EPISODE REVIEW: Dollhouse: “Getting Closer” (Season 2, Episode 11)

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You know what? This was such a barn-burner that I’m not even gonna’ bore you with my normal preamble, let’s just get right to it. In my massively spoiler-heavy synopsis to come, I’m going to list things in chronological order, rather than the order they were revealed in the show.

PLAY BY PLAY

Three years ago, Caroline is already a terrorist. She seduces a guard to get into DeWitt’s office, then steals some files and has the guard delete several hours of surveillance footage which would show her getting into the office. The two files she’s taken are her own and Bennett Halverson’s. She heads to Tucson, Arizona, where, posing as a college student, she befriends Bennett, evidently pretty much the only person ever to have done so.

Three months later, Mister Dominic discovers three hours of footage is missing, and tortures a guard until he fesses up, then brings the matter to DeWitt. They all know it’s Caroline, since she’s been a thorn in their sides for some time already.

In Tucson, Caroline and Bennett are rooming together, and Bennett discovered her file in Caroline’s closet. Caroline fesses up about how she’s trying to bring Rossumcorp down because they’re not just experimenting on animals, but also on people. Bennett insists on helping, so they go into the Tucson research facility and plant charges. Caroline discovers a secret lab full of people in glass tubes singing opera, and tries to shut off the charges, but it’s too late. They blow, and Bennett is trapped under a pillar, her left arm destroyed. Caroline puts a stethoscope on Bennett saying “Tell them you were working late,” then saying “If I stay here, they’re going to catch both of us, and I’m going to make sure they only catch me.”

She gets her wish, and is taken by Mr. Dominic and DeWitt to an elevator to meet their boss. Dominic and DeWitt don’t follow as “These trips are generally one way.” Caroline meets Clyde 5.0, and his partner, the boss of Rawson: Boyd Langdon! Holy Crap! I totally didn’t see that coming!

In the present, the war council exposits about the story to date for a really long time, then they all agree they need Caroline back, since she’s the one person who knows who Rawson’s boss is. This is somewhat dangerous, given Echo’s wonky brainpan, and they’re not sure if Caroline will take over, join the party, or simply freak out and they’ll all die. As they attempt to re-implant Caroline into Echo, it turns out her “Wedge” is gone. They assume it happened during the several months when DeWitt was out of power. They do have the *original* Caroline wedge, but that was irreparably damaged when Alpha dropped it at the end of season 1.

They launch a really clever plan to kidnap Bennett, and get away with it, though Paul stops to rescue Mellie from the DC Dollhouse as an added bonus. DeWitt can’t fault him for it, but realizes this will tip their hand far sooner than she’s ready for. Bennett and Topher attempt to repair the irreparably damaged wedge, then she won’t, then she will, it’s a bit tedious and completely unneeded padding in an episode as tightly written as the rest of this one is. Suffice to say she does, and her and Topher awkwardly make out a bit.

Rossum brass turn up to relieve DeWitt from command, and Boyd - who’s undercover, and no one realizes he’s the very man they’re fighting against - kills the brass and goons, but is shot in the process. He shrugs it off and says he’s fine. DeWitt tells him she’s gonna’ buy them some time by calling the rest of the company brass and telling them Boyd killed several of their men. While they’re chasing him, she’ll be getting her people entrenched. Boyd agrees, and heads off. Dominic escapes from the Attic and warns them that Rason is coming. He’s in a bad way, so they put him back in the attic to save his life.

They re-imprint all the actives in the house, and set them free, then lock it down. Echo spirits Victor and Sierra away for one last night of love “And if you somehow forget the way back here before tomorrow morning, that’s ok too.”

Boyd stops off at his apartment, which is much nicer than it should be, and meets Whiskey/Doctor Saunders, who’s been living with him. “I think it’s time to bring you in,” he says. They head back to the Dollhouse, and Saunders patches up Topher. Later on she comes in and asks if Bennett can rebuild Caroline’s wedge. “I’m confident I can.” Upon hearing this, Saunders shoots Bennett in the head, killing her, then leaves.

Topher is devastated, but DeWitt talks him down, and he’s able to finish rebuilding the wedge, and they start to re-implant Echo. An attack squad comes in. Paul tries to make it to the gun stash in the building, while DeWitt heads for the service corridors.

A guard busts in and KO Topher, but before he can shoot Echo in the chair, Boyd comes up behind him and breaks his neck. He pats Echo on the hand…

THE END

OBSERVATIONS

Wow. I totally did not see Boyd being the big bad, but in retrospect it totally makes sense: He came onboard at the start of the series, his past has never been explored at all, though he says he was once a cop, He’s always seemed obsessed with Echo in particular, and ran interference for her, he’s always been extremely private about his private life, and his manner is stubbornly non-subservient to his superiors. It’s not like he doesn’t respect authority, just like he’s not taking them seriously because he knows he’s better than them. It also resolves who the “Other” spy in the house of love was. He’s also my favorite character in the early episodes.

