Dollhouse 2.6: "The Left Hand"

(Note: This review covers the second half of the two-episode event that aired on 04 December, 2009. A previous review covered the first half of the event.)

After the laundry list of revelations in the previous episode, it seems almost impossible that this follow-up would be able to match the intensity. That’s the typical drawback of two-part stories: the set-up is usually more interesting than the subsequent resolution. In this case, it’s less about revelation and more about consequence, which was the best direction to take.

That’s not to say that revelations were not at hand. There was a solid explanation for the connection between Bennett and Caroline, something that could tie back into the very first scene of the series premiere. During the first season, it was revealed that Caroline’s activities against Rossum as an activist brought her to a point where her only option was to become a Doll. Now we get some insight into that past.

The initial implications suggested that Caroline was an innocent, forced into this life of rape and degradation by circumstance. Her innocence is no longer a surety. In fact, Caroline could have been a domestic terrorist of sorts, even if her target is, in fact, an evil corporation that actually commits heinous acts of evil. Bennett appears to have been a victim of Caroline’s extreme methods, and there was definitely some betrayal involved.

It goes a long way towards explaining Bennett’s fractured psyche. How she then became a card-carrying member of Rossum’s Dollhouse network, complete with more amorality than Topher can handle, is a big question. Was she working for Rossum before the lab incident, or was she undercover for the activists? My suspicion is that Bennett chose to work with Rossum, despite Caroline’s misgivings, and that led to the lab incident.

I must give Summer Glau kudos for her nuanced performance as Bennett. Beyond the usual unusual characteristics, there was a fragility that might have been missed by a less capable performer. In some scenes, it seemed as though Summer had chosen to emulate Sigourney Weaver, which was a nice touch.

The reveal of Rossum’s plan was more or less what was expected. Perrin’s gambit was nothing more than a means of pulling in all the documented evidence against Rossum, and everything supporting the existence of the Dollhouse network, so that Perrin himself could officially squash it in the public eye. November’s role was to put a face on the cover story, and she will likely become a weapon against Caroline/Echo in episodes to come.

I was a little disappointed, however, to discover that the implied threat against the Los Angeles branch was mostly connected to Bennett’s personal vendetta. While there were indications that the Los Angeles branch had developed a reputation within the Dollhouse network, and that it’s unusual Dolls were common knowledge, there didn’t seem to be a point to it all. At what point does Adele’s lack of control over her branch become a liability to Rossum? One would think that the line had been long since crossed.

Whatever the case, the groundwork is definitely being laid for the future seen in “Epitaph One”. Rossum has eliminated much of the public concern, Bennett mentioned technology that allows the imprinting to take place over an existing mind (instead of wiping a mind first), and Caroline/Echo no longer reverts to a blank slate. In fact, it seems very clear that the gestalt imprinting remnants have developed into an Echo personality that is distinct from Caroline. To say that this speaks directly to the theme of identity is an understatement.

Echo’s situation now reflects the classic argument: is our personality ingrained within us on a fundamental level, or is our personality the sum of our experiences? Echo’s evolution suggests that there is an argument for the latter, but it’s telling that Echo’s personality seems to be aligned with Caroline’s activist roots. It may be that Caroline was always still in there at the core, even if Echo doesn’t have Caroline’s memories.

Considering that the writers were never expecting a miracle and wrote the second season as something of a 12-episode arc with a capstone episode taking place in the same future as “Epitaph One”, this is essentially the mid-point of the season. This does feel like the tipping point for the season. Hopefully FOX will honor its promise to air the final episodes, because after this, there’s every reason to think they will be worth the wait.


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