|Season 2, Episode 10|
|Airdate:||December 18, 2009 (US)|
|Written By:||Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon|
|Directed By:||John Cassaday|
|Dollhouse Episode Guide|
- This article is about the episode. For the location see Attic.
"The Attic" is the 10th episode of the second season of Dollhouse and the 23rd episode overall. It was written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon and directed by John Cassaday. The episode aired on December 18, 2009.
Echo must face her worst nightmare as she is condemned to the Attic after being deemed too dangerous.
Picking up immediately where "Stop-Loss" left off, the Attic is revealed to be the dark physical heart of the Dollhouse. Echo is placed in a coffin-like glass tub that is filled with a clear gelatinous liquid that suspends her; she is then pierced in the head with needles connected to machines, given a tube to keep her breathing, and then enclosed with plastic wrap, unable to move or to wake up from the suspended animation state she has entered after being forced into a coma.
Echo manages to make herself seem dead, using this as an opportunity to knock out her captors, then rushes to free Anthony/Victor and Priya/Sierra, who were also sent to the Attic. The three of them run towards the exit, only to be separated by a glass barrier. Echo watches as they are gunned down by Rossum security, and then the scene begins again, and it is revealed that Echo is simply reliving one of her worst nightmares, over and over again.
Topher and Ivy share a brief moment of bonding as they struggle to find a way to repair Paul Ballard's broken brain, trying to find an area that isn't too neurologically scarred to recover, but Ivy is called to DeWitt's office. Boyd and Topher talk about Echo, briefly, and Boyd is revealed to be having trouble at home, though this isn't elaborated upon. When Ivy returns from DeWitt's, she is detached and warns Topher to not speak to her. Topher confronts DeWitt, who reveals that she had warned Ivy that she might become his replacement, and that she knows all of Topher's secrets from "Belonging"—that he had restored Sierra to her true self as Priya, then dismembered Nolan Kinnard—and that she is being forced to reconsider his usefulness. She also further suggests that if he is going to give Ballard Active architecture in order to heal him, they might benefit from not restoring Ballard's uncooperative personality and Ballard is attractive enough to be the Dollhouse's newest Victor.
Boyd confronts her next, furious at her suggestion that Echo's being placed in the Attic is as much his fault as hers for shielding Echo's dangerous tendencies for so long and indeed encouraging them by giving Echo the all-access key card. She reminds Boyd that he came to the Dollhouse because he "had nowhere else to go," though neither of them elaborate on this, leaving Boyd's past still shrouded in mystery. She further tells him that once he walked into the Dollhouse he had exactly three options: one, to follow Rossum's instructions complicitly without question, two, to be consigned to the Attic, or three, to die. She informs him that she has seen Rossum's plan for the future, and that it is not for the weak, indicating that only those strong like Echo will survive the coming technological apocalypse.
Echo, realizing that her fear is keeping her trapped, escapes the Attic escape vision and emerges in the middle of the Dollhouse, which is now covered in snow with a large tree growing from it. A small girl circles the tree: Echo as a young girl, indicating that Echo retains some remnants of Caroline's childhood memories within her, because children don't have fully formed personalities to wipe away. She sees scenes from other lives: the serial killer Terry Karrens, his female relatives, a girl with a horse, an old couple on a couch, etc. Bursting in through this is a shadowy monster who tries to kill her, though she fights it off - with the unexpected help of Laurence Dominic, who had been sent to the Attic in the season one episode "A Spy in the House of Love" after DeWitt discovered that he was a spy for the NSA who had been sending Ballard messages through Echo and November.
Dominic reveals that he has learned how to slip in and out of different minds stuck in the Attic during his incarceration there, and that he is trying to kill the shadow-creature, who calls himself "Arcane" and who goes from one fear-induced hallucinating mind to the next, killing as he goes. Echo and Dominic agree to work together to take down Arcane and thus, hopefully, escape from the Attic. Echo tries to find Anthony and Priya, accidentally separating herself from Dominic in the process. Anthony is revealed to be back in Afghanistan, fighting an enemy in Islamic dress who is revealed to be Anthony himself—killing himself over and over. Priya is constantly making love to Anthony... only to have Anthony turn into Nolan's reanimated corpse, dripping blood on her, trapping her in the mental institution and trying to rape her once again.
