2.10 The Attic
One of the greatest challenges that confronts any show is the ‘occasional viewer’. Your core audience, who’ve watched fervently since week one, will understand exactly what’s occurring as they’ve made the journey with the characters. But that person who just watched one or more before, or maybe just came to the show cold, is entirely a different problem. How much show runners care about these people is reflected in how much exposition they get to explain what’s going on, or not, as the case might be.
I mention this in respect of The Attic, on the basis that, if you’ve never tuned into Dollhouse before, or maybe during one of the dumber season one stories, you’ll wonder what the hell is going on here. And, even for those of us who have experienced the highs (and super-lows) of the show, some of it was most odd.
Echo, Victor (now Anthony), Sierra (now Priya) have been banished by Rossum to The dreaded Attic, where they get to each relive their worst nightmare repeatedly, without end. For Echo that’s trying to escape and free them all, for Victor it’s fighting in a war he can’t win and for Sierra it’s having sex with a dead person. Each to their own, I guess.
Soon Echo realises that all she’s experiencing is illusion, but in her dream-state there is something else other than her in there, a deadly assassin intent on killing. It’s while being hunted by this shadowy killer that she runs into a familiar face, infiltrator Laurence Dominic! He’s also fighting the same foe, from within his own mind. If all that sounded complicated, it is.
The way this is explained is that the Attic performs two functions in one: a secure jail for those people and Dolls Rossum considers a threat, but also the minds of those connected are actually the corporate mainframe. The repeating nightmares are actually representations of problem solving that the organic computer is performing. How exactly this allows the consciousness of those connected to roam around isn’t really explained, but Echo and Lawrence eventually join up with Victor and Sierra and turn the tables on the dark assassin.
This is the bit where I slightly lost the plot, because it turns out that the killer isn’t an athletic ebony version of the Oscar statues, but English actor Adam Godley, who plays Dollhouse co-creator Clyde Randolph. He’s been in the Attic since 1993, where he was placed after the other Dollhouse creator turned the tables on him. In a split second everyone seems to forget that he’s been going around killing people in an attempt to destroy the Rossum computer, and they have a cosy chat about how it might be possible to escape from the Attic.
The way, and this was shown in the opening sequence of the story, is that the computer disconnects you once it thinks you’re dead. So Echo must ‘flatline’ to make this happen and then reboot her brain to escape. She does this by dying in the illusionary world, as do Victor and Sierra, whom she must revive when she gets free. Lawrence elects to stay, as does Clyde who is in a distant Attic.
Clyde’s nightmare is a destroyed world, created by the uncontrolled use of Dollhouse technology, as seen in Epitaph One.
What we’re also told is that Caroline, Echo’s original personality, holds key information about Rossum, which is why she ended up a Doll. Although I’m not sure this entirely fits with some of the flashbacks that we got very early in the show.
Echo dies, comes back, saves the day and returns to the Dollhouse, although where the Attic is physically located is glossed over.
When we get back to the Dollhouse the whole nasty-Adelle flip I previously predicted happens, when we discover that Echo was sent to The Attic with the mission of finding out what Rossum’s weakness was, which is the centralised nature of the computer.
In the meanwhile, Topher has got Ballard functional again by making him a Doll, which I incorrectly listed in the previous review as happening in that episode.
The story ends with the Dolls and their handlers now all on the same page, with the objective of taking down Rossum, and Echo tells everyone they only have one missing team member, Caroline.
In retrospect, I’d suggest that The Attic was written as season finale and set-up for the third season. This won’t happen, so a resolution, if any is given, will now happen in the next three stories. They screen in January, so we haven’t long to wait.
I actually thought this was an interesting if slightly obtuse story, and enjoyed that it finally tied up the painful Adelle arc.
I’m now curious to see where they finally take Dollhouse, in the three remaining stories…
Read our review of episode 9 here.