The Dollhouse Flip

October 14th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I like my comics to be more variety show than epic tale.  Although there are a few long stories I adore, most of which I’ve gone on about already, there is nothing I like better than an eclectic bunch of simple stories.  Gotham Knights, Superman/Batman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman Confidential, Tiny Titans, all of these are the kinds of things I like.

This love of the well-told episode extends to other forms of media.  I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings.  I hate when they artificially extend a storyline by making the season finale end on a cliffhanger.  And I generally like one-off stories better than overall arcs.  The episode of the Justice League Unlimited in which Wonder Woman got turned into a pig, or the time that Buffy had to take on a mind-control creature that came out of the eggs that students had to carry around for sex-ed.

So it’s strange to me that Dollhouse entirely flips my preferences.  I don’t care what assignment that Echo has this week or how well she completes it.  I want to see more of the sub-plots, the foreshadowing, and the ongoing undercurrents that color every episode.  I want to see the grander story.

I’m not sure what it is that is different about the series.  I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Echo/Caroline, but while I don’t find her a particularly interesting character, she carries the stories along and makes me believe she can be both creatively clever while being clueless to larger implications.

Maybe it’s because the Dollhouse itself is evil.  When the show is about heroes, I don’t like to see them hit trouble.  When it’s about villains, I welcome a chance to make them miserable.

But I think there’s a larger reason.  So many shows give us meaningless plot-twists and clever set-ups that reveal themselves to be just that – clever set-ups, with payoffs to be filled in by the writers if its necessary.  Dollhouse is planned, from first to last.   There aren’t any dropped story lines or hollow explanations or rushed justifications.  I know that if I see something strange, it was because I was meant to, and I’ll get a satisfying pay-off if I wonder about it.

Take note, Lost.  Oh wait.  That show actually did well.

Please watch Dollhouse, you guys.  If the show gets cancelled because the world ends I will go freaking crazy on someone and I can’t be sure it won’t be myself.  So.

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4 comments to “The Dollhouse Flip”

  1. Fox’s scheduling chief has gone on the record as saying that despite its awful ratings and the utter impossibility of them ever improving, they will air all 13 episodes of season 2 anyway.

    And then it’s canceled, of course, which means that now is the time for the Dollhouse writers to go totally fucking crazy with their last few episodes. Just freak out and do anything and everything they ever wanted to do with the show, secure in the knowledge that this is IT, they don’t have to impress anyone else or try and attract any new viewers or do anything other than plunge headlong into that technological morality play that they’ve been constructing in the subplots behind all the (tedious) engagements.

  2. @Trilobite: Never say ‘cancelled’ to a desperate Joss Whedon fan.

  3. Honestly, after losing Firefly, I doubt I can be hurt by a Joss Whedon show’s cancellation ever again. That’s the one that left a scar.

  4. The reason DOLLHOUSE isn’t doing well is twofold:

    1 – FOX didn’t air “Epitaph One” which creates the entire context of the show. As previously mention on 4th Letter, prior to E1, DOLLHOUSE was a semi-interesting show about a secret organization that uses mindless humans as create-a-people. After E1, DOLLHOUSE becomes a show about the destruction of humanity through technology, and the tragedy of apathetic amorality and self-aggrandizing mastery over nature.

    2 – Echo is a terrible, terrible character. And she is played by a very mediocre actress. Eliza Dushku is, in no way, a “star”. She just lacks the depth and presence to command a show. Which is why every single person watching DOLLHOUSE finds every single sub-plot more exciting. Topher, Adelle, Boyd, and Ballard are far more interesting. Doc Sanders is exciting. Echo is not. Despite that each week we aren’t watching a person but an unsympathetic mask, and despite that each week the same damn thing happens to her, the actual character of Caroline is boring and extremely annoying. She’s the cliche “Neo” of the show, for no reason, and she’s self-important. Victor, on the other hand, is a much more interesting doll, as we know nothing about him, and the actor is actually very good. I worry since next week Sierra will be ‘explained’ and probably just like November and Echo, she’ll immediately become boring as hell.

    I love Topher, I love Boyd, Ballard, and Adelle. I love how Joss Whedon is desperate to fill the cast with actors from his previous shows and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I love the premise, and I love “Epitaph One”. I love where this show is going. I find it exhilarating.

    But this show won’t rise above cult status, and it won’t stay on the air so long as it clings desperately to the idea that Echo is a good character, and that Dushku is the star.

    The little girl in “Epitaph One” was a better Echo than Dushku.

    When your star character sucks, your show is done for. The only reason this show is still going is because of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, and because of “Epitaph One”.

    It’s sad. I’d love to see the whole arc play out.