities at "guess who's a doll or working for Rossum," the layers there should've been between the team and finding out that Boyd was the shady company man that he was. But there wasn't enough time in this dog-eat-remote ratings world. Eliza Dushku's already given her opinion on some of the reasons it didn't last, and Alan Tudyk gave a few reasons he thought it could've continued. There's not much more to say about it, except to discuss how it ended.

We go back to the near future in 2020. The release of the tech has apparently created a chaotic society with mindless "butchers" running around, pretty much as cannibals. Joss Whedon stalwart Felicia Day as Mag and Zack Ward as Zone find and help imprint a little girl with Echo/Caroline's personality. And off they go to find the real Echo/Caroline and to help save the world. But first, they're captured.

They end up in Neuropolis, the city of minds. Its name is spoken as if it's a myth, but we're never quite sure why. Regardless, it becomes a meeting point as Paul Ballard and Echo/Caroline break in to the place, mounting an assault to free Topher, whom the company is forcing to make more mind-wiping technology. Topher has gotten a little unhinged, because the company kills a person in front of him every time he doesn't do what they say (or does it to its dissatisfaction). That's a lot of deaths to witness over the years, and you could see how it would damage a person's psyche.

Priya But they rescue him, and even while being tortured, Topher has thought up a way to basically erase the erasures and put everyone back into their right mind, so to speak, by setting off a bomb. He begins prep of this plan at the home of Sierra/Priya and Adelle DeWitt, plus their clan of others who keep out the butchers and the rest. Also with them is Sierra/Priya's son, Tony, who looks surprisingly like ...

Victor/Tony. Onetime doll, onetime partner and eternal love of Sierra/Priya, Tony is now a full-time soldier. Tony and his band of soldiers are also tech heads, able to download into themselves whatever they need at the time. It's this ability and his desire to fight that drove him and Sierra/Priya apart. But now he's back, called by Echo/Caroline to help out in this possibly final mission.

Topher needs something in the dollhouse to complete his machine, so the crew goes back into L.A. Victor and his soldiers help lead them in. As someone is injured on their way in, Paul stops to help them. It's the last altruistic thing he does as he's shot in the head. Echo/Caroline sees it, but leaves the body outside, pressing on. Echo/Caroline breaks down later, saying she never told him she loved him. We all knew it, as did he.

Topher A small surprise once in the old dollhouse. Dolls. Blissfully hanging out underground while butchers amass outside for the "dumb-show buffet" as Victor called it -- all due to Alpha. Yep, in 10 years, the murderer mellows and is on the side of good.

Topher creates his bomb, then neglects to mention that it has to be armed manually. He volunteers. It's easy to see that guilt has overwhelmed our fun-loving, brain-scrambling genius -- probably the saddest development of the whole series. He sets it off, and is killed in the blast. Local dolls, and supposedly worldwide, drop to the ground, then come back with their original personalities intact.

And that's the end. Adelle was to lead the few dolls that were  released back to some sort of civilization. A few people stayed underground in the dollhouse, along with those dolls who did not want to lose their memories due to the bomb. Caroline, Priya and Anthony, no longer Echo, Sierra and Victor, will hang out for a year while the effects ripple, helping raise Tony. Caroline will, because of her downloading Paul's imprint, at least have that to keep her company inside. It will be a long time for the character to meditate, but not the viewers. It was a tidy package laid out. Not many loose ends, and anything to come after would be something new. Tough to compare the overall series with the "Epitaph" episodes because they were in two different worlds, more evidence, actually, of the ground that the show may have been able to cover if given a chance.

There are many reasons to miss this show, with the morality versus tech debate and the discovery of these great actors (the new faces of Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz and Enver Gjokaj have got to land some more roles) as the main two for me. Not really a cable advocate or anything, but for Mr. Whedon's next series, try FX or TNT or Syfy or something. Maybe they'll be more patient, because in the end it pays off.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photos: From top, Paul (Tahmoh Penikett) and Caroline (Eliza Dushku) rescue Topher; Priya (Dichen Lachman) and her son, Tony (Brandon Dieter); and a heroic Topher (Fran Kranz) prepares to set off a bomb. Credit: Fox

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