Echo finds herself in a Japanese-style teahouse where a jolly man determined to enjoy himself eating his lunch to the best of his ability reveals to her that he was sent to the Tokyo Dollhouse by Rossum to find the weaknesses in their mainframe. He found a profound weakness, which was why he was exiled to the Attic, though he doesn't know that that is where he is trapped. Echo tries to get him to reveal the weakness that he found, but the man is insistent on enjoying himself and so refuses to tell her. The camera reveals that his legs have been severed mid-thigh.
Dominic finds Echo and they go to the kitchen, where nightmare cooks are preparing the man's own severed legs as sushi for the man outside to eat - so that he can literally "enjoy himself ". Echo and Dominic decide that the most important thing is to defeat Arcane and uncover the weaknesses in the Rossum Corporation, which they are using the Attic to hide. Then, they can defeat Rossum once and for all. But their fear attracts Arcane, who reappears and slits the man's throat. In order to escape the man's collapsing mind, Echo and Dominic apparently must trigger the man's nightmare by eating the meal.
Topher and Boyd come to the conclusion that in order to save Ballard, Topher is not only going to have to give him Active brain architecture, he will also need to reprogram one part of Ballard's brain to act as though it were a part responsible for vital and motor functions. Therefore, Topher is going to have to take something away from Ballard. Boyd tries to prop Topher up, but Topher is clearly having another moral dilemma, and it is becoming increasingly clear that Topher is beginning to allow his emotions to get the better of him, perhaps indicating the eventual downfall into schizophrenia, as seen in "Epitaph One." Ivy and Topher prepare Paul for the imprint chair.
Echo and Dominic free Anthony and then Priya, who uses her nightmare to attract Arcane. The four of them beat Arcane out of Priya's nightmare and into Arcane's own, revealing Arcane to actually be a middle-aged British man who is himself trapped in the Attic. He reveals that the Attic is the Rossum Corporation's mainframe, and that he has been "putting its victims out of their misery" in an attempt to collapse that mainframe. The human brain is twenty times more powerful than any supercomputer, and those trapped in the Attic are kept in a permanent adrenaline-infused state in order to function at hyper-efficient problem-solving levels.
The man, whose real name is Clyde, has a nightmare loop that shows the world seen in "Epitaph One:" a civilization and a society in a complete state of social collapse with utter chaos and violence in the streets. He reveals that he was one of the two founders of Rossum, and that he was trapped in the Attic with his nightmare being a dream of statistical probability: of all the futures he has factored with the current abuses of the mind-altering technology at Rossum's disposal, 97% of them end with the complete collapse of society.
Meanwhile, Paul wakes up, working for several minutes to regain speech and motor functions. He is enraged when Topher reveals that he has installed Active architecture in his brain. Paul is, for all intents and purposes, a Doll who is merely imprinted with the personality of Paul Ballard. When Boyd tells him that they were desperate and that Echo, Victor and Sierra have been sent to the Attic, Paul takes Boyd's gun and goes to DeWitt's office, where she is waiting for him with her own gun at his head. They have a fierce standoff with no apparent resolution.
In the Attic, Clyde reveals that he was one of two students who founded Rossum in their university days. They imprinted a willing test subject with his personality and abilities, creating "Clyde 2.0 ," as they called him, but leaving out Clyde's self-will. His partner betrayed him, however, and Clyde 2.0 overpowered Clyde and forced him into the Attic, turning him into the world's first human supercomputer. That was in 1993, and Clyde is overwhelmed when the group informs him that it's 2010. He maintains that there is still hope, since Rossum hasn't had the time to complete their plan yet, though Echo informs him that the company is ahead of schedule with its political goals, thanks to the rise of Daniel Perrin.
Dominic is stunned to learn this, as this was apparently one of many reasons he was assigned to infiltrate the Dollhouse years before by the NSA, revealing that there is a very small, secret faction of the government that knows what Rossum really is and is fighting desperately to stop the firm. Clyde also reveals that there is a myth in the Attic, that there is a woman who discovered everything about Rossum, only to be scrubbed herself. Echo says that this was most likely Caroline and Clyde confirms that the name is familiar, which would explain why Caroline was pursued so aggressively by the Dollhouse years before. Clyde is unable to tell them the identity or gender of either his former partner or Clyde 2.0, because that knowledge has been scrubbed from his brain. He also warns them that Clyde 2.0 has probably been moved to another body.
