|"Epitaph Two: Return"|
|Season 2, Episode 13|
|Airdate:||January 29, 2010|
|Written By:||Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon and Andrew Chambliss|
|Directed By:||David Solomon|
|Dollhouse Episode Guide|
"The Hollow Men"
"Epitaph Two: Return" is the 13th episode of the second season of Dollhouse, the 26th overall and the series finale. It was written by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon and Andrew Chambliss, and directed by David Solomon.
Originally scheduled to air on January 22, 2010, the episode was rescheduled to January 29, 2010, due to Fox's airing of "Hope for Haiti Now," a telethon fundraiser to aid the victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. All five English-language TV networks in the United States, along with the Public Broadcasting System and several cable channels, aired the two-hour telethon on January 22.
In the year 2020, events finally come full-circle as Echo and the few surviving Dollhouse staff struggle to restore mankind after the devastating events seen in the first season episode, "Epitaph" that has turned 90% of Earth's population into mindless, kill-crazy zombies out to kill those not infected (called 'actuals') by the Rossum's remote mind-wipe system. In the meantime, fellow "actuals", Mag, Zone, and the mind-restored Caroline set out to find "Safe Haven" that can save man-kind from total extinction.
In the year 2020, one year after the events of "Epitaph One," Caroline, still in the body of Iris, is traveling with Zone and Mag on their way to Safe Haven, fighting off the Butchers as they go. After reaching Tucson, however, they are kidnapped by a group of still-human mercenaries and taken to the former headquarters of Rossum. Tucson is now known as Neuropolis, the City of Minds. Safe Haven is ironically located next to Neuropolis, as, according to Caroline, those surviving in Safe Haven must steal tech and food from the city to survive.
There, Matthew Harding lives on in a series of bodies along with Clive Ambrose, the last of Rossum's cabal of leaders. Harding is now a fat man surrounded by vice, leaving Ambrose disgusted with him—they call their new bodies "suits" and Harding laughs that he has stretched his out too far. Ambrose presents him with a group of attractive young naked men to choose from for his newest body. After seeing Paul Ballard—apparently wiped—Harding runs from the room. Ballard reveals that he is faking and takes out the guards.
Meanwhile, Echo appears with a group of friends and rescues the Actuals. She learns of Iris/Caroline's identity and takes it in stride, and then reveals her and Paul's true mission: to rescue Topher. Topher had been kidnapped by Rossum in order to amplify his tech to complete a global mind-wipe. For each day that he fails to accomplish his task, a new innocent victim is murdered in front of him. As a result, Topher has fallen into apparently irreparable schizophrenia. However, he reveals that he has secretly forced himself to design a way to restore the world to its true order.
Echo, after assassinating Harding once more (despite his taunts that backup copies of his mind remain), leads the group to Safe Haven, where Adelle DeWitt and Priya Tsetsang are living together with a young boy named T, who is Priya's son. After introductions, the group discusses the implications of what Topher is capable of, and they realize that if they used the tech, it would mind-wipe all with Active architecture, so that they would forget. In order to keep their minds and to get Topher the tech they need, they must all go underground and return to the Los Angeles Dollhouse. Caroline reveals to Paul that Echo is still in love with him, even if she won't say it.
Anthony Ceccoli and a group of fierce tech-head warriors arrive in order to transport them to Los Angeles, which is now a war zone. Priya reveals that Tony's addiction to self-improvement by the tech has led to their breaking up, and that T is Tony's son. Tony and Priya agreed to keep T away from any and all technology, and thus away from Tony. T has no idea that Tony is his father. Zone and Mag argue about what to do, and Zone finally gives in and agrees to go with them. Mag reveals that she is a lesbian and begins flirting with Kilo, who has joined the tech-heads.
On the road trip, Priya and Tony fight about what he gave up in order to continue down the technological path, and she tells him that he did everything for her but the one thing she asked him to. He tells her that he's been fighting the war for her, and for their son, and they can't come to an agreement. Adelle continues to try to coax Topher to calm down, but even with Caroline's help she can't. It is revealed that the tech-heads can't download any new skills without taking one away, and that only Echo can retain all of her imprints at once. Paul mentions that Echo now has at least 100 imprints living within her, in her complete control.
