Joss Whedon's Dollhouse has closed for good, moving from a mediocre-at-best Eliza Dushku variety show to a slow-plotted and intriguing drama, to an absolute whirlwind of OMG moments hurtling towards an apocalypse. Watching the final wrap-up episodes, I was intrigued and increasingly drawn in, glad to be rid of the boring and flat assignments and into the intricacies of the Dollhouse system, Enver Gjokaj showing Dushku how an actor truly morphs, and an all-too-brief taste of Ray Wise.
And then came "Epitaph 2: Return," an episode that was rife with deja vu. It's a shame Whedon and Co. didn't use that final episode's 40 minutes to give the whirlwind plot path a little more room to play out -- ease the last episodes' rush a little. Instead, we got Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Chosen," plus a few other Slayer perks, done Dollhouse-style.
Did you notice the myriad of connections? First, it seemed a little familiar. Then it seemed a bit repetitive but understandable when considering the rush to wrap up the story. But by the end, it might as well have been Buffy.
At first, it's fairly different. Dollhouse opens with Zone, mini-Caroline, and Mag running from Butchers, then getting kidnapped and detained -- luckily for them, they're brought right to the real Caroline as she and Ballard lay the smackdown. Caroline kills the gluttonous baddie Mr. Ambrose, but it doesn't matter much -- Ambrose has tons of copies of himself, and this body is part of a bigger, more sinister whole. (Caleb and The First, anyone?)
Enter Topher, a much weaker version of Season 7 Spike. His condition continues to decrease as he just can't live with the guilt over his past deeds. Where Spike spent the last Buffy season figuring out how to live with his soul, and finally finding some semblance of sanity, Topher doesn't have any vampy superpower to help him through the guilt. All he can do is try to right his disastrous wrongs. (Not to mention the fact that he had to be rescued from Ambrose, much like Spike had to be rescued from The First.)
After a brief bit of peace at Safe Haven, the big news hits: They must abandon their home and return to the Dollhouse, to where it all started. There, Topher thinks he can build something to "bring back the world" -- a techy scythe to help the fight. As the Scoobies once had their last night of "normalcy" before heading back to the high school and the Hellmouth where it all started, the dolls and friends have a last dinner before returning to the source of the evil. But they need some toughies with "tech" to help them. Instead of an amulet sent to a vampire champion, the group receives Anthony and his usb-tough tech crew.
Echo and Ballard flirt superficially, and he notes that she's the loneliest person. He wonders if she will let him in when all is said and done. In other words, when her cookie dough is finally cooked, will he have a chance with her like Angel might have with Buffy some time in the future when the fighting ebbs? Or, will they continue to dance and flirt without ever truly being together?
In Los Angeles, the fighting begins. Much like Anya is slashed by a Bringer, Ballard is shockingly shot and killed. But he's not the core Doll group, so in the Whedonverse, he's expendable. Back in the Dollhouse, there are lots of wiped people walking around, thanks to Alpha. The uber-evil killer is now good, an ally, the good and bad forces battling inside him like Angel, the soul battling the demon inside.
Unlike Buffy, Echo never told her man how she felt before he died (even if Buffy didn't really mean it), so soon after arriving at home base, she has a brief meltdown. Topher finishes his world-saving device, and he must set it off himself. But rather than getting a jolt of blonde-haired good magic, he will die. Like Spike, he wants to atone for his past wrongdoings and is willing to end his life in the process. Remember, as Dawn said, "The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it," so Adelle will have the harder job ultimately, Topher thinks.
The bomb is set off, which clicks the masses "on," or rather back to their real selves, much like the scythe gave all slayers their inherent powers. Meanwhile, the core Scooby Dolls are together and alive, with an added bonus -- there's an imprint of Ballard for Echo to include in her multiple-personality head, just like Spike lives on through the medallion.
Joss had an immense amount to wrap up with Dollhouse, and not a lot of time to be original. But this episode does nothing to battle the critiques that Joss is in a rut.
Given the choice between the final episodes moving along at a slightly slower pace, or getting a final, unoriginal conclusion that's a retread of Buffy? I'd take the former. How about you? Did you notice the rampant similarities?