Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Dollhouse Doubles: “Stop Loss”

I’m back! As promised before Christmas the new format for the blog will start on Sunday, but until snapshot_thumbthen (and until the end of the season) the full Dollhouse posts will continue, so strap in and get  ready for episode 9 “Stop Loss”

P.s. This post makes several references to Epitaph One, each hyperlink is keyed to the relevant flashback to save me repeating myself.

When I settled down to watch this episode I knew we were in for a Victor-centric episode, however by the end of episode 10 “The Attic” I had discovered the truth and that is that this whole season has really been about Adelle DeWitt, but I’ll get to that later!

The episode begins with Adelle taking Victor out for one last “ride” (innuendo intended). Last year we discovered that Adelle was a Dollhouse client herself called Miss Lonely-Hearts, now that Victor’s contract is up she wants to ensure she gets to be with him one final time. Victor, however, tries to break up with Adelle, he tells her he is in love with another woman (Sierra).

Meanwhile back at the Dollhouse Topher has worrying news. He and Boyd are standing around a scan of Paul Ballard’s brain and Boyd confesses “I don’t see anything…” Topher explains that there is nothing to see, that Alpha emptied out Ballard’s head and just left him as a shell. Of course, we eagle eyed Epitaph viewers saw Ballard walking and talking with the best of them so we KNOW Topher can fix him… The interesting part will be how!

Annoyed and humiliated Adelle thinks Topher has reprogrammed Victor on purpose as payback for her selling him out. After she confronts him Topher quickly realises the true identity of Miss Lonely-Hearts and then he explains the situation with Victor and Sierra. This is really just reiteration for those of us who have been asleep for the past twenty episodes, we know from episodes like Belonging that Victor and Sierra’s love for each other extends beyond imprints, even affecting their original selves in Epitaph One.

Meanwhile Boyd catches Echo trying to use the all-access pass he gave her back at the start of season 2 to see Ballard. Boyd assures her that Topher will find a way to bring Paul back, but he warns her that Victor’s contract is up and that she should say goodbye. “I thought you’d be pleased” he offers. “I was going to use him to help me get the others out.” Echo replies “He’s already been used for five years.” Boyd points out, possibly foreshadowing how Echo will later treat people in her war against the wireless tech (the same way Caroline treated Bennett; see The Left Hand

Later Boyd petitions DeWitt to let Echo see Ballard, but she has no intention of doing so. Boyd’s impassioned plea that the separation is killing Echo only pleases DeWitt, as if she were testing Echo, deliberately pushing her to see how she might react. Changing the subject DeWitt asks Boyd to see to Victor’s release, explaining that Victor was assigned to the House and that she did not recruit him. The relevance of that becomes clear later.

So Anthony is finally returned to his original body and Victor is gone for good (well… not for good…) and the first question out of his mouth? “And the war?” Topher sighs… “Still going on.” Nice social comment… very subtle! Boyd checks Victor out, giving him the usual spiel. I liked the cross series reference with the “We’ve reserved a suite at the Hyperion until you find something more permanent.” They shake hands and Boyd finishes with “Congratulations, you’re a free man…” but as we know from Madeleine nobody is ever truly free of the Dollhouse.

What follows is a really nicely put together sequence where Victor tries to adjust to the idea of waking up with five years of his life just gone. Eventually he crawls into the bath to sleep and we find ourselves visually reminded of the pods in the House. It’s all very evocative and its one of those many moments in the show that remind us just how horrific the Dollhouse and its practises really are.

Back at the House Echo sneaks out of her pod to go and see Paul, who it turns out isn't there. Not content with that security violation Echo promptly hops into DeWitt’s private elevator and demands to know what has happened to Ballard. DeWitt informs Echo that Ballard has been moved. She knows about Echo’s keycard and I suspect there is very little of what has supposedly transpired in secret that she doesn’t know about.

After a little posturing Echo offers DeWitt an ultimatum “You can be on my side or on Rossum’s but the time for playing both is over…” I have always believe that in the end DeWitt will come down on the side of good, if not due to her conscience then due to her fear, but the final flashback from Epitaph One shows that even ten years in the future she had not chosen a side. That said, I suspect DeWitt may well answer Echo’s ultimatum before the series concludes!

