What an ambitious series finale.
Over the course of two uneven seasons, I watched Dollhouse juggle standalone cases, serialized arcs and high-concept science fiction, and while I don’t imagine I’d call this show one of my favorites, it’s certainly the most challenging and ambitious pieces of television I have ever seen. It was a relief, then, to discover that its finale, an appropriately difficult and mythology-heavy episode, goes out with a bang.
Joss Whedon must truly love the apocalypse because he brings it back for the zillionth time in Epitaph Two, but it is truly unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. There’s a depressing tone to the finale at first as we try to catch up with all the characters in 2019 — Sierra is raising a child on her own, Victor is using high-tech to fight butchers, Topher is mentally unstable, Adelle is a mess, and Caroline is still fighting the good fight — but once the entire gang is reunited and they’ve made their way back to the hole they were running away from for years, everything changes.
I’m not only talking about how sincere and honest Alpha seems (but that’s definitely worth mentioning); the show itself switches tones entirely. The dialogue becomes playful (the gang giving Paul a hard time for making a cringe-inducing inspirational speech was hilarious) and the characters suddenly become hopeful. There’s a delightful look on Echo’s face as she makes her way back to the Dollhouse and hears one of the Actives saying “I always try to be my best”, and even though the show ends with so many deaths (RIP, Topher and Paul), there’s a lot of positive energy at the very end. How often can you say that about a Whedon show?
I never thought I could come across a show that was half as thematic as Buffy (or Angel sometimes), but Epitaph Two is crammed with beautiful symmetry and stunning parallels. I love that Alpha leaves Paul’s wedge for Echo on “the chair”; after all, he was the one who stole it and imprinted himself with it just a few episodes ago. In addition, the fact that Echo ends up with both an imprint of herself and Paul is a brilliant way to bookend this character’s journey. She was lonely her whole life and now she will literally always have Paul with her. Superb and heartwarming.
Finally, for me, a show is only as memorable as its very last shot. Luckily, Dollhouse produces what is my second favorite final sequence in television history (after Angel, of course) as Echo (with Paul also inside her head) returns to her Dollhouse pod, only this time she leaves it open, probably for the very first time. The overhead shot as Echo smiles in her bed is a stunning and beautiful symmetry of her new profound freedom – and I couldn’t have possibly imagined it would end any better myself.
– Haunting scene as Mr. Harding has a lineup of male bodies to choose from – and the very last one is Paul.
– Adelle looked like a homeless person throughout this episode. And that makes sense.
– Badass, goosebumps-worthy fight sequence with the freeze-frames on Echo’s flashing light every time she fires her weapon. The powerful, chilling music was oh-so very fitting. What an immensely satisfying scene.
– Gut-wrenching moment between Echo and Sierra as the former breaks down after Paul’s death: “I’m all alone, I’m always alone”.
– I love that Sierra and Victor got their happily ever after with their son. These two really were the heart of this show from the very start.
– You can tell how the show switched from a depressing tale of the apocalypse to an uplifting story when we see strawberries in the garden, the symbols of life and rebirth.
– Zone and Mag (who were also in the unaired Epitaph One) were also great here. Their dynamic gave me The Walking Dead vibes.
– We never got to know what the little girl is really like! I kinda liked her as Caroline.
– Heartwarming moment with Adelle hugging Echo before the pulse.
– Nice symbolism with Victor and his son Tony (named after his dad) burning tech in the campfire.
– It’s fitting that Bennett is the one that helps Topher figure out how to save the world throughout one of her old videos, but it’s sad that we couldn’t see Claire or Boyd again.
– Overall, season two was a stunning improvement over the first one. The fact that a show that was destined to doom from the start with its high-concept, dense mythology ended on such a high note is a towering achievement, and I’m glad I stuck with it for the very end.
Paul: I’ve been knocking ten years. You still won’t let me in.
Echo: I let you in a few times.
Paul: When you were sure we were going to die. What happens if you’re sure we’re going to live?
Paul: (to Echo) I think you’ve got a hundred people living inside your head, and you’re the loneliest person I know.
Echo: That’s kind of sweet.
Paul: Not for the person who’s with you.
Alpha: We’re not freakshows! Well, okay, maybe I am. And Echo. Topher’s a little off. But Adelle, she’s a class act all the way.
Alpha: (about the Dollhouse) It was like this when I bought the place.
Topher: Reflection. Like an echo. Put things back the way they were, minds back the way they were. I can bring back the world.
Adelle: I’m very glad you didn’t clean up.
Alpha: Yeah, it spoke to the schizophrenic in me. Well, both of them actually.
Topher: (to Adelle) I’ll fix what we did to their heads. You fix what we did to the rest of the world. (whispers) Your job is way harder.
Adelle: (to Echo) Alpha said to dismantle all the tech in the building. He said you should start with the chair.
Paul: Am I–Are we…
Echo: You wanted me to let you in.
Paul: You sure you got room? I got a lot of baggage. Childhood stuff.
Echo: We’ll work through it. We’ve got time.