Meanwhile, Echo and Paul talk about Echo's loneliness, and how she never lets him in, even though they both want to. He indicates that they've been together sometimes when Echo was sure they were about to die, and Echo can't refute his words. They come to an understanding, though it is unresolved. When the group arrives in Los Angeles, they are met by the butchers. A vicious fight ensues as the group struggles to make it to the Dollhouse. When Mag is shot in the legs, Paul goes to help her and is shot in the head by a butcher. Echo takes the rest inside.
There, they meet Alpha, who has taken over the Los Angeles Dollhouse and has turned it into a refuge for dolls once more, taking them all in. Apparently in the ten years of chaos, Alpha has become an ally, who helped Echo develop Safe Haven. He and Echo and Victor embrace, and he displays grief at Paul's sudden death, which Echo won't yet face. Topher begins to work on the tech. Upstairs, the tech-heads stage an insurrection, led by Romeo, who wants all of the technology within the Dollhouse for himself. They don't want the world to go back to the way it was, because they have adapted themselves to thrive in this new world. Alpha can still call on his imprints and helps Echo dispatch them quickly. Tony renounces the tech. Following the failed insurrection, Priya and Echo are destroying the tech-head warrior imprints. Priya is horrified that she is once more within the Dollhouse and begins to take her anger at Tony out on the imprints. Echo joins her and forces her to understand how important it is that Tony is in love with her, and finally breaks down and grieves for Paul, that her one true love is gone and she is alone once more.
Adelle leads Topher to his bedchamber, still decorated with religious symbols and mathematical books. Alpha remarked that he left it that way because it spoke to "the schizophrenics" in him. Topher, back in his comfort zone, quickly decodes what he must do. Topher uses a video recording of Bennett Halverson that she had used as a Rossum instructional tool before the mass-wipe. In hindsight, Bennett in this video not only gives technical instructions but also inspirational advice when she declares identity as being predominantly defined by our momentary actions. Topher is visibly deeply moved by this thought and manages to lapse out of his guilt-induced schizophrenia. He then tenderly touches the recording of her lips and thanks her for the final stage. Topher reveals that a bomb must be activated manually from a high point, sending the signal into the ionosphere where it will cover the world and restore everyone to their original minds. He will kill himself to avoid hurting anyone else, and leaves Adelle the task of cleanup. He remarks that Adelle's job is harder.
Adelle and Echo say goodbye, and Adelle remarks that it's ironic that the final fantasy the Dollhouse will grant will be Echo's. Echo says that she has no fantasies left, and Adelle hugs her goodbye. Alpha has left, in case he returns to the mind of Karl William Kraft, a burgeoning serial killer and Alpha's original human personality (though Echo does not believe that he will). Mag and Zone say goodbye, and Zone promises to take care of Caroline when she turns back into a little girl. Mag reveals that she was a sociology student at Berkeley, and Zone reveals that he was a landscape architect.
Priya introduces T to Tony, and T reveals that he is named Tony after his father. Adelle, the shepherd of the dolls once more, leads the wiped dolls outside, leaving everyone else inside who must stay for a year to be protected from the wipes. Topher travels to Adelle's office at the top of the building and, after turning to look at the wall of pictures labeled "To Remember," detonates the blast, killing himself and releasing the cure into the world.
The wiped humans all get knocked out and wake up with their minds restored. Zone takes a confused little girl under his wing, and Adelle returns to the Dollhouse, knowing that there are still by-products of Rossum left to be hunted down and destroyed, such as the original copies of Harding, Ambrose, and Clyde Randolph. Echo finds a gift from Alpha and loads herself into the chair once more to see what the imprint wedge is. She realizes that Alpha has given her the full imprint of Paul Ballard. Since Echo can control the imprints living within her, she and Paul can converse whenever they want, and she'll literally carry her lover inside of her for the rest of her days.
As Adelle returns to the Dollhouse, Priya, Tony, and T reunite, and the world begins to finally set itself to rights, Echo lies down in her old sleeping pod with a smile on her face and goes to sleep, dreaming of Paul and a world restored to sanity.
- Eliza Dushku as Echo/Caroline Farrell
- Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton (credit only)
- Fran Kranz as Topher Brink
- Tahmoh Penikett as Paul Ballard
- Enver Gjokaj as Anthony Ceccoli
- Dichen Lachman as Priya Tsetsang
- and Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt
- Felicia Day as Mag
- Zack Ward as Zone
- Adair Tishler as Iris Miller/Caroline Farrell
- Christian Monzon as Romeo
- Noah Harpster as Matthew Harding
- Brandon Dieter as T
- Nate Dushku as Clive Ambrose
- Maurissa Tancharoen as Kilo
- Brandon Molale as X-Ray
- Damion Poitier as Yankee
- Jim Lindsey as Active
- Amazon Video on Demand accidentally released "Epitaph Two: Return" prematurely, in the early morning of January 29 (in the eastern U.S.), but withdrew the online video after about an hour. They have since issued an apology for the mistake.
