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Saturday, August 01, 2009

The DVD has only been out a week, so no real spoilers, but I have a few thoughts about the two unaired episodes of Dollhouse.

* "Epitaph One" is as ambitious and as amazing as promised—definitely my favorite episode of Dollhouse and one of the top Whedonverse episodes of all time. It is, in every sense, just great, laying out a blueprint for the future of the series that is so compelling I'm not sure we need to actually see any of intervening episodes. (As far as I'm concerned they'd just be killing time before we get to "Epitaph Two," which is what I really want to see.) Joss and his co-writers have been pretty open with the fact that the episode came out of the assumption that there wouldn't be any more; people reference "Objects in Space," but the comparison to the season one finale of Sledge Hammer! seems much more apt. Have they written themselves into a corner? It'll be interesting to see if Joss & Co. can make the second season work when the real story now seems to be happening in 2019. Will people really sit still for john-of-the-week episodes with the stakes raised so much higher? Or will season two be more like Lost seasons four and five, with flashbacks and flashforwards that meet somewhere in the middle? Honestly I think I'd be most happy if they stuck with the "Epitaph" frame for good and did 2009-2018 just in flashback. It's not like we're getting a third season; don't leave anything on the road.

* Speaking of 2019: Was that a Dark Angel shout-out? The episode definitely had a post-Pulse vibe, and Joss and Dark Angel have something of a checkered past: widely understood as a Buffy rip-off, Dark Angel was unceremoniously canceled in favor of Firefly, which was later (you may have heard) unceremoniously canceled...

* The unaired pilot is, I think, probably a little worse as a pilot than the actually aired pilot—a rare case of network interference not being all bad—but it's pretty clear that Joss bitterly prefers it. (I haven't listened to the commentary yet, but apparently he has a lot of thoughts along these lines there as well.) Not only did he make oblique references to the original pilot throughout the season and in Epitaph One *and* bring back the astoundingly unimpressive Chrissy Seaver for "Omega," but he ended the (aired) season on the same audiovisual image—a whispered "Caroline"—that the original pilot ended on. The implication seems to be that the whole of the first season gets us to the same place the pilot did in just one hour.

* The most interesting thing about the unaired pilot, I think, is the discovery that Eliza Dushku is actually pretty good at doing a series of drastically different characters when it happens in rapid-fire, three-minute bursts. It's only over the course of a full episode that she really struggles as an actress. The hints toward Future Caroline in "Epitaph One" look like the latest attempt to explain away the one-note-acting; we'll see how this plays out.