Back at the Hyperion, Victor’s gentle bath time slumbers are rudely disturbed by a group of black clad soldiers. After Victor politely smacks their heads together a little, he is knocked unconscious and dragged to the commandos secret underground lair. (Sound familiar?)

Back at the House Victor’s vitals spike in a “fighting for your life” kind of a way, before dropping off entirely, quickly alerting Topher to the need to act. He calls in Boyd, who, of course, then recruits Echo and the terrible twosome head out to the Hotel.

After establishing Victor isn’t there Boyd and Echo start to look for evidence that may point to where he went. “So, how does this work?” Boyd asks, a question that has been burning a hole in him for weeks. “I used to have to make an effort to switch between imprints but now I can slip back and forth without even thinking.” Echo explains. “So, who am I talking to now?” Boyd asks the obvious question. “Echo, you’re always talking to Echo.”

Getting back to the case Boyd quickly surmises that Victor’s disappearance must be an inside job, based on the timescale and the technological know how to disable his GPS and Biolinks. And sure enough he is right. The men who have taken Victor/Anthony are quickly revealed to be ex-members of Victor’s old rangers unit, all of whom were placed under the care of the Dollhouse for the last five years. That is why Victor was transferred to the L.A House rather than recruited.

Backtracing a hack into the Dollhouse databank Boyd discovers that it is most likely Rossum who has Victor. Using her other personalities Echo hacks Rossum server, discovering that Rossum’s military wing Scytheon is the one with an interest in Victor. 

Meanwhile Victor jumps at the chance to be a part of his old unit again, even going as far as to allow the commandos to strap him down and implant foreign technology in his brain. A piece of technology Rossum is calling Group Mind. This allows all those with the implant to think as one. Just imagine the Borg but instead of cyborgs they are U.S Rangers.

Knowing where Victor is and what Project Mind Whisper is planning to do with him Boyd goes to see DeWitt, who now in a constant state of inebriation. DeWitt however is not keen on crossing paths with Rossum again after she betrayed the man (she will eventually) loves to regain control of her House the last time. Boyd ignores her orders and sends Echo and Sierra to the secret base anyway. 

Imprinted with her original self Priya and Echo set off to save Victor/Anthony before he is absorbed into the group mind and lost forever. Once inside Victor quickly finds Sierra, while Echo dispatches the other Rangers. “Anthony, I’m so glad it’s you.” Pryia breathes, but Victor grabs her throat and shoves a rifle in her gut. “Anthony’s gone.” Pryia pleads with Victor to remember. “They don’t want me to remember, they want me to kill you!” But he doesn’t. Echo knocks Victor unconscious so that his connection to the group mind wont give away her position. 

Back at the House DeWitt awakens from her drunken slumber to a phone call from Mr. Harding informing her of Echo and Sierra’s location. She is not pleased with this information! “You sent Echo and Sierra to retrieve Victor?! I ORDERED YOU TO LEAVE IT ALONE!” Boyd explains that he took actions because the DeWitt he knew and respected no longer exists. The woman who put the House and Actives first. “What happened to that woman?” He asks. “She’s standing in front of you.” And she is, only Boyd can’t see the bigger picture because Adelle doesn’t want him to.

“You’re going to lose control of this House and I’m going to be the one knocking down your door.” Boyd explains, which fits perfectly with my theory about how Boyd got injured in flashback 4 of Epitaph One

Back at the Bunker Echo jacks herself into the Group Mind while Victor leads Sierra to safety. Once inside it is only a matter of time until Echo dominates the group mind, her forty-odd personalities overpowering the soldiers.

As soon as they escape Echo gives Anthony and Pryia the order to leave, to escape the clutches of the Dollhouse, to go and be together far away from all of this. However, no sooner has she finished convincing Pryia to go does the option cease to exist. The Dolls are targeted (through their biolinks presumably) with Topher’s disruptor.

Moments later DeWitt appears, Vader-like, with evil apocalyptic music swelling beneath her, she stands over Echo and explains that “You leave a wake of destruction wherever you go. There is only one place for a Doll as irreparably damaged as you.”

The Attic…

And so the episode closes with Echo, Sierra and Victor in the attic, Ballard still in a coma and Boyd under House arrest. Awesome… Tune in again by Friday to find out what happens next. Until then, this has been My Two Cents…

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