The idea of playing God, or tampering in His domain (hi, MST3K fans) is a very old story. We all want to create a better world, even literally.
But what if a creation of science thinks he can create something better than the one who created him? What if the Bride of Frankenstein thought she could make a better husband, or Galatea make a better Pygmalion?
Well, that shows the original creator didn't do a good job, or shouldn't have tried. Maybe that would apply to God.
In this case, it applies to Alpha, a creation of the Dollhouse who decided one day he could create a more advanced creature. His model will be Echo.
We pickup where we left off last week, with Alpha breaking into the Dollhouse with Paul Ballard's help, and taking Echo away. The place is in confusion as Adelle and the staff deal with Alpha's escape, Victor's face being mutilated, and Echo leaving. This saves Paul, who was thisclose to being a Doll, or worse
Topher finds out Alpha has fixed it so they can't trace him or Echo. Dr. Saunders tells him that Alpha asked her is she always wanted to be a doctor, and how he didn't believe her. Topher wonders who can fathom a crazy mind. Dr. Saunders says "maybe the one who made him crazy". So why are we looking at Topher?
Somewhere on the 405, Alpha and Echo become Unnatural Born Active Killers, listening to a long forgotten '70s song. She calls him Bobby, a boyfriend who once took her out of a bad place at 13. That's not true, and he admits to that later, but they're having fun. Echo (because she has no name for this new self) then gets upset because her Tasty Couture t-shirt is missing. She yells at the store clerk they just kidnapped.
Switch to a few years ago, when an engagement goes wrong. Two handlers, Alvarez and Blevins, go nuts trying to find them. At an abandoned warehouse in San Pedro, we see Alpha torturing someone named Lars while a girl named Crystal dances to In Dreams by Roy Orbison. Lars is very upset he can't turn Alpha off, and end his David Lynch/Wild at Heart fantasy that he bought. Alpha is more upset this guy dared to say he's not real. Crystal then approaches both of them, and she looks a lot like Dr. Saunders. Yeah, it is her. She's Dr. Barbie.
So, as Alpha and Whiskey do their Lap Dance of Death on Lars, the handlers show up,and get them out of there.
Back in 2009, Paul Ballard is not a Doll. Actually, he's loving the fact Alpha is bringing the Dollhouse down faster than he ever could. He also doesn't like Adelle's explanation that this is a technological anomaly. She's more upset Paul brought him back here at all. Then, they find out the FBI has surrounded 23 Flower, where the Dollhouse is located. Alpha told them there's a bomb inside. Paul gets rid of them by telling Agent Brian Tanaka the Dollhouse is under their feet. As expected, Tanaka calls it a false alarm, and blames Paul. After all, Paul even suspects the FBI knows about the Dollhouse.
They do get more bad news: Alpha took all the imprints they used on Echo. Seems he has his own Dollhouse and imprint chair. Echo looks impressed, but needs a restroom.
What about Victor? He's worried he can't be his best anymore, now that he's scarred. Dr. Saunders says "Your best is past, a past you can't even remember." All he can hope for, she says, is pity, and she's not sure she can give them to him. Why does she suddenly have worse bedside manner than Gregory House?
Switch to a flashback, where we see the real Dr. Saunders, a balding old man who gives out lollipops. We also learn Whiskey, before her medical degree, was more popular than Echo. He's worried that she's working too hard. Just then, a new Active comes in, none other than Caroline Farrel. She's suddenly not too sure about the deal she made with Adelle DeWitt. However, one person is happy to see her...Alpha, who is in the middle of a massage. This is really a case of love at first sight gone horribly wrong.
Paul Ballard gets a look at the imprint chair, which is where the Dollhouse "steals their souls." "And then we put them in a glass jar with our fireflies," Topher sarcastically remarks. True, he's upset he was tasered earlier that night, but that remark could have gotten him two more zaps. Like it or not, though, Paul is needed to find the runaway actives. They also need Sierra and November as bounty hunters, which worries Paul. Sierra comes on to him a little, and November develops a new attitude that is refreshing. Too bad they had to be cut out of the episode for time. Paul later asks Topher what was Alpha trying to do. Topher can't answer because Alpha can't be profiled. He's like Soylent Green, made of people. He does recall the incident, and figures out Alpha did want something: the wedge that contained his original personality. He got rid of that quickly before the killing spree. They also figure out Alpha now has Caroline's original personality wedge and destroyed the backup.
What is Alpha's game, though? He plans to "wipe" Wendy, the clerk, and put a new imprint in her. Echo, still in her Wild at Heart mode, tries to understand, while Alpha tries to explain if his other selves don't interrupt him. What he does is "kill" Wendy, or put her in a wedge, and put Caroline in her place. Once that happens, Wendy/Caroline is stunned. "The wrongness of this is so huge," she says. Alpha, though, says he's doing Echo a favor. He wants her to ascend, and become an advanced being, just like him. He says Caroline, the soul, abandoned Echo, the body, and left Echo to the "jackals" to turn her into anything they want. So, he wants Echo to kill Caroline and become a new god, like him. He compares this to a blood sacrifice, which was done by early civilizations. It's the pattern of new life from death. Echo becomes new by killing her old self, Caroline. The old gods have returned, he says, and he and Echo can join them.
