Sunday, 17 November 2013

Dollhouse: The Hollow Men

"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper."

For the first time ever (as far as I recall) I've broken my iron rule, and not used a quite from the episode. Instead I've quoted the end of T.S. Elliot's poem, The Hollow Men, as it's obviously a deliberate allusion and particularly, I suspect, with this being the season finale, to those final lines.

Interesting, then, that the imications should at first glance be so self-deprecating; personally, I think that this episode is a stunning triumph of a Seadon finale. Where, then, is the "whimper"? I suspect the answer lies in the fact that our heroes' victory is temporary, and the death of freedom is inevitable. This is the season finale, but it isn't the last episode. As with Season Four of Buffy and, more to the point, the first season of Dollhouse, there's another episode to go.

We begin with the inevitable flashback which has to follow the revelation, at the end of the last episode, that Boyd was the big bad all along. It's five years ago, and we see Caroline, in Boyd's office , being presented with a choice that is not a choice: life in prison for terrorism or five years as an Active? She's "special", apparently, and Boyd wants to be her handler himself. This makes sense of past events, but it ain't half creepy.

An unexpected pleasure is that we once again get to see Enver Gjokaj's performance as Topher, although it's also cool to see Anthony imprinted with ninja skills. Nice that they have time for such touches in this of all episodes.

I have to stop and praise Harry Lennix here, something I've shamefully neglected up till now. It's such a novelty to see him as an openly moustache-twirling baddie, but we can now see all his other performances in a different light. Like the actor who played Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects (I shall name no names. Spoilers, as Rover Song would say!), I'm sure that, if I was to research those earlier episodes, his performances would appear in a very different light.

Horrifyingly, we discover that quietly, in Tucson, Rossum has been developing Topher's technology so that anyone, anywhere, can be wiped and imprinted. There are no longer such things as freedom or individuality; we are all Rossum's hive mind slaves. This is a concept rich with political overtones, and it's not hard to see a dig, here, at those right wing American "Libertarians", many of them in the so called "Tea Party", who fatuously cast "freedom" in terms of the state versus the private sector, and see corporate entities as "people" who must be protected from state oppression. In fact, as we are shown here, the concept of "freedom" only makes any sense when applied to individual human beings, not fatuous and overly abstract binary divisions into public sector and private sector. Corporations can, and do, assault people's liberties, and the truly libertarian thing is for the State to protect us from this through regulation.

There is, of course, no hope here, whatever temporary victory our heroes can bring about. The technology has been invented. It cannot be uninvented. It will be used. We are all doomed.

Still, we can at least hope for that temporary victory, and for Boyd to get his eventual comeuppance. It seems he controls Dr Saunders, and has done for some time. This means it wasn't really here who killed Bennet, which takes some of the poetry away. Still, this is a minor point, and these are the only words of slight criticism that you'll hear from me about this superlative episode of television.

Adelle, only a few episodes from appearing to be an utter bitch, is stoic and brave, refusing to co-operate even at gunpoint and willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good. Other characters are unfortunate: Mellie's death is truly tragic. And Topher's realisation at what he has allowed to happen seems to be a sort of harbinger of the broken Topher we see in Epitaph One; "I did all this. I'm the one who brought about the thought-pocalypse."

Langton gets his just desserts in the end, being wiped and ending up as a suicide bomber.  But, just as we think we have a happy endng, the epilogue skips a few years into the future and tells us that no, we don't...

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