I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not your ordinary Joss Whedon fan. I saw Serenity for free at a screening in college, only having heard of Firefly in passing. I didn’t watch Firefly until a year or two later, then a year after that, I watched Angel. So it wasn’t until Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Dollhouse that I was actually able to see one of Joss’s creations as it aired.
Despite all that, or maybe because of it, I was probably less skeptical about Dollhouse than most, knowing that I was never a fan of the first seasons of neither Buffy nor Angel. And Dollhouse was certainly no exception. I thought the first episodes were boring one-offs that didn’t leave me invested in the characters, and that Eliza Dushku, while a decent actress, didn’t have the acting chops to carry a show where the premise demands its main stars to have more versatility than most shows on television today.
God, am I glad I stuck it out.
What follows is a slightly spoilery review of the series’s fabled thirteenth episode.
As is the case with many people, I thought the show found its stride with the “Man on the Street” episode, when someone – I don’t know who, but I’d love to thank them- realized that Dollhouse works better as an ensemble piece than as the poorly crafted Eliza Dushku Hour. The show started to build a strongly crafted mythology that engaged the viewer not only in Eliza Dushku’s “Mission of the Week” (thought I have to confess, her stories are often my least favorite of every episode), but in the other dolls and puppeteers of the dollhouse.
I say all of this to say that Epitaph One, while taking place outside of the usual storyline of season one, manages to pull everything together, both answering questions and bringing up new ones in the same vein as Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Restless.
Epitaph One takes place ten years after the end of Dollhouse season one, in a post apocalyptic future in which the dolhouse and the technology contained therein has brought about the end of civilization. It’s a grim future, and the audience is only treated to pieces of the past’s puzzle; stuck viewing bits of what happened through the scope of the memories of several key characters: Adele, Topher, Caroline.
Only time will tell how these pieces of the puzzle come together to form the destroyed world that we glimpse in the episode, or even if some events will come to pass, as Whedon said at Comic Con. People have a way of remembering things falsely and skewing the past. It’s an absolutely brilliant move on the part of Dollhouse’s writers, as they’ve found a way to pique interest without boxing themselves in.
For the casual Dollhouse viewer (which I’d actually be surprised exists), Epitaph One is something that probably should be watched after seeing most of season one. Part of the enjoyment of the episode is seeing what happens to the characters you’ve become invested in.
The episode brings us a new cast of characters (which Whedon says we’ll see again in season two), and while it was a treat to see Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) on another Whedon project, it’s Adair Tishler (Heroes) who steals the show. That is, when Enver Gjokaj isn’t making you forget that there’s anyone else on screen.
Epitaph One builds a brand new mythology, the likes of which I’ve never seen on television before. It’s new, it’s different and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Epitaph One is now available on the Dollhouse Season One DVD and Blu-Ray. You can find it here on Amazon.