Caroline Farrell is the original personality of the Active code-named Echo, the main character of Dollhouse. At first seen as more of a symbol than an actual character, over the course of the series Caroline's history, life and motivations are revealed through a series of both unlocked memories and flashbacks. She is portrayed by Eliza Dushku.
Before the Dollhouse
Caroline Farrell was an innocent, carefree and entirely normal college student who attended Freemont College in California. After taking influential classes and beginning to grow up, Caroline becomes determined to “take her place in the world.” She becomes an animal and human rights activist. While attending Freemont, Caroline becomes concerned with the possible rights and legal violations she suspects are being perpetrated by the mysterious Rossum Corporation, which runs a neuroscience lab on the campus. She is disgusted with herself for allowing it to continue, stating that she “spent four years partying under the shadow of the Rossum lab.”
Caroline and her boyfriend, Leo (who admires Caroline's activist spirit and her determination to change the world), hatch a risky plan to break in to the Rossum lab with a video camera and post damning evidence of their illegal activities to the internet, thus shaming Rossum into stopping. After succeeding in breaking in, however, Caroline and Leo are horrified to discover that Rossum is not only experimenting on animals, but on human brains and even human fetuses in highly illegal and off-the-record projects. When they are caught by security, they run from the building, but Leo is caught in the crossfire and dies in Caroline's arms, traumatizing her.
After being taken to a hospital where she refuses to speak, Caroline is hunted down by Adelle DeWitt, the leader of the Los Angeles Dollhouse, who assumes that Caroline is just another person who she can dupe into signing a contract with the Dollhouse to erase her past mistakes. Caroline, however, overhearing DeWitt's conversation with her doctor, escapes through a nearby window. (S1: "Echoes")
For more than a year, Caroline stays on the fringes of Rossum's radar, gathering as much information about them as possible and hurting them where she can, determined from what she has witnessed and by Leo's murder to bring Rossum to justice for their crimes. Caroline becomes a much harder, colder person during this time, and DeWitt later comments that Caroline “left a trail of misery in her wake, and more than a few bodies.” Also, apparently, during this time Caroline built a safe place for herself nestled in the snowy mountains in an undisclosed location. (S1: "Gray Hour")
Months later, and much more skilled in espionage, Caroline seduces a Rossum security guard and uses him to break into Adelle DeWitt's office, where she handcuffs the guard and finds files on both herself and on Bennett Halverson, a rising star in a Rossum-funded institute in Tucson, Arizona, where the Rossum Corporation Headquarters building is located. Still acting under the impression that the office building is the Rossum building, Caroline is shocked to find footage of the Dollhouse below the office and vows to find a way to come back and see the prisoners Rossum is keeping below. She casually refers to herself as a “terrorist.”
Over the course of the next few months, Caroline enters into the University of Tucson and befriends Halverson, where the two quickly bond and Halverson begins to somewhat hero-worship Caroline (who begins to have second thoughts about using her friend). These fears are allayed, however, when Bennett finds the files that Caroline possesses and is determined to have Caroline “use” her to help bring Rossum down. The two determine to take down Rossum's headquarters.
After breaking into the building, Bennett guides Caroline through a series of tunnels via computer so that Caroline can set explosive charges. Her plans are again interrupted, however, when she finds a secret lab hidden from the schematics that is filled with human test subjects in various experiments, including some who have been lobotomized. Horrified, Caroline forgets that the explosives are time-ordered and ignores Bennett's urging to run, determined to save everyone no matter how unrealistic the goal. When the bombs explode, Caroline escapes relatively unscathed, but Bennett is trapped beneath a stone column, her left arm crushed.
Caroline spots DeWitt and her security officer Laurence Dominic on a nearby security feed and determines that Bennett will not be caught. She gives Bennett a security card and tells her to pretend that she was working late when the explosion went off. Caroline then allows herself to be caught by DeWitt, who informs her that she has “much to answer for.” Before she can be processed, however, Caroline is called to the top of the building to meet the mysterious head of the Rossum Corporation.
Caroline is told that she is special, and that she is “the key” to a plan for the future, though she doesn't understand how or why. She is then sent away to the Los Angeles Dollhouse. (S2: "Getting Closer")
There, DeWitt coerces her into signing the five-year contract with the Dollhouse, informing Caroline that her past “is a mess” and that “actions have consequences.” Caroline argues with her about her ability to erase the past, but nevertheless signs the contract. (S1: "Ghost", "Echoes") She is then taken below ground, to the Dollhouse she had glimpsed on the security feeds months before. She refers to the dolls as “zombies,” before she is taken to the imprinting chair and has her personality erased, becoming the Active known as Echo. (S1: "Omega")
In the Dollhouse and subsequent awakenings
FBI Agent Paul Ballard believes that the process of wiping people to become Actives is tantamount to murder. It is clear from the beginning, however, that Echo is not like other Actives, and shows a capacity for memory and evolution beyond the wipes, even displaying clear personality traits of Caroline.