He’s been cooking this up for three years!

What has he been cooking up? Whatever it is, it must be of Byzantine complexity to take three years, and to spent nearly two years undercover, supervising the op personally. Furthermore, he himself aided in the events leading up to this showdown, so whatever his plan is, he must *want* things to go all south in the LA House, or else he wouldn’t have precipitated this. Hell, he personally kills six of his own people and takes a bullet in the process, so he clearly must be rather vested in what’s going on. What could it be?

Clearly, by using Whiskey to kill Bennett, he must not have wanted Caroline re-implanted, but once that die was cast he actually prevented Echo’s death. Why? Is he in some way interested in the new form of mental life that Echo has become, but opposed to Caroline herself? If so, why? What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On?

How about this: What if Boyd set something in motion three years ago, and having spent all this time with Echo, he’s come to reconsider it for whatever reason, so now he’s working against his own orders, but being undercover he can’t do anything about it overtly. Or perhaps all of this is to flush out someone *else* inside Rossum, someone who’s an even bigger threat to him? Spitballing, I don’t know, obviously.

I totally did not see Bennett’s end coming. That was shocking and gory and out of nowhere. I wouldn’t have predicted that in a million years. I totally would not have predicted that Doctor Saunders would have been used for evil purposes, rather than merely bitchy ones. Yet there’s a bit of arc to this: Saunders freaked out at being what Topher made her. She hated him for it, and that was her one *original* emotion, the one thing that wasn’t programmed. She wanted to hurt him, she wanted to cause him pain, and she has. She killed the one thing he cared about in all the world. One wonders if that was the sleeper personality in her, or if that was Saunders herself.

Topher-as-basket case was nicely played. I felt a bit cheated that he was back to his goofy self in the final scene, however. His scenes with Bennett were a bit too disturbing to be sweet, but sweet is obviously what they were going for, and icky/bizarre/sweet is probably as close as this show can come to it.

This is really about the most straightforward performance we’ve ever seen from Summer Glau, and my long streak of really liking her continues unabated. The flashbacks of her as a young undergrad were painfully realistic. Some would probably say that it wasn’t too likely, what with her being gorgeous and all, but there’s a fair number of geeky women out there who are uncomfortable with or unaware of their own gorgeosity. I’ve met a few. She’s so lonely for human contact that she’s willing to be used - begs to be used - just because it validates her existence is poignant. It’s also interesting that whenever she seems just about to come into her own, she pays for it in a horrible way: first loosing her arm, second loosing her life. Poor girl. Poor, poor, poor girl. I love her disaffected, reductive manner. “You let [the actives] roam like free-range chickens? We treat them more like veal.”

It’s a little odd that she hates Caroline so much, particularly since Caroline more-or-less sacrificed herself to save Bennett, but I guess in a situation like that one’s memories and perceptions of what’s going on can be a bit unreliable.

Echo is not as interesting as she has been recently, but she gets in a few good character beats. The notion that she hates Caroline was interesting, and I didn’t call that one ahead of time either. Her spiriting Victor and Sierra out of harm’s way was nice, though probably plot-serving ultimately. Her best bit is when she realizes Paul remembers his love for Caroline but has forgotten his love for Echo. Realizing there’s nothing she can do about it, and that there are bigger issues at stake, she simply accepts it and moves on.

Our question from the previous episode of “What did they take from Paul” is resolved: They took his love, but not his memories, of Echo.

You know, there’s one very big dangling thread out there that hasn’t been resolved yet: Alpha.

DeWitt mentions that the brass they killed almost certainly has a recording of his brain that he’ll download into a new body. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Tamhoh Penikett was on Battlestar Galactica, which dealt rather heavily with sleeper agents and downloading consciousness into new bodies.

Clyde 1.0 is dead.

Endgame is a fine time to place your bets on what’ll happen next. My own hunch is that Victor, Sierra, and Topher’s assistant who’s name I can never remember, will come back in the nick of time with just enough force to turn the tide of the battle. Alpha will turn up too. In fact, it’s fairly likely that these three will actually recruit Alpha to help them, especially since his previous appearance this season felt almost like a placeholder - merely spiking the ball so someone else can hit it over the net. I assume Dominic will provide some important intel, but I have no idea what that could be.

What do you think will happen? Sound off in the comments!

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