Echo just says her head hurts, as ours do. However, he points out he's always looked out for her, even in the Dollhouse. In another flashback, he was able to help Echo be the number one Active by mutilating Whiskey's face. When Blevins grabbed Alpha, Topher tries to figure out what went wrong...again. It also looks like Alpha is headed for the Attic, until he attacks Blevins and causes a major accident. Now, 48 brains are jammed into Alpha, and he winds up gouging Blevin's eyes out, saying "I understand Hell now." Then Dr. Saunders shows up, and the killing spree begins. It's well-described at the start of "The Target."
Back at the Dollhouse, Paul wants to know what Alpha was before his Dollhouse days. Adelle thinks that's not relevant, which means the truth is embarrassing. We find out Alpha was Carl Craft, who was a Ted Bundy in training, and could have killed someone if the victim hasn't escaped. Craft volunteered to be in Rossom's early experiments that led to the Dollhouse, which sounds very familiar. They find Craft's victim, and see his habit of cutting women had been happening for some time.
So, Alpha is all set to fulfill his Dr. Frankenstein fantasies. He injects all of Echo's 38 previous imprints into her, and she becomes Omega. She rises, and says "I get it." She picks up a pipe. She knows what must be done.
She clobbers Alpha. Well, Eliza Doolittle didn't like Henry Higgins at first sight, either. With 38 brains, and a better soul, she knows that killing herself, even in someone else's body, is no road to ascension. Alpha throws the Neitchze card at her, explaining this is how man evolves to a higher being, by getting rid of the lower forms. That doesn't work either. "We're not anybody because we're everybody," Echo says. What's more, she realizes she's really a container for whatever soul a client wants. Wendy/Caroline says the real "her" is right here, but Echo wants to know why Caroline wanted to be an Active. She only says, "it's complicated", but "Echoes" may be the real story. Alpha doesn't like this type of debate, and uses violence to make his point. Echo beats him, there too, and it looks like maybe Caroline will get her body back, especially since Echo argues no one should be a slave after signing a contract.
Alpha, though, may have the last word. He shoots Wendy/Caroline in the throat, and threatens to destroy Caroline's wedge. Seeing him point a gun at an imprint wedge, as if he was about to kill a hostage, is a sight to behold. What's worse, he plans to turn lots of girls into Caroline, then kill them. Echo does stop him, but he also gets away.
Topher, meanwhile, is trying to see which imprint Echo got before leaving with Alpha. He wonders if she was turned into a ninja/backup singer so that Alpha could create an evil band. Hey, if it gets rid of the Pussycat Dolls, it's a great idea. Seriously, he does figure out Alpha used an early Whiskey imprint...just as she's standing outside his door.
What happens is rather anti-climactic. Alpha does get away, but not before he tosses Caroline's wedge away. Echo nearly fails in saving it, but Paul is there to catch it. So, where are November and Sierra?
But what will Dr. Saunders think now that he's no longer an old man, but an attractive woman? Well, she figures it's an interesting way to recycle, but she doesn't understand why Topher also programmed her to hate him. Actually, she does, but it's Topher's way of making sure he never forgets. The doc isn't interested in what he was as Whiskey or even before that. She knows who she is. Still, how can someone deal with the fact of being someone else, and not being real?
Also, what do we do with Paul? Well, he'll be happy to help the Dollhouse...for a price. It will cost them the freedom...of November, now back to being Madeline Costley. Echo still has to stay, but does Paul have to pay a higher price? Or is it part of his original plan, to be the one that brings the Dollhouse down with fatal doses of morality? Well, he got to be the ideal prince by saving Caroline's real self. Maybe this is another way.
As for Echo, she's back to being just the container, and touches Topher's chest for some reason. It's soon back to her pod, and she dozes off after saying "Caroline".
Even if this looks like the end, especially after Prison Break failed again as a lead-in, there's plenty to talk about during a second season...
Could Echo composite with all those little memories of her past imprints, and become better than Alpha because she is good? If so, could Alpha come back, and make his own army of evil Actives, with hopes of making Echo the general of his dreams?
Could Adelle actually feel guilty about what she does, and the morality behind it? If so, would Rossom allow it? Well, no, but it would be interesting to see her try.
What will Paul's new role be...as a Doll who helps Boyd, or as himself?
Will Boyd be a loyal head of Security, or decide that protecting a Dollhouse isn't as important as protecting humanity in general? It all depends on whether Paul's belief that you can't wipe away a soul, good or bad, is accepted by the Dollhouse. The example of Alpha will play a big role.
Will Topher admit he's not a super-genius, and that things go wrong? Will he try to get a real friend, starting with Ivy?
How will Dr. Saunders see herself, and what she does, knowing she used to be an Active? How will former Actives, not restored, deal with life? Could one actually remember, and ask t obe put back in the Dollhouse?
Could there be the possibility of a rivalry between Actives, played by Handlers?
And there could be more to this. Dollhouse isn't really about a girl trying to regain her true self and her soul. It's all about who we are, and how that is determined by many factors, from social graces to technology, and whether we have the final say on who we are.
Think about it. We exist as bodies. We walk, talk, shop and sneeze like a gal who tosses stakes around does. But we can also exist in cyberspace, talking to hundreds of friends all over the world as many different avatars and nicknames through technology. Can that same technology wind up changing us, robbing us of what makes us human, and turning us into Tupperware with legs that's ready for a new self to be put inside?
I don't know if that will be considered in "Epitaph One," but it should be.
Finally, the ratings numbers: 2.8 million viewrs and a 1.0 18-49 demo. That will probably double if you include DVR, iTunes and internet viewing, but it won't be enough to keep the show for the fall.
Not even the CW would save it with numbers like that.