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Saying Goodbye to the Dollhouse

On Friday night, television’s body-swap-show torch was officially passed from Dollhouse to Caprica. (Supernatural also featured a body-swap episode last week, but as a one-off it doesn’t count.)

Joss Whedon had already broken my heart one time too many for me to watch Dollhouse with any sense of trust. But unlike many of my friends—some of whom found the very premise of the show so offensive they vowed never to watch it—I was willing to give it a shot.

So I watched. But I held myself aloof until last weekend, when I found myself watching “Epitaph Two,” the series finale, a second and then a third time. Damn you, Joss! How is it that even your weakest work can get under my skin?

Joss Whedon, Doomed Auteur
And he did it with almost everything stacked against him—from the beginning, when the pilot was scrapped and Dollhouse was assigned to the Friday-night “death slot,” to its cancellation shortly after the beginning of Season 2, up to the very end, when Fox made the ballsy (if bizarre) decision to air the second half of a two-part finale without ever showing part 1. (For a variety of reasons, “Epitaph One” was released on the Season 1 DVD set, iTunes, and Amazon Unbox, but was never broadcast.)

Then again, cancellation may have been what made the end of the series so good. The final episodes had a real sense of urgency. A show about a high-tech whorehouse in which beautiful people’s personalities were reset each week to fulfill rich folks’ fantasies was always going to be a hard sell. But throw in a mega-corporation with an evil plan to use personality-erasing technology to take over the world, and you start to get people’s attention.

In Defense of Eliza Dushku
One criticism of Dollhouse that I never agreed with was that Eliza Dushku wasn’t a good enough actress to pull off Echo’s many roles. It’s true that Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman (as actives Victor/Tony and Sierra/Priya) made much more complete and startling transformations than Dushku ever did. Echo’s persona (which was awfully similar to Dushku’s) shone through each of her personalities. But that was sort of the point. Echo was always Echo, even when she was being someone else.

The Dollhouse: Oz or Wonderland?
Despite its creepifying subject matter, Season 2 gradually became funnier and more playful. “Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland” references appeared throughout. One that sticks in my mind came in the penultimate episode, when Tony and Priya found a note that said "Press Me" on the Chair’s activation button—and, with no more reflection than Alice downing a bottle labeled “Drink Me”—imprinted Tony with what turned out to be Topher’s helpful personality. There were throwaway lines like “I guess there really is no place like home” and references to the Dollhouse as a “rabbit hole.” And the explosion that blew Topher out of a high-rise window looked to me a lot like a cyclone that might just send him somewhere over the rainbow.

Topher, who appeared so heartless at the beginning of the series, was clearly ’s Tin Man. Adelle, who found her own ethical center and the courage to heed it, was its Cowardly Lion. Boyd was the Wizard—the Hollow Man behind the curtain. Echo, of course, was Dorothy. The Scarecrow? Ballard, the one Echo would “miss most of all,” who wound up existing only in Echo’s brain.

Dropping the Body Count
“Epitaph Two” had a surprisingly low body count for a Whedon finale, with only Ballard and Topher getting more or less definitively killed off. Still, the ending wasn’t exactly cheery. It was almost the opposite of the end of Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” in which Buffy saved the world one more time *and* freed herself from the burden of solo Slayerdom. Dollhouse, by contrast, ended with the world in a post-apocalyptic shambles. Worse, Echo’s last act was to jump into her sleeping pod with a serene smile on her face, apparently planning to dream away the rest of her life with Ballard in her head. After all Echo’s insistence that she was a real girl, I found that scene ickier than any role the Dollhouse had forced her to play.

Not that a little ickiness is necessarily a bad thing. Dollhouse was always a disturbing show about the ambiguous nature of identity. A straightforward happy ending would have been a betrayal of its premise. Also, Joss Whedon doesn’t do straightforward happy endings.

So, Joss, where are we going next?

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I am still reeling from the loss of this show. It was amazing and had so far to go. Joss, you are my television golden God.
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I just watched the last episode and realized that the show should have had more time to play the story out. Although I was surprised to see Zack Ward from another short lived fox show "Titus."
Anyway i thought the show was great from the beginning.
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Joss has a problem. He's too good at what he does. He builds incredible characters and amazing worlds, but it takes time for that kind of foundation to set. These days, none of the networks are willing to allow for that, and FOX and the CW are the worst of the lot. If a show isn't a runaway hit in the first couple of weeks, it's on the bubble. If it makes a full season and isn't burning up the ratings, it's probably doomed. If it gets a second season, it's a scheduling ping pong ball. FOX has made a habit of this kind of stuff for a decade or so now. Off the top of my head, I can think of a bunch of examples of shows from the sci fi/fantasy genre: Dark Angel; John Doe; Firefly; Fastlane; Tru Calling; The Sarah Connor Chronicles...now, down comes the 'House, and I'm sure I'm probably forgetting a few. Oh well, if you're not in the majority of their target demographic group, you cease to exist for the networks.
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Dollhouse was amazing and very underrated!

I won't watch Fox anymore!
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I echo (pardon the pun) skeeter. Another good show, cancelled before it's time.



