Dollhouse Finale Goes Out On A Ratings Whimper

Published 6 years ago by , Updated September 17th, 2012 at 7:57 am,

joss whedons dollhouse Dollhouse Finale Goes Out On A Ratings Whimper

DISCLAIMER:  The front half of this article is spoiler free.  There will be a warning as you approach the time-shifted spoilers and a link that allows you to skip the spoilers altogether when you get near them.

To answer my own question about whether Dollhouse was about to get good, oh yea. It became good… no, it became entertaining and fun.

When Dollhouse was first going to air on Mondays, the Whedonverse was excited about Joss Whedon’s new project where he will undoubtedly question core values yet again. Then it found itself shoveled into a Friday night slot, a known graveyard for television.  It seemed that even though Fox spent some cash on the show, it was nothing but lip service – Kind of like playing the lottery.  What’s a few bucks? If it pays off, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t, we can throw the ticket away.

We all said “huh?” when Dollhouse started. I didn’t quite get it. If I did, maybe I really didn’t want to. It seemed weird. It was the same premise that killed off NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy.  How the hell was this going to work on a Friday night?

As the season progressed, we acclimated and started to understand it a little better.  The ratings had started out fair but declined from that first week on.

The first episodes were truly stand alone episodes. Very little connected the episodes. Yet the last 1/2 dozen episodes of this first season started to deliver a developing story. Too bad a strong developing story line didn’t start up the season when it mattered but it seemed that Fox wanted stand alone episodes at the front of the season. I swear, it almost looks like sabotage! Weird. You might as well give someone a tennis racket and a tennis ball and tell them to go bowling.

By the finale though, Joss Whedon was doing what he does best and that’s bringing it. Weaving story with action and interlacing it with questions to make your brain burn. Kind of like when Hulu turns your brain to mush. But in this case, a good mush.

The show’s finale was what we enjoy from any Whedon project.  The action we love, the underlying questioning of humanity, humor at the oddest of times – that worked with the moment and just the usual women kicking everyone’s butts motto.

The finale, titled “Omega” had resolution without resolution.  Answers, but more questions.  And some serious revelations in the process.  And I think the finale introduced an interesting potential premise, which I’ll touch on in a bit.

Use THIS LINK to skip the spoilers.

SPOILERS around the corner
We digested a lot of background on Alpha and the things that went wrong back when he went rogue on the establishment.  It was great to see why he is the way he is.

alan tudyk alpha on dollhouse Dollhouse Finale Goes Out On A Ratings Whimper

Alpha (Alan Tudyk) was a maelstrom of confusion. Initially, I just thought he was malicious and bored, but to find out he has 48 different personalities in his head was interesting. And despite the programming, it was suggested that their base personalities (their soul) still have an impact on it all.

Alan Tudyk delivered this role like I don’t think anyone else could have. He lit up the show. From acting the bumbling engineer and then morphing his attitude into the devious and callous scalpel wielding mad man had pretty smooth transitions. He was flawless.  Tudyk was no longer that lovable space jockey we’ve all come to admire and miss.

Now tell me it isn’t funny as all get-out when a man holds a gun to a hard drive? Like we’re so fixated on the technicalities of our lives. It wasn’t even a modern day drive either! LOL… yea, this geek noticed that it wasn’t a SATA drive but an older IDE drive. I’d think the Dollhouse would have better equipment! And God help me, I think it was a Western Digital drive to boot.

eliza dushku as echo on dollhouse Dollhouse Finale Goes Out On A Ratings Whimper
Echo crawling after her personality

Echo:  Finally… she stands up for herself and kicks some serious ass.  That ass being Alpha’s.  So much for his plan of dumping all of Echo’s past personalities in her.  He was Hoping to create a girl just like himself and all he ended up with was a logical set of attitudes and none of them liked what he was doing.  Bad call.  Kind of like when the monster rebelled on Dr. Frankenstein.

Eliza Dushku delivered on her role of Echo but after Tudyk, I’m not sure just how powerful of an acting contortionist she is.  She brought us different personalities, but just how much different were they?  It was like the same person in different costumes each week.  I really hate saying that.

Regardless, I liked how she pulled it all together and stood up to Alpha.  With his ass-kicking, Eliza IS BACK the way we liked her, and you know what I mean without mentioning another show.

I liked Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) more when he was being thwarted every turn of the road in his pursuit of the Dollhouse.  At least there was an excuse for his depressed like, dead-pan delivery.  Then after all this torment, he somehow managed to jump on board and start helping the Dollhouse?  he did save the girl, just not the girl we were expecting him to save.  At least his big duke-out with Langton (Harry J. Lennix) was fun.  Classic Whedon.

Did Topher (Fran Kranz) start showing remorse near the end of this episode?  Hmm… after all the damage that Alpha did to the databases, maybe Topher is getting a new perspective on things.  Maybe.

I Did Not See This Coming

amy acker dr saunders on dollhouse p Dollhouse Finale Goes Out On A Ratings Whimper

When we discovered that Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker) was a doll, and still is a doll who has a medical imprint completely blew me away.  And then that opened a whole new can of worms for me.  I had to ask:  “Who else under the Dollhouse roof is a doll?  Could everyone be a doll, operated from the Arizona office?”






