Friday, 8 January 2010

Dollhouse Doubles: “The Attic”

And so we come to the episode I have been looking forward to the snapshot(3)_thumb most (with the exception of Epitaph Two, but that’s really a series in its own right), episode 10: The Attic.

Written by Jed and Maurissa who have so far given us Belonging and Meet Jane Doe, how could I expect anything other than excellence? Well, when the Attic starts it really does feel like the weaker of the duo’s Trio of episode for the season, but by the time it concludes, it is possibly the strongest.

The Attic runs that fine line between being nothing more than an irrelevant dream sequence, done just play with the format and being a mythology defining episode that will change EVERYTHING! This episode is the moment before the Epitaph, the events that unfold in this episode spell out the future for all mankind…

Have I built it up enough yet? Have I built it high enough that no matter how good it is you wont be able to enjoy it? Oh well…

So unlike previous weeks I’m going to split the episode into two parts because that will make everything simpler.

The Attic

The episode begins with Echo waking up in the Attic, wrapped in a sheet of clingfilm, breaking free, knocking out (and killing) some Rossum employees, freeing Victor and Sierra, only for them to be gunned down while Echo watches helplessly. Only, we know Victor and Sierra survive to Epitaph One (although I’m pretty sure Jed and Maurissa will kill Sierra off in Epitaph Two, explaining why she doesn’t feature in the final two flashbacks with everyone else.) Of course, knowing they survive didn’t stop me jumping up with shock and yelling at the TV, but I digress.

Quickly (although I’m not sure how much time passes) Echo realises that she is living in a loop where her nightmare of her friends dying repeats over and over and realising that she can do nothing to stop it, she leaves them behind, escaping into a surreal version of the Dollhouse, covered with snow with a white tree growing at its centre.

After some Faith-esque agonising and self torture a black skinned monster appears to kill Echo, it calls itself Arcane. This whole sequence is very in-keeping with the Whedon family’s love of comic books, but it seriously breaks the illusion of reality that Dollhouse has managed to retain despite the sci-fi-esque subject matter. Arcane was a really “Oh dear…” moment for me, but its ok, I grow to love the episode by the end…

Echo then teams up with Mr. Dominic (Reed Diamond) who had been sent to the Attic by DeWitt a year or so ago. Since then Mr. Dominic has learnt the true nature of the Attic. It seems that the people in the Attic are connected and Lawrence can move from one mind to another. In this way he has chased Arcane as the monster tries to kill everyone in the Attic.

Figuring out that Arcane uses each individual’s worst fear to travel from one mind to the next Echo faces her own fear (the Chair) and jumps into the next mind, with Lawrence right behind her. After asking a couple of questions Echo quickly realises that not only are all the minds in the Attic connected, but that all the Attics are networked together.

Unfortunately Echo and Lawrence couldn’t stop Arcane and they quickly exit into Victor’s mind before the one they were in shuts down. They chase off Arcane and Victor joins their merry band. Victor’s nightmare was to kill himself over and over, I guess that is why he suffered from post traumatic stress, because he couldn’t tell what separated himself from the supposedly ‘evil’ enemy.

All that remains now is to rescue Priya/Sierra and escape. She is trapped with the corpse of Nolan Kinnard (who she killed in Belonging) only he has been reanimated as a Zombie and is trying to kill her. Only problem is, Nolan isn’t the only one trying to kill her… Arcane is there too.

After a quick scuffle with Arcane Echo and the others tumble through a window and into another mind. This time it’s the mind of Rossum co-founder Clyde a.k.a Arcane. “So this is your nightmare Clyde?” Echo asks. “This isn’t a nightmare, this is the shape of things to come.” And naturally the camera zooms out to show us the apocalypse in full swing.

Unimpressed with the devastation Echo turns on Clyde and demands to know why he was trying to kill them. “I was trying to take down Rossum’s mainframe.” He explains. It turns out that the networked brains in the networked Attics are one giant computer. “I was trying to take out Rossum’s number of CPU’s to prevent this.” Indicating the Epitaph One madness happening all around them. “How do you know this is real?” Echo asks. “Because it was my idea!”

“I’m one of the original founders of Rossum. Me and my best mate at university. I had discovered ECC, Encephalic Communication Encoding (that’s ECE btw…). He was the one who had a plan for it, I hadn’t even begun to imagine all the possible applications for the technology. We thought we were making history, we weren’t wrong.”

It turns out that the first test subject was Clyde 2.0, a modified version of Clyde with all his knowledge but none of his ambition, someone who would follow orders without questioning them. “Your friend betrayed you.” Echo states, making the obvious leaps to propel the story onwards. Clyde explains that he was the first person in the Attic, the founding member if you like. “That was 1993” he sighs. 1993? Isn’t that the year the internet went online? Co-incidence?

“My nightmare, my loop, has been to run statistical analysis as to where the technology might lead, all but 3% of them include the end of civilisation.”

“What year is it?” Clyde asks. “2010? Is that all? Then we still might be able to stop them. The first thing they will try and do is install an imprinted person in the government.”

“They did that.” Echo explains. “Then they’re way ahead of most schedules.” Clyde theories that if they could eliminate Clyde 2.0 and the other founder of Rossum then they may be able to turn back the tide of the apocalypse. However Rossum cleaned his head out and erased the name and face of his friend. Priya however doesn't think it will make a difference.

“But there’s no way out of here… is there?” She asks. “No.” Clyde replies. “But there has been talk amongst the security personnel that they mistakenly let a woman in, she saw them, she could indentify them, but apparently they got to her too, they scrubbed her clean.”

