Saturday, 16 January 2010

Spotlight: Dollhouse - “Getting Closer”

So, we have arrived at the penultimate episode and what an  episode it was. I’ll admit, when it began, I suspected that snapshotthis episode would be little more than a filler piece to fill the gap between the “It’s time for me to meet Caroline. It’s time to win her war!” ending of “The Attic” and the season finale “Hollow Men”, especially after one of the first things we learn is that Caroline’s wedge is missing… But, boy, was I wrong.

The episode begins “3 Years Ago” Caroline has managed to seduce a Rossum security guard to gain access to DeWitt’s office, although it seems this was long before she knew about the Dollhouse. After she handcuffs the guard to the wall she begins to rifle through DeWitt’s desk. She finds a file marked Priority with a photo of Bennett Halverson (the D.C Programmer). “What’s in Tucson?” Echo asks. (Only the freakin’ HQ for Rossum, that’s what)

Then Echo notices the monitors and she sees the goings on in the Dollhouse below. Interesting point, she sees the Chair in full operation, that means Topher is already working there, which places flashback 2 from Epitaph One at least 2 years prior to the pilot.

Moments later we are returned to the present day. “We need to know what she knows.” Echo explains, continuing the conversation from last week. “Clyde said there was one person who had seen his partner face to face, that was Caroline. We have to cut the head off the snake!” Echo states. “And Caroline is the only one who has met that snake.” Boyd repeats.

Ivy goes on to point out that while Echo is impressive they don’t know what will happen if they try to add Caroline to her already overcrowded brain. This point will become mute rather soon, but am I the only one thinking, there is a whole house full of Dolls, imprint one of them with Caroline instead?

While Topher, literally, straps Echo into the Chair, Ivy goes off to the vault to fetch Caroline. Only Caroline’s wedge is missing. Ok, so I have four possibilities here. The first is that the wedge was there and Ivy took it. The second, more likely option, is that while Alpha was in the house during “A Love Supreme” he stole the wedge. A third option would be that Harding took it while he was running the Dollhouse. The fourth option is that the Head of Rossum him/herself managed to somehow get to the wedge… 

After the opening credits roll we return to the past and Summer Glau begins the episode’s long list of guest stars. The scene shows how Caroline engineered a meeting with Bennett and how the two became friends.

Back in the 2010 Topher is rigging the Chair to enable him to perform a wireless imprint, the way he and Bennett did in The Left Hand. “We’re in,” Ivy says. “Ghost chair has just been engaged.” As one of the D.C. Dolls is lowered into the chair, Topher hijacks the imprint and programs the Doll to be a sleeper. Bennett realises what is going on but not fast enough. Topher’s imprinted Doll grabs her by the throat, moments before Ballard and Anthony/Victor burst out of the elevator. “She’s here, we got her.” Ballard explains to Topher on the other end of the phone.

Anthony takes Bennett and deactivates the Doll holding her. Paul however has noticed Madeleine on the monitors. “We’re not leaving yet.” He grunts gruffly.

Bennett is returned to the House, where she is handed over to Topher. It seems that Bennett has the ability to restore damaged imprints. Topher wants her to restore the Caroline imprint that Alpha destroyed in “Omega”.

Paul hands Madeleine over to the House, she is back to being November, back in a Doll-state. “You did a good thing.” Echo tries to comfort Paul. “We’ll fix it, we’ll make her right.” But Paul is not convinced. “Once they’ve done this to you, can you ever be right again?” Of course, he is talking about himself, rather than November.

Back in his lab Topher is flirting with Bennett whilst trying to get her to restore Caroline, not that she knows that’s who she is working on. “Why do you need this one restored?” Bennett asks. “Would it sound OTT if I said this could help prevent the end of civilisation as we know it?” Topher replies. “I would need to understand the context.” Bennett replies in a wonderfully River-like way. Tim Minear is brilliant at writing these awkward but witty scenes and Fran Kranz and Summer Glau are really a gift to his words.

Bennett tells Topher she can fix it. “How much data loss would we suffer?” He asks. “None.” is the reply… phew… that was lucky. Topher leans in for a kiss but something just dawned on Bennett. “Who’s on that wedge?” Topher realises he’s been caught out. “It doesn’t matter.” He replies, trying to get back to the almost kissing part. “It might.” Bennett says, knowing she is right and that Topher is trying to bring back the person who left her for dead. The next time we see Topher, his face is not so pretty!

Meanwhile my prediction about Boyd living with Whiskey comes true. Because DeWitt has ordered a full lockdown of the Dollhouse Boyd decides it is time for Dr. Saunders to return to the House. The two are clearly romantically engaged. Boyd asks her “Are you scared?” She smiles at him and replies “Not any more.”

