“The Hollow Men” — We are getting Dollhouse all wrong!

Okay, I think everyone is missing the boat on “The Hollow Men,” the “almost” finale of Season 2 of Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” on Fox TV. It’s the almost finale because we still have the 13th episode, another Epitaph episode set 10 years in the future — but with flashbacks.

So here’s the thing. We have forgotten that Caroline is now back in her body and in Echo’s head and we have been failing to note the sign-posting and obvious cues — I guess not so obvious if we aren’t noticing them? — scattered throughout the episode, and especially the clearly parodic nature of the hero-escaping-the- bomb-blast-while-running-from-destruction scene. Most recently, Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes used the well-convention action-film convention of the slow-motion sailing through space (ahead of the fire), followed by a sudden cut away to the hero and friends, all perfectly unharmed….

This exaggerated parody of the trope of escape from an explosion signals to me that we are not simply to take the scene at face value, but to take it with a grain of salt and look at it a bit more closely. The obvious “cheesiness” of the explosion scene and of the cut-away to an unfluffed Echo standing (not running) outside the building are reminiscent of the similar parody of genre conventions in “Instinct,” written by the same team, when we see the avenging mother with a child in her arms and lightening and thunder gratuitously starting up in the background.  Also “cheesey,” as many complained, unless we see it as a foil to the following action, when Echo “recovers herself” in spite of her programming (all that primitive, atavistic, maternal rage and fear) and instead listens carefully to the child’s father, evaluating what he is saying and what he is willing to do in this extremity. Echo looks down at the knife in her hand and says, “This isn’t me.” Then with sanity and poise she gives away her child to the father who genuinely loves it, which he has just proven by offering to give his life in order to save his son’s.

I believe that in “The Hollow Men” we are not supposed to be seduced by the Great American Movie Convention that whatever the good guys do in order do overcome the bad guys is by definition therefore good. Good simply because “we” are doing it against “them.” Or as Topher so succintly states it in an earlier scene: “The bros before those that aren’t bros….” The theme of the good guys embracing the bad guys’ protocols also occurs in this episode when Sierra and Anthony decide (despite conflicted feelings) to use the chair — and when Ballard has Mellie take up (and become) a weapon of destruction — triggering her through love and trust to kill, right after we have just watched her being triggered by Adele’s formula to transform into a mindless assassin.

No, our scooby gang has not rescued the world at the end of “The Hollow Men,” and furthermore, the world is not going to end with a bang but with a whimper, as T. S. Eliot’s poem has it:  “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

The Big Bang has of course just been accomplished — by turning a human being into a doll and then ordering him in his defenseless trusting state to blow himself up, along with the Rossum mainframe. Is this Echo who adopts this ferociously vindictive strategy?  Is it Echo who smashes Clyde/Whiskey/Saunders’ head against the wall hard enough and frequently enough to murder her? No, this folks, is Caroline! And Caroline has been able to seduce Echo into these horrific actions because of Echo’s own passionate and inflamed sense of betrayal by Boyd, because he has used her own trust pitilessly to doom her.

So I believe it is Caroline — not Echo — who has chosen to take her ferocious revenge, in the process demonstrating the truth of Adele’s assessment that Caroline is “the most dangerous kind of person in the world, an idealist.” But the whimper that follows the bang is how the world will really end; it is what we hear from Echo, regaining herself in the aftermath of the revenge, expressing her dawning doubt and the return of the moral awareness that has always distinguished her and which she has earned through suffering all the lives and destinies of so many other human beings: “Did we save the world?” “I guess so….?”

Many Dollhouse watchers have complained that “nothing happens” in that widely disliked earlier episode “Instinct” that aired second in Season Two But something very important did happen in that episode; something that I think is genuinely apropos to “saving the world.” Echo overcame her programming and exercised her own distinctive sanity and compassion. The very fact that we can watch her suddenly behaving without it — in the climax of this finale — and not seem to “notice” any difference demonstrates that we have not been watching this as moral drama on its own (Jossian) terms. I suspect that it is Caroline who will bring about the thoughtpocalypse, and Echo who will take up the struggle to find some safe haven from it in “Epitaph II.”

