Following the incredible series turning point episode (“Man on the Street”) was ‘Echoes’, an important display that Dollhouse can (and should) be an ensemble-driven series and not the Eliza Dushku show.
In this episode we see a lot of the past and different sides of each character… most importantly why Echo/Caroline came to be at the Dollhouse. Caroline attended Freema University and afterwards expressed a movement to exploit the most powerful drug company in the world, Rossum Corporation, for animal testing. Her plan was to break into the building and videotape the mistreatment of animals at the labs, then showcase the video to millions online. Unfortunately, this plan caused Caroline’s boyfriend, Leo, his life.
There’s no doubt that the Rossum Corporation is evil, but there’s a mystery surrounding it that I’m curious about. There’s certainly a link between the Dollhouse and Rossum… but exactly what is the link? Is the Dollhouse just a research program for Rossum, or maybe Rossum’s sole purpose is to supply Dollhouse with the technology and drugs it needs? Is there an even greater corporation over-seeing both?
Anyway, a problem rises at the Rossum Building. There is a drug within the lab that makes people trip and lose control of their own decision making. A student kills himself when he takes a large dose of the drug, which creates a panic for the corporation when a vial is reported missing. The Rossum Co-Chair comes to Ms. Dewitt and tells her he needs an army of Actives to find the missing vial and to find an anecdote to the drug’s reaction. The Actives are necessary because they’re believed to be unaffected since their minds are different from regular people’s.
So all the Actives are sent to the Rossum Building to begin their investigation and quarantine of those already infected. All except for Echo, who is already imprinted and carrying out her new personality as a sex slave… until she sees a breaking news report on television about the problem at the Rossum Building that triggers flashbacks. She’s unsure about what the flashbacks mean, but she acts on impulse saying she has to go there to save “him.”
The episode takes a hilarious spin-around when the drug begins to affect everyone. We see a silly side of Ms. Dewitt and, well Topher’s always a goof-ball so there wasn’t much a difference with him. Also, Langton and Dominic become affected. Then against what Topher hypothesized about Actives being unaffected by the drug, the drug hit them as well… but with a different effect. Each Active had flashbacks of their past, just more evidence that the ‘wipes’ aren’t as effective as they should be.
Topher, somehow remaining in control during the trip (which might have something to do with him being a heroin addict in his past) discovers that the drug’s effect will eventually wear off since everyone has a relatively small dosage… which means that the kid who killed himself was overdosed involuntarily, or in other words he was murdered. Meanwhile, Echo/Alice meets Sam who wants to avenge his dead friend by collecting evidence against Rossum to bring them down. With the help of Echo’s flashbacks they both sneak into the lab where Sam turns against Echo by drugging her more and revealing his real intent: to sell the vial to another drug company for billions to help his mother’s financial problems.
Like always, Langton comes to save the day by knocking out Sam after a foot-chase from Echo. We then see Ms. Dewitt talking to Sam in the interrogation room we’re familiar with seeing Caroline in before becoming an Active. The deal is that Sam signs himself to the Dollhouse for five years and in return his mother will escape her money issues. This won’t be the last time we see Sam in the series.
Oh, and what about the whole Agent Ballard situation? Well, it wasn’t really touched on too much… all that happened was Mellie was recalled by the Dollhouse. It seemed that her mission was to take Ballard’s mind off of the Dollhouse. He’s been removed from the FBI and has endangered Mellie’s life, but that still doesn’t stop his passion to keep digging. Since Mellie has failed, she’s back at the Dollhouse.
This episode gave us a lot of insight about Echo/Caroline’s past, which was vague before and now is much clearer. Also, the episode sort of put the skeptics straight that Topher or Ms. Dewitt could be Actives, since their reaction to the drug wasn’t the glitches the Actives experienced. I still want the Alpha mystery to surface soon. To me, that’s when Dollhouse will hit it’s absolute peak in storytelling. But these last two episodes, breaking free from Fox’s shambles, brings out the importance of every single character and the role each of them have. This is the correct direction to take the series. We know Echo is the central character that everyone is after, but seeing her as a catalyst for a bigger issue will only transcend Dollhouse. I’m just beginning to wonder if there is a larger and bigger storyline to carry this series onto multiple seasons. Let’s just keep watching what Joss throws at us.