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October 8, 2015

Dollhouse: Epitaph One

by Jason Hughes, posted Jul 26th 2009 3:02PM
Dollhouse - Epitaph One

This episode of Dollhouse never actually aired on Fox, and in fact, it's not going to. I'm not sure why, though, because I thought it was fantastic. Yes, it was a dramatic departure from what had gone before, but despite its unique presentation, it offered some amazing insight into the world of Whedon's Dollhouse, and its future.

"Epitaph One" will be available on the Dollhouse: Season One DVD, available July 28, 2009. It was also screened this past weekend at Comic-Con. Even though I wasn't there, I did manage to get my hands on it, so join me, if you will, for a very spoilery look at the true season finale of Dollhouse.

Fox needed a thirteenth episode for sale to the foreign markets, but they weren't going to pay for one. So they suggested a clip episode. Whedon said he had a better idea, and "Epitaph One" was born. Damn, if he wasn't right. "Epitaph One" shows us how much more Dollhouse can be than those first few episodes. It may just be the most important episode of the series to date.

It begins in a post-apocalyptic future only ten years from now. Using that backdrop for his framing sequence, he offers new clips to fill us in on how we got from the Dollhouse we know to this horrific future so quickly. The sad part is that it's actually reasonable to extrapolate that the imprint technology would be bastardized in this way.

Quick synopsis: It's 2019. The Dollhouse technology is out. It became widespread by wiping and imprinting people through the phone lines, but now China has developed a wave technology that can blanket an area and get everyone.

A war erupted. On one side you have people who want to imprint their own identities onto younger, healthier or just better-looking bodies. This way they can live forever, never mind what happens to the person they wipe. On the other side are the "actuals" who would like to stay themselves, thank you very much.

We follow a small group of "actuals," people who are who they were born as and have not been imprinted. Our intrepid heroes seek refuge deep underground to avoid the penetrating pulse of the Chinese waves, and thus find the Dollhouse. Through the use of a wiped man and later Whiskey, they begin to sequence through the memories/flashbacks from the chair to reveal how all this happened.

Flashback Sequences
  • A fairly generic client meeting with DeWitt; to let the refugees know what the technology was used for.
  • Topher's first day in the Dollhouse, where he says he can improve the imprint process from two hours to about five minutes.
  • We learn that Echo's true personality now remains intact alongside imprinted personalities.
  • Boyd is leaving the Dollhouse injured and in a hurry, and he's apparently developed a romantic relationship with Dr. Saunders, whom he is leaving behind.
  • A Mr. Ambrose tells DeWitt that the Dollhouse is now offering permanent "upgrades" to Doll bodies to select clients. He does so via a file mailed to the Dollhouse and uploaded into Victor. Clients will effectively take over dolls' lives forever.
  • Dominic is back out of the attic with DeWitt. He ran into a businessman outside who was imprinted with a young girl's identity. The technology is now out and wreaking havoc on the world, but we're not sure why it's out of control or why Dominic was brought down. But we are told that Caroline/Echo has the cure.
  • Victor and Sierra appear to be themselves. We see that Sierra has tattooed her real identity on her back. This is to prove to others that she is her true self, a practice still active in 2019. Victor has back-up data drives with all of their identities, including Caroline's.
  • Sequestered in the Dollhouse, DeWitt checks up on Topher who appears to have lost his mind under the weight of guilt and responsibility for the state of the world. It was he who discovered how to transmit imprints over phone lines. You can create an instant army of soldiers; anyone who answers their phone.
  • Echo breaks into the Dollhouse and tells Saunders she needs to back up her own mind before she makes her next move. She needs it there so someone can find it.
Back to the future, Dr. Saunders apparently stayed at the Dollhouse to safeguard this message, though she's reverted back to her doll state, Whiskey. In the course of the episode, it's revealed that the little girl they picked up recently is actually an imprint who kills several of the group in an effort to imprint one of the adult bodies. Instead, they imprint Echo onto her and we leave them headed to "Safe Haven" where Alpha has kept everyone imprint free. Whiskey, meanwhile, stays behind to gas the Dollhouse and kill the imprinted people that have broken in.

There is a rumor going around that since Fox did pick up Dollhouse for a second season, this episode might still air. If the show had been canceled, this would have been a very satisfying conclusion. Whedon says this is the future we're working toward, but the memories we saw may not have been reliable, as memories tend to be.

I don't know if I like it better as an inevitable fate for our cast, or a possible future that they can try and prevent. Of course, that would be more dramatic if anyone in our time knew what they were fighting against, a la Terminator. But I think I'll put my faith in Joss. If nothing else, this one episode has made me about ten times more excited about the possibilities for Dollhouse than the previous twelve.

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I still don't get the whole "army of imprinted" thing...

Seemed a lot like Zombies, and they were killing them without any discretion...

I know it was ambiguous, but I want to know what exactly the wave was imprinting them with...

August 14 2009 at 4:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@jzeitler I saw it as a more mother son relationship between Topher and Dewitt.

love this ep, sounds like a good way to go.

August 07 2009 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just got done watching the ep. and WoW!!! I kinda lost interest in the show overall during the season as it just seemed to be a "case of the week" show, but this episode really blew me away as to what was possible with the concept they had laid out. again WoW!!! I really hope they pick up from this point on.

Found it a bit strange they climbed up when they left Dewitt's office. I guess they could be taking the normal staircase down afterward, just seemed odd to me.

I assume Dewitt and Topher became romantically involved at some point. Which is great, because I loved their interactions when they we're drugged up in one of the early episodes.

Dr. Saunders/Whiskey was super hot all chalky and in a dress vs. lab coat.

So many questions, like wtf is wrong with fox, this is such a game changing episode.

July 29 2009 at 1:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@Jason @Nacho I agree. This episode was the best one, with equal amounts of "Holy Crap!" and "WTF!" Plus, I also trust Joss. This new Dollhouse direction seems awesome.

July 27 2009 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episodes sounds terrible. Reminds me of Dark Angel after the network added more mutants for the 2nd season.

Future global destruction episodes are always dumb(since they never make it to 2019), keep it simple, keep it local and you have a great show.

July 26 2009 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just got finished watching it. It was equal parts "Holy Crap" and "WTF just happened?"

I do think it would have made a better "final" episode if the show would have gotten canceled. Now that there's a 2nd (and potentially 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) season, I maybe don't like the idea that everything turns out that way. I don't really want Dollhouse to turn into a show that just fills in the blanks towards an inevitable finish point. It works for Lost, but Dollhouse, not so much.

July 26 2009 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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