Echo then volunteers to "die" in the Attic by taking a bullet from the enemy fire, so that she can realistically enact her escape scenario from the opening scene and defeat Rossum. Priya and Anthony confirm that they are on her side and agree to go with her, though Dominic and Clyde elect to stay in the Attic and attempt to wake up and free the rest of the lost souls there so that they can destroy Rossum's mainframe. Echo agrees to find a way to signal them when Rossum has been defeated so that they can free themselves as well. Anthony stabs Priya and then allows butchers to tear him to pieces. Echo, Anthony and Priya get out of the Attic.
We then see Echo talking to DeWitt, and their conversation reveals that DeWitt sent her to the Attic on purpose so that Echo could discover how to defeat Rossum, and that DeWitt has been playing both sides all along so that Rossum could truly be defeated, once and for all. In DeWitt's office, Echo, DeWitt, Paul, Boyd, Topher, Ivy, Anthony and Priya all meet together and agree to plot Rossum's overthrow before it can enslave all of humanity. DeWitt says that they are finally ready, but Echo says that they are not, ending the episode by saying:
- "It's time for me to meet Caroline. It's time to win her war."
Continuity notes: Epitaph One, Rossum, and Caroline
"The Attic" more than any other episode fully sets up "Epitaph One" by combining all of the elements of season two alongside what was revealed in the original "Epitaph One" episode. Season two is full of twists and turns in the Rossum conspiracy, so it is prudent to note them all here, before the final three episodes of the series air:
- Adelle DeWitt is not evil, and has not joined Rossum's side, in keeping with her role as a freedom fighter in "Epitaph One."
- Topher and DeWitt were both complicit in designing the mass remote wiping technology that leads to the post-apocalyptic world of "Epitaph One," and both are struggling with their moral issues throughout the last few episodes.
- Clyde's visions of the future mesh perfectly with what will happen in "Epitaph One," when those already suspicious of Rossum or lucky enough to escape the world wide mass-wipe call themselves the Actuals and fight back. It is important to note that Clyde's story contradicts nothing that was shown in the original "Dollhouse" ARG "Dollplay," so it is still unknown whether or not "Dollplay" is or is not canon.
- The "memory" of Paul and Echo in the elevator in Epitaph One and the "flash" of that same scene in this episode appear to be the same footage, though cut differently. This "memory" appears to have no proper place in the show's continuity however.
- All that is left for "Epitaph One" is for Whiskey/Dr. Claire Saunders to return, and she is shown in the promotional adverisement for January 2010's final "Dollhouse" episodes.
The Rossum conspiracy
What we've learned about the Rossum Corporation in the second season is that it is a many-legged beast, whose ultimate goals are world domination, and that it is, ultimately, amoral and evil. What we know thus far:
- At an unspecified point, they recruited Daniel Perrin without his consent and are apparently grooming him to be the future President of the United States in order to legalize and free them from government constraints. (The Public Eye, The Left Hand)
- They had more than twenty Dollhouses worldwide working on components of the technology needed to overtake the world, indicating from Clyde's story in "The Attic" a plan that has been nearly twenty years in the making. (Meet Jane Doe)
- In "Stop-Loss," it is revealed that they are creating Scytheon, their own private army of ex-Actives, making them completely dependent on Rossum for existence and thus crushing any chances of insurrection. This technology may also help set up the berserk Actives seen in Epitaph one. (At least, the ability to recognize fellow imprints)
- The Dollhouse technology is addictive to some, and they will use it to control any rich/political clients they deem fit to keep safe from the remote-wiping technology. (A Love Supreme)
- It can be assumed that Rossum's final strategy is thus: to wipe the entire world, save for a select group of people, and make them as docile and controllable as dolls. Leave a select few to help them rule the world, but keep that group dependent on the Dollhouse for their addictions. Send any problem "dolls" to an Attic to further power their mainframe. And, finally, whenever one of the ruling cabal gets old or sick, jump bodies to a younger, healthier doll, thus allowing them to live forever as the ultimate tyrannical rulers of a world utterly incapable of revolution. (Epitaph One)
The evolution of Caroline
Worthy of its own section, here is what we know of Caroline thus far (briefly):
- Caroline Farrell was a young, brilliant, caring, and somewhat naive college student who wanted to free everyone and essentially "save the world."