One commentator has called “The Hollow Men” a “balls-out Shakespearian tragedy,” and others have compared the malevolent villainy and the body count of this episode to Shakespearean tragedy as well. But it is in the characterization of Boyd that the humanist tradition in which Shakespeare’s moral universe dwells is most clearly delineated. I have read many complaints that Boyd is simply a madman and has no real motivation, and that therefore his being the Big Bad is ill-conceived.  But this runs counter to an underlying ethical truth that would be equally the case for any ultimate big bad in human history. However the real apocalypse arrives, it will be motivated by only one thing, the same thing that motivates Iago or Lady McBeth: self-aggrandizement willfully pursued at the expense of other human beings.

Boyd’s every action is explained by the runaway instinct for self-preservation that dominates him, along with the fear and insecurity of other like himself arising to dethrone him (Shakespeare’s “heavy is the head that wears the crown,” anyone?  Richard III?) — including the low level of security at Rossum headquarters and all the other supposedly unrealistic details in these final episodes.  There is no trust among thieves in the end. The show, like Shakespearean drama, has been genre-wise and convention-aware and plays fast and loose with verisimilitude in order to chronicle the human passions and the long moral adventure of humankind.

Boyd like most of us projects his own habitual thinking patterns onto the world around him. He wants to wipe out all the other would-be “Boyds” in advance of their being able to get the drop on him. It is “me against everyone else,” which is the ultimate form, most tragically, of “us against them.”

One of the writers for Dollhouse has been quoted as saying:  “This is a show about what it means to be human. If that doesn’t do it for you, what are you — robots?” I’m afraid that it is scary how much in need of a humanist moral education we all seem to be, even we hardcore Whedon fans who have stuck with Dollhouse through all its ups and downs. The apocalypse is inevitable unless the mass of mankind can take the road of moral evolution that Echo has been walking. It doesn’t matter how it comes, only why.  That Why will be that the final good guys in the last times are willing to be just as bad as the bad guys, in order to defeat them. In that case, there is nothing but defeat in our future.

Who are the hollow men alluded to in the title of this episode, “headpiece stuffed with straw”? It isn’t the heads of Rossum, who no longer exist.  It is Caroline and those who wait for her outside the corporate headquarters. And it is all of us who watch Caroline’s revenge take place and fail to realize that our leader Echo, our new Eve, has fallen (at least for a moment) into sin and death.

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to ““The Hollow Men” — We are getting Dollhouse all wrong!”

  1. Jane Says:

    Boyd wants a family. Or perhaps a Family, not just any group of people who come together, but a Special group of people. So, even “family” as a motive can be called into question. So what of Love? Who extends themselves for the *benefit* of another? How do we understand “benefit”? Family values, indeed…

    Echo’s spinal fluid… I think that’s a metaphor for integrity. They want Echo because she has a spine. And yet even that is called into question, for as Echo evolves she becomes more and more like Caroline. Caroline is the “entelechy” of Echo, the entailment of Echo. How else did Caroline arise in the first place, before there ever was a Dollhouse?

    In Epitaph One, it’s said that the establishment of Safe Haven is something they have Alpha to thank for. Alpha… think about that. The First. He is the origination, and Echo is the Omega, the End. What does it mean to be an End?

    Who’s to say the Thoughtpocalypse is a Bad Thing?

  2. toresimonsen Says:

    I am trying to save Dollhouse. Sign petitions and send emails.

    http://toresimonsen.wordpress.com

  3. janet leslie Blumberg Says:

    Well, Jane, as I tried to say in my post, I am not as impressed with Caroline as I am with Echo, whom you have shown evolving into an integrated whole centered about the willingness to care to the point of death for others.

    Caroline is flashing and appealing, but I think shows herself ideologically and morally capable of taking exactly the same extreme steps as the evil she is fighting against, being blinded by her literally “single-minded” idealism.

