Required Viewing: Dollhouse's "Epitaph One"

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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I liked the intro song :(
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Epitaph One is beyond amazing. Great actors, an intense story and beautiful music makes this one of my faves of my beloved show.
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I have seen Epitaph One, but it was not my favorite episode.
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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?
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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.
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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 ).
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i did not like episode 13 i didnt even really have any of the actors on the episode much
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Epitah One was the best episode of Dollhouse and it's unfortunate it wasn't aired along with the rest of the season.
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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.
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Everyone is saying how awesome Epitaph One is Fox really messed up by not airing that one.
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I've seen Epitaph One and I agree, it's pretty ambitious. However, I think the original Pilot was sooooo much better than what aired that it's a shame. The first 5 or 6 epis were kinda so-so, but then it really picked up from there IMO. I'm glad it's been renewed. That might be the network's mea culpa for interfering with the Pilot (and Firefly). I'm certainly looking forward to the premiere and the rest of the season, because let's face it - Whedon rocks!
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Totally agree with you there, PiperPrueLover4. The opening theme song rocked! :D

Aah and I CANNOT WAIT for season 2! I loved every episode of the first season, I loved Epitaph One, I loved it all! Dollhouse=genius. Joss Whedon, keep on rocking!
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Love the article, but the opening theme song to Dollhouse is NOT annoying, it's awesome.
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add a commenti think it is an amazing season so far and yae great story lines but the episode 13 was the best it made everyone want more and left u hanging and interested and that is what people want please carry it on as i love all the actors'actresses and would very much like 2 no more about the dollhouse as a story line dn't leave us on a cliff hanger!!!!!!!1
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Umm, isn't the Terminator franchise about the end of the world and the end of humanity? So Dollhouse is now leaning toward a poor-mans Terminator The Sarah Conner Chronicles? Geez, just thinking about it gets me going about the cancellation of TTSCC.
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Dollhouse is good please keep it up on tv for more than 2 seasons (If season 1 was down and they gave so many turns until deciding for a Season 2 please keep it at least 4-5 seasons)



XO XO



:):):):)
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I hope that Epitaph One is a premise of what we can expect for the 2nd season cause this episode made Dollhouse much more darker and more of a joy to watch then all the other episodes wich were good, but not as good as episode 13.

I want more.
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Epitaph One episode was great! Hope to see more great episodes like that in season 2!
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We obviously have completely different reactions to Dollhouse! I rented "Epitaph One" and found it to be incredibly boring and of little significance to the ho-hum first season. While Dollhouse ended stronger than it started, "Epitaph One" featured very little of the characters we finally grew interest in; which I felt was one of the biggest challenges that faced Dollhouse to begin with. While the concept seemed promising before the show's debut, having Echo and company be completely different people each episode created a challenging set of circumstances for the audience to get to know the "actives".



If you liked the show, just look forward to the season two premiere. There's nothing relevant in "Epitaph One" to the essence of Dollhouse, and while acting as a way to wrap the series if cancelled, only brief glimpses of Whiskey and Topher are of interest in the episode.



(Strangely the cult episode "True Believer" was my favourite until "Briar Rose" and "Omega". But I will agree with one statement Tim, the theme song was/is terrible!)
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