In “Epitaph One” we see the world ten years in the future from the other episodes of season one of Dollhouse. We are shown through flashbacks a few of the events that led from the Dollhouse technology to an apocalyptic world in which people’s personalities are regularly wiped, body switching is common, and those who maintain their original personality are hunted down. The episode is deliberately vague because at the time of its production it was unclear whether Dollhouse would have another season, so some closure needed to be provided while still allowing room for possible future episodes. Despite knowing this, however, I thought the episode presented too many ideas without developing them sufficiently to serve as a proper conclusion. Even considering the subsequent episodes which contain references and will likely explain this one further, I still don’t feel like the episode was complete enough.
First, there is the idea of how the Dollhouse technology led to the current situation on Earth. Apparently, China is sending waves of signal which wipe people’s personalities and turn them into dolls like the father in “Epitaph One.” Second, there was apparently a phone call, also originating from China, which programmed those who picked up to go and kill anyone who was not programmed. While we learn that Tohper’s use of waves rather than analogue to program dolls is the origin of this technology, there is no explanation for how we moved from brothels to China destroying all human personalities. I think the episode is intended to show that this technology is ultimately evil and can only end in apocalypse, but while I can imagine some possible scenarios which lead from point A to point B, I feel like there are more specific events that could have altered this outcome significantly.
We are also shown a Rossum executive in Victor’s body informing Adelle that the dolls’ bodies are now being sold for 9 figures. This makes sense in the context of the previous episodes, particularly “Haunted,” as we saw the possibility for eternal youth and immortality through body switching. However, this episode confused me when the woman inhabitting the girl, Iris, said she had no idea how she ended up in that body. This didn’t seem to mesh with the idea that the technology was for the rich and privileged. If people are just being wiped or killed off, what purpose could it possibly serve to have this woman randomly placed in a girl who ended up with a bunch of revolutionaries? Maybe it was intended as a link between the idea of the apocalypse and the ideas of body switching already presented, but for me I think it just confused the issue and put out one too many ideas at once.
What do you think of the vision of the apocalyptic future? How would you imagine the world went from the Dollhouses to the way we see it presented in “Epitaph One?”
Did you think “Epitaph One” was enough of a conclusion for the series? Is there anything you wish had been clarified, or explored in more detail?