On imdb.com, “Epitaph One” is the highest-rated episode from all of Dollhouse. Why is this? It’s certainly a departure from the other episodes. One of the plot keywords on imdb.com for Dollhouse is “moral ambiguity”. Certainly, throughout the series we ask ourselves a lot of questions about what in Dollhouse is ok, what is acceptable and what is reprehensible. I would argue that “Epitaph One” is popular because most of Dollhouse‘s audience watches the show and feels uncomfortable. They watch the show and feel that moral boundaries, such as whether or no dollsex counts as rape and the idea of selling one’s body have been breached. “Epitaph One” certainly asserts that this technology is not a good thing; the views of the audience are finally being confirmed. This is perhaps the most morally clear episode.
Unless, that is, you see the decimation of the human species as a good thing. At face value this seems like a ridiculous notion, but if it means the problem of overpopulation-which is ultimately responsible for most long-term global problems-is solved, is it justifiable? As the professor in “Man on the Street” says, “As a species, we would cease to matter. I don’t know, maybe we should.” If humanity has disregarded morality, perhaps we don’t deserve to exist anymore.
The reality isn’t quite like this, however. The people who invented and used the technology are the ones who have appropriated it and have presumably “survived” its misuse. The innocent, the people who didn’t even know it existed, are the ones who get it used against them. The Rossum executive in Victor’s body foreshadows this future, where a small minority of powerful individuals become immortal and can inhabit multiple bodies. This is a hugely exaggerated power imbalance. Taking this view, Dollhouse can be seen as a criticism of wealth imbalance, brought about largely by corporatisation. Do you think this view is one intended by Whedon?
To you, is “Epitaph One” more or less morally ambiguous than previous episodes?
It’s unclear (or at least I thought it was) whether or not Echo kills Adelle. Adelle seems to be the most morally ambiguous character. She controls the Dollhouse, but does not seek to abuse its power. This is arguably breached in “Haunted”, when she gives her friend life after death. When it gets personal, she seems less morally righteous. Adelle (and Topher) are partly responsible for the destructive technology, but they never intended for it to be used in such a way.
Do you think Adelle got killed by Echo? Do you think she deserved to be? What about Topher? Were his actions immoral if the consequences were unintended?