Saturday, May 9, 2009

"I know who I am."

It seems like the consensus around Omega, the penultimate-but-last-to-air episode of Dollhouse, is that it wasn't quite as good as last week's stellar outing. I'd agree, but I'd like to see the parts of this episode that were left on the cutting room floor before making a final decision.

Spoilers ahoy.

From last week's cliffhanger, everyone's running around like chickens with their minds wiped. It only takes DeWitt, Boyd, Ballard, Topher and Whiskey/Saunders to put together Alpha's whole scheme, but by then Echo's gone, and all the data wedges containing her previous imprints, including her original Caroline persona.

The plot threads play out, with flashbacks showing how Alpha changed from being just another doll to letting threads of his original personality slip through – something we've seen all season with Echo, and even with Victor.

Boyd and Ballard wind up teaming up, buddy-cop style, to hunt down Alpha. Dr. Saunders finds proof that she's a doll, and we see that her face was carved up even before Alpha went totally batshit. (About five minutes before, but still.)

Alpha pours more than 30 personalities into Echo's mind using his homebrew imprinting chair, and she promptly (and not particularly surprisingly) beans him in the head with a pipe. Alpha, it turns out, was a psycho on his way to serial killer status before he ever became a doll, while we know that Echo/Caroline has deep reserves of empathy and personal strength. She tries to save the hapless waitress Alpha's kidnapped and loaded up with Caroline's mind. She fails, but between her efforts and those of Ballard, she does save her original Caroline wedge. Alpha scampers like a bunny.

Of course, there was also that plot thread in which November and Sierra were made into badass bounty hunters to help chase down Alpha, too. And they just... what? Went for coffee instead? We never see them after they're imprinted.

That's the main problem with this episode. There's at least five minutes, maybe more, that didn't make it onto the screen, and I think that contributes to the anticlimactic nature of the ending. There's no final throwdown with Alpha; he simply disappears after dropping the Caroline wedge. I suspect the edits are also partly responsible for the suddenness with which Ballard finds himself working at the Dollhouse as a contractor to track down Alpha. His turnabout on Mellie/November doesn't seem warranted based on what we saw.

Criticism aside (please, please, Fox, release an extended version of this on the DVDs!) there's a lot to like about this episode. Among other things, we see three different reactions to a doll realizing its true nature. Alpha becomes an egomaniac. Echo just feels empty, despite having so many personalities to choose from, and rejects the artifice of her personas. Whiskey/Saunders reacts partly with despair, and partly with a strange acceptance. I think that last is the most interesting. Saunders as Saunders knows that the dolls are often fleeing something horrible. She must know that she is there for some similar reason. Does she think that being Saunders, a good person and a healer, is preferable to the alternatives? Or is she just broken down?

Plenty of fodder for the next season. Now let's just hope we get there.

ETA: It's just before midnight Pacific time, and the Dollhouse DVD is number 18 and climbing on Amazon's bestsellers list. Not too shabby. A few tens of thousands of sales might be the only thing now to convince Fox not the axe the show.

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