Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Review of Dollhouse's 2x13: "Epitaph Two: The Return"

Written by Jed Whedon And Maurissa Tancheroen And Andrew Chambliss
Directed by David Solomon

Mag: “This is worse than the Butchers. At least by a lot.”
Caroline: “It’ll be okay.”
Zone: “You got a plan wonder kid?”
Caroline: “I guess I do.”

I never thought in a million years that a show that’s been so hot and cold for me as a viewer would actually do a series finale this satisfying. Now I wish Joss Whedon could go back six years and give Angel a far better send off than the nihilistic one we got instead. Anyways, back to Dollhouse.

It’s 2019, the apocalypse has been raging on and dolts like Harding get to pick and choose from as many hunky bodies as they possibly can when they’re not getting obese in the one they’ve got. Luckily, there’s also a nice scene where Echo gets to shoot Harding for all the good that it actually achieved.

Harding sensibly pointed out that he can upload himself onto any body he wants, so Echo shooting him every time he finds a new home was going to be futile. Luckily, Echo does have enough sense to break into the lion’s den with Paul in a bid to rescue Topher and if you thought he was broken in “Epitaph One”, then wait until you see him in this one.

I never thought that I’d feel sorry for Topher but the second season more than saw to that one. We saw his moral compass when he tried to help Priya get away from Nolan and his disgust when Adelle turned over his schematics to Harding and this episode brought all of that to fruition.

Topher was literally a shadow of his former self. No confidence, no wise crack, just a completely broken, guilt ridden man who couldn’t bear himself. I absolutely loved how Adelle fought his corner throughout this entire episode. Her maternal concern for him (and that’s what it was – maternal) was one of many effective moments in this episode.

When Topher finally realised that he could free everyone with a pulse bomb, he got down to business. He knew that the bomb would cause his own death but did it no less. The lack of close ups when Topher did the deed probably made his death scene far more effective because of it.

Kudos to Fran Kanz, who in the space of twenty six episodes took Topher a lot further than some actors get to with their characters in twice or three times the amount. Even by Whedon standards, I don’t think anyone would’ve expected that Topher of all people when this show started out would be the man to save the world.

And there was Alpha. Alan Tudyk is a great actor and this is a far better episode for him than “A Love Supreme” but it’s sort of weird seeing Alpha being all heroic. Not because it’s possible for him to go from homicidal maniac to hero but because if he had popped up in more episodes, we’d have at least seen the transition played out.

I’m gonna stop moaning because Alpha was brilliant here. Even as a good guy, he got some excellent dialogue and the little parting gift that he left Echo was certainly unusual to say the very least, though pretty much within character for Alpha as well. At least as a goodie, his fixation on Echo was non-existent as well.

As for Echo, it’s her finale in a way but like some of the best stuff that Joss Whedon has ever done, the strength of this episode was that everyone was important. Echo was important because she was leading a revolution and managed to rescue Caroline, Zone and Mag with Paul as well as taking the fight back to the Dollhouse to aid Topher.

But then there’s her relationship with Paul. I’ve never cared all that much for it but with this episode I actually did. I actually sympathised with Paul’s frustration with Echo not letting him, I felt bad that he died and while I could see it coming a mile off, I totally felt for Echo when she finally let her grief overcome and let rip in front of Priya.

In a weird way, I even found the idea of her imprinting herself with Paul’s wedge (Alpha’s parting gift) not quite as cringe worthy as I feared that it was going to be. I mean she still lost the man that she loved, but it was a surprisingly sweet scene in spite of the strangeness around it and Echo now finally has the chance to be herself in a world without imprints. Victories don’t come sweeter than that.

As for Mag, Zone and Caroline, it made total sense to bring them back. It’s interesting that Caroline didn’t want her original body back and was happy to be a child again but she did talk about starting over and that’s what the pulse bomb gave everyone along with their free will. Plus, it was awfully generous of Zone to take the girl under his wing. That was another thing I didn’t expect.

