It’s an illustration of what the professor said in “Man on the Street” about the possibility of technology turning people into Dolls: “If that technology exists, it’ll be used. It’ll be abused. It’ll be global, and we’ll be over. As a species, we’ll cease to matter.”
And what will we have? We’d have a young woman named Mag, patrolling to the corner of Spring and 5th, talking about how a party was crashed. We’d hear about butchers, dumb shows and Actuals.
Mag weeps a little, but toughens up quickly. She has to. This is Los Angeles, ten years from now. She’s part of a group who has disavowed anything electronic, because they say it ruined their world. They just want a place to be safe, and “keep our own voices.”
She is joined by Zone, Griff, Mr. Miller and his daughter Iris, and Lynn. They wind up at the Dollhouse, which they think is an underground spa. They mistake Topher’s office as a day care center. However, they see the imprint chair. They recognize it as the chair that changed everything.
They decide to give Mr. Miller a specific memory. It turns out to be from a man who asks about what the Dollhouse really is. The clip is from the unaired pilot, “Echo”, which is also in the DVD. We see Adelle DeWitt make her pitch about using an Active, compete with tea. That’s how she got Caroline/Echo.
Zone is surprised that this technology, which eventually ruined the world, was originally made to make more believable hookers. Actually, it’s more than that.
Miller is given another memory, Topher’s first day. He’s being his arrogant, know-it-all self. Right off the bat, he’s giving tips on how to cut the process of programming actives from two hours to five minutes. He’ll also need a refrigerator.
Elsewhere, Lynn takes Iris to the nearest restroom. They wind up finding the showers, which Lynn immediately uses. However, someone finds Lynn and kills her. Iris sees her body and screams.
Miller gets another memory: Echo is turned into a Russian girl, but what’s Paul Ballard doing there? Is he her new handler, and why? Well, we later find out Echo can be herself and the Russian, and they are trying to take down the Dollhouse internally. However, it’s taking a toll on her brain.
The group decides to “birthmark” Iris, which is tattooing her name on her back. So, if she suddenly acts strange, and forgets who she is, she has her birthmark to remind her. In the next memory, Boyd is trying to leave the Dollhouse, while Dr. Saunders is worried about what will happen to him, and them. Did they become a couple after all, as Topher predicted? Looks that way.
But in 2019, the years have taken a toll on Saunders. The group find her in a white dress, calling herself Whiskey (her Active name). She also says she’s always been in the Dollhouse. As Zone suggests blasting her to the Bush years, she asks if they’re looking for Safe Haven. She also says she can lead them there. Zone still wants to blast Whiskey, until she tells them they can find food…in the kitchen
It’s also where we discover how everything went wrong. Victor is seen eating lobster, while Topher and DeWitt look on. She is looking for Clive Ambrose, co-chair of Rossum, the company behind the Dollhouse. She discovers that Ambrose has somehow injected his mind into Victor. This fits Rossum’s motto “Because Minds Matter.” Ambrose/Victor also announces it’s part of the company’s upgrade that allows more of the rich and powerful to use Actives. “Everybody who matters is either a client or one of ours,” he tells DeWitt. With a look on her face that says “I’m fired?”, she asks how could he do such a thing. Well, he can because he’s got the technology. Topher and Adelle has to choose to join him, or become his dolls.
Back in 2019, Iris asks Griff if the chair can really put people in other people, he says yes, and gets shot to death..by Iris. She puts the gun in her dad’s hand, then screams.
Whiskey still says she can lead everyone to Safe Haven. Mag says there’s no such thing, but Whiskey says “not for everyone”, as she’s about to imprint herself. The next memory is Dominic taken out of the Attic, and pulling a gun at DeWitt. He’s upset, but also satisfied that his warnings that the tech could be abused turned out to be true. As she turns away to get a drink, he fires a shot at the whiskey. When he asks if he’s missed anything, DeWitt says “Only the vodka, thank God.” She also says there is still a solution. Someone’s brain can be blocked from being imprinted. It’s Echo/Caroline.
We later see Sierra and Victor, with their real memories, wondering what to do next. We also see she has “birthmarked” herself with her real name. He does reveal that the personalities of all the Actives have been backed up, which means everyone can become themselves again.
Back at the Dollhouse, Iris is still upset over what her daddy “did.” Zone decides to give her a gun, which is a mistake. Just before they imprint Whiskey again. Iris pulls a gun on Mag and Zone, and calls them bigots for only liking Actives. The real issue is the person inside Iris wants out, and the chair can do that. As she’s about to shoot them both, she finds out the gun’s empty. Zone knew.
The next memory shows the Actives gathering, appreciating their real memories. We also see what happened to Topher. The genius has had a major breakdown, as he writes out endless equations. He then talks about how it’s possible to program someone through robo-calls. It’s like when Echo was wiped by a phone call in “Gray Hour”. He thinks making instant armies through a cell call is brilliant. He wonders why he didn’t think of that, or that he did. If so, is that curiosity or arrogance? Well, we know whose arrogance let this technology run wind. As Topher weeps, “I know what I know” over and over, DeWitt does her best to comfort him. Then someone tries to break in. It’s Echo and Paul, looking almost like Browncoats. Echo suggests that she should be in the chair to make a backup of her self. She also sees DeWitt, and there’s no love lost. “You’ve come to save the innocent lambs,” Dewitt asks Echo. “They’re not lambs, DeWitt,” she answers. “I think I’ve mentioned that before.” The last thing we see if Echo getting her pistol ready to fire…but at DeWitt?
So Echo is now in Iris’ body. She notes it’s puberty all over again. She is also happy to see Saunders again, even though she calls herself Whiskey. Iris/Echo knew this would happen, but now she can lead the survivors to Safe Haven. However, a bunch of Butchers break into the place. The group get away, but Whiskey stays behind to gas the Butchers, and herself.
As they are about to climb a ladder to the unknown, Mag wonders how it had come to all this, just to give people what they need. “Kids playing with matches,” Iris/Echo says, “and they burn the house down”.
Mag sees a bunch of pictures on the wall. They are all Actives, as they really are. Iris/Echo looks at her own picture, as she really is. It’s the same one that Paul used to find her, when she was a young woman named Caroline. All she hopes now is that she’ll find her real self alive.
It’s a pretty bleak future, but is it inevitable? Joss Whedon said in the panel that we’ll be meeting Mag, Zone and Iris/Echo again in season two, with more details on how our present led to their world. In fact, they’ll be there in “Vows” in September. “What we intend to do,” he said, “is honor what you’ve seen here today, but also question the veracity of what you’ve seen here today. A lot of it, of stuff involving our main cast, were memories from imprints. Whether or not all of those memories were completely true is something we will get t
o flux a little bit, and some of them may have appeared to go one way and actually come out very differently.”
That may be a good point. Every imprint is really missions of memories, rather than what really happened. Joss plan to show that the world that’s in Epitaph One isn’t the whole world. It’s an interesting narrative, and let’s hope it has a long life.