Required Viewing: Dollhouse's "Epitaph One"

By Tim Surette

Sep 21, 2009

Faith is one of those unquantifiable concepts that's dying in today's truth-seeking world, reserved only for deities who routinely perform miracles (or have the right evangelists). For the agnostic television watcher, Joss Whedon is one of the rare figures deserving of faith; once again, he has performed another miracle and should be appearing soon on a piece of burnt toast somewhere in Mexico.

Okay, maybe "miracle" isn't the right word, but salvaging a series that was falling as flat as Dollhouse is at least near-miracle. Something bigger than you or I went into the creation of "Epitaph One," the unaired 13th episode of the show's first season that was shelved due to contractual differences between Fox and Whedon's camp -- and the results have me shouting "Hallelujah!" (Super-slight spoilers ahead, but nothing major.)

After watching "Epitaph One," Dollhouse is no longer about people getting the personalities of sex slaves, undercover cult infiltrators who happen to blind, or backup singers (ugh, hated that episode), so ditch that thought immediately. Dollhouse is now about the end of the world and the end of humanity -- some pretty heavy stuff. Behind all the gratuitous skin and banal engagements we endured during the first chunk of Season One, there is some pretty heady science-fiction in Dollhouse, and we finally get to see it.

"Epitaph One" leaps years into the future -- to 2019 -- and things totally suck. The world is in chaos, humans are attacking each other, and the apocalypse is nigh. The problem? The Rossum Corporation's sweet personality-uploading technology has gotten out of control, and bad guys have used it as the ultimate mind control.

That's the basis of "Epitaph One" (we don't want to give too much away), and it looks more like a missing piece of the Terminator movie franchise than anything else; it's almost unrecognizable as an episode of Dollhouse. In fact, the episode -- initially planned as both a possible season and series finale -- serves as a second pilot and introduces what I hope is a sign of things to come: a twisted mash-up of Scanners and Battlestar Galactica.

But there are more improvements to the series than just the story in "Epitaph One." The episode is much darker in tone (a 12-year-old girl with an automatic rifle? yes!) and a preview of how the series will look from here on out (I believe it was shot on the same budget-cutting HD cameras the cast is psyched to use in Season Two). It's stylistically much different from the first dozen episodes. And that annoying intro song has been axed.

Watching "Epitaph One" isn't mandatory to get into Season Two (you don't even need to have seen all of Season One). It stands on its own but gives those familiar with the show an extra kick. If you're looking to restore your faith in Whedon and his current project, it's a must see.

"Epitaph One" is included on the Dollhouse Season One DVD box set (Blu-ray highly recommended).

Dollhouse returns for Season Two on Friday, September 25, at 9pm on Fox.

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  • RichardMackey Sep 24, 2009

    I liked the intro song :(

  • fatfreeoreos Sep 22, 2009

    Epitaph One is beyond amazing. Great actors, an intense story and beautiful music makes this one of my faves of my beloved show.

  • neomichel Sep 22, 2009

    I have seen Epitaph One, but it was not my favorite episode.

  • dumbsaint Sep 22, 2009

    It may have been my state of mind at the time (having been awake the entire night and morning) but I was floored by Epitaph. Whedon is great, but a third of the first season of Dollhouse was somewhat lacking the high-brow sci-fi I was expecting and hoping. Epitaph One reinvigorated my interest in Dollhouse, though that interest being maintained requires the same level of awesomeness that was Epitaph. If they intersperse the past and future time-lines with continued adroitness, Buffy can go to hell for all I care. Wait, didn't she?

  • netgoddess Sep 22, 2009

    I have to agree with PiperPrueLover4 - the intro song rocks and it actually annoyed me that they didn't play it until the credits rolled. I think it is the best intro song of any TV show I've seen. An annoying intro sequence would be the show Medium, which is a great show but the intro song sucks. I love the post-apocalyptic episode. I was really hoping they would go there. The tech is completely rampant for abuse. On the episode where they interviewed people on the street asking about the tech, I totally thought of how badly it could be abused. Cloning yourself, gaining immortality, trading in your body for a younger model, sex changes, mind controlling the masses to do your bidding, you name it, the tech is scary to say the least and could really be used for bad in the wrong hands without consent of the soul the body was intended for. Not that the tech in the hands of the british lady are the best ones but at least she seems to have a conscience about it.

  • kdtfiles Sep 22, 2009

    I loved Epitaph - it was what I have origninaly expected the show to be, dark, gritty, action packed - not the direction the show had for most of the season. Although the second half was much better than the begining of the season. And now that FOX is staying out of JW's way, maybe the show will get even better (can't see it doing much worse ).

  • SLAMMIN23 Sep 22, 2009

    i did not like episode 13 i didnt even really have any of the actors on the episode much

  • KingofIPirates Sep 22, 2009

    Epitah One was the best episode of Dollhouse and it's unfortunate it wasn't aired along with the rest of the season.

  • VConn Sep 22, 2009

    I loved Epitaph One possibly more than most of the season 1 episodes and I like Joss am a sucker for those apocalyptic future scenarios maybe we'll see more this season - I always wondered what happened once they climbed that ladder.

  • JohnnyDrama8 Sep 22, 2009

    Everyone is saying how awesome Epitaph One is Fox really messed up by not airing that one.

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