    I think Echo is much more the entelochy of the new human being who is immune to mind-wiping, IF — and it’s a big IF — she can control the Caroline inside of her and temper her with a much more diversified set of perspectives.

    I think the inversion of “family” seen with Boyd is like that seen with the serial killer who posed strangers as his “family” against their will, always willing to sacrifice them for expediency’s sake. To me this doesn’t question the value of family so much as it asks us to figure out what actually makes a family, and using and manipulating others when they are vulnerable is not family but the dark shadow or doppelganger of family.

    But this is where the difference between your joyous gnosticism and my own sense of evil as being a parodic imitation of the good caused by deprivation of the good comes into play. The long (Christian) humanist tradition in the West has trained me to hope or to have a faith that good (alpha) is first and evil is secondary to it, that the innocent original comes prior to its hollowed out shadow-self facade. Only innocence ruined can give rise to such powerful fears for the self and hatred of rivals as Boyd evidences. But the good is also capable of being subsequent to and stronger than evil (omega) — if the rape of innocence educates it instead of embittering it. I think it is only under the passionate sense of Boyd’s betrayal of her trust that Echo is blinded into becoming the spitting image of him and exploiting his vulnerability in return.

    I have to hope that Echo is eventually able to educate Caroline with all she has learned while experiencing rape after rape in her wholly vulnerable state as an active. If Echo cannot do so, I think Caroline will bring on the thoughtpocalypse, which has to be bad for all the poor human beings who suffer it without any ability to withstand it.

    I imagine that the Dollhouse’s Alpha has shown that the way to overcome the Tech is to learn to assimilate it and transcend it instead of fearing and destroying it. But when Alpha is becoming many, he is Legion, isn’t he? He is a demonic killer who hates every rival instead of one who loves and bonds with others. But as you have shown so well, we have watched Echo instead growing into the integrated person who can draw on the experiences of others and use them to responsible ends.

    So I am very suspicious of Safe Haven, precisely because it has something to do with Alpha, and I cannot imagine what “haven” it can be. These past few episodes have been stupendous — worth everything before — so breathtakingly fulfilling and perfect and I cannot wait to see the last episode. It has felt as overpowering to me as watching King Lear or Measure for Measure, and I think the ongoing artistic processes that go into making these group projects led by Joss are similar to what Shakespeare and his fellows were doing in their own time. Unfortunately, it is “caviar to the general” apparently. Really good to hear from you again, Jane. Have I understood you very well?

  4. Jane Says:

    I saw Epitaph Two last night. I was… I don’t know. I wasn’t as moved as I was by Epitaph One. Yes, I found it excellent, just not as… moving.

    I was moved by Topher, who smiles at the wall of Remembrance before he offers himself up in self-sacrifice; I was moved by Adelle, who takes on Echo’s role of leading Dolls into the Light. But unlike Epitaph One, I was not moved to tears. In E1, there was one line that just blew me away, when Caroline emerges from the Chair in the body of the little girl, and looks up to see a Doll standing there. “Dr. Saunders!” she exclaims, but it’s not Claire in there. No, “My name is Whiskey.” Whiskey asks if she was her best, and Caroline reassures her, “Better.” The finest moment I’ve ever seen on television.

    It was interesting seeing “Echo” and “Caroline” interacting with each other. Caroline (in the little girl) is just as polyphrenic as Echo. She understands everything that Echo/Caroline understood as of the last upload. Caroline is polyphrenic because Echo is polyphrenic; Caroline is the Omega of Echo; Echo is the Alpha of Caroline.

    I think of it this way: Echo is the seed, and Caroline is the flowering. How did Caroline become Caroline in the first place, the sort of person who would empathize with animals? Echo is that essence that gives her empathy; Echo is her “mirror-self,” who sees herself in others – any others who have consciousness. And because there are others who do not have empathy (as I described ad nauseum regarding Belle Chose) she will also reflect a lack of empathy towards them in turn; is this not apt?

