Note: I do plan to write a larger post about Dollhouse as a whole now that the series is over, and there’s talk of doing a blogaround with several fembloggers who’ve been watching and writing about Dollhouse. (If you want to be involved, please let me know!) So this is just a discussion of the finale episode, not a grand theory post on how I feel about the show as a whole, although some theory might sneak in.
“Epitaph Two” picked up where “Epitaph One” left off, plunging us into a world 10 years in the future to show us how the tech utilized in the Dollhouse was manipulated. As we saw over the course of the series, the tech was gradually brought to the point where people could be printed remotely, and this plunged the world into chaos as the wealthy took advantage of it and everyone else struggled to survive.
I have to say, I was pretty not-delighted with the intro to this episode, in which we were shown a large man deep in the grip of gluttony, attended by a nubile young woman. It was implied that he changed bodies whenever he fattened up too much so that he could just eat continuously. Which, uhm. Joss.
I don’t think that Joss has the greatest record ever on fat issues, but this was pretty egregious, even for Joss. I think that it was supposed to be an embedded commentary on the greed of the rich but it just came out as ergh. I was also rather erghy about the bit at the end where we saw Felicia Day left alone in a wheelchair in the corner while every other character/person got to be with the people ou loved. Again, really?
I would like to give a tip of the hat to Eliza in this one, because she rocked it. I am not a big fan of her as a general rule, but she really brought it in this episode. It really brought Echo to light for me, and demonstrated that Ms. Dushku really does have some serious potential and it makes me interested to see her next project.
This episode did play with some interesting dichotomies; we saw people in the Resistance responding in different ways to the world they live in. Echo, in a sense, has privilege because of her unique ability to handle multiple imprints at once. Other members of the Resistance have chosen to tech themselves out, and have trouble letting go, while some have gone the opposite way, eschewing tech altogether. The clash here is interesting to examine, especially as we question the role of technology in our lives more and more.
I think that this touched upon one of the central questions of the show, which is: “What does it mean to be human?” At the start of the series, I felt very strongly that the Imprints were not real people. That didn’t necessarily mean that I was ok with what happened to them, but many of my questions around consent and agency centered around the original personalities who inhabited the bodies. Now, I’m not so sure.
We saw the Imprints evolving, changing, learning, and developing over the course of the second season. Making choices. They are, very demonstrably, people. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that they pushed out the people who inhabited their bodies originally, but at the same time, erasing the imprints would have been wrong (in the same way that erasing those original personalities would have been).
I think also that my reading of the show has really been informed by the fact that I’ve spent the last few weeks steeped in Battlestar Galactica, another show which questions the nature of humanity. With BSG, I started out thinking “no, the Cylons aren’t people, they are machines. Clever machines, but machines.” By the end, though, I was accepting and treating them as people, and I think some of that spilled over into my reaction to Dollhouse. Both shows blurred the line between human and machine in a way which was rather delicious and also uncomfortable.
Dollhouse had a lot of potential which I feel like was wasted. The show didn’t really go anywhere for much of the first season, and then raced through the second. As a result, interesting explorations got shoved to the side; I would have liked to see more delving into human trafficking, for example, and there was a lot more to mine in the question of what makes us human. I would have liked to have had more time with the characters and the setting, to see where else Joss could have taken this. I feel like the raced pace forced them to dial in on defeating Rossum because that could be used to tie up the ending neatly, and as a result, there are a lot of stories that didn’t get told.
Laura’s also got a review of “Epitaph Two” up at Adventures of a Young Feminist.