I think the show really pulled up its bootstraps and cranked it out once Fox let the reigns loose on this one.

Yet the price for Fox capping the creative control and slapping it to Friday nights cost it dearly in the ratings.  The finale drew in the worst ratings of the season with only 2.7 million viewers. With renewal announcements coming up, I ain’t holding my breath on Dollhouse returning.

And Yet There’s Hope

In all sense of logic, the ratings threaten its renewal potential.  Or has it?

It’s been said that Joss is in talks with Fox about what season 2 might represent and where they are going with it.  If he can pitch them just right and if they don’t have another crap-ality (crap reality) show in line, maybe they’d give him another season on Fridays, or one of the more popular options networks are pulling these days and grant him a shortened season.

Who knows.

After all is said and done, regardless of our mixed emotions, what did you take away from Dollhouse?  For me, it’s messing with the humanity of an individual, willing or not, and the core OS, the soul that sits in our heads.

I’d like to hear what Screen Rant readers think.

Source on renewal talks:  Whedon Info

TAGS: Dollhouse
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  1. Well, it’s disappointing to hear that the ratings were so low, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Fingers are crossed…

    As for the premise of the show, I’ve never really been bothered by it. I can’t agree with what they’re doing or condone it at all, but I love it. Whedon just knows how to twist it and what questions to ask to make it work as a show. I find myself so sucked into what the actives are thinking, what they can remember and how they process the information that I don’t have time to think about how utterly wrong it is.

  2. I enjoyed the show. Hoping to see another season. Just waiting for your report on if it’s canceled or not.

  3. I LOVE this show… I also loved ” My own worse enemy” And that didn’t go so well. .. I am still holding my breath .. hoping that someone somewhere will realize that BOTH of these are great shows that deserve to be on the air,..

    To many reality shows out there surviving the GOOD OLE.. fictional one.. BOOOOOOOO

  4. I thought this show picked up major steam at the halfway point. Loved the finale and the one before it.

  5. It sure did Kofi. As soon as Fox let go and let Joss, things picked up big time.

    I can only hope that since Fox owes Joss for stuffing him on Friday nights, they’ll give him another season.

    As soon as I find anything out folks, I WILL report on it.


  6. Major thing I loved about this show which was highlighted with the last episode was the moral ambiguity of it all. By all rights, the concept of the Dollhouse is wrong, and yet the people working there, from Topher to DeWitt were all painted as likable characters (I honestly don’t get the hate on Topher, I love him as a character) who you actually wanted to win.

    And yet, it’s the same with Ballard. Yes, at the beginning he was kind of the side story character who we didn’t care about, but as the season went on, you really wanted him to succeed.

    Overall, loved it, and really hope that they get another season, but I know there’s little chance.


  8. Yea Joshi, I’d hold my breath, but I don’t like the color blue.

  9. Am I the only person who thought Dr. Saunders was a broken doll all along? I didn’t even realize it was supposed to be a surprise. Amy Acker is just not that believable as a doctor (or at least one that went through medical school). She had broken doll written all over her from the first moment we saw her. If they had casted a different actor, maybe someone older and less gorgeous, I think the surprise would have been more shocking.

    Overall, I was entertained by the show but I never quite got to the loving it stage. I hate to admit it, but the premise was a bit too cerebral for me. I think the central question of the show was “what’s left of a person’s soul when their memories are removed” or something like that. Maybe I’m not deep enough because I didn’t get it. It’s not an easy question to show on screen and I think that’s why the show had so much trouble finding its footing.

    The whole story of the Dollhouse would have worked far better as a novel than as a tv show. Especially with the dolls, most of the interesting conflict was of an internal nature and it was just not ever effectively shown on screen.

    I would probably watch the next season if Fox brings it back, but I’d rather have another season of Terminator!

  10. Forrester:

    I missed it. I accredited her behavior to being someone who was shocked and in recovery from her traumatic experience. Not to mention life altering effects from how one would perceive scars like that.

  11. I love this show! I’m disappointed that FOX hasn’t really given it much of a chance. There are so many possibilities with the storyline, especially after that amazing finale! Joss’ shows take a bit of time to catch on, they’re smarter than the average TV show, but they’re worth the effort. I hope FOX is willing to be a little more patient and give the show some room to really find its legs, and maybe a new night. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the ratings suffered the 2 Fridays when Wolverine and Star Trek opened. I also hope that someone is paying attention to how the show is doing on Hulu. Everytime I look it’s in the top 10 or 20, right next to top shows like House, Family Guy, SNL, and The Office! I hope FOX will at least order a few more episodes and then wait to see how well the dvds do before deciding the show’s final fate. Dollhouse is worth watching, even friends of mine who weren’t into Buffy, Angel or Firefly are catching this show. The cast is dynamic, the storylines are incredible, and the possibilities are endless.

  12. I love this show and I am ecstatic it was picked up for a second season! Fox just has to change the show’s timeslot and I’m sure it will up the ratings. It was hard to make time every friday night to catch it, but I did pretty well lol.

  13. haha, I noticed that the hard drive was IDE too, I thought that was pretty funny, because I was under the impression that they were using very the same hard drive for all the shots