Ah Dollhouse, how quickly you came and went. It’s unfortunate really, because halfway through its second season, Dollhouse finally tapped into its potential and morphed into the fantastic sci-fi show it was always meant to be. And thankfully, the thriller got to end on its own terms (unlike Dark Angel for example) with a tremendously satisfying ending. In fact, Dollhouse’s final hour is one of my favorite series finales ever produced, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
I think we were all rooting for Eliza Dushku to succeed. As a huge Faith fan (see Buffy The Vampire Slayer), I really wanted Eliza to have a kickass show. Tru Calling had potential, but by the time it fulfilled it, the show got cancelled (an eerily-similar fate to Dollhouse right down to the episode number). As much as I hate to admit it, Dushku was miscast in Dollhouse. The show proved that she didn’t always have the necessary range that the role of Echo required. However, Eliza improved with every episode, and by the end of the second season (with Echo fully self-aware), I really started to love her as an action heroine.
The show’s debut season suffered from the terrible influx of standalone hours mandated by the FOX network (Stage Fright being one of the worst episodes of television I’ve ever seen). After all, the premise itself required a serialized core, and these episodes made it very difficult to get attached to the show. To top it all off, there was an inherent flaw within the premise; why hire actives for tasks that professionals could do so much better? Nevertheless, Echo’s slow and gradual self awareness kept me coming back for more (the show employed some excellent cliffhangers) and the premise was always brimming with potential. The finale however was a grave letdown.
Favorite Episode – Man On The Street
Expanding the conspiracy significantly, this was a marvelous game-changer which proved that the show’s mythology was worth sticking around for.
Although season two started out on a weak note and comprised much of the same standalone crap that overpowered the first season, it eventually became riveting television (particularly around the time FOX cancelled the show). Self-aware Echo became an amazing protagonist, and the show’s supporting cast flourished with a ton of compelling subplots (Sierra’s tragic backstory comes to mind). Furthermore, the Boyd twist proved to be especially mindblowing, although I have no idea how well it holds up against a rewatch.
Favorite Episode – Epitaph Two: The Return
A superb finale that was everything I could have asked for while providing genuine closure. The final scene of the show (and we all know how important that is for me) was just chillingly beautiful with Echo, the pod, and Ballard in her mind. Stunningly perfect.
Ultimately, while Dollhouse had quite a few missteps throughout its run, I’m glad I went along for the ride. It will probably always be considered as Joss Whedon’s failure (God knows it can’t compare with the likes of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly), but I think it was an experiment worth trying. Here’s hoping Eliza’s third TV show is her lucky charm…
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