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'Dollhouse' DVD released today: Is it worth your time and money?

Epitaph-One_l

Epitaph-One_l

The season-one DVD of Dollhouse goes on sale today, and you know the party line: this Joss Whedon show started out wobbly, got better, and now most of us are psyched for a second season. But is the DVD worth it for its unaired 13th episode, “Epitaph One”; for the original, unaired pilot; and for its commentaries?

As always with a Whedon project, if you’re Whedonesque, you’ll buy it no matter what I or anyone else says. For the rest of you…

First, “Epitaph One.” (SPOILER ALERT.) Set 10 years in the future, what could have been the series-ender is a mind-bender involving a group of post-apocalyptic rebels. Yes, there’s been an apocalypse, most likely brought on by none other than the bratty-but-brilliant Topher.  (He’s played with bratty brilliance by Fran Kranz – he’s one of the characters I’ve done a 180-degree turn on since the premiere: used to give me the creeps, now I get and enjoy his funny creepiness.)

This ragtag band, which includes Dr. Horrible’s wonderful Felicia Day, comes upon a Dollhouse in ruins. Over the course of the episode, co-written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, we find out that Actives can now, to varying degrees, control or at least have conscious memories of their personality imprints. There’s a goodly amount of Whedon-style action-banter (“Let’s blow this bitch back to the Bush years!”). A little girl whose identity I won’t reveal uses a big gun to blast someone important to the episode. Dr. Saunders/Whiskey has scars no more. Olivia Williams’ Adelle is lovely. (Just throwing that in there.) Eliza Dushku’s Caroline puts in minimal appearances, but they’re crucial.

In short, a terrific Dollhouse episode that adds a lot to our knowledge going in to season two. It acts as a flash-forward that renders next season a flashback to things that occurred before “Epitaph One“ ‘s 2019 events. The episode’s commentary by Jed Whedon and Tancharoen is cozily laid-back; I really didn’t need to hear that they’re considering having sex after recording their comments. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way; don’t mind me.

As for the original pilot, you’ve seen bits of it chopped up and scattered throughout other Dollhouse episodes, so, again, if you’re a rabid fan or a completist, you’ll want to watch it, but it’s not essential. I didn’t listen to every one of the commentaries, but the ones with Joss are invariably his usual mix of intentionally-obfuscating silliness and interesting how/why-I-wanted-that revelation.

All in all, definitely at least worth renting, if not owning. What about you? Have you been looking forward to this Dollhouse DVD release?

Originally posted July 28 2009 — 11:34 AM EDT

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