Quick analysis, what would she be scared of? What is it that Boyd wants her to do? The point of the line completely bypassed me on the first pass, why would Boyd think she’d be scared…? Nervous to be returning to the House, but scared?

Back at the House Topher is in Dr. Saunders’ lab looking for something to mend his split lip when Echo walks in and starts asking about Ballard. “What did you do to him?” Topher struggles with the answer, his conscience tugging at his mind. “I gave him his life back. He’s still Paul.” Topher insists. “No, he’s not the same, he’s different.” Echo replies. “Half his brain tissue was scarred, I had to do major rewiring. Which required healthy brain tissue, there were two pieces of real estate big enough  for the job, the motor cortex or the cingulate gyrus (Wiki Quote: It functions as an integral part of the limbic system, which is involved with emotion formation and processing, learning, and memory.) So, either he could live his life trapped in a paralysed body, or I could take away something else…”

“Me.” Echo answers her own question. “Our connection.” Topher looks sad and replies. “I think so.” Echo has little else to say to Topher, so simply points out “You’re still bleeding.” At which point Dr. Saunders and Boyd walk in. As Whiskey sets to fixing Topher’s lip DeWitt appears in the doorway. “Topher, that troublesome one-armed creature where is she?” “I had to lock her up.” Topher replies. “Couldn’t leave her in the lab unattended.”

Not long after that we flashback to three months after Caroline broke into DeWitt’s office. Mr Dominic has just discovered that one of his men had deleted the footage and confessed to allowing Caroline Farrell access to the office. He also tells her that two of her files are missing, Caroline’s and Bennett’s. “Who else knows about this?” DeWitt asks. “Just us.” Lawrence replies. “Keep it that way. We need to get to Tucson.”

Back in their dorm room Bennett awaits Caroline’s return, she found the file and she’s pissed, but not for the reason Caroline thought she might be. “You’re not pissed because I used you?” Caroline asks, not really able to believe it. “I’m hurt that you wont.”

Back at the House Bennett is under lock and key. Boyd gives Echo a pep talk and then after a touching hug moment he tells her its time to put the House on lockdown. But Echo has one more thing to do before he does. She leads Anthony and Priya out of the House. “Guys, if you somehow forget the way back here… that’s ok too.” She says as she waves them goodbye. Of course we know that they do return in the Epitaph, but I’m not sure if they will play at part in the season finale.

As Echo turns back into the stairwell yet another guest star appears, this time Reed Diamond. Mr. Dominic can barely remain upright. “Clyde’s dead.” He manages, “Rossum is onto you.”

But wait… Lawrence doesn’t get out the Attic until after the apocalypse.

Armed with the information that Rossum is coming DeWitt orders the House evacuated. She orders every active to have their original imprint restored and for them to be released. “I’m not leaving behind a House full of helpless creatures.” See, I told you she was one of the good guys. “Behind?” Topher asks. “Where are we going?” DeWitt gives him a withering look. “Tucson, obviously.”

And we’re back in flashback land. Bennett and Caroline are preparing to blow up the Rossum building. However, while crawling around in the vents Caroline notices a lab that’s not on the schematic. Bennett warns her to get out of there but Caroline ignores her. When she discovers there are people in the lab, experiments of Rossum’s, Caroline changes her mind about blowing up the lab, but its too late. She orders Bennett to run, the timer hits Zero and BOOM!

Back in the House Mr. Dominic is going into shock. Dr. Saunders wants to move him to a hospital but DeWitt points out that isn’t possible, the House is on lockdown… Plus, she really doesn’t like him. “Put him back in the Attic, it’s his best hope.” She orders. “I’d rather die.” Lawrence manages. “I’d rather you didn’t.” Adelle replies.

Ballard wants to take Lawrence to the hospital but DeWitt’s mind is made up. “She’s right.” Echo points out. “And we could use someone on the inside when we hit the mainframe.” Once again Echo is planning to use people, just like Caroline did with Bennett. Moments later November comes down the stairs, imprinted with the Mellie personality, Ballard’s ex-lover. “You insisted she comes along.” DeWitt explains. “I insist she be someone who trusts you entirely.” What possible purpose Mellie can serve is unclear right now. The only thing I can think of is that the writers need someone to kill off next episode who isn’t in the Epitaph but that the audience will care about…

Boyd pulls DeWitt away and leads her upstairs where Mr. Ambrose awaits. Yes, the same Mr. Ambrose from flashback 5. He informs DeWitt that he is taking over the House and liquidating it’s assets. “Nobody comes out of the Attic Adelle. You’re done!” However Boyd has other ideas, shooting Ambrose and the two goons with him. Of course, we know from the before mentioned flashback that Ambrose’s personality is safe and sound and he will later recapture Victor and use him to deliver an ultimatum to DeWitt and Topher.

