Dollhouse: Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10
Stop Loss / The Attic
Dollhouse continued its sprint toward the finale tonight, churning out two more episodes that were mind-blowingly brilliant, more than a little scary, occasionally hilarious, and pretty much non-stop awesome. The show has been forced to move at breakneck speed since the cancellation was announced (though they were probably prepared for it with these episodes far before it became official), but rather than simplify their themes or dumb down the story they have been trying to tell since day one, Whedon and co. have managed to fit more into each hour they have left than i owuld have thought possible.

"Stop Loss," the first episode tonight, centers around Victor (aka Anthony) being released back into the real world after his contract expires. The episode begins with Adelle, still at the height of her evil reign, trying to get one last roger from "Roger," the imprint she made Victor into to satisfy her need for companionship. Unfortunately for her, even Victor's imprints are inexplicably tied to Sierra, and unwilling to consummate the farce that is his programmed fling with Adelle. His release rocks the Dollhouse, as Sierra is unwilling to believe Victor would abandon her, and Echo is upset because she intended to use Victor in her efforts to free everyone from the clutches of Rossum. Victor (as I'll call him to minimize the mind-fuckery) is released back into his life as a soldier from Afghanistan who suffered severe PTSD and agreed to become a doll to have it cured, but he doesn't exactly know how to begin living again. He sleeps in his bath tub because it resembles his pod from the Dollhouse, andalmost hits on a woman at a bar because she looks vaguely like Sierra. He is vulnerable and lost, and so its no surprise that Rossum takes advantage of that, recruiting him to become part of their Blackwateresque military division and join the hive-mind that comprises it.

Refusing to lose Victor, even in spite of "Cruella DeWitt" and her direct orders to the contrary, Topher and Ivy load Echo up with all of the military savvy and fighting skills they have, and also equip her with Sierra (re-imprinted as Priya) so that she can infiltrate and bring Victor back. Adelle is too busy binge-drinking away her guilt over her ethical missteps and immoral directives to notice, and Echo and Priya manage to get into the compound where the hive mind live and bring Victor out of its control. What follows is a pretty kick ass action set-piece in which Victor (and later Echo) try to use the advantage of the hive mind against other people within it. This leads to a fair amount of doppleganger fighting, but it all coems off without a hitch, and allows Dushku to kick ass just as God intended. Once they escape, she intends to set Victor and Sierra (Anthony and Priya) free to start their lives together, until they are all remote wiped and taken back to the Dollhouse. There, Adelle, at her seemingly most heartless, condemns them all to the one place they fear above all else: The Attic.

It was inevitable that we would see the attic eventually, but it was far less definite that it would be this cool. Remniscient of "Restless," one of my favorite episodes of Buffy, The Attic is actually a place where its denizens are forced to repeat nightmares that feed on their greatest fears, in the process powering Rossum's mainframe. Echo learns this when she is attakced by a thing known as Arcane and saved by an unlikely ally in Lawrence Dominic. Seeing the return of the now haggard, but determined Dominic (still played excellently by Reed Diamond) was enoguh to get me pumped, but what followed was even cooler. It seems every mind in the Attic is somehow connected through the mainframe, and Arcane has been hunting people within their own minds and murdering them (if you die in the Matrix...).

Dominic has become something of a rogue hero, hunting Arcane and trying to stop him from murdering those trapped in the Attic. So Echo and Dominic leap from brain to brain, and are showed some wonderfully creepy nightmares, the best (and worst) of which centers around a Japanese former Rossum-tech who is condemned to eat himself sushi style for all of time (when Arcan slashes his throat, his last words add to the creep factor: "Now the meat won't be fresh."). Priya's nightmare involves her sleeping with Victor, only to have him transformed into the rotting corpse of Nolan ("rigor mortis is the new Viagra"), while Anthony (I can't stop thinking of him as Victor!) dreams of fighting himself in an Afghanistan-like setting.

Once Echo, Sierra, Victor, and Dominic track Arcane to his own mind, they find themselves in a post-apocalyptic future much like we saw in "Epitaph One" and discover that Arcane is really a man named Clyde, one of the foudner's of Rossum. After imprinting a body with "Clyde 2.0" a version of himself made to only follow order, her was betrayed by his best friend, the other Rossum founder and left to the Attic to calculate what his tech will do (he has found that all but 3% of scenarios lead to the end of civilization). Echo finally realizes that flat-lining is the only way out of the Attic, and prepares the others to follow her. Dominic and Clyde decide to stay behind and continue working to shut down the mainframe from inside the Attic, while Echo, Victor and Sierra battle Rossum in the real world. Once they emerge, it is discovered that Adelle has been playing the long-game all along, pretending to be soulless evil to get Echo access to the mainframe inside the Attic, where she has learned many of Rossum's secrets. Now our team at the L.A. Dollhouse is ready to stand against Rossum, with the help of the ever mysterious Caroline Farrell (who has apparently had access to the Rossum inner-circle) who must be re-imprinted into Echo to prepare them for the fight to come.

Grade: A

-That's technically 6 episodes of Dollhouse in a row I've given an A, yet thinking about it, they have all deserved it. With Mad Men on hiatus until next summer, Dollhouse has until the end of January to enjoy its reign as the best show on television.

-Forgot to mention Ballard who, as I suspected, has become imprinted with himself. But something had to be removed from him in the process, and its clearly a pretty important something.

-"That joke went under my head."

-Darth Vader kills lieutenenants, not storm troopers."

-"I have seen the future, Mr. Langton, and it is not for the weak."

-"Why do you call yourself Arcane?" "It sounded badass."

-"2010 I think. We don't know how long we've been off the air." A nice little meta-joke at Fox's expense.

-So, there are some clear suspects as to who Clyde 2.0 is and who the real man behind Rossum is, but there is always a chance we're in for some new characters...
Tags: Dollhouse
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