Dollhouse 1.11: "Briar Rose"

There is a reason why I avoid spoilers. I like to see a story unfold in the manner intended by the writers, actors, and production staff. It honors their work. Spoilers make it too easy to pre-judge an episode or even a performance. Sometimes, they are unavoidable, particularly when casting is part of a blanket press release. But there are reasons why the best surprises are those best kept.

I had no idea who Alpha would turn out to be before the episode aired, so it was something that dawned on me as the story progressed. I think a lot of people would agree that it was the highlight of the episode, perhaps even the season, because that reveal was brutal and effective. Alpha's false persona was so convincing that even the vague suspicions that came with his computer savvy didn't quite gel until Victor's face was mince meat.

At this point, it seems as though Alpha's entire plan was to get back into the Dollhouse to take Echo. Helping Paul find Caroline was simply masterful manipulation. It's still unclear why Paul was so dedicated to rescuing Caroline, but it was definitely something that Alpha nurtured. Could it be as simple as obsession? Or does it still fit the early impression that Alpha was trying to forge Echo into a weapon like himself?

Alpha apparently used Paul as a distraction, a way to give him enough time to get what he wanted, but Dewitt seems to have had her own intentions for Paul at this stage of the game. That could have still been part of the misdirection; the entire "Briar Rose" concept was meant to suggest that Paul was Caroline's "Prince". That metaphor was so overwrought that it actually distracted from the fact that it was too obvious to be true.

For all the issues surrounding the series, both in terms of network interference and fan dissatisfaction with elements of the premise, the story has taken some interesting turns, and I think the uncomfortable morality actually helps give the tale some heft. Just within the context of a single scene, a character can go from goofy and harmless to morally corrupt and disgusting.

That said, I'm still not sure that this show shouldn't have been conceived as a mini-series. That's an opinion that formed early in the season, and despite the upswing in quality, my opinion hasn't shifted much. There have been so many struggles this first season that I'm wary of what a second season would bring. The recent experiences with "Pushing Daisies" and "Terminator" also show how a second season can just mean delayed heartache for fans. Right now, I just want this season to end on a high note with the finale.


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