Mag on the other hand, I actually thought that she was going to be a casualty along with Paul, so I’m glad that she lived. It’s almost a pity that this show had to end because it actually had managed a third season, she would’ve been a character I would’ve loved to have seen in a recurring role.

In terms of Tony and Priya, some interesting conflict there. It made sense that they would have opposing views towards the tech. Priya herself didn’t want to be upgraded any further and Tony felt he needed to if they stood a chance of survival. Them having a child together was one of the things however that didn’t shock me though. At least now they get to be a family.

As for Adelle, it’s strange to think what the future can hold for her. I think that she’ll play a role in trying to help everyone who’s gotten their free will back and because of that, I imagine her and Echo will probably be in each others lives for the foreseeable future. She’s another character who’s really come a long way since “Ghost”

Also in “Epitaph Two: The Return”

Despite a certain press release, Boyd, Claire, Mellie and Dominic did not feature in this episode. It would’ve been nice to have seen them one last time but it does make sense that none of them appeared as well.

Caroline: “Are you?”
Echo: “Thanks for the insight, Mini-Me but you missed the last quarter of this game. We’re not ahead.”

Tony and his pals imprinted themselves with USB ports in their necks. Now that got to hurt a bit.

Paul: “The world still needs heroes, kid.”
Echo: “Did you really just say that?”
Paul: “What? I was being inspirational.”
Echo: “You are so corny.”

Mag: “I don’t know, the little Asian’s kind of cute.”
Zone: “She’s a tech head, Mag. She’s a girl, Mag.”

So, Mag is gay? Wonderful! Now, why couldn’t she have appeared in more episodes?

Priya (re T): “I wanted him brought up away from all that crap in the back of this truck.”
Tony: “You and me both did.”

Echo: “I hate it when you pretend to know me.”
Paul: “It’s not a claim I make. I’ve been knocking ten years. You still won’t let me in.”
Echo: “I’ve let you in a few times.”

Eliza Dushku’s brother, Nate appeared in this episode as Ambrose. He also appeared in the Angel episode “Orpheus” with her as well.

Alpha: “Where’s Big Bad Ballard?”
Echo: “We lost him.”
Alpha: “Man, I’m sorry. When did this happen?”
Tony: “Ten minutes ago.”

Echo (to Priya): “Paul’s dead. And I’m alone, alone. I’m always alone.”

Standout music: Lissie’s “Everywhere I Go”, which was an appropriate choice in music for the series ender.

Adelle: “You’re not coming back.”
Topher: “Small price to pay. I don’t wanna cause any more pain.”

Paul: “Am I? Are we?”
Echo: “You wanted me to let you in.”

Chronology: 2019, like it was at the end of “The Hollow Men”.

“Epitaph Two: The Return” is actually a blisteringly brilliant series finale, far better than I ever hoped it would be and surprisingly positive. While I’m not sad to see this show end, I am thrilled that it went out on such a high note. Joss Whedon, don’t abandon TV.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


Nat said...

This was a great episode and a brilliant send off for the show.
It was great to see Topher as the hero here, he deserved to be after inadvertently causing the hell!

I'm with you Echo (nearly wrote Faith!) and Paul's relationship was the most geunine it had ever been, maybe because it had actually been a relationship for the last 9 years or so. The wedge was a nice, but bittersweet parting gift.

Wasn't that bothered by the Tony/Priya storyline, it felt a little forced for some conflict and their ending felt almost out of place as the only happy one anyone got.

Its a shame some of the other actors didn't get to appear in the finale, but it does make sense within the story.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I was fully certain when I was going to watch the episode, I'd like it but I didn't think I'd love it, nor did I think we'd get a happy ending of sorts either.

The wedge is an interesting thing because it was Echo's way of letting Paul in finally, just not in any conventional way though.

The Tony/Priya thing, I get where you're coming from, so I do agree there.

I do hope that next time Joss Whedon does come up with something that doesnt get canned. Perhaps he should leave FOX at this point.