Could 'Dollhouse' Have Been Saved?
Could 'Dollhouse' Have Been Saved?
The one thing I'm certain most Dollhouse fans were thinking after the series came to a close last Friday: it's a shame it couldn't have gone longer.

The first season of Dollhouse took so long to establish itself, perhaps too long for people to stick with it. From the DVD-exclusive episode "Epitaph One" and then continuing into the second season, the series picked up speed considerably. Its slow-moving season one was composed mostly of stand-alone episodes which raised big questions about the dangers of the Dollhouse, but rarely answered them. Season two raised the stakes, presenting the possibilities of the technology--all the bad, and sometimes the good, things that can happen with the ability to put different personalities in a person's head--and showing its apocalyptic effects (on the world, and on the brain).

And then it was over.

Despite their sudden (though, sadly, expected) cancellation, the Dollhouse writers were given time to wrap up all loose ends and give us a satisfying ending to their grand enterprise. There wasn't much time, but they made the most out of it, and for the last few weeks of the show we were treated to mind-bending questions and powerful performances.

But as a viewer, I was also frustrated. Why did they hold back the intensity in the first season? All these questions about the morality of wiping the dolls, as opposed to the engagements themselves, only came up in the second season. Only then did the writers really explore the larger possibilities and problems of creating and maintaining dolls, and the larger, more odious goals such a project could entail. I still think the show would be better if those little questions were dropped early on, setting everything up for one climax after another.

The show's accomplishments in its second and final season are even more impressive given that Dollhouse labored under a unique predicament before it even premiered. The original pilot was scrapped after several remake attempts. The first five episodes had personality-of-the-week storylines, making it hard for viewers to connect to the overarching story and its implications when it mattered the most. Of course, it didn't help that FOX put the show in the Friday night death slot, attempting a sci-fi theme alongside with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. All those factors have been discussed and debated everywhere else, so I'll just ask a different question: even with all that, could Dollhouse have been saved?

Dollhouse's biggest problem was a lack of confidence in the premise and the material. The network found the show too risky from the start, but it was only once the writers began to take huge risks that the series reached its potential. The first season's biggest reveals were probably Lubov, Mellie and Dr. Saunders being actives, as well as Alpha's composite event--a stark difference from the second season's exploration of Sierra's pre-Active past, or Paul and Echo's relationship, or Topher's development of the technology that would soon cause the apocalypse.

The potential to take Dollhouse onto the grand scale was there all along, though it never really occurred to me until I saw "Epitaph One," and the stakes were legitimately upped. Like one of the show's own "sleeper" agents, the episode came out of nowhere (literally, since Fox didn't even air it) and revitalized the show with its message, leading to philosophical debates about morality and free will, about doing bad things for the evil good. If those questions had come in earlier, things could've been much different, and perhaps right now I'd be wondering what new horizons lay ahead for Dollhouse season three.

Nonetheless, I'm glad Dollhouse ended every relevant storyline cleanly and clearly, despite the apparent pacing issues (what about the events between 2010 and 2020?) and all the questions they could've explored, if given more time. I know I can't get everything I hoped for in the series since it began last year, but it was still one hell of an entertaining ride, ending on an optimistic yet somber note. And for that, I thank everyone involved.

(Image courtesy of Fox)