    What makes Echo polyphrenic, though — what makes her “mature” in comparison to her prior Carolingian single-mindedness — is the Chair. The Chair is a vehicle for delivering Myth. It serves up Heroic Journey after Heroic Journey, and through it Echo grows and develops. Yet it is also deemed a corrupting force as much a salvational endeavor. In the end, the Chair must be destroyed, and this is coming from Alpha, of all people; he built his own Chair, don’t forget. I’m reminded of the end of Buffy, where the Myth of the Slayer has to be destroyed; the Slayer’s power is transferred to everyone, in some sense.

    I’ve heard it said that myths are stories that never happened but are always happening; they are maps of recurring patterns. All that is has an end, and so it goes with myths. They fold back on themselves. The snake eats its own tale. And then another myth comes along, with its strengths and weaknesses, and the players get up and make believe.

    What will the world be like when the myth of theatre comes to an end? Theatre is one step removed from Ritual, and that step is a Wall. The “4th Wall,” it is invisible, and yet it separates the players from an audience — nay, it *creates* the distinction between performers and watchers. The players keep trying to break it down, and yet they fail over and over again, because they are trying to do Theater rather than Ritual. Why is that?

    Topher and Adelle both learn what Echo was trying to teach, about tearing down that Wall – for the distinction between Self and Other is simply another Wall. It is through that long-standing Christian tradition of self-sacrifice that such a feat is accomplished. Once more… with feeling.

  5. Janet Says:

    Thank you very much, Jane. Eloquent. And I was thinking about Theatre also throughout the last two episodes. “The players keep trying to break it down [that 4th wall], and yet they fail over and over again….” Joss & Co try to make characters who are complex and human and to draw us in, and yet like the very best artistis they are always at the same time pushing us back out of this fictional “real life” they have drawn us into and reminding us that this is NOT real life. That abrupt cut at the end was just one of many techniques used in the last two episodes especially to remind us — I think — that the satisfactions and fulfillments we are being given are fantasies, fantasies of what we need to have happen but not what does happen, in great part.

    I don’t see how anyone could take as more than a passing dream the sight of Sierra and Anthony and Tony on that couch reading a book together — where Sierra and Victor had once read together in their innocent doll states. There is no chance of that dream being lived out — none of the safety that little family vignette suggests to all of us — and yet we know those moments are worth everything else put together. Or Echo with the strand of silver in her hair rising from the Chair and retreating to those iconic pods to go to sleep alone — and reunite with Ballard in her mind…. To call these happy endings gets it all wrong. It’s much closer to tragic exaltation, the kind where pure irony and pure beauty combine.

    Unlike you, I found Epitaph II far better (even) than Epitaph I, which had for me some rough spots and let-downs even while it upped the ante of the show so high at the same time. I was watching it in part to see if what I felt about the ugliness of Caroline/Echo’s revenge-killing of Boyd and my sense that Echo had “fallen” and “lost” the world by adopting the terrorist tactics of the original singel-minded Caroline — would be borne out at all. At first, as the last scene ended, I thought “NO!” I was wrong, but I didn’t care because I had just seen 3 years worth of plot arcs unfolded in the swiftest and most perfect arpeggio of scenes I’ve ever seen. It was sublimely beautiful, moving, and horrifying.

    But then as I thought more about this Echo-Caroline whom we watch as she engages in executing Harding and Ambrose (just as Boyd was eliminated in “Getting Closer”) without the slightest compunction and mowing down the dehumanized “butchers” without the slightest emotion, I realized that Echo had fallen after Caroline was re-united with her in the sense of losing her innocence and taking up the immense burden that is the dark, oragmatic use of violence in the name of necessity. As she tells Adele, she has no fantasy anymore. Yet she apparently still has “mercy,” as it shown with such superb appropriateness by Kilo with her external hard drives around her neck(!!!). Could this show be any cleverer???

