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So I'm a little pissed at you, Mr Whedon. Sure, some people grasped that Dollhouse wasn't really about Ballard's quest to free Echo, but rather the threat that technology poses to humanity, both literally and figuratively, but it only really hit home for me this week - In the fricking finale! This was easily the best episode of the season, why did it have to come at the end when I - and pretty much everyone else - had already pretty much written off the series? Now you've left us with so many cliffhangers and teasers that I'm dying for another season that almost certainly won't happen!
You're a bastard, Joss Whedon.
Okay okay... recap. Let's see...
We pick up with Alpha and Echo pretty much where we left off, still doing their Natural Born Killers impression, but they've done some shopping to pick up some clothes for Echo and a hostage. Echo keeps talking about the "past" that they share, implying that the implant that Alpha has given Echo and the one he is accessing are a pair. He plays along for a bit, but then starts having a breakdown where other implants/personalities try to assert themselves.
Which seems to be a good time for a flashback. The exposition fairy possesses a couple of handlers and Adelle to let us know that two Actives have gone out of their parameters. We then cut to Alpha torturing some poor sap who apparently paid for this as part of a fantasy (sick bastard) while we see Alpha's "girlfriend" in silhouette as she dances in the headlights of a car. We're led to assume that this is Echo, and I totally bought into it, but when Alpha calls her over, we find out that this is Dr. Fred, aka Whiskey! I know I heard Dominic mention the name Whiskey last week, but I assumed he was looking for a drink.
The handlers show up before any real damage is done and we next find Alpha and Whiskey being cared for by the prior Dr. Saunders, who is an old man. While Alpha is getting a massage, Caroline is receiving her tour before being turned into Echo and Alpha is instantly intrigued. By this point, he's obviously started to gain awareness. Over time, Alpha continually shows interest in Echo. It's repeatedly mentioned in passing that Whiskey is the number one, most requested Active until Alpha attacks her with scissors, giving her the scars on her face that I assumed she received during Alpha's escape.
Alpha, of course, is dragged upstairs for a treatment. Dewitt tells Topher to run Alpha through all of his prior imprints to figure out which triggered his attack and then send him to the Attic. Just as Topher's about to begin, Alpha attacks the people holding him and - somewhere in the confusion - all 48 prior implants are downloaded into Alpha. When Dr. Saunders leans over to examine Alpha, Alpha pokes both of the doctors eyes out with his thumb, making him the first casualty of the night. Sometime during his escape, Alpha also destroys all of his wedges, including the one with his original personality, preventing the Dollhouse from using them to track him.
So, we now know how Alpha became who he is and who the current Dr. Saunders really is. This was some really nice work on the part of Mutant Enemy. Something always seemed off about Dr. Fred, but I just figured she had moral issues with the Dollhouse in general. I also always assumed that Dr. Fred got her scars during Alpha's escape, and M.E. totally let us believe it for the impact here. Nice work, peoples.
But we're not done finding out about Alpha's past yet. Realizing the danger and wanting to save Echo, Ballard agrees to help Dewitt, Langton, and Topher hunt down Alpha. After establishing that Alpha's initial target (barring the people who were in his way) before escaping was his collection of wedges, Ballard begins digging at who Alpha was before he became an active. Begrudgingly, Adelle gives Ballard Alpha's file. It seems that the Dollhouse's first subjects were criminals given the choice of lengthy jail time or five years as a Doll. Alpha had kidnapped and tortured a woman before she escaped. Adelle insists that he hadn't actually killed anyone at that point, but Ballard brushes her off by pointing out that it's only because the woman escaped.
On a side note, Adelle indicates that the practice of using criminals has been discontinued, but it's been implied that November was wanted on numerous charges a few episodes ago. It's also been implied that Caroline/Echo was running from some serious problems, possibly criminal ones, and the dude who was recruited after killing his friend and infecting the campus almost certainly would have gone to prison if he didn't sign up as an Active. Maybe this will be explored more if there is a miraculous second season.
Anyway, when Ballard and Langton visit the victim, they find that she has the same kind of facial scarring that Alpha left on Dr. Fred and, last week, Victor. They FINALLY catch up with the rest of us and realize that Alpha regained some awareness and still has some of his pre-active memories. They decide to check out the power plant that Alpha had taken the kidnapped woman too which was, conveniently, also the place that he was torturing the dude in the flashback
Topher, for his part, is trying to figure out what imprint that Alpha put into Echo, somehow figuring this will help them find her. When Ballard and Langton call Topher to see if that power plant location was the same one, Topher is inspired to check Whiskey's imprint from that engagement, which finally catches him up to us, as well.
