"The Attic" - I'll see your sports analogy and raise you a Star Wars reference - Review
The tension is rising, the gears are moving and the end is in sight. There is a heavy tone that accompanies "The Attic" the mood and the sets are claustrophobic, the feeling that everything is in a funnel, coming to a head. This is the last episode of 2009, when we return in January we'll be down to the final three episodes to round out this inconsistent (but these days consistently fantastic) series. Many shows announce that they will be introducing a "game changer", but discovering Adelle's true allegiance and Caroline/Echo's significance is truly the announcement that will spearhead this show into the finale.
All the pieces are coming together, we learn that Caroline holds a significance with Rossum, we learn more about Rossum, its founders and the chances (all but 3%) that they will end civilization. Throughout the series we've been privy to much of what occurs in the Dollhouse, although we do not know exactly how long they've been operation. We've seen plans begin to backfire, traitors in the midst, dolls glitch (Alpha, Echo, now Victor and Sierra), and we've seen how far Rossum's reach can extend as they've planted a doll in the government.
We've seen agenda's change and personalities flare. Now we're on the edge, close to the disaster we've seen in "Epitaph One", time is running out and our heroes are coming together to stop it.
Adelle is a woman who plays her hand close to the chest, we spend the episode watching her icy stare, having sent Echo, Sierra and Victor to the attic while berating Boyd, Topher, and scaring the wits out of Ivy. Adelle has had a change of heart after a breakdown, an alcohol infused bender perhaps brought on by excessive guilt as she feels her power slipping away and her complicit actions in Rossum's nefarious plans for the future. She knows Caroline/Echo is special, that's why she hates her, and it's why she needs her.
"Stop-Lost" was essential to this episode, both in depicting how powerful Rossum can be as it develops group think technology and is raising a private army, showing how fragile its technology is when Echo can take it out a whole base almost entirely on her own. It also gave us background into Victor, or Anthony's pre-doll history. He was a soldier who fought in Afghanistan who signed up to be a doll to be cured of his severe PTSD. His military knowledge becomes essential to his role in "The Attic" and his role in the right against Rossum.
I felt as though the visual portrayal of the Attic was perfect, it has all the characteristics of a dream state, things don't quite make sense, mismatched scenery, and a dark, nightmarish atmosphere. The Attic is something that if Dollhouse were given more time probably could have been explored in greater detail, but I think this was perfect, it was hard, quick and we got to the bottom of it without dwelling on the details. When Echo arrives in the attic she is in Echo's head, not Caroline's. She explores a world filled with memories and fears from all the personalities that she's built from. Her nightmare is Echo's nightmare, that she won't be able to save them all, her friends and the world.
It turns out that agents conspiring to destroy Rossum are not limited to the real world. Dominic (Reed Diamond) who was sent to the Attic back in season one appears in Echo's head. He's been fighting Arcane, a mysterious figure that has been killing people from inside their nightmares. Everything that Echo is made of is dedicated to saving her friends. After annoyingly running off on her own, she agrees to work with Dominic to save Sierra and Victor, then capture and kill Arcane. Victor/Anthony proves to be invaluable offering his military experience to successfully capture Arcane.
This is where things get very interesting. The layers of Rossum begin to peel away. This is where we meet out warrior from the inside, and he's more inside than we might initially think. Meet Clyde, he was one of the original founders of Rossum, and the first resident of the Attic. Explaining that he was betrayed be his partner (whose identity has been erased from his memory), and a doll, Clyde 2.0 and put into the Attic to be the first part of Rossum's mainframe, a human CPU. Clyde has spent his days as Arcane killing the human CPU's to sabotage Rossum from inside the attic, and calculating the probability that Rossum will bring the world to its end, the end doesn't look good, in fact, it will probably look a lot like Epitaph One.
Echo finds a way to escape the Attic, she has to flat line, then revive back in the real world. She leaves along with Priya (Sierra) and Anthony (Victor). Dominic stays in the Attic with Clyde to fight from within.
Anthony/Victor must kill Priya/Sierra for her to escape, this scene is breath taking, they kiss as he stabs her, she slowly collapses in his arms, the fiery world in the background reflects the pain and the love in their faces. She leaves; he stares at the bloody blade, and allows the savages in the Attack to rip him apart.
Clyde lets a significant piece of information out, that a woman got into Rossum, she learned something that put the company at great risk. This woman was Caroline. We now understand how significant a role that Caroline, and now Echo plays in the narrative of Rossum. Caroline becoming a doll was not a coincidence.
A conversation between Adelle and Boyd also gives us something to think about. He says that his only goal was to protect Echo. It seems like Boyd was transferred to the Dollhouse specifically to deal with Caroline/Echo. She was always special, they always knew it, and we're coming closer to understanding why.
This is their plan
When Echo leaves the Attic we learn that Adelle sent her in with a mission, to understand what the Attic is, how it works, and to come back, something that no one has done before.
Gathered in Adelle's office is our mighty group of rebel soldiers; Echo, Anthony/Victor, Priya/Sierra, Boyd, Topher, (Ivy?) and Ballard (yes). They decide there is one more person needed to complete the group, that is Caroline, the woman who appears to have started this all.
Oh, and Ballard is back with the help of the Dollhouse technology as many of us predicted - I appreciate that it was not a quick fix and had to involve new ideas and hard decisions.
Some Final Thoughts:
I'm hoping that Alpha was (before his composite event) Clyde 2.0, or otherwise a central figure in Rossum. It would be a fantastic way to satisfy multiple storylines.
Also looking to see how Bennett was involved in Caroline's fight against Rossum. It seems as though Caroline abandoning Bennett has helped shape who Echo is as a person.
The Attic provided a lot of momentum moving forward, and it left a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered in the final three episodes:
When Topher and Ivy restored Ballard's personality to his body via active architecture, they left something out. What do you think that is?'
When did Adelle initially intend to take out Rossum, before or after Caroline, Or was it when Echo emerged as a person and challenged her did she decide that she needed to figure out the Attic? Or (and this is what my money is on) did Adele change her mind during her breakdown/bender?
Who is the original co-founder who betrayed Clyde, and have we met him or her before?
Hopefully all these questions and more will be answered when we return with the final three in January. As sad as I am to see a show that has improved so drastically come to an end. I know it's for the best, and I'm enjoying the ride!