Typing Faster

July 26, 2009

Finale, Reboot or Gamechanger: Dollhouse Epitaph One

Filed under: Craft, Stuff I Like — petertypingfaster @ 8:00 am

So I’ve already gone on record saying I’m not a fan of Dollhouse. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to say that I hate the show on more than one occasion.

Why do I dislike the show so much?

I didn’t think that they did enough with the premise to elevate it beyond the run-of-the-mill “prostitute of the week” story.

I couldn’t empathize with any of the core cast of characters. DeWitt’s essentially a pimp, Topher her willing accomplice (something which makes his status as the shows ‘comedic relief’ even more repugnant). Ballard is flat out boring, a little too monomaniacal to be interesting, and I can’t get behind Echo because she’s a different person every damn week.

Speaking of Echo, that brings me to the fact that Eliza Dushku CAN NOT ACT. At all. Period. End of discussion. She’s the anchor around the shows’ neck. If only Enver Gjokaj were the lead maybe we’d have something!

Lastly we have the plausibility issues. Normally I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for practically anything, but Dollhouse just pushes my buttons. Practically every episode involved something going wrong with the imprinting process, or with the background checks they ran on the Dollhouse’s clients. I’m sorry, but for such a technically advanced organization, these people are frighteningly incompetent. The incompetence of the Dollhouse sapped a lot of the dramatic potential right out of the series. Of course the heroes are going to win! They’re going up against idiotic morons!

Anyways, long story short, I thought that while Dollhouse had an interesting premise, it fell far, far short of a successful television show.

And then tonight I watched Epitaph One, the unaired 14th episode that will be included on as a DVD bonus feature.

It. Was. Awesome.

Truly made of win, and largely because it dodged all of the pitfalls that made me hate the show in the first place.

It wasn’t a prostitute of the week story.

Topher and DeWitt actually had moments of moral outrage. I actually felt pityfor them, which amazes me because I find them both to be such loathsome characters.

Eliza Dushku was barely in it, with the spotlight instead turned over to the wonderful Felicia Day, Zack Ward and Adair Tishler (who at 13 years old makes a better Caroline than Eliza Dushku).

Finally we had an interesting take on the imprinting process, where instead of the episode hinging on the process screwing up, instead they’re used as a trail of bread crumbs that our heroes follow to safety.

It’s a great hour of television, but I’m curious as to what it means for the second season.

Epitaph One is undoubtedly a game changer, and when you think of it as a series finale (it was shot when a second season pick up seemed far from likely), it makes a world of sense. Given a new season starting in a few months, it makes less sense.

It could work as a series reboot, but it’s a drastic, drastic change to the show’s template. Epitaph One jumps ahead ten years to 2019, and shows us a post-apocalyptic world in which the Dollhouse’s imprinting technology has run rampant. Frankly I think that this show would be way more interesting than the current version of Dollhouse, but for a bubble show it seems like way too big a change to make. Just think of the budget a post-apocalyptic show would take to shoot!

Epitaph One probably won’t reboot the series, but I do think that Joss and co. will use it to shift the show’s current trajectory a bit. By giving the audience a peak at the future, it lends a whole new element of tension to the proceedings (this is what they’re up against). The glimpses we catch of Topher and DeWitt also serve to soften our perceptions of those characters a bit.

And the fact that Epitaph One opened things up, got us away from Echo, and showed that Dollhouse can tell an exciting story without futuristic mind-wipe hookers, is fabulous. Hopefully they’ll do more of that.

Joss Whedon’s already said that we’ll be seeing Felicia Day and Zack Ward in season two, so I’m hoping it signifies a change for the best!

For more spoilery, in-depth reviews of Epitaph One check out Mo Ryan’s thoughts, as well as Alan Sepinwall’s.



  1. I haven’t seen Epitaph One yet, but I agree with your comments on why Dollhouse season one struggled — especially about Eliza Dushku. Joss’s crush on her will be his Kryptonite (if it isn’t already).

    Comment by Tommy — July 26, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  2. Having seen both the original pilot “Echo” and “Epitaph One” together as a sort of microseason apart from the episodes aired, the 1st season seems to be a textbook example of network notes in action.

    Comment by greennogo — July 26, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

    • I haven’t seen the unaired pilot yet, but I don’t doubt that network notes played a role in what wound up on screen. I’m not willing to lay all the blame at the network’s door though, since I think a lot of the shows flaws are inherent to the concept.

      Comment by petertypingfaster — July 26, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

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