“Caroline” It was a statement not a question from Echo. “Yes!” Clyde replies overjoyed with the response. “We need to find a way out of the Attic.” Victor states almost angrily. Echo hears him, they are pinned down now by a man with an assault rifle, so calmly Echo stands up and lets herself get shot. “Echo! What are you doing?” The others scream. “I know a way out.” She replies.

Echo plans to flatline in order to disengage from the Attic Mainframe, in the hope that she can wake up again on the other side. Victor and Sierra vow to go with her, as long as she goes first and revives them in the real world. Clyde and Lawrence determine to stay and help those still trapped in the Attic.

After a sad music montage we return to the House…  

The House

Much of this week’s non-Attic action is about restoring function to Paul’s damaged brain. Topher is at the end of the line. He admits to DeWitt that there is no way to restore Paul without introducing Active Architecture, to which DeWitt responds “We are in the market for a strapping new Victor are we not?”

Topher has all but given up when Ivy accidentally suggests something which sends a spark to Topher creative genius. Effectively Topher thinks he may be able to rewire Paul’s brain, to assign new functions to undamaged parts.

However, only seconds after she inadvertently fixes the problem Ivy is called up to see DeWitt. Topher’s final words of support to his underappreciated assistant are  “Don’t worry, Darth Vader kills Lieutenants not Stormtroopers”. Wow Topher, way to scare the girl!

When Ivy returns Topher tries to ask her about DeWitt and Ivy flinches away from him, saying in a cold, dead tone “Don’t speak to me.” Perturbed by this turn of events Topher goes to DeWitt for an explanation. “I simply prepared her for the possibility of taking over your position here.” DeWitt explained. Going on to point out that the Corporation has big plans for Topher.

Next DeWitt drags Boyd into her office to reprimand him for his tardiness. Since Echo went into the Attic Boyd has been spending a lot of time “at home” and I suspect with Whiskey, although that has not yet been revealed. When the conversation turns to Echo, Boyd become rather defensive, like a father protecting his daughter, but DeWitt doesn’t think Boyd has the right to take the righteous path.

“You knew where she was heading. You encouraged her. You put her in that Attic as much as anyone else. You didn’t come to the Dollhouse because of Echo, you came because you had nowhere else to go.” Boyd starts to walk away. “You work for Rossum and that means your options tend to slim to three. Carry out Rossum’s work without question, the Attic or Death. You must decided if that life is to be put to good use or laid to waste. I have seen the future Mr. Langton and it is not for the weak.”

Ok, so far DeWitt has tried to recruit Boyd, Topher and Ivy and each time there are parts of the conversation missing, deliberately left unshot to keep us in suspense…  

“Does that take away the fear?” Topher asks, walking in on Boyd sipping from his hip flask after his big conversation with DeWitt. “That’s what we’re going to do to Paul, you know, take something away.” Topher explains, his science and his genius finally tempered with conscience. “That’s going to make him more pissed off than he usually is.” Boyd jokes. Boyd tosses his flask to Topher, who takes a sip and then looks back at Boyd, so sincerely it hurts and he whispers. “That woman is going to drag us straight to hell!”

Despite how literally that sentence may have been interpreted in both Buffy and Angel, damnation has never felt more real than it does in Dolhouse.

Up in the chair room Paul comes to, prefaced by Topher’s comment “He’s not going to take this well” and he doesn’t. Paul stumbles from the chair, unable to stand or talk, yelling out random phrases, his face contorted with pain. “His brain is completely reorganised.” Ivy explains. “It will take a moment for him to adjust.”

But the moment he does he launches himself at Topher. “What the hell did you do to me?” Boyd tries to calm Paul. “Alpha damaged your brain, we did it to save your life.” Paul stops struggling and the colour drains from his face. “Did what?” No-one says a word. “You made me a doll? Then why do I feel like myself?” Topher is scared of answering him. “You are… but it’s an imprint.”

“I’m sorry.” Topher offers. “It was an order and we don't have many friends left.” When Boyd explains that Echo, Victor and Sierra have been sent to the Attic Ballard takes Boyd’s gun and the head of security makes no attempt to stop him. After he has gone Boyd turns to Topher and warns him “At some point he’s gonna figure out what we took away from him.”

Of course, nobody tells us what that might be, but I’m guessing it has something to do with his free will, but I’m only guessing.

Ballard storms into DeWitt’s office, gun in hand. “I’m not afraid to lose my life taking you down.” He grunts at her. “I don’t want to die.” She replies coldly. “Then only one of us is going to be disappointed. Any last words?”

Presumably she had last words, the same words she gave to Ivy and to Topher and to Boyd, because the next time we see DeWitt Echo has returned and everyone is together, ready to overthrow Rossum.

“We got it. The information we were looking for, maybe more. I know how to get at the heart of Rossum, your plan worked” DeWitt has but two words for Echo “Thank you.” and you can tell by the look in her eyes that she meant every syllable. “And everyone else?” Echo asks. “I think I’ve impressed upon them the dangers we’ll be facing.” DeWitt replies “We’re ready.”

“No, we’re one soldier shy.” Echo replies. “It’s time for me to meet Caroline. It’s time to win her war!”


See… I told you it was good…

Last time I suggested that this whole season has been about Adelle DeWitt? Everything that has transpired since she lost control of the House in Meet Jane Doe has been about getting to this moment, it has been about destroying Rossum. A part of me wonders if Epitaph One will actually occur or if it is simply a divergent timeline, a clever way to knock us off guard. Whatever the case, tonight's episode will be awesome and the finale next week, even better!

This has been My Two Cents… 

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