    It helped me when you pointed out that Echo has returned a lack of empathy in the past to those who cannot empathize. “Goodness gracious.” She is still putting her body and life on the line to deliver others as she was willing to do when she begged to be dispatched in order to stop the serial murderer now within her. She finds another way to transcend the fate of embodying that murderer, but not without becoming a ferocious killer in her turn. I read that Joss wanted Firefly to be without gratuitous violence, which is why he makes the audience feel Kaily’s being shot in the stomach so viscerally(!), but that eventually he gave in and realized he couldn’t do an effective Western without it. He wasn’t just giving into the Fox executives, but was recognizing that the strength of the genre conventions are ultimately irresistable, because as humans we need and cannot survive without the mythic consolations these genres give to us, even though they are also fantasies.

    It is still a fantasy that the Prince will come, even though we rejoice in welcoming Anthony/Victor home, and find consolation in Echo’s oneness with Ballard in her endless loneliness just as she does. But these are still poetic lies that the show will not allow us to take at face value. That 4th wall springs back up and we are thrown back out of the “reality” or “realization” of the myth, even as we are still being nourished by it at the same time. The greatest example of this for me was the way Fran Kranzt delivered to Adele the line that went: “I don’t want to cause anyone any more pain.” It was absolutely pitch perfect, I thought. I burst out laughing right in the middle of the tragedy unfolding, because the line is the epitome of melodrama and lack of self-awareness, and at the same time under those conditions it was incredibly self-aware and without anything maudlin in it at all. It was instead an utterance of childlike humility combined with genuine self-knowledge all of it garbed in the clothes of cliche and sentimentality. It is like seeing and knowing the difference between blinking, and a wink, and a parody of a wink, all contained in and conveyed by one simple consolidated act! It was for me like the way you treasured the moment when mini-Caroline affirmed Whiskey’s “Did I do my best?” with that exquisite “Better!” Cliche lifted into the finest of art.

    I’m still not sure what I think about caroline and Echo, though. (Are you sure that little Caroline got the Echo-Caroline download? It is going to be such a joy to have both DVDs and go through them all again (with the captioning on). In any case, little Caroline is going back to who she once was, isn’t she? But Echo-Caroline chooses to remember and to retain her journey and remain this literally unique person she has become (unless Alpha has also evolved into wholeness, recovering sanity through the imprint of Ballard…).

    The Caroline download has changed Echo; that much seems clear to me. Caroline has added to Echo the kind of single-mindedness she must embrace in order to be a hero in such a dark and horrible world. Echo has not surrendered mercy and she practices discernment in using violence, but she is no longer innocent as Echo had been. She has learned to listen to reason and what Caroline had stood for had a reason to it, certainly. She did empathize with animals, and for those of us who do, it is not easy to simply condemn animal rights terrorists out of hand, although so many watchers of Dollhouse did so. I was very much in sympathy with Caroline invading Rossum’s lab the first time, but then I am an idealist too. Very dangerous people, I admit.

    One of the things I loved best was everyone gathered for the rural meal together, when the all laugh heartily at Ballard for being so typically and idiotically Ballard. He has learned to laugh at himself. There we saw the effects of genuine “family” love in action (“we don’t really eat tongues”). But they do in fact eat tongues if it is necessary, as I suppose all of us do or will when we have to….

    The “longstanding Christian tradition of self-sacrifice” is prominent throughout the finale, just as you note. But the equally longstanding Christian tradition of the preservation of innocence into adult maturity, including the relinquishing of revenge? To the pragmatic dictum that you cannot turn the other cheek forever and hope to survive, the Christian tradition says, Let us not survive then, because there is no hope in adopting some more compromised course of action. Even the Christian God, having proved willing to become as compromised as God’s creatures are within the tragicomedy of human existence, refuses to compromise at this point. Not judgment but mercy. Not revenge but forgiveness. Love refuses to deny that it is very weak in worldly terms, but believes that unworldly terms still matter and are all that matter….

    Joss goes the other way on this, seemingly. The world is so very dark and so very complicated and ambiguous that we must descend whether we like it or not into the hell of the world’s own terms, and be implicated in all of its violence and evil. Or at least, that to deny we are implicated and must have impure hands is the worst course of all. I find his humanism fascinating. What keeps humanity alive in us is the ability to feel love and appreciation — and Echo’s breakdown is directed at warning Priya in the strongest terms not to hold on to the bitterness that her purest streak has caused her, and not to push Anthony away as a result of it.