Dr. Fred, though, overhears the talk of Whiskey and, maybe egged on by Dominic referring to her as Whiskey, decides to do some research. She, of course, finds out that she's a doll and confronts Topher. She tells him that she understands why they imprinted her as a doctor, since they needed to do something with her and needed a doctor, but she doesn't understand why Topher programmed her to hate him. I'm also curious why Topher gave her the skills to hack his system. From Alpha's troubles last week, we know Topher has super security, so Dr Fred has to be damn good to get in. She only focuses on the hate, though, and just calls it "weird" and walks away. Topher (with a hopeful note, it seems) asks her why she didn't read to find out who she really was and she responds "I know who I am" and leaves.
Okay, theory that will probably never be proven right or wrong since we probably won't get another season - Topher and Whiskey have a past of some sort and/or he programmed her to hate him because he knows what's going on is wrong but can't help his scientific curiousity. He programmed her hatred of him and high computer skills as a way to take himself down. Topher and/or Dr. Fred is the mole that was feeding Ballard information. Really, if Dr. Fred is directly the mole, Topher is still an indirect mole because he wanted the information to get out but didn't have the balls to do it himself.
Okay, back to Alpha and Echo. He finally reveals his evil plan - he imprints Caroline's personality into their hostage and then plans to download all of Echo's past implants into her. He will then redub her "Omega", thus making her the bride to his modern day technological Frankenstein's Monster. Also, that gives this episode its name, but I like the Frankenstein parallels better. Of course, I'm not sure who exactly that makes Frankenstein - Dewitt? Topher? All of us? Layers upon layers, my friends. Phase three of the plan consists of "Omega" killing the woman with Caroline's personality imprint, effective killing her old stuff and rising into godhood through the blood ritual. He really says that, folks - I did not make that up.
Phase one of the plan goes well. Caroline is now in the shopgirl's body and freaking out something major. Phase two doesn't go quite as well. When she has all of the personalities in her head, Echo says that she "gets it", but she lacks that whole murderous psychopath base and doesn't come to the same conclusions as Alpha. Instead of attacking the woman, she attacks Alpha and ridicules his "evolving into gods" schtick. When he seems to be disabled, the girl thanks Echo, but Echo's also pissed at her for abandoning her. I know, it's weird - Caroline abandoned Echo. Once you get your head around it, it makes sense. Caroline never really explains why she did it, but only says "it's complicated" Echo dismisses this, pointing out that she has forty-eight personalities in her head and knows complicated, but there's never an explanation for slavery, especially not with a black president. The fact that there's a black president somehow convinces Echo to rejoin her life and they prepare to put the shopgirl's personality back into her body and Caroline's back into Echo when Alpha shoots the girl in the throat. He holds the Caroline wedge hostage while he talks more smack and then runs. Echo chases him up an electrical tower until he tosses it over the edge to distract her enough to make his escape.
Of course it works and Echo climbs out on a ledge to get the wedge (heh, that rhymes) while I wait for her to be shot from above by Alpha. It never happens though. Instead, she accidentally knocks it off the ledge and it plummets to the ground. Ballard shows up just in time, though, and catches the wedge, effectively saving Caroline. Nice how that worked out, at least in a metaphorical sense.
Back at the Dollhouse, Ballard is talking with DeWitt and Langton. I missed what Adelle says, but Ballard responds by saying that he doesn't work for them yet, not until "she" is let out of her contract early and paid in full. Adelle agrees just as the door opens. Yeah, we're supposed to think it's Echo being let out, but I'm onto Whedon at this point and know it's going to be November who walks through that door right before she does. She, of course, doesn't remember Ballard at all, but that's okay with him. As she's about to leave to rejoin her life, he asks her real name. Being half-deaf, I miss her name, but when she asks his, he just responds that he's nobody. This echoes what has been said about the Dolls repeatedly, which makes me wonder if Ballard is going to be an Active or part of security. Alpha's still out there, so my initial thoughts are that Ballard would be going after him for the Dollhouse. We'll probably never know. Damn you Fox!
The show ends almost how it began, with Echo waking up from her treatment and having the now-familiar call-and-response with Topher.
"Did I fall asleep?"
"For a little while."
"Should I go now?"
"If you like."
Fade to black.
The more I think about it, the more I can't wait for this season to be released on DVD and the more I hope it somehow is renewed for another season. There have been layers to this season that I didn't grasp at the time and I still don't really grasp. The implications of effective immortality raised when Adelle's friend came back to solve her murder. The concept of people as software and hardware. The implications of just...checking out on your life for however many years. This series is much smarter than anyone has really given it credit for, especially me.