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Dead Tree Alert: One More Doll in the House

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Miranda Penn Turin/FOX

Miranda Penn Turin/FOX

In this week’s print TIME, I give a brief endorsement to the upcoming season one DVD of Dollhouse (along with that of the British Life on Mars), which comes out next week. 

Normally when I review a series DVD, I focus on the series itself first and any extras secondarily, if at all. But the extras on the Dollhouse DVD are especially noteworthy, because they involve an entire extra episode, “Epitaph One,” which never aired on Fox. (There’s also the original, never-aired pilot for the series.) I don’t want to spoil much about the episode (which guest-stars Dr. Horrible’s Felicia Day), but this is one case where I feel safe saying that Dollhouse fans really should see it. Because it has the potential to change a lot about the series—unless it changes nothing at all.

Some mild spoilers follow the jump:

To put it in very vague terms, “Epitaph One” looks forward to a future in which some of the dark warnings about the Dollhouse’s future plans have come to pass. The personality-wiping technology has become much more powerful, with much grander global aims, than we’ve seen so far, and we get a glimpse of the terrible results. In style, the episode is fully committed to the dark, serial approach of the latter half of the first season than the caper-of-the-week approach of the first half. 

Dollhouse, you’ll recall, wasn’t considered likely to see a second season, and “Epitaph One” was designed to work as a series finale if necessary. It would have been a doozy; it puts a dark cap on the Dollhouse we’ve known, while leaving the door open a crack to future stories.

But now that the series has survived, it’s hard to know exactly what to make of “Epitaph One.” There are presently no plans to air it on Fox, so I would assume from that that viewers will not need to know what happens in it before watching season two. Is it a roadmap for where the series will ultimately go? Should it be considered, now that the show has survived, an alternate-universe version of Dollhouse that we can safely disregard? Perhaps season two will pick up where the first season left off, but the “Epitaph One” thread will be picked up in an “Epitaph Two” later?

I don’t know, and I’ll be interested to see if any more word about this comes from Comic-Con (where “Epitaph One” will screen today). Regardless, taken on its own, “Epitaph One” is as mind-blowing and affecting as any of the season’s best episodes (like “Briar Rose”) Maybe we should discuss it further when more of you have had the chance to see it.