For the most ballyhooed episode that hasn't been part of Dollhouse's brief run, J. Whedon cued up his favorite song: One Girl To Save The World.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Disconnected from virtually the entire season that preceded it, "Epitaph One" is based around a simple premise: everything's gone to hell, and the Dollhouse is the reason. At least, the body-swapping tech it's been using is: as we learn in imprinted flashbacks, what began as a plaything to give people "what they need," as deWitt continues to believe has morphed into a mass commodity. And even Adelle and Topher are horrified by the implications.
As we learn from the team of refugees who stumble into the 'House, what ends up developing is a war between "Actuals" and body-hoppers. "Kids with matches," one character sums up. "Burned the whole house down." (Browncoats will appreciate the implication of "the signal" in this reality, in a cruelly ironic sense.)
We get glimpses of the rest of the L.A. Actives and regulars throughout the episode, as well as an extended visit from Whiskey, in both her Dr. Saunders persona and her "natural" state, which gives us a chance to see Amy Acker look her most otherworldly since playing Illyria a few years back. If what happens from there is to be taken as canon, then Whiskey gets the best character arc of the whole episode, with a small heartbreak as culmination.
And, of course, there's Caroline/Echo. She's referred to as both during the course of the episode, as we learn that her relationship with Agent Helo evolves after Ballard joins the 'House staff. And, again, if what happens here is what's meant to happen in Season 2 and beyond, then Echo might hold the key to salvaging what's left of the world she now inhabits - though perhaps not in the fashion you'd expect.
Reportedly, "Epitaph One" was an effort by Whedon to not only give Fox a 13th episode for overseas distribution, but show them he could make a taut, capable thriller with a smaller budget - and, in this case, the effort was successful. The group of refugees, led by Felicia Day, were developed just enough for viewers to care about them, which made us experience their discoveries alongside them. And the glimpses into the nightmare scenario that ultimately undoes the 'House, and the world around it, are jolting enough to make regular viewers care about the journey even more, now that we know the show's coming back - even if it's still in a Friday night time slot.
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