- In an accident due to a commercial break scheduling mistake, the final montage fade to black of "Epitaph Two" was cut a half-second short, ending the fadeout in an abrupt manner that led some viewers and critics making joking references to the strange and unsatisfying ending of the series finale of "The Sopranos." Fox has since stated that this was a mistake, and the DVD release of the episode will contain the full end credits.
- Amy Acker (Claire Saunders/Whiskey/Clyde 2.0), Miracle Laurie (November/Mellie/Madeline Costley), and Reed Diamond (Laurence Dominic) were listed as guest stars in the Fox press release for "Epitaph Two: Return" but did not appear in the episode—an apparent misdirection by Fox to conceal plot developments in the final three episodes of the series. In Miracle Laurie's case, however, this was cleared up several days before the episode aired when she posted on her Twitter account that "The Hollow Men" was indeed, her final episode.
- Writer Jed Whedon has a cameo appearance in the episode.
- The "tech-heads" refer to the main characters as "Luddites." The historical Luddites were a movement of artisans opposed to the mechanization of labor during the early years of the Industrial Revolution. In modern usage, the term is applied derogatorily to anyone with a perceived anti-technological stance.
- Former Active Kilo makes her third appearance of the series in this episode after popular fan response to writer Maurissa Tancharoen's spirited cameo appearances as a Doll. Kilo starred in "The Left Hand" and "Meet Jane Doe."
- Eliza Dushku's older brother, Nate Dushku, had a brief guest spot as the current incarnation of Clive Ambrose. According to an interview, Eliza was first discovered as an actress when she was a child tagging along with Nate to an acting audition where she fell and bloodied her nose and "was instantly a total drama queen. The director was like, 'who is this kid?'"
- Late in the filming of "Epitaph Two: Return," Eliza Dushku broke her left elbow, and the cast was then concealed through the remaining scenes through wardrobe changes.
- Echo has a sizable gray streak in her hair for this episode, showing the toll that ten years of fighting have taken on her.
- With this episode, the only three characters to appear in all 27 produced episodes are Echo, Adelle and Topher.
"Epitaph Two: Return" was the series finale for Dollhouse. As such, it brought closure to each of the main characters introduced at the beginning of the series.
- Echo: Now a fully-formed individual capable of retaining all of her multiple imprints, Echo has found peace as the leader of her group. She carries Paul's personality within her mind so that they will always be together in a metaphysical sense. Although she indicates that after the charge has dissipated from the air and she is free to leave the Dollhouse she will hunt down what is left of Rossum and finish them off, Echo has found peace and her inner self.
- Paul Ballard: Murdered by a butcher in the battle to get into the Dollhouse and save the world, Paul Ballard lives on as a complete personality within Echo, joined with the woman he's loved for more than a decade on a transcendent level. He appears to be at peace with his new existence.
- Priya Tsetsang: Reunited with Tony once more, Priya has found inner peace and strength through raising her son, T (named for his father). She and Tony are finally together and free of the tech, and she is once more happy, bright, and full of life.
- Tony Ceccoli: After renouncing the tech and leaving his team of tech-head warriors to disband, Tony has stepped down from the war to be with Priya and his son, T. He is happy and looking forward to getting to know his son.
- Topher Brink: Although his mind snapped after being forced to face the guilt of being the creator of the tech that destroyed human civilization, Topher managed to persevere despite the torturous duress Rossum placed on him during his captivity to design a final piece of tech that would set the world free once more. Topher gave his life setting off the bomb that both reversed and killed the mind-wiping tech. Although he started off with no morals, Topher made the ultimate sacrifice and died a hero's death.
- Adelle DeWitt: Finding peace and resolve in aiding Echo take down the corporation she once served, DeWitt has become a caring woman who fiercely protects those under her charge. T regards her as something of a grandmother figure. Adelle will continue to take care of her remaining friends and charges within the Dollhouse, as well as look after T.
