Ken Tucker
January 30, 2010 AT 03:06 PM EST

For folks who never watched “Epitaph One” (the unaired, DVD-extra, 13th episode of season one), Dollhouse really ended last week, with “The Hollow Men,” the last episode that took place in the present-day of the original Dollhouse universe.

This week, “Epitaph Two: Return,” set in 2020, wrapped things up in a way I found more effective, even moving, than I expected. I thought the Mad Max-iness of “One” was as derivative as that comparison makes it sound, but “Two” gave “One” context, and really made both of these book-enders cohere dramatically.

Rather than go through a recap of an episode that Dollhouse watchers without benefit of “Epitaph One” may have found baffling anyway, I’ll let you knowledgeable fans discuss it among yourselves in the Comments section below, and instead, I’ll tote up what I think are the Winners and Losers in the great Dollhouse experiment. As Paul Ballard said last night, “This is where it gets interesting.”

Losers:

Joss Whedon He never stops trying something utterly different from what anyone else in television is doing, and he’s always punished for it with a modest-at-best audience. Who does the cancellation of Dollhouse make more wary: him or any broadcast-network exec tempted to work with him again?

Eliza Dushku Given (a) plum role(s), Dushku sometimes seemed not quite up to the task of portraying all the various characters with which she was imprinted. Sometimes they just seemed like a slight variations on either slow-talking robotic Echo, or butt-kicking Echo/Caroline. Where does the failure of this series leave her TV career? Maybe in search of something very different. Bet she’s looking at ABC’s Modern Family and wondering if her agent should get her the next smart sitcom.

Topher I went back and forth on this character, but ultimately (as in last night’s finale), his manic-nerd mannerisms, no matter how many times they were partially redeemed by a subplot showing the real man inside the man-boy, just grated. The challenge for actor Fran Kranz will be to prove he has the range to do something more nuanced than brilliant-but-squawky Topher.

Fox Not a terrible villain at all, but not a hero, either. The network took a chance, it didn’t pay off, which could have made them look gutsy. Instead, by doing things like the reported big-footing interference in the early-panic stage of the series, not airing “Epitaph One,” and burning off the second season on Friday nights, Fox looks a bit squirrely.

Winners:

Joss Whedon He’s free to be courted by cable. FX, Showtime, HBO, AMC — who knows where he’ll take his next project, but who among us will not be front-and-center for its premiere?

Olivia Williams She was ultimately one of the two actors whose performances became richer, more sly and knowing, with each week. I’d love to see her in another series, soon.

Enver Gjokaj And he’s the other one who comes out of this looking like a deft, dexterous actor who could slide into almost any genre and succeed with charm to spare.

David Solomon He directed some of the best episodes, from “Spy In The House Of Love” to “The Public Eye” to both of “Epitaph” hours with flair and economy (both in his sense of atmospheric storytelling, and making do with the budget he had).

So, what did you think of the final Dollhouse? And who do you think are the winners and losers now that the series is over?

Follow me on Twitter @kentucker

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