    Joss’s characters live in an incredibly dark world, but it is not as dark as the real world is, because the genre patterns of great Theatre are there to keep hope alive in his worlds: the romantic myths of daring do, of the good guys, of the happy endings, of victory snatched from defeat…. But what happens when you problematize those conventions so thoroughly while at the same time you are creating characters whose humanity makes us hope desperately that they will somehow find the same things we humans persist in hoping for ourselves?

    One other thing. I was fascinated by Neuropolis, “the city of minds.” These migratory “minds” that chose for themselves new “suits” of flesh whenever they feel so inclined display no empathy whatsoever. No capacity for anything like genuine love. They are disembodied minds. In Thomistic terms, they have unwoven their humanity by denying that the human being is defined by the marriage of a body and mind. Echo is eternally lonely because she is filled with disembodied minds and has become a united mind that persists in spite of the accidents of bodies. (?) Her fantasy of real human love is a disembodied one that is suited to what she has become and needed to become to save the world.

    It is still very much in doubt whether the world is saved, of course. As in the traditional Christian worldview, in the Dollhouse world each victory over the forces of inhumanity is simply “a brief stay against destruction,” as Tolkien once put it. Even in “the mighty acts of God in Christ,” the seeds of an ultimate deliverance of all creation have been planted, but the fulfillment of that new hope and possibility is still to all appearances far off.

    Joss Whedon has said that he “does not believe in the Sky Bully.” Humans can only rely upon each other and simply “do the next thing” (Echo) in the long and relentless and unending battle. (Compare Lord of the Rings, which is also very dark when it is not being romanticized for the sake of good Theatre!). But just as in the Christian vision, the persistence of “what it means to be human” depends upon at least some persons being able to register the immeasurable value of a trusting human innocence, and the capacity to bond with other imperfect humans to protect the innocence and wonder of the world. This means being loyal to them in a joint journey of corporate struggle and growth.

    The vision of the great Christian artists of history is anything but triumphalist. Their world is every bit as dark as Whedon finds the world to be. But they also keep faith with the meanings of the myths and conventions of literature and art and Theatre, even while they subject those consoling patterns to searing scrutiny. Whedon’s nightmare is that perhaps he is merely running the daycare (for the little kiddies) on the Death Star. The Christian’s outlook is that we are undoubtedly located on the Death Star, but it’s a Death Star that was meant to be a fruitful planet and got hijacked instead. There’s a Deep Life inside of it that ought to be incredibly dear to us and that calls out for a cosmic grace because it has come out from the depths of a cosmic grace….

    People may well suppose we are trying to offer them the hypocrisy of a cheap and taudry entertainment simply to hide from ourselves the darkness of our reality (religion as an opiate for the masses). But I think it is a hope given instead to sustain us so that we can have the strength and the will to gaze into that darkness without denying the beauty that is there as well. “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things….”

    If I weren’t too tired tonight I’d go on to talk about Boyd as the Big Bad, which also suggests some questions to me about the relationships between Joss Whedon’s rather profound contemporary humanist outlook and the longstanding tradition of Christian humanism on the other hand. I keep being fascinated about the similarities and differences here. I think the final episodes of Season 2 with the Boyd Reveal have caught the profound paranoia that always lies behind the great evils perpetuated by “hollow men” (interestingly men without bodies, like scarecrows, in Eliot’s poem).

    The inability to trust or empathize with other human beings, so that one is entirely eaten up by and driven by one’s fear of rivals and the powerful awareness of other humans exactly like oneself, is what we are shown Boyd’s rock-solid conviction that the apocalyptic Tech is inevitable — and that it will be used against him unless he hides it and uses it against everyone else. This is both a projection and also something that is indeed based on a quite realistic sense of the world. The question is, does one give in to this despair or does one open up to something bigger and better than the self?

