So, it’s over. Some thoughts:
* During the fall hiatus, Lisa and I rented the last disc from the first season and watched the original pilot and Epitaph One. We both loved the OP and agreed that that Dollhouse would have been an awesome show. Pity the network decided to go a different way. Epitaph One is less stellar, but does give you a good sense of what the alt-universe Dollhouse would have been all about. If I were going to make a recommendation to Joss Whedon fans who’d somehow avoided the series until now, it’d be to watch these two episodes, and maybe a few select bits of the latter half of season two, and leave the rest to your imagination.
* The first four episodes following the fall hiatus were also quite good, partly because they seemed to belong to the alt-universe Dollhouse series and partly because Summer Glau Makes Everything Better. (I also dug the Senator Wesley arc). After that the quality of the scripts seemed to drop off, and while I was never bored I also wasn’t nearly as anxious to find out what happened next as I should have been.
* Mellie’s death felt gratuitous, and I also saw it coming a mile away. Bennett’s (Summer Glau’s) death was a shock, but it also puzzled me. My immediate reaction was, “OK, I get that you’re trying to lay the groundwork for Topher’s mental breakdown, but you just killed off your most interesting character with several episodes left to go yet. Was that wise?”
* As for the Amazing Truth About Boyd, probably the less said the better. This is the kind of absurd plot twist that was obviously pulled out of someone’s butt at the eleventh hour, and which doesn’t fit at all with the previous development of the character.
* Epitaph Two didn’t really work for me. There were a couple things I liked: Alpha’s transformation into a good guy was an interesting choice, although the thing I liked most about it—the fact that it’s left completely unexplained—probably bugged the crap out of a lot of other viewers. I also liked the bit about Ballard ending up as a ghost in Echo’s head, although I suspect it works better if you don’t think too hard about the implications.
But as a cap on the series, overall I prefer the melancholy uncertainty of Epitaph One. Sometimes it’s better to be left hoping for the best. Topher’s Magic Reset Button just seems like wish-fulfillment, of a kind that trivializes the apocalypse (We didn’t really mean it about the world going to hell, guys! Here, have a happy ending!).
In summary, I’m disappointed but I’m glad that they got to play it out. And here’s hoping next time Joss goes with a network that trusts him to follow his first instincts.