Written by Pirata Hermosa
With a show created by Joss Whedon and starring Eliza Dushku as the main character, how could it not be a hit? As Whedon found and comes to admit during the special features section, it takes more than a pretty actress and an overreaching creator to guarantee success.
This is the second television series in a row of his that has failed to take off and be embraced by his fans. There are several issues that make it difficult for audiences to accept, and Joss himself admits that maybe this idea wasn’t a good fit for network television. The subject matter is a little difficult to digest as the “dolls”, as they are called because their memories and personalities have been erased, are reprogrammed most of the times as prostitutes. Echo (Dushku), who is the main character, has no real personality, and what she does have changes from week to week as she is changed into another person. This leaves no real identifiable character for the viewer to bond with. The other characters on the show that have personalities are slimy, morally ambiguous, and are essentially the bad guys.
Season two starts off the same way as the first season and tends to drag along for the first six or seven episodes. But with the knowledge that they barely managed to survive cancellation during season one and were not expecting a renewal after season two, the pace picks up dramatically. At this point Echo becomes self-aware and does not feel the effects of the memory wipes after each of her adventures. Instead, every new personality is remaining in her mind mixing and melding with the others, which ultimately creates her own original personality and allows her to access various skills at will.
Finally everyone can see where the show is heading and have a character that they can relate to. But the problem is that it’s already halfway through the second season and way too late to save something floundering that badly in the ratings.
Once Echo is her own person, she begins to fight back against the dollhouse with the help of Paul (Tamoh Penikett), the former FBI agent who has become obsessed with saving her. But not only do they rebel against the dollhouse, but they manage to convince those running it to join their side and fight the greater evil of the Rossum Corporation who runs all of the world’s dollhouses.
The audience gets to see what happens when a doll is sent to the attic, Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (DichenLachman) have their original personalities returned, a rival dollhouse is infiltrated, a traitor is exposed and the Rossum Corporation is brought down. The last half of season two is definitely worthy of being a part of the Whedonverse, all questions are answered and all loose ends are tied up.
But then, there is the final episode “Epitaph Two: Return,” which is a follow-up to the unaired episode from season one. It is ten years in the future and most of the world’s population have had their minds wiped, leaving them uncontrollable zombie-like creatures. Echo must return to the original dollhouse in order for Topher (Fran Kranz) to get the technology to undo the effects that his creations spawned.
While it’s nice to get a definitive ending for a television show, the leap of ten years is just too jarring to be enjoyable. Everybody’s personalities are completely different and so is the world in which they live. It would have been a more satisfying ending to have finished with the previous episode “The Hollow Men” where Rossum was taken down.
The video quality of the Blu-ray is exceptional and is of the quality of a feature-length film, but the audio is not used to its fullest capability and is only truly tested during the few gun battles in the last couple of episodes where bullets can be heard flying from all directions. The video is in Widescreen 1.78:1 format with a 5.1 DTS-HD master audio.
The special features include the usual commentary on select episodes, deleted scenes, and outtakes. There is also one feature titled “Defining Moments” where Joss Whedon explains his process, thoughts, and development of the show. It’s the most interesting feature because he discusses his mistakes and how the knowledge of cancellation drove the storyline.
The only other major feature is “Looking Back.” It had the potential to be really interesting as the entire cast along with Joss sit around a table having dinner while discussing their characters, storylines, and the creative process. Unfortunately, it comes across rather awkward and bland.
The exclusive 28-page Darkhorse comic that is inside is little more than a pamphlet showing multiple scenes of random individuals answering their cellphones while having their minds wiped causing them to rage out of control and start killing anyone in their path.
While season one drug along at a very slow and awkward pace, it is good to finally see in season two what the real vision of the show was and what it was meant to become. Unfortunately, it just took way too long to arrive at that point. And even though there are six exceptional episodes during the final season, having to wade through all the ones that came before them just doesn’t seem worth it.