- Alpha: During the years that he had downloaded Paul Ballard's personality within himself, Alpha finally began to evolve past his insanity and tried to repent for the harm he'd done the world. Becoming one of Echo's closest friends, Alpha helped her set up Safe Haven and then later took over the Los Angeles Dollhouse to create a Safe Haven of his own for those who had been mind-wiped into the tabula rasa state. He gave Echo the full imprint of Paul's mind before disappearing from the Dollhouse as a precaution against the tech wiping him back into the mind of Carl William Craft, a serial killer. He has found peace at last.
- Dr. Claire Saunders/Whiskey: After being wiped of Clyde 2.0's personality, Whiskey was re-imprinted with Claire Saunders' personality, during which time she helped all those who had been living in the Dollhouse after Rossum wiped the world. After Echo founded Safe Haven and came to take them all there, Claire had herself mind-wiped back into the mindset of Whiskey with the task of showing any Actuals the way to Safe Haven, as well as guarding the Dollhouse from either the butchers or from Rossum. After showing the last of the Actuals the way to Safe Haven, Whiskey unleashed a gas that had either killed or knocked out the butchers and herself.
- November/Madeline Costley/Mellie: After Madeline Costley was conned into giving testimony against the Dollhouse, she was kidnapped and forced back into the Dollhouse (this time in the Washington, D.C. location) and transformed back into November. The fate of Madeline's original personality is unknown. DeWitt was forced to re-imprint her as Mellie so that she would help Echo's team take down Rossum. Mellie became aware of the facts of her existence, and rekindled her romance with Paul Ballard. Tragically, her sleeper programming was reactivated, and in a final display of true heroism Mellie battled through the programming to save Paul's life and committed suicide.
- Boyd Langton: Revealed as the duplicitous and half-insane founder of the Rossum Corporation, Boyd used Echo's spinal fluid to develop the inoculation against being mind-wiped. In a cruelly ironic twist, Boyd was mind-wiped by the very weaponized remote wiping mechanism he'd tricked Topher into creating. A doll himself, Boyd was used by Echo to destroy the Rossum Corporation's headquarters.
Season two was a surprise renewal after the low ratings of the first season, so Joss Whedon and his team of writers entered the season with an eye toward ending the series in case of cancellation. Telescoping his original five year plan into two seasons, the second season was resultingly rushed, and although "Epitaph Two" provided great closure for the series, there were some issues left unresolved by the series' end.
- Laurence Dominic: Revealed in a downloaded memory in "Epitaph One" to have been released alive from the Attic by Adelle DeWitt, Dominic's fate is ultimately unknown as he never made an appearance in "Epitaph Two." Some fans have speculated that he died before the events of "Epitaph One."
- Whiskey: Also revealed to have been re-imprinted with Dr. Saunders' personality during a memory download in "Epitaph One," it was never explained how Echo's crew wiped Clyde 2.0 from Whiskey's mind.
- Alpha: Vanishing at the end of "Epitaph Two," it was never revealed whether or not Alpha did indeed revert to Carl William Craft or whether Echo's belief was right and that he had evolved into a being such as herself.
- Ivy: After leaving the Dollhouse at the end of "Getting Closer," Ivy's final fate was never revealed.
- The comic Epitaphs shows that at the time of the Apocalypse, Ivy was able to imprint at least one person with her own personality, with the intention of helping others.
- Daniel Perrin: Whether or not the Rossum Corporation ever managed to turn him into the President before the tech got out of control, despite his character twittering that he was going to run in 2012, was never revealed, and as such Daniel Perrin's fate is ultimately unknown.
- A newsreader in Epitaphs refers to a Psident Perrin, presumably Daniel.
- The other Dollhouses: Counting the new house in Dubai introduced in "Meet Jane Doe," there are twenty-three Dollhouses throughout the world. Whether or not Echo and her team managed to dismantle these houses or intend to is not revealed, though if they want to dismantle all the tech and finish killing the Attic, this will eventually have to be Echo's mission.
- The fate of the Rossum Corporation: Although Topher negated the effects of the mass-wipe, Echo herself indicated that the job was unfinished and that she and her team would eventually have to return aboveground and hunt down the last of the Rossum Corporation and dismantle the tech permanently.
Principal photography went from December 8 to December 16, 2009.
Notes & References
- Seidman, Robert (January 30, 2010). TV Ratings: CBS Wins Slow Friday; Smallville returns; Dollhouse finishes. TV by the Numbers.