Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dollhouse 2.12: The Hollow Men

“Go ahead and shoot. I’m sure I’ll be far more talkative with my brain splattered all over Topher.”


“The Hollow Men” was by far the weakest of this final run of Dollhouse episodes, although I still wouldn’t classify it as “bad.” At the moment, I’m savoring every last little bit of time we get to spend in this fascinating, frightening world. This episode answered a lot of questions, gave a lot of explanations, and fell short in some other respects. I’m very glad we still have “Epitaph Two” next week to wrap up the “10 years later” story, and I’m confident that it will provide a satisfying end to what has been a skillfully crafted (most of the time), thought-provoking ride.

Tony and Priya reluctantly return to the LA Dollhouse after their night together to find the place deserted and trashed. This seems like sort of useless exposition, considering the few people who are still watching Dollhouse likely watched “Getting Closer” last week and saw the attack by Rossum. They’ve been left a little gift from Topher, although they don’t realize it’s from Topher at first. All they see is a sign pointing to the imprint chair telling them to push a button. After some rambling, circular argument, Tony’s game for sitting in the chair. I think this is consistent with his personality as seen in “Stop Loss,” because in that episode, he was quickly game to join the hive mind, too.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is on their way to Tucson to confront Rossum head-on. They’ve had a bit of a setback, though (besides Paul and Mellie being kind of disgusting with each other). Echo has gone off the deep end. Adelle has a pretty smart plan. She figures that the best way to get in the Rossum building is to just show up at the front door. Rossum is certainly interested in their whereabouts, after all.

All it took was about one noise, one hand gesture, and a few words of dialogue before I knew exactly what imprint had taken Tony’s place. Victor!Topher (aka Topher 2.0) is back! Although it seemed a little bit like fan service, I can’t complain about seeing Enver Gjokaj’s impression of Fran Kranz again- it is so dead on it’s scary. It also happens to be pretty darn hilarious. Luckily, one of the many things Topher knows that nobody else does is that there’s an extra security camera in the imprint room. He installed it to see if Ivy was stealing his snacks, but it’s quite more useful now. Topher 2.0 and Priya watch the footage and see Boyd throw something in the trash can. It’s a syringe that was used to drug Echo (the explanation for her erratic behavior), and it makes it clear he’s working for Rossum. Topher 2.0 offers to reimprint himself as Tony with a few “enhancements.” The enhancements come in handy when a bunch of Rossum operatives attack before Tony and Priya can even leave the Dollhouse. Topher had made the mistake of telling Boyd that he left his imprint back at the Dollhouse, so Boyd presumably called in the attack.

The arrival of the LA Dollhouse crew, minus Tony and Priya, at the Rossum headquarters has the desired impact. They are met by none other than the latest incarnation of Clyde, this time in Dr. Saunders/Whiskey’s body. Amy Acker does a fabulous job with yet another dimension to the character of Whiskey. She carries herself differently as Clyde, and the transformation is very effective. S/he says that Caroline/ Echo’s body is going to save the “deserving few” in the coming apocalypse (or “thoughtpocalypse” as Topher would later put it). Caroline came to Rossum’s attention when she was tested to find out if she’d be an acceptable bone marrow donor for her cousin.

Boyd, Topher, Paul, and Mellie are all taken to a holding cell. Boyd, being the big bad founder of Rossum isn’t going to put up with that for long, though. He pretends he’s picking the lock when he’s actually just swiping his key card. Topher is super impressed by this, which is kind of hilarious. Topher and Boyd are going to look for Echo while Paul and Mellie stay put. Obviously, Paul, being the sort-of noble hearted doofus that he is, isn’t going to actually stay. He and Mellie are going to try to take out the mainframe. Which is odd to me, considering “The Attic” established that the mainframe, like Soylent Green, is people. People scattered in various Dollhouses throughout the world, no less.

Boyd and Topher end up in a lab Rossum is using to prepare Topher’s scary tech (the “imprint anybody even if they don’t have Active architecture” tech) for mass production. Topher probably should have realized Boyd was up to no good when Boyd pointed one of the devices at Topher. Luckily for Topher, the device doesn’t work. Boyd manages to talk Topher into fixing it by saying it would be a way to get out of the building without losing more lives. As Boyd seems to be about to kill Topher, Echo, who has escaped from a different lab room, attacks, telling Topher that she knows, from Caroline’s memories, that Boyd is the Founder. Clyde, however, puts a stop to Echo’s attack.

With the LA crew incapacitated, Boyd’s motivations become clear in what amounts to a whole bunch of exposition. Basically, he’s nuts. He thinks that the tech is going to be released no matter what, so he might as well be the destroyer instead of the destroyed. And why did he bring his LA Dollhouse crew to Tucson? He wants to give them the best chance of surviving the impending apocalypse because he considers them like family. Harry Lennix’s line delivery of “I love you guys” made for a seriously creepy act break.

Paul and Mellie have made their way to the room that holds all the units that cool the mainframe servers, and they start destroying them. If the servers overheat, the mainframe will go down. As soon as Boyd hears what’s going on, he wants to activate Mellie’s sleeper doll program, first seen on season 1’s “Man on the Street.” Adelle refuses to say the trigger words, so Boyd instead plays a video of that first time Mellie was triggered. It works, and Mellie immediately starts shooting at Paul. Paul tries to bring her back to herself, and he’s partially successful. Just enough Mellie comes to the surface to be appalled at what she’s doing. She can’t fight the sleeper programming, and she ends up shooting herself instead.

Meanwhile, Echo is in her own precarious situation. She’s strapped to this machine that is supposed to extract her spinal fluid. Her spinal fluid is somehow a vaccine against being imprinted. Yeah, I don’t quite get it, either. Tony and Priya arrive in Tucson just in time. They manage to rescue Echo just before the procedure can really incapacitate her. They also manage to free Adelle and Topher (with Tony’s new enhancements coming in handy as he takes out some more Rossum security guards).

Caroline/Echo wants to resume her former quest to blow up the Rossum building, but first she has to overcome some obstacles. The first would be Clyde. I actually didn’t love the filming and editing of their fight. It was very jumpy, and there were too many special effects (such as slo-mo). Then Boyd, with idiot Paul in tow (Paul was convinced Adelle killed Mellie until Boyd put a gun to his head) catch up with her. Echo and Boyd fight, and it’s not going well for Echo. Topher shows up just in time and uses his tech to wipe Boyd.

I found Boyd’s fate to be both poetic justice and fairly disturbing. Still in a wiped Doll state, Echo straps a bomb to him and tells him to wait until she leaves, then set it off. Doll!Boyd is only too happy for the opportunity to “be his best.” The remaining members of the LA Dollhouse crew manage to get out of the building just in time to avoid the explosion. Echo asks Paul if they saved the world. A quick cut to a still-apocalyptic 2020 tells us that the answer to her question would most definitely be “no.”

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