However, in the confusion Boyd has been shot, leading us right to the conversation in Flashback 4 of the Epitaph. I predicted Boyd would be shot helping Echo and Ballard liberate the Dollhouse, I was almost right…

Back to the flashbacks… Caroline survived the explosion in the lab, but Bennett wasn’t so lucky. Caroline tries to free Bennett but when she can’t she mutters those immortal words from “The Left Hand.” “If I stay we both get nabbed.” and as she leaves she finishes the thought “And I’m going to make sure it’s just me.”

That line annoyed me… I preferred to think of Caroline as a user of people, the death of her boyfriend in “Echoes” didn’t stop her crusade, why should she care about one more body?

Back in the House Echo confronts Bennett, ordering her to fix the wedge and bring back Caroline. She makes her an offer, if Bennett resurrects Caroline, she can do whatever she wants to her, she can have her revenge.

“When he finds out you’ve killed him you’ll be a target.” Adelle explains to Boyd. “How will he find out.” Boyd asks. “I’m going to tell him.” Adelle intends for Boyd to run and draw Rossum’s attentions in at least two directions and buy them the time they need to bring back Caroline.

Boyd and Claire have their conversation. (Click the link)

Up in his lab Topher is working on the wedge with Bennett, unfortunately things were going too well with six minutes of the episode left. Ivy left the room and, already suspecting that she had stolen Caroline’s wedge, I thought she might reappear and kill Bennett, turning out to be a Rossum spy after all…

… but she didn’t. After a little more awkward conversation Topher and Bennett finally kiss. One thing I’ll say about all Joss’ shows, whenever there is an apocalypse looming, people always find the time to make out…

“More of that if we prevent the end of the world?” Topher asks (or promises depending on just how large you think his ego is.) Topher leaves the room and good old Dr. Saunders enters, her hands clasped behind her back. “Is that Caroline?” The Doc asks. “Do you really think you’re going to be able to get her back?” “I’m confident of it.” Bennett replies. Seconds later Claire blows Bennett’s head off, splattering Topher with the remnants of her brain.

Even though I thought it was coming this is possible the most shocking death on a Joss show to date… Wash doesn’t count, that was a film.

Back to the flashback… Caroline has left Bennett trapped and walks straight into DeWitt and Mr. Dominic. However, Caroline is not yet destine for L.A. with DeWitt, first she has to go upstairs and meet the director. “You weren't invited?” Echo mocks. “No hard feelings, darling. A trip to see our director is generally one-way.”

And as the lift door closes we’re back in the present day. Topher is catatonic and the gang is speculating on why Dr. Saunders would shoot Bennett, suggesting that while she was AWOL Rossum got to her and reprogrammed her as a sleeper. Adelle brings Topher back and gets him to finish Caroline’s wedge. The blood splattered monitors prompt him to dismiss Ivy and she takes the opportunity like there will be no tomorrow.

Seconds later the House is breached and the bullets begin to fly. Topher finishes the wedge and sits Echo down in the chair. Topher demands that Adelle leaves and she takes Mellie with her. Echo goes down in the Chair and it flares to life… A black ops soldier appears and knocks out Topher, but the imprint is already up and running. Boyd appears silently behind the guy and snaps his neck.

Final flashback… Echo steps out of the elevator and is greeted by Clyde 2.0. “My partner and I have been quite eager to meet you.” And Caroline asks the obvious question. “Why me?” and then freakin’ Boyd steps out of the darkness. “Because you’re very special, you’re going to help us in ways you can’t understand.”

“Not likely.” Caroline replies. “You don't have a lot of options.” Clyde points out. “So, I’m going to be one of your zombies? Open up my brain like the rest of them?” Boyd half smiles. “You’ll never be like the rest of them. You wont be harmed in any way. You’re far too valuable.” Boyd explains. “And I’m just going to trust you?” Caroline asks and in true corny Tim Minear style, Boyd replies. “With your life.”


Cliffhanger and a half no? After that revelation I did spend quite some time going “Boyd, really, no serious, it can’t be…” but I’m sure Joss has an explanation. It certainly would explain why Boyd’s character has been sidelined for most of the season, make him seem less important so the smack stings so much more when it hits us in the face.

As for, what the hell is Boyd talking about at the end, I suspect that Rossum made Caroline. As for why Boyd would wish to destroy his own company through Caroline/Echo I have no idea. But there is one thing we can be sure of, if he can order the execution of Bennett through his girlfriend and empty his best friend’s head out and stuff him the Attic, then Boyd is no longer batting for our team!

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