    Such refusal and succumbing to despair is called the Sin of Pride in the Christian tradition. It is attributed to Satan, for example. It is an exclusion of the divine or redemptive other and leaves one in a stifflingly lonely universe, such as the one Boyd dwells in. Naturally he desires to surround himself with a hollow “family” to lessen his aloneness, but is quite happy to dispense with any of them when necessary, as he does with Saunders or tries to do with Echo. I believe he would have killed Topher the second he fixed the remote if events hadn’t precluded it…. Thanks for giving me an excuse to reminisce about these episodes!

  6. Jane Says:

    Goodness gracious, has been nearly a year? Hmm, nine months. This show has been gestating in me! I haven’t sat down to watch it all over again, but I’m going to, and soon. It will help me to clarify what I’ve been thinking about the show. Thank God it’s all saved on DVD!

    The thread that keeps tugging at me is the notion of salvation, which Dollhouse examines from all angles. What does it mean to be saved? To be a savior? In one sense, the Boyds and Neuropolitans all want to be “saved”, in the sense that consciousness persists regardless of embodiment (or lack thereof.) Certainly it’s the desire to cheat death that drives the Rossumites to develop the tech necessary for them to perpetuate their “selves” indefinitely. Note the irony: these salvationists lack faith, they do not believe that they will be *saved* in the Christian sense of the Word.

    On the other hand, we have our designer-savior Echo/Caroline. I am still resolved that Caroline’s desire to save the animals and save the world from the likes of Boyd, et al, comes from the Echo that has always been inside her. Echo is by nature a savior — she “saves” the consciousnesses of everyone that has ever inhabited her. Her moral code is necessarily one of empathy, but not by choice — she can’t help but empathize with those who inhabit her. Perhaps that isn’t a morality at all, though, for if there’s no choice is there anything moral or immoral about her own salvationism? Does this make Echo more of a machine (or “tech”) because she can’t help but save?

    It’s only when she brings “Caroline” back into her fold that she really develops a “choice” about whether to save or not. Therefore, isn’t Caroline what makes Echo moral *and* immoral? Caroline makes choices to save, and choices not to save, and until the choice not to save has been “proven” through demonstration, it’s hard to say that there was ever a choice at all. This is the crux of humanity, at least in Jossian terms. We all have a bit of Darkness in us, and we *have* to have it or we don’t have a choice, we don’t have free will, and any kind of morality that we might practice wouldn’t have any kind of meaning at all, at all. We must all be sinners.

    You’re right, we have to open up to something bigger or we end up becoming Hollow Men, disembodied minds with no connection to anyone or anything. Joss’ answer is humanistic — we open up to humanity at large, to community. That is the lesson of Safe Haven, an example of the ties that bind, Family not of blood but of relationship, of love.

    Getting back to Echo/Caroline, though. Yes, she’s disembodied as well! The salvation she offers is unlike the salvationism of Boyd, but much more like a Christian sort of salvation. All will be saved within the mind of Echo; Echo is like God, whose consciousness will be the space within which all who would be saved will be saved. And yet, Echo is also a cause of apocalypse, directly or indirectly as an avatar for Caroline.

    So, Caroline: Caroline would not save everyone. She will draw a line — these ones are saved, and those ones are not. Those she would not save might seem to be not worth saving, like Boyd. But Caroline would also not save Bennett, the woman who would help her in her quest to bring down the Dollhouse. Unlike Echo, who seems to have infinite mercy, Caroline exercises Judgment. Is this judgment an entailment of her idealism? I don’t know, I think Echo is equally idealistic, but in a different realm, a different sphere. Like you say, it may be a matter of being “single-minded”.

    Anyways, I’ll be watching again over the next couple of weeks to see how much this all holds up. I’ll probably start with Haunted (1×10) and go from there — it’s an episode that doesn’t get much notice, but it has some unexpected deliciousness in pointing out that sitting in the Chair is like dying, as well as an actual “salve” for dying, which is simply acceptance of seeing it all end after the “second life” provided by “resurrection.”

    There’s a difference between immortality and eternity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: