Saturday, January 30, 2010

In Conclusion

The final episode of Dollhouse has aired, leaving us a moment to reflect.  Mercifully, the last few episodes were among the weakest of the season, dulling the pain of losing yet another of Joss Whedon's shows before its time. 

The conclusion continues the storyline started in Epitaph One, the episode Fox never bothered to air.  Anyone who hadn't seen it online or on the DVD was likely confused by the sudden jump into a post apocalyptic future, but fortunately there was a poorly edited montage to bring them up to speed.

Elements of the finale were decent, though the show's budget - or lack thereof - was painfully apparent at times.  On some level, the last episode felt like a direct-to-video sequel made in the early nineties.  Even the episode's title, "Epitaph Two: Return," invokes such parallels.   There were fine ideas, but the actual writing felt second rate.  And, of course, Eliza Dushku's strong suit has never been dramatic moments, a fact as apparent here as ever.  One crucial scene, intended to be one of the series's most moving, wound up being almost embarrassing to watch.

Overall, Dollhouse was undeniably the weakest of Joss Whedon's productions, though it had enough exceptional episodes to make the series worthwhile.  It took a third of the first season, however, for Dollhouse to reach a point where it crossed the line into good: it's asking a lot of any audience - even those loyal to Whedon - to wait that out.

We were, however, rewarded for our patience, at least for a time.  As the second season progressed, a larger plot developed, fueled by the promise of a post apocalyptic world waiting for the characters; a world of their own creation.  For a time, the show had found its voice and direction.

It was then, of course, that Fox announced it would be canceled.  In an effort to move things forward, Whedon condensed at least three seasons worth of plot twists and ideas into a half dozen episodes.  The experience of watching the second half of Dollhouse's last season was like reading a synopsis: the ideas were expressed with enthusiasm, but there was no substance.

This came to a head in Epitaph Two, which attempted to cram a six hour miniseries into a single hour.  Even if the dialogue hadn't been laughably bad, it would still have been impossible to care about any of the characters at this pace.

It's a pity, because there were characters and concepts we'd have liked to see developed.  If Dollhouse had been allowed to progress at a natural pace, we have no doubt it could have turned into a fantastic show.

We are consoled, at least, by the fact that the end of the series wasn't spectacular, so we aren't losing something dear to our heart.  We went through that when Firefly went off the air; it's nice to lose a mediocre Whedon show for a change.

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