A good watch, with something akin to originality (despite the Wizard of Oz references) and, it seems, more bizarre scheduling by the networkds.
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Another good Fox show canceled before its time.
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so sad, i really liked the show
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@ kok_warlock: Are you sure it had Super Bowl ads? The Super Bowl was on NBC last year, and I doubt Fox dished out 3 million for a 30 second ad for a show they had so little faith in that they put it on Friday, behind another failing show that they sent there to die. It also had Fox's crack team trying to make the show into something it wasn't meant to be, until they decided to "stay out of Whedon's kitchen". Too bad that by the time they decided this, the ratings had dropped to much less than half of where they started. Having seen the original Pilot, I can say it was much better than what aired. And I've little doubt that more of Whedon's fans would have stuck around had he had full control from the start. They also decided not to air the final episode of season 1, which most people called the best of the series, thus far. Oh, and there is nothing wrong with Dushku's acting.
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I won't try to say it was Joss's best work but I loved the idea of dollhouse, and I think second season really made it work because it was cancelled, meaning joss didn't have to do what fox wanted. The original pilot sets up the show so much better than what was aired and fox made him do a new one.
Yes fox did give this more of a chance than some shows, but they also spent the first season trying to make it into what they wanted it to be instead of what it was meant to be

I would really love to see a show that starts where epitaph one did and goes from there, because epitaph one was the episode that really made me realize Joss had something awesome going on
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Like any show from Whedon, Dollhouse had its highs and lows. (Well, Firefly only had one bad episode.) But anyone who has seen the highs understands the show's brilliance. Perhaps not Whedon's greatest effort, but it made me cry and eventually care about the characters more than many shows I see on television.
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@goodridd "Goodbye, poor Dollhouse. You never really stood a chance."

Seriously!? Dollhouse had a ton of chance, hype, and even superbowl ads, the fact is this show sucked, the writing was mediocre, the dialogue flat and unfunny, and to complete it all, Whedon cast a complete uni-dimensional untalented actress to play a very complex, and badly written, character that had a different personality every week. If it was anyone else, other than Joss Whedon that had produced this garbage, it would have been gone after episode 2. This show failure can only be blame on itself.
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I don't mind Eliza Dushku as a supporting actor (like on Buffy) but not as a main one.
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The show was like going into a radio shack. You've got questions, we've got blank stares.
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Goodbye, poor Dollhouse. You never really stood a chance.
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The Epitaph episodes are such teasers. They show us parts of the storylines that seem so awesome but we will never see. I would have loved to see the natural progression of the show as it was intended originally.
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Not satisfied with the ending, left me with too many questions. Could of had a much cleaner and more complete ending...oh well! You live and learn!
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my issue with anything after angel is this every show hes made is about end of the world and what happen before it
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ba
Dollhouse never got me , no interesting stories only chicks and some poor action.
Nope wont miss it
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I am glad that it was able to run it's course. I never had the time to watch it on Friday nights, but it was a great DVR pick me up Saturday mornings. I will miss it.
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Season one was not that good, and I would have ceased to watch without Epitaph one. Season two was good. Enver Gjokajs performance was incredible. Had some of the better episodes of season 2 been in season one, it might have changed the fate of the dollhouse.

While I like Eliza Dushku, I think she wasn't able to pull the show, I mean look at Nathan Fillon. Castle is run of the mill and still great. The show worked better with less focus on her.

Otherwise I don't think if its fair to bash Fox on this. Even with abyssmal ratings(sure, Friday is more or less a death slot) they gave Whedon a second season. While we cannot be sure what was going on behind the scenes, it felt "fair".

Fazit: While I liked the show I would trade it anytime for more Firefly... (Fox will never be forgiven for this)
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Well, it was nice while it lasted.
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Sad to see this show come to an end
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I agree. The show got better because it was cancelled. Had it been successful, the pacing wouldn't have worked. I'm guessing the rationale here was to leave behind a solid DVD package, and I think it may have worked.
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The only mistake Joss made with this show was going with Fox, you think he would've learnt after the masterpiece that was Firefly was cancelled. What I need is a channel dedicated to Joss!
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Great finale, the show just got better and better, if only FOX had given it a fair shot... But hey who am i kidding, it's FOX...
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I think if maybe there was a way to hint at what was to come, more people woud have stayed interested. Like possibly similar to LOST's style but rather than flashbacks, play into the future. But do it from the beginning of the series, not just in the unreleased Epitaph 1. Maybe that would have catered to the folks who disapproved of the premise or morality of it. Meaning the immorality of it all would have it's consequences and we'd know it from the door. So even when Adelle and the others were appearing to walk around so proud of themselves in the beginning of the series, and the services they offered were portrayed as a priviledge, the viewers would have known all along that nothing good will come of all of this.
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I actually thought Dollhouse was a really cool premise and I really liked the show. I'm dissapointed that it didn't last longer but at least they gave the show an appropriate ending.
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I liked the ending, although there are definitely better episodes of the series. I enjoyed the show, even season one. And i do agree that I never thought that Eliza Dushku wasn't a good enough actress either. She's great..and I have the say to both Eliza and Joss that they should break away from Fox..it's not treating you with what you guys deserve.
rip dollhouse
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The show had its moments but was never very good. It never could live up to what Whedon fans wanted it to be. And despite what the author of this post says Dushku was never up to the task of playing Echo. As for Epitaph Two, though it was interesting to watch, if the series had to have a final Fox should have stuck with the unaired Epitaph One as a series ender. It was better put together and highlighted the best parts of the show and that signature Whedon-centric charm. Bring on Dr. Horrible part II.
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Epitaph 2 made me cry. *standing O for the writing team of that ep* also for Joss for bringing us such an interesting, engaging show. i miss Tohpher.
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Hard to see it go. That cast had lots of potential. 4 seasons at least would have been fair. But well... it's done now :S
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I loved the show, to me it was edgie
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