In the series premiere “Ghost,” a picture of Caroline in her innocent college days is sent to FBI special agent Paul Ballard, the agent assigned with investigating the Dollhouse, spurring new life into his investigation. In “True Believer,” Ballard receives video footage of Caroline, also during her college days, and he begins to fall in love with the idea of her.
When Echo's life is put in danger and she is subjected to a dangerous and unknown psychotropic drug in “The Target,” she is able to access the memory of Caroline as seen in the video footage, even though she is imprinted as Jennie.
Echo's “glitching” and memories come to a head in “Echoes,” when she is imprinted as Alice. When Alice accidentally catches a glimpse of footage of Freemont College, she remembers Caroline's desperate need to save Leo, and goes off-mission to Freemont, where she is subjected to an experimental drug from the Rossum building and remembers the tragedy that happened at Freemont, up to Leo's death in her arms.
In “Needs,” in order to stop Echo glitching, she is allowed to wake up as Caroline, only with no memories, within the Dollhouse. Although Caroline manages to get free of the Dollhouse alongside her fellow awakened Actives Victor, Sierra and November, Caroline stays behind and breaks back in to the Dollhouse in order to free all of the Actives inside, despite their mind-wiped state, leading DeWitt to note that Caroline was “never really very realistic.” Caroline also finds Paul Ballard's name in her file and contacts him from Dr. Saunders' office, asking for his help. Caroline only finds a sense of closure after she has “freed” all of her fellow dolls from Rossum's control.
In “Omega,” the insane rogue Active Alpha believes that Echo can only ascend to the higher state he believes he has attained if she downloads all of her personality imprints at once and then uses a “blood sacrifice” by way of killing Caroline, who has been downloaded into another body. Caroline is confronted by herself, and she can't come up with any answers that don't make her feel ashamed when Echo demands to know why Caroline left her. Caroline is killed while within the other girl's body, but Ballard manages to save her imprint wedge, allowing him to symbolically, finally, “save” Caroline.
In “The Left Hand,” Bennett Halverson, very much alive and believing that Caroline left her for dead, imprints Echo with her memory of the night that she and Caroline broke into Rossum, which affects Echo deeply; that, coupled with all she has heard of Caroline's build-up of collateral damage and the fear that she, Echo, might cease to exist if Caroline “comes home” leads her to admit that she is “afraid of Caroline.”
In the episode “Getting Closer,” while the team races to reassemble Caroline's memories which hold an important secret, DeWitt and Echo view the video footage of Caroline in college, and Echo notes that DeWitt makes Caroline sound evil. DeWitt notes that Caroline “is much worse than evil: she is an idealist.”
The Possible Future ("Epitaph One")
In “Epitaph One,” Echo is seen to have been restored to Caroline, though whether it is the original Caroline or an amalgam of Echo and Caroline is yet to be revealed. She is a freedom fighter who works with Paul Ballard to find a cure for Rossum's devastating mass-wiping/imprinting technologies, and she establishes “Safe Haven,” a place where there are no wipes. She has become a symbol of hope and freedom for the Actuals – those other freedom fighters who escaped the wipe. As of the end of “Epitaph One,” Caroline's personality is active and alive within the body of seven year old Iris Miller, though whether or not the true Caroline is still alive is yet to be seen.
Although nothing has been confirmed by Joss Whedon or other sources, it is a theory that Caroline's parents may be the dead bodies seen near Alpha at the end of "Ghost," the series premiere, which could explain how he got the video footage of Caroline at Freemont saying "Hi, mom," to a video camera. It is important to note, however, that this is still a theory and the truth about what happened to Caroline's family and whether or not any of them are still alive is unknown. In the commentary for "Ghost", Whedon calls the two dead bodies her parents but then says he is joking. Caroline's father is named Kevin Jones.
According to Rossum medical records dated 6/15/09 obtained from an eBay auction of official Dollhouse props, Caroline:
- was born June 20th, 1980
- lives at 1653 Orchard Ave, Los Angeles CA, 90019
- is 5'5" and 120lbs
- uses tobacco
- wears contacts
- has had some sort of head, neck, or jaw injury
- has frequent headaches
- has had some form of orthodontic treatment
- had appendicitis in 2004
- has had chicken pox and mumps, but received all other standard immunizations
On two occasions over the course of the series, Caroline's personality is downloaded into bodies other than her own, or Echo's. The first is in "Omega," where she is downloaded into a waitress named Wendy, where she is portrayed by the actress Ashley Johnson. Later, in "Epitaph One," she is downloaded into the body of Iris Miller, where she is portrayed by Adair Tishler, making Caroline the most-acted character in the series, being portrayed by Eliza Dushku, Ashley Johnson, and Adair Tishler, with Dushku and Johnson once both in the same scene.