For the first time in my life, a Joss Whedon series has fallen short of brilliance.
I’ve been a die-hard fan of Dollhouse since it’s premiere last year. I’ve watched every episode and when I found some of them boring. I stuck through some mediocre acting and confusing plot structure simply because I had faith. I had faith in Whedon and his genius. Now, there were plenty of ground-breaking moments throughout the series which really hooked me (everything about Mellie’s storyline, the revelation that Dr. Saunders is Whiskey, Boyd is the head honcho, etc.), and these moments really did make the show so enjoyable. It had the potential to be another home run from the Whedon camp, but it suffered some horrible viewing numbers and as a result the ending was rushed. Up until “Epitaph 2” the series remained enjoyable albeit rushed. Audiences finally got to see more screen time for Victor and Sienna, Mellie came back for a tragic ending, Amy Acker once again proved why she is the best actress on television, DeWitt made audiences hate her but lover her all over again, Summer Glau had a killer guest spot, and Caroline finally came into her own.
But then something terrible happened. Echo and the gang destroyed Rossum and saved the world…only they didn’t. Turns out we flash forward and find the characters right where we left off in “Epitaph One” (not that this came as a surprise at all). So the major problem with “Epitaph Two” was how, once again, horribly rushed it felt. Never mind the fact that it took me two weeks to get through this boring episode, it still manages to confuse me. Our new characters from the first go around made a return to find sanctuary after being led by the Echo-imprinted little girl. They finally arrive only to find out they need to go back to the original Dollhouse. Why? Something about Topher discovering a way to save the world with technology…so confusing. Meanwhile, Sienna and Victor have a child but are no longer together because he has turned into some other group of “tech-heads.” This was a bit of a stretch since I don’t believe Victor ever would leave her. Wasn’t that the whole point? These two were destined to stay together even in perpetual doll mode. Moving on. After countless gun shots and fight scenes the episode neared an end, but right around the half way point Ballard runs to help an injured Mag and is shot straight in the head. There was no time for grief. Barely even time for shock. In one of Whedon’s worst deaths to date, Ballard was never given the emotional goodbye he deserved (don’t even get me started on Dushku’s lackluster crying performance when she yells at Sienna).
Can we have a moment of silence for Ballard please?…….thank you.
The action continues in the dollhouse with Alpha (surprise!) returning as a good guy this time. Do we need an explanation? No. Of course not. Add it to the list of random plot devices that are confusing as hell. So Topher saves the world by sacrificing himself and all the dolls/insane humans are returned to normal. We end with Echo imprinting herself with Ballard which is supposed to be a heart wrenching uplifting resolution to her loneliness. Now Ballard will always be inside her mind, the one place she never let him in. Excuse me I just vomited. How is this a happy ending? Sure, Caroline has a part of him with her always but it really isn’t satisfying and it should not be enough for Ballard either.
I must say one thing about this finale. It was great to see Topher and DeWitt back to stealing the show. Season one found these two to be the most intriguing characters and season two wrapped up in much the same way. The mother-son relationship developed in the final few episodes really felt emotionally significant. After all these characters have been through and the guilt they feel, it only made sense for them to band together. Topher’s self-sacrifice after his subsequent insanity really was the stand alone gem in this episode. Fran Kranz and Olivia Williams deserve the utmost credit for a job done exceedingly well.
Well Joss, you had me there for a while. I truly believe you would have had me even longer had this series been given more time. But I still love you and I’ll be waiting patiently for your next television endeavor (soon please?!?!).