Dollhouse: The future is dark

KT and Raked take on the unaired episode of Dollhouse, and without intention, actually have different points to make about the stellar episode. Check out KT’s post, and Raked’s is below.

DOLLHOUSE: 1.13 “Epitaph One”

Bear with me. I wrote this entire post last night, only to have it disappear from my drafts. Sigh.

I knew a little about this episode before it aired–that it was in the future in an apocalyptic time. For some reason, I misunderstood the idea of “apocalyptic,” because I thought it was more of a wartime area of the world and less widespread. Boy, was I wrong.

Imprinting has caused a war in the world, and we have our very own Felicia Day trying to find a safe haven. As much as I was looking forward to seeing Felicia Day in this episode, I can’t say she was the standout actor in the episode. That honor gets split between Amy Acker and Fran Kranz, for the reasons I’m about to say below.

It’s amazing what Joss Whedon does to Amy Acker. We all saw her transformation in Angel, playing basically the polar opposite of the role she was originally cast. Here again she’s playing two roles: Dr. Claire Saunders and Whiskey. And really, she was brilliant.

Haunting. So haunting. I mean, just imagine that to save herself–and any others that came by–she gave up her sanity to become Whiskey. Knowing that she would actually have lost her sanity long ago, she gave up the only person (well, imprint) that she’s ever known. And even Whiskey seemed scarred by the loneliness. The way she stood by herself in that room. The hollowness in her eyes. She’d been beaten down.

And the end. Somehow, Amy Acker can be so haunting and beautiful at the same time. When she gassed the Dollhouse, then just sat there to watch and let herself die, too. I mean, that one last image was just so beautiful. But the sadness that came with that image was almost tangible.

But what about Fran Kranz? If you know my Dollhouse posts, you know that while I enjoy Topher, I don’t necessarily think all that much of him. I mean, he’s fine.  He’s the humor of the show, of course. So far, we haven’t seen all that much else of him.

Until this episode. Man, when he is in his bunker, of sorts. The craziness he showed–regressing to a childlike state. It was heartbreaking. And sadly, even then, he couldn’t turn his mind off. It continued on as he circled round and round and realized that you could imprint the masses–quicker, faster, more efficiently! As his mind revealed more and more that the technology could do…and then he realized the cause of the world today, and how he played a part of it. It was intense and heartbreaking. It was an amazing scene. And to see that Adelle even had a reaction to it–she with the coldest heart of all–you couldn’t imagine what they must have gone through for her to change so drastically.

[Read more after the jump!]

Really, this scene alone is the brilliance of the episode. I guess the question remains (and to be honest, this was asked to me by a frequent commenter), can this be canon? If it wasn’t aired, is it still part of the series?

Well, it’s Joss Whedon. No one can say he doesn’t purposely write episodes for the future of a series. I mean, he counted down the number of days until Dawn was first introduced to Buffy in mid-season three. Some would call that crazy. But it’s successful.

It would have to be the haunting reality of what they’re starting. There’s always been a fuzzy grey line in the morality of what they’re doing. And now we know what would happen. Not what could happen, but what will. This wasn’t some vision that could be stopped. No one in this future can tell the past participants what will happen.

I wonder what this will mean for the upcoming seasons. I’m curious–and frightened–to see.


15 thoughts on “Dollhouse: The future is dark

  1. Pingback: Dollhouse: Keeping our own voices « Raked

  2. My vote is that we consider it canon. I mean, it was meant to be aired, and I understand that in other parts of the world it was aired as part of season 1.

    Of course, that still leaves the usual time travel question (despite not being a time travel story) of whether we’ve seen something that is bound to happen or only one possible course of events.

    Amy Acker is fabulous. I’m with you on Whiskey’s last scene — you can see her position herself and then slump down just a little bit more as the gas hits her. Sad and amazing and brilliant.

    Ditto Fran Kranz. Next time you watch this one, look at him during Victor’s seafood scene. Topher doesn’t say much, but his face speaks volumes. You can almost see him retreating into himself — that this is where the crazy comes from. You can tell where Adelle’s going in that scene, too. She’s icy cold because she has to be, but she’s also been tagged as the idealist more than once — no way is she up for selling the actives. (And especially not Victor.)

  3. I’d agree that we should count it as canon. But you know, I was thinking: This could have easily been a series finale if this show wasn’t picked up. Perhaps since there was a question of a pickup, by not airing it, it’s not like it was signing off the series AND gave people more reason to buy the DVD set. Kinda smart if you think about it.

    And I’ll definitely keep an eye out on Topher for the Victor scene. Here’s something I didn’t keep an eye out for. Did Victor have any scars? He obviously would after the season finale. If he was scarless for that conversation, do you think that was in the past? And if it wasn’t, it must be coming up soon, if they’ve only got these dolls for five-year commitments, you know?

    Oh, but here’s something neither of us asked: What do we think happened to November???

  4. I’d love to see each subsequent season of Dollhouse finish with an Epitaph episode. So as we get to see the build up and the break down of this series of events. Gotta say, though, it was a little heartbreaking to see where these characters end up. I mean, at best, everything up until this episode is an episode closer to Topher losing it. Sad.

  5. And Whiskey’s sacrifice. And… well, we can’t say for certain that anybody got a happy ending, I guess.

    I was thinking along the same lines — having an Epitaph episode at the end of each season would be very nifty. Surely it’s called “Epitaph One” for a reason?

    Raked, I didn’t notice scars on Victor at any point in this episode, but I’m not sure what that implies about the timeline, since Claire’s scars disappeared at a certain point, too and all we know about that is that she told Caroline, “It’s a long story.”

  6. Claire’s scars disappeared? I didn’t remember that interaction with Caroline, but thanks for clarifying.

    CS, ooh, that’d be interesting to see how every season would end with something dark like this. I love how we’ve discovered that clearly this grey area will turn blacker and blacker. I really look forward to seeing how they start turning it in this direction–or has it already started?

    Maybe Dominic isn’t the bad guy we thought, too?

  7. No, I don’t think Dominic’s a bad guy. Despite his repeated efforts to do in Echo and the reveal that he was a spy, he was trying to keep the imprinting technology under control, wasn’t he? He thought he was doing good. Adelle thinks she’s doing good by sending the actives on altruistic missions. Almost everyone’s gray in this series… it’s just a matter of how dark a gray.

    Look for Claire’s chat with Caroline as the former stitches up the latter after Caroline and Paul break back into the Dollhouse. And I’m pretty sure 2019 Whiskey had no scars, either.

  8. Now that I think about it, Whiskey didn’t have any scars, I don’t think, but I do know that at some point, Dr. Saunders DID, because I noticed them. (Though to be honest, my eyes are so bad when I’m tired and watching TV that sometimes I miss them anyway!)

  9. As for Dominick, he’s definitely been grey, but I feel like this ep revealed him as much more white than we thought. As much as we as viewers don’t know whether the Dollhouse is good or bad (up to this point), I feel like we’re positioned to be pro-Dollhouse. We don’t want Echo killed. We didn’t necessarily want Ballard to pull the entire house down, even if we wanted him to save Caroline. We’re supporters of Topher, even though really, he’s doing the dirty work (more than we really thought before now that we’ve seen what happens). There’s something that made us root for these characters a little more than wanting the man behind the curtain to be revealed to the whole world.

    When he revealed himself to be a mole, he was considered a “bad guy.” I don’t think any viewer really said, “But wait, what he’s doing might be helping!” We might have questioned it, but we certainly didn’t fight him going to the attic.

    Now, I think we might.

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