This is one of those episodes that comes along and hits you square in the mouth, leaving you reeling and wondering what the hell just happened. The sheer plot density of this episode is so extreme that it could take several viewings to catch all the references and connections to what has come before. In fact, itâs so dense that Iâm not sure if it was a rousing success or a resounding failure.
It may not matter, given that the density of the plot is a direct consequence of the seriesâ cancellation. The writers had to compress the storyline in a major way, and that meant answering questions at a ridiculous pace. Iâll give the writers full credit for providing those answers. We have an enormous amount of context to parse out now, and the vast majority of it fits with everything that has been seen before. Any new wrinkles are sure to be addressed in the final two hours.
We now have the full context for everything that happened between Caroline and Bennett, and it turns out that Caroline is neither the angel she was originally portrayed to be nor the devil that she has been cast as more recently. In fact, Caroline was effectively damned by her own success. Her initial discoveries of the Rossum human experiments emboldened her idealism, and in the end, she was trapped by her own choices.
Itâs interesting to learn that Carolineâs tenure in the Dollhouse was a direct result of the incident that destroyed Bennettâs arm. It ties the story up with a nice little bow. Of course, the assumption was that Caroline discovered the identity of the two individuals running Rossum through some sort of trickery, and thatâs not at all what happened.
The revelation that Boyd is âClyde 2.0â is a stunner. It completely changes the nature of the game. Yet, at the same time, it doesnât feel like something that was decided late in the game to give the series a quick resolution. Boydâs past history has always been very sketchy, and of all the main characters in Echoâs life, he had the least definition. And right from the beginning, he was framed in a way that led the audience to trust his intentions towards Echo without question.
In terms of the big picture, since the beginning of the series right through to âThe Atticâ, it was a reasonable assumption that Caroline was sent to the Dollhouse to ensure that her knowledge would never be revealed and she would never become a threat. And generally speaking, it would be logical to assume that Boyd reprogrammed Whiskey to kill anyone who tried to restore Caroline for the same reasons. Yet, why wouldnât Whiskey have killed Topher or Ivy as well? Why just Bennett?
For that matter, Boyd was front and center for Echoâs entire development and has been aiding Echoâs little resistance movement all along. If the intention was to bury Caroline within the Dollhouse to ensure that her knowledge was never made public, to protect Rossumâs long-term goals for the world, why allow that to happen?
The implication is that Rossumâs surveillance of Caroline led Rossum to believe that she would be able to help them implement a completely different plan. A plan that required Caroline herself to be out of the picture, but the development of a Doll-persona that was based on Carolineâs underlying desire to seek out the truth. After all, as the parallel story structure of this episode demonstrates, Echo can be just as driven as Caroline, and a whole lot more ruthless.
The question is: if Boyd/Clyde 2.0 wanted Echo to emerge as she has, and wanted to help Echo, what was his true motive in doing so? It wouldnât be to destroy Rossum, and itâs hard to believe that it would have been a desire to bring about the end of civilization. It could be something as simple as rooting out problematic individuals within the organization, but that doesnât track, either. After all, most of the situations that led to the emergence of a resistance within the Dollhouse network were the direct fallout of Echoâs activities. Stop Echo from coming into existence, and there is no resistance.
So much of the rest of the episode was devoted to filling in the gaps between the âpresentâ and âEpitaph Oneâ. Some of the scenes are right out of the previous episode, so it feels almost seamless. I would expect that many other pieces will fit into the next episode. Topherâs eventual mental collapse could now come out of a combination of factors: his guilt over the development of the remote wipe technology as well as the loss of Bennett.
But those connections almost feel like a minor consideration now. The integrity of the entire story now rests on satisfactory resolution of Boyd/Clyde 2.0âs true intentions for Echo. Boyd has to have a reason for allowing Echo to exist. Anyone going back through the series from beginning to end should be able to see how Boydâs true intentions make sense within the context of what was shown. If not, and if the writers just gloss over the inconsistencies, then all the work to line up the second season with âEpitaph Oneâ will have been for nothing.
To be fair, that is a litmus test that the final two episodes will have to pass. This episode should be judged on its own merits. And in that respect, I think it comes down to whether or not the episode tried to deliver too much information too quickly. I think this took over-saturation right to the edge, but didnât quite step over the line. And given that the density of the episode was born of necessity, not choice, Iâm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.