Dollhouse episode 12 review

Billy Grifter is imprinted with the mind of a TV reviewer to complete season one of Dollhouse...

Dollhouse, episode 12

Omega is the final episode of Dollhouse, although apparently the DVD release will contain an extra self-contained story called Epitaph One. This has something to do with the scraping of the original pilot and the commitment for 13 shows on the DVD.

I was curious to discover if this story tries to tie the whole show up with a pink bow, and accept that it won’t get another season, or brazenly represent that this is just the beginning of the Dollhouse story.

In the end the narrative falls somewhere between those two extremes, completing some story arcs and extending others. As an episode I thought what was presented hinted at what an interesting show Dollhouse could have been, had it not been so inconsistent in both tone and content.

At the end of Briar Rose, Alpha imprints Echo with the identity of someone he knows and they leave together, which is where this story starts. Alpha and Echo have abducted a woman and stolen her car, but the personality put into Echo doesn’t seem to be one that Alpha will be able to tolerate long.

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We then jump back three years for them to explain how Alpha went bad, and where the personality in Echo came from. A client pays to be with two actives who think they’re on the run, but the imprint makes Alpha paranoid and he detects there is something wrong about the client and tortures him. Along for the ride is Whiskey, who it is now revealed, was the original active name of Dr. Saunders. I spotted that clue last week, but for those who didn’t catch, it the original Dr. Saunders was a man, killed when Alpha went psycho and disfigured Whiskey. Except later in the story, Dr. Saunders realises this, from something Alpha said to her about ‘did you always want to be a doctor?’. It’s the personality of Whiskey from this previous mission that he’s put into Echo.

Alpha’s descent into insanity starts in very much the way that Victor became fixated on Sierra, except it’s Echo he likes. Whiskey is the most popular active, and he wants Echo to be that, so he attacks her with some pruning scissors.

While they’re trying to fix him in the chair he ends up with multiple imprints (43) written to his mind, giving him multiple personalities.

Back in the present the Dollhouse people soon realise that Alpha has taken all Echo’s imprints and her original Caroline personality with him, and we discover he’s built his own imprint chair in the Alpha lair. Has Topher never heard of off-site backups? It appears not, so no reality award from the computer geek in me.

Meanwhile Ballard has teamed up with Boyd and the Dollhouse to help find Alpha and save Echo, which – given they punched the hell out of each other just minutes earlier – seems a stretch.

Alpha first puts the women they abducted in the chair (‘Wendy’, played by the excellent Ashley Johnson), and then puts Caroline’s personality into that body. The experience of seeing her own body inhabited by another personality is quite shocking for Caroline when she comes to. It doesn’t get any better when Alpha tells her that he’s going to write new personalities to her original body and then she’ll be killed by…err…herself. It’s at this point the show gets a little metaphysical, as dying isn’t death unless there is no backup, if you can follow that.

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He zaps Echo with all her imprints at once, expecting her to kill Wendy/Caroline and rule the world with him. But life is never that simple, is it?

The multi-imprinted Echo sees the world differently, possibly because her original personality wasn’t a potential serial killer, unlike Alpha’s.

The have a big fight and Wendy/Caroline dies when Alpha shoots her. Yet the personality still exists on the ‘wedge’, Dollhouse-speak for a data block on hard drive in Alpha’s possession.

Ballard and Boyd turn up to save Echo, but Ballard ends up saving the wedge while Alpha escapes. Back at the Dollhouse all the backroom deals made to get this resolution are settled. Given what he’d been through to make it happen, you’d think Ballard would get Caroline’s personality put back in Echo, but ‘no’ – his deal to help them was to let one Doll go, and that’s his soulmate November.

Echo is wiped, and returns to sleep in Dollhouse and before she does she says the name ‘Caroline’, showing that she’s not entirely erased. This isn’t exactly a surprise, because at various points in this and previous episodes there is a suggestion that you can’t entirely erase who people are, as proven by the whole Alpha experience.

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So we get some resolution, but no real conclusion. The story stood out because of the acting skills of Alan Tudyk, who sells multi-dimensionally insane for all he’s worth here. It also leaves many characters subtly changed, although the Dollhouse still exists and Echo is still a Doll. We’ll soon know if there was any point in these adjustments when they announce if the series is renewed or not. I can’t actually see it happening, but then given the number of shows that are being culled currently then it might be nice to have some continuity when the schedule returns in the fall.

Check out our review of episode 11 here.