Monday, March 30, 2009

Dollhouse 1.4 to 1.7

Eeek. This is why I don't write about TV. It's always on and thus too easy to fall behind in. I haven't mentioned Dollhouse in nearly four weeks. I can't offer the extensive write-ups I did last time, but here are a few quick thoughts. I've started each of these posts with a photo of a doll. Subtle! But today let's go with this painting of a Doll holding a doll. It's my beloved Pris from Blade Runner.
She's the right iconic character to throw up because she's a pleasure model. That isn't far from what the Dolls in Dollhouse are... except they're not androids but actual humans. Though sometimes I think the writers get confused.

"Gray Hour" I'm struggling to remember this episode. Echo (Eliza Dushku) was imprinted to be a master thief, helping to steal priceless art. As usual things went very wrong. B-

1.5 "True Believer" Echo is made blind (don't ask me to explain the science, the show can't and I wish it wouldn't try!) in order to infiltrate a cult. It's another chance for Joss Whedon to bash religious fundamentalism. I'm sympathetic to that. Eliza was better than usual in this episode. Perhaps it was that Mormon'ish environment she originally sprang from? B

1.6 "Man on the Street" Easily the best episode and written by Joss Whedon himself, natch. It's the one we were promised through the buzzvine "where it gets good". The snarky critic in me suggests that shows should be good from the beginning rather than promising future quality (Hi, Heroes. I stopped watching long ago. You cried wolf too many times), but the realist in me knows that it often takes time for complicated shows to find their footing. The Dollhouse team should feel pretty good about landing this episode. They managed for the first time a completely integrated vision. The A (imprint assignment), B (Dollhouse mythology) and C (FBI investigation) plots all worked as one to take us on an icky thrill ride. Usually they've been standing awkwardly side by side, staring oddly at one another. There were three fine reveals in this episode. The first, which involved a sleeper agent Doll --"there are three flowers in the vase"-- wasn't that big of a surprise but it was still plotted quite well. The second was that there's someone within the Dollhouse ranks who wants to help the FBI Agent. The last and big reveal was a great surprise (at least to me). Turns out we've barely scratched the surface of this shady operation. "There are over 20 Dollhouses..." [shiver]

Best thing about the episode: Ms. Dewitt, the boss lady, finally got some scenery to chew. She's a devious one. Her final scene was brilliantly succinct and Olivia Williams handled it perfectly.

Worst thing: The interstitial, man on the street news report, with civilians talking about the urban myth of the Dollhouse, was awkward. A bit too "on the nose" I suppose, what with the foregrounding of the show's non consensual sex and slavery conundrums. Still the dialogue was sometimes funny and the show probably needs more laughs to balance out the heebie jeebies those twin issues unavoidably inspire. A-

<--- Is Enver Gjokaj who plays "Victor" the best 'Doll' actor on the show? His personality does seem to subtly shift with each assignment. The show's concept requires chameleons. They don't seem to have cast most of the young actors that way.

1.7 "Echoes"
Oops. After that thorny near-thrilling sixth episode we reverted back to 'what the hell are they doing?' doubts about this show. A Plot: A group of dolls are sent to lock down a college campus affected by a drug which removes inhibitions and messes with your memory and self control. Too much of a dose and things get very violent/ugly. And oops, the drug/virus goes airborne... or something (again sloppy with the science). B Plot: Turns out the Rossum corporation which develops this drug is intimately connected to the Dollhouse's very existence. In Echo's former life as Caroline, she was out to take down the Rossum corporation. She was something of a political activist/animal rights hellion. C Plot: the FBI Agent's sex life was totally ruined by that assassination attempt on his new girlfriend in the last episode. That always kills my sex drive, too.

Best thing about this episode: The drug going airborne within the Dollhouse gave Olivia Williams her first comic scenes as Ms. DeWitt started binging whilst her chief imprint tech man, usually the only character on the show with any jokes, ended up pants less for half the episode.

Worst thing about this episode: the writing and Eliza's uneven playing (sigh. I love her but...) continue to make Echo look like an idiot rather than an interesting character. This episode contained the single worst (?) moment in all seven episodes. Echo and a college student want to escape from the Dolls that are supposed to be locking down the campus. They're basically sitting in a containment tent. The tent opening is mere feet away with no one guarding it. Echo and the student sneak out by walking out and Echo turns to the student and says, with a sense of wonder and accomplishment "That worked!" Duh. Walking out of a room you don't want to be in when it doesn't have a door to begin with is often a piece of cake!

This episode gets two grades. Scenes inside the Dollhouse: B Scenes outside the Dollhouse C

And that's it for now. Next week's episode "The Awakening" is supposed to be game changer just like episode 6. We'll see. Don't be crying wolf people.


Jason Adams said...

I was trying to figure out if that moment you call out in this past week's episode (them just walking out) was supposed to be a joke or what. It felt too flat to be, but it was so ridiculous I don't know how else to handle it.

Olivia Williams is MVP every week. I thrill to her every line reading. I never would've pegged her for such a perfect fit into the Joss-verse beforehand, but she's delightful and seems to get the tone the show needs better than anybody on the show.

Lee said...

I thought Reed Diamond was pretty funny in this one (then again, I have a massive crush and might be biased): "sorry again about that burning alive thing."

Wayne B. said...

Hmm..I really wish they would schedule this show for a different night. Friday, really? Thanks to circumstances, I've only seen one episode of this show; and I call myself a Whedon fan! :) Guess I'll see it on DVD.


Lee --- i almost put a picture of him with the gun "this is so heavy, man" cuz it was so funny.

so yeah, i like him too.

elgringo said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only person who feels that Enver Gjokaj is the best thing going for this show.

Jason Adams said...

I am a big fan of Enver's man reaction.



Deborah said...

I don't think there's an insider in the Dollhouse helping the FBI. I think that Echo "breaking free" to tell the agent that was part of the plan. Give people what they want--it's how Dollhouse works.


hmmmm. interesting theory. but then why the truth that he was going about it the wrong way?

Wayne B. said...

little Whedonverse side note:
It's Juliet Landau's birthday today too! She will always be Dru to me; one of those things where her greatest role will influence anything else she does. I just saw a pic of her as a blonde; i like it on her :)

Carl said...

I don't follow the coverage of this series outside of this website, so maybe someone can tell me that I am off base with this one?

Eliza Dushku is listed as a producer on this show. So does she exercise any creative control over this series? The missteps in this series finding its voice could stem from the infamous "creative differences" that can crop up when there is more than one person with a say on how the show is put together. Aren't the episodes that work least well the ones that are most "Echo"-centric? If Eliza is insisting on a higher percentage of screen time in this series, then that could paint Joss and the other writers into a corner they haven't been able to write their way out of.

Still, it does let me look at her some more. Yum.


Carl... i love looking at Eliza too. I just wish someone was directing her more carefully.

I'm not sure they've had a non-Echo focused episode to compare anything to though