- At first wanting to stop Rossum from exploiting animals, when she and her boyfriend Leo stumbled upon Rossum's experiments on the human brain, Leo was killed in front of her, though she escaped.
- She escaped from the hospital where DeWitt was keeping her in order to "persuade" her to join the Dollhouse. (The above three points were revealed in Echoes)
- For an unspecified amount of time, Caroline fought against Rossum. During this time, she became a much harder, colder person than she had been before Leo's death, apparently betraying one of her best friends, Bennett Halverson, and leaving her to die after an explosion left her left arm crushed beneath a stone column—though how much of this is fact and how much the admittedly disturbed Bennett's view of the matter is unknown. (The Left Hand, Ghost, Omega)
- During her time fighting against Rossum, Caroline learned enough about the Rossum Corporation to be a genuine threat to them. (Revealed in "The Attic")
- She had a safe place in the snowy mountains—referenced to first in "Gray Hour" but repeatedly over the two seasons. Could this be the Safe Haven referred to in "Epitaph One"? (Gray Hour)
- She wanted to help a female figure in her life (possibly Bennett Halverson), as per her conversation with DeWitt in the first few minutes of "Ghost."
Now, although Echo has expressed in "Meet Jane Doe" that she is frightened that if she re-imprints herself with Caroline that she, Echo, will cease to exist, previous evidence—particularly in the season one episode "Needs"—suggests that Echo is much more like Caroline than she thinks, and Echo herself even points out to Priya in "Stop-Loss" that Sierra is Priya, only without all the complications. In "Epitaph One," it is revealed that Echo/Caroline refers to herself as Caroline, so it remains to be seen whether or not Caroline is herself or just Caroline alongside the conglomerate being that is Echo.
- Eliza Dushku as Echo
- Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton
- Fran Kranz as Topher Brink
- Tahmoh Penikett as Paul Ballard
- Enver Gjokaj as Victor/Anthony Ceccoli
- Dichen Lachman as Sierra/Priya Tsetsang
- and Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt
- Adam Godley as Clyde Randolph
- Tzi Ma as Matsu
- Keir Thirus as Myers
- Demir Gjokaj as Other Anthony
- Greg Collins as Molester
- Jeremy Juuso as Male Attic Employee
- Evie Peck as Female Attic Employee
Production started on November 2, 2009. "The Attic" aired 9 p.m. on Friday, December 18, 2009, making it the final episode of "Dollhouse" to air in 2009 as well as the last of the six episodes of "Dollhouse" that aired as two-hour specials in December 2009. "Dollhouse" will not return for three weeks, when it will begin its run to the January 22, 2010 series finale, "Epitaph Two: Return."
"The Attic" is the first time since the episode "Epitaph One" that Laurence Dominic has been seen or, indeed, even mentioned at all (though "Dominic is Bad" is one of the notations Boyd found Echo inscribed on the case of her sleeping pod). He also appears in the final three episodes of the series.
- "No, I Don't Remember" - Anna Ternheim
- "As Dollhouse races toward Epitaph Two, filling in the events which we assume will lead to a catastrophe there are winners and losers. The winning part is seeing the show answer its critics from season one."
- ―The TV Critic review
- The Taliban insurgent Anthony battles in his Attic nightmare (of reliving his service in the U.S.-Afghanistan war) is played by Enver Gjokaj's identical twin, Demir Gjokaj, in his first acting appearance.
- Matsu, the man in the Japanese-style restaurant, remarks that he was transferred to the Tokyo "Ningyoukaku" (人形家区; jap.: dollhouse area), which does not exist. This name apparently references the actual city's district Ningyouchou (人形町; jap.: doll district).
- Clyde Randolph mentions that the human brain is 20 times as fast as the world's fastest supercomputer. Given that he had been connected to the attic in 1993 this means according to his knowledge the human brain has an approximate processing capacity of 20 x 2 GFLOPS (Giga Floating Point Operations Per Second), as the world's fastest supercomputer at that time was the Thinking Machine CM-5 with ~ 2 GFLOPS processing power. For reference, a PlayStation 3 gaming console has around 200 GFLOPS of processing power during performance peaks.
Notes & References
- Seidman, Robert (December 19, 2009). TV Ratings: Frosty most-watched on a slow Friday; Dollhouse Hits New Lows. TV by the Numbers.