Showing three episodes of anything in one go is a disaster for my tv schedule these days, but I’ve finally managed to catch up with the concluding episodes (including, thanks to Jed, the one my Sky box messed up), so it’s time for the post-Dollhouse post-mortem.
First and best by far was the brilliant episode 11. Exciting, tense, fast and with the mother of all twists. Actually there were two massive twists, which I would not have seen coming in ten seasons, so make that the mother and father of all twists. There was still room amongst the action and the jaw-dropping for a few gems of dialogue, though, with the best lines to be found in Topher’s little speech to Ivy: “You have a remarkable brain. I think it should stay in your head” was funny, “Don’t become me” was heartbreaking.
After episode 11, there was really nowhere to go but down a little bit. While episode 12 was great in parts – who doesn’t love Victor’s Topher imprint? – it did eventually turn into lots of scenes of people confronting or fighting each other in corridors or techy-type rooms. There were some fantastic moments – Adele’s magnificently cool “I’m sure I’ll be far more talkative with my brains splattered all over Topher” for instance – and yes, it was enjoyable, but it also got a tad repetitive. Not to mention there being a total disconnect between the main episode and the coda at the end. I wasn’t quite sure how they followed on from each other and an oblique line in episode 13 didn’t really cut it as an explanation.
Talking of episode 13 aka “Epitaph Two”, then? Hm. Mixed results there too, I’m afraid. Action-packed, and with several punch-the-air highs and hang-your-head lows, as well as a welcome guest star in the shape of ssssh-spoiler, there was plenty to get excited about. But the whole thing took on too much of a Mad Max-ian vibe, with the “Butchers” (very reminiscent of the “Reavers” from Whedon’s “Serenity”) and “Techheads” and whatnot, turning it into one of those odd little post-apocaplytic B-movies they sometimes show on cable channels to fill a quiet slot. The post-technological-revolution B-movies where people eat each other. Ugh.
Thank goodness then for the quieter moments in Epitaph Two, mostly featuring – like the best moments all season – Adele and Topher. If you’d told me at the start of season 1 which two characters I’d end up liking the most, I’d have laughed at you. But the tenderness and sadness between Olivia Williams and the astonishingly good Fran Kranz very nearly broke my heart and when you consider how annoying both characters were back in the day, that’s nothing short of remarkable.
As well as them though, Whedon pulled the last episode together in the last third or so, and suddenly, away from all the posturing and pontificating and ninja-fighting, there was self-sacrifice, redemption, hope and a poignant, elegiac quality to the end of this show which had defied appalling ratings and common sense to make it to a second season at all.
But make it, it did, both intriguing and infuriating me on the way. In the end, there were plenty of weak moments this season, and a fair few in the final three episodes, but it was light years in quality from where Dollhouse started. Away back at the beginning, Jed said that, despite the problems with the first few episodes, there was “something going on there” in amongst the dross, and Jed was right. Goodnight, Echo, I’m glad we made it this far.