Did I Fall Asleep?

Complaining about the next-to-last episode of “Dollhouse.”

Last week I made the prediction that the conclusion of the series-long storyline in “Dollhouse” wouldn’t make a bit of sense, but would at least show us a ton of cool moments along the way.

After seeing the next-to-last episode (“The Hollow Man”), I see that I was wrong on both counts. What I didn’t expect was that they’d come up with a resolution that actually kind of sort of made sense, at least in “Dollhouse” terms. What I did expect: everything else.

I kind of feel bad making fun of the series over a weak episode, considering it has had so many genuinely cool moments. But the team behind the series has managed to do this so well so many times in the past — getting screwed over by a network, facing cancellation, losing an actor or actress, having to rework the format of the entire series at the last minute — and ended up with something that wasn’t just serviceable, but memorable. This was just a string of predictable moments followed by the hero running away from an explosion. I can’t help but be disappointed by my own unreasonably high expectations.

Saying more requires spoilers for people who haven’t seen it, or people who aren’t as cynical as I am and enjoyed the penultimate episode just fine.

So it was indeed Caroline, and not “Echo,” who was important to the whole evil corporation’s master plan. But she was important because of her body, not her brain: that’s actually kind of a twist that I didn’t see coming. It was pretty clear that it had something to with her ability to resist being imprinted. And after “Epitaph One,” it was easy enough to guess that Boyd wanted to use her ability to figure out how to keep himself from being imprinted.

But the idea that it’s not a skill but something biological? (Or as Rain put it: her spinal fluid has midochlorians). That actually kind of makes sense. The more she gets imprinted, the more of the hand-waving neurotransmitters get created, like a biological immunity. From which you can create a vaccine. In TV science fiction terms, that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.

And for why he spent so many episodes assignments with her being blind or pregnant or a backup singer, instead of just putting her in a machine and letting the “new imprint” program run on a constant loop over the weekend: they had a “solution” for that too. He’s batshit insane, and enjoyed spending time with them. I honestly can’t tell whether that’s clever or not. I do know that I was so wrapped up in thinking of what the Grand Architected Master Plot could be, it never occurred to me to think “crazy.” Maybe they were manipulating the fact that so many viewers would think that’s such an obvious cliche that it would never occurred to them, or maybe they just went for the obvious cliche. Whatever the case, it actually wrapped up the whole plot in a way that approaches “convincing.”

(As long as you ignore all the wildly improbable predictions they would’ve had to make: like needing a vaccine against technology that hadn’t yet been invented. Or being able to predict, not just detect a previously-unknown immunity to this new technology simply by reading lab results of a bone marrow transplant. Or furthering a plot for one Dollhouse to rebel against the corporation, simply for the sake of getting two of your employees into headquarters).

So yeah, all that stuff is best when you don’t think about it too hard, and I was totally prepared for that going in. It’s worth letting the story make a few improbable leaps for the sake of delivering all those cool, unpredictable moments, right? So why did they treat the episode as a glorified clip show — interspersing the “Best of Dollhouse” with painfully telegraphed Action TV series non-twists?

As soon as they went into the main Rossum building, I said, “another catfight between Echo and Whiskey.” As soon as Sierra and Victor saw the note on the scanning chair, I said, “You liked this actor’s impression of Topher before? Well here it is a second time!” As soon as they showed the super remote imprint guns, I said, “Topher’s going to use it on Boyd.” As soon as they split Helo and November into a separate group, I said “There are three flowers in a vase.” As soon as they showed Helo looking on lovingly as November smashed the coolant controls, I said “She’s going to get shot in the head, most likely by herself.” (Second time in two weeks, guys? Really?) The only completely predictable non-twist they didn’t use was Sierra playing helpless and suddenly revealing she’d gotten the fighting skills upgrade as well. I guess they just ran out of time.

I wish they’d just made a serviceable-but-predictable episode, instead of going for so many “Hey remember that time we did that cool thing?” moments, because it’s kind of tarnished my memory of all the cool moments. And having the heroine run away from green-screen exploding buildings? Sorry, but that’s just weak sauce. Especially when she comes out and the building is shown completely intact right up to the CG Rossum logo.

So next week they’re going to drag out the real ending and try to get all the threads to tie up and most likely present it with some kind of “they tampered in God’s domain” message. And that’s pretty much necessary, when you’ve already done a post-apocalyptic coda episode and spent an entire season working backwards from that. But I think I’ll try to remember the series as having gone out like “The Sopranos,” fading to black as soon as Echo got in the chair to find out who the big bad guy was.