Five Things About Dollhouse That Are Hard To Miss

September 27th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

1.  Echo is, without question, the least interesting part of every story. 

Hey, it’s not her fault.  She is an amorphous blob of personalities linked by a generalized desire to ‘do the right thing’.  I can sympathize with her quest and cheer her victories, and I certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to her, but there’s no handhold onto the character. 

Also she’s up against some very stiff competition.  All the characters are, in some ways, self-serving and in some ways selfless.  All of them are conflicted and kinked enough to be interesting people, not just stock characters.  The hero is the least malleable of all of the characters and so is, in many ways, the least interesting.


2.  The show has only found two ways to make her interesting; stripping her down and beating her up.

There’s no lack of pretty people on the show, and yet Echo seems to always be the one with the most salacious storylines.  I guess a part of this is the villains are too disgusting for us to be interested in seeing them do anything other than be burnt at the stake, and the other operatives are too much like children to make the idea of them having sex anything other than repugnant.  Mostly, though, you can’t miss the fact that Eliza Dushku is naked on most of the promotional posters.  They know the angle they’re working.

The beatings are, I guess, a quick way to a ‘you go, girl’ emotional response.  Getting beaten down until you fight back is not the kind of empowerment I want to see.  That said, the big emotional moment in the last episode, where Ballard knocks her around until she re-boots and loads up a martial arts expert imprint, is hilarious.


3.  Joss Whedon has finally written a really interesting crazy person. 

Doctor Saunders is, hands down, the most interesting character of the series at this point.  She is chilling, funny, and extremely sympathetic all at once.  She’s also fascinating.  To watch her work through the ethical issues of her situation – how to examine your life when you know your mind has been programmed, how to resist without punishing those weaker than you, whether it would be better to be an automaton who doesn’t know they’re trapped than to be self-aware and unable to use that awareness – is great to see. 

And there is something heart-wrenching about watching what is essentially a pirated personality become aware of itself enough to recognize that it will die if it surrenders a body.  I hadn’t considered that before now.  I thought that she would want her old personality back, seeing it as her ‘real self’.  But that’s not her.  ‘Saunders’, the person who is walking, talking, thinking and making decisions, is her ‘real self’ right now, and rightly recognizes that she will die if Whiskey’s original personality is restored.


4.  Not showing ‘Epitaph One’ was a huge, huge mistake.

That episodes informs the series but it isn’t crucial to continuity.  It, however, was by far the most interesting episode of the first season, and makes you see the potential of the series.  If you haven’t seen it, this show is pretty much about a woman who is sent after drug dealers and kidnappers and occasional art thieves, but who always loses her memory in the middle of the mission, thereby making us watch a puppet getting a beat-down until the last five minutes, when she rallies and saves the day.

If you have seen it, Dollhouse is about a the road to hell being paved by a bunch of interesting people with very, very good and very, very stupid intentions.  It’s about all the characters, and how they shape the world without knowing it.  It’s a fantastic and fatalistic series.


5.  If the series gets cancelled, fan reaction will be nuclear. 

Many of the aspects of the series bother me (see #2).  And even though I’m a committed character fan, I don’t particularly like any one character in the series.  I find almost all the characters interesting, but I haven’t latched on to any of them.

But I have to see what comes next.  I have to see the next episode.  I have to see how they get from here to Epitaph One, and I damn well want to see what happens to the characters in Epitaph One.  This is a series that I cannot stop watching, because the story is just that good.  I doubt that I’m the only one.

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5 comments to “Five Things About Dollhouse That Are Hard To Miss”

  1. really? TO me the idea of Epitaph 1 being the definate future would be very limiting. If you know where they’re going, it a bad place, and it can’t be stopped why bother watching?

    Maybe if they have an Epitaph 2 with a totally different future it might be something.

  2. @Jason: I like the idea of there being one definite future. After so many shows pull a stunt like this and then have the characters desperately try to avoid that one future, I like the originality of the show going, “Yup, that’s how it all turns out. Here’s your handbasket. Enjoy the ride.”

  3. I think most people knowing there was no positive end would stop watching. Seriously most people enjoy happy endings. And true art does not have to be angsty

  4. I felt, from the first episode, that focusing on Echo was a mistake. It felt like watching QUANTUM LEAP, but in which there is no Sam. Only Al. It’s just too distant.

    What’s worse is that while Eliza Dushku is a fine actress, she’s not actually particularly amazing. Amy Acker and Enver Gjokaj are far more talented, while Boyd, Ballard, Topher, and DeWitt are far more interesting characters.

    When the sixth episode showed up and pushed the show into a more ensemble cast (with Echo being virtually absent), the show instantly became very engaging. Unfortunately, the more we know of Caroline, the less interesting Echo becomes.

    That said, as an ensemble cast show, it was engaging but nothing amazing, and as you say, “Eptiaph One” has completely altered the entire show. It is, I think, one of the best “twists” I’ve ever seen. Better than THE SIXTH SENSE, better than THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK… “Epitaph One” works so well, you don’t even need to see another episode. It works as bookend and finale.

    And what’s more is that it is completely and utterly cogent, even though it never actually says much of anything. It is immersive as hell as you try to work out just how this happened, rewarding you by having the answers peppered into the series as a whole. It pays off huge numbers of subtle hints, and brings the show to its logistic, and terrifying apex.

    Utterly fantastic stuff.

    I’m actually a little annoyed that DOLLHOUSE is going to do the whole “How do we get to ‘Epitaph One'” because I honestly think I know enough that the show could just continue right from where it left off. I feel I know plenty of what happened and how. Plus, I think the little girl playing Echo is doing a better job of it than Eliza Dushku.

    The nice thing is that by going back, we’ll get more Doc Sanders.

    But I think I’d be even more impressed if season two took place solely in 2019. After all, with the ‘tech’, we could easily have flashbacks…

  5. it really strikes me that for a fan you’ve articulated some very good reasons for it to be cancelled.

    Really that’s part of the problem. As an idea it’s fine. Actually executing that idea? Not so much.