'Dollhouse' becomes pleasingly complex, with more info and action

Dollhouse1_l So it turns out, Joss Whedon is operating at a different speed than most current makers and consumers of TV. At a time when everyone wants to make snap judgments of new shows, and when television content creators feel pressure to make their concepts immediately understandable/irresistible, Whedon chose to lull us into thinking Dollhouse was going to remain a series about Eliza Dushku looking as though someone had hit her over the head with a shovel every week whenever she wasn’t dolled up like a boy-toy having ferocious sex with a "client."

For weeks, that’s how it’s been. Last night, however, we were reminded of all those interviews Whedon and Dushku did leading up to Dollhouse‘s premiere, where they kept talking about "gender roles" and how Joss felt most comfortable working with women, and how this series was going stretch Dushku’s talents.

Finally, much of this stuff came into play. The dolls were "all broken," in the words of Dushku/Echo’s handler, Boyd. Sierra, it was initially implied, had been raped, or at least had sex that frightened her, with the "Active" Victor. (Though it turned out the real villain in that regard was someone else.) In the course of telling a Dollhouse-standard story of a rich client — in this case, Patton Oswalt as a tech-wealthy lonely-guy who dreams of returning to the  middle-class married suburban life he had and lost — this episode reveals more than we ever have known about Echo’s true identity, Caroline. We’ve glimpsed her before, in pre-Dollhouse days, on a college campus, and know that she came to the Dollhouse of her own free will. And now, she vows with Buffy-like resolve, "I have to take down the Dollhouse."

This, despite admissions by Dollhouse employees that "we’re in the business of using people" and derisive remarks about Echo and her ilk being "stoned foxes with no will-power… running around naked." A far more sinister aspect to the Dollhouse has now been established. So it went outside the Dollhouse as well, with FBI agent Ballard engaging in some wonderfully choreographed fight scenes, and the deepening knowledge that the neighbor who has a crush on Ballard, Mellie, is also a butt-kicking Active — a "sleeper agent" who sure came to life last night.

Last night there was a lot of prime Whedon dialogue, such as when Oswalt’s character tells Ballard a judge will "throw the Kindle at you" if the agent tried to arrest him. We learned that there are "over 20" Dollhouses besides this L.A. one.

I’ve seen next week’s episode, and the reveals only increase. I’m not sure if, at this point, Dollhouse can increase the audience it failed to attract after its initial weeks, but I know I’m along for the rest of the ride.

Are you?

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  • Nic.

    I was so right about Mellie! Right from the start I knew she was a “Doll”! I confess that this is the first Whedon show I have watched (aside from Dr. Horrible–more please!). Anyway, after last night’s episode I am HOOKED on this show. I only hope FOX will give it a second season and a chance to draw in more viewers–which if the remaining episodes are anything like last night, pulling in viewers shouldn’t take long.

  • Nicole

    HECK YEAH, I am along for the ride. Unlike a lot of lazy(I wanted it wrapped in a pretty bow)TV watchers, I like my shows complicated and I am willing to wait and see. I never doubted Joss. I feel the same way about J.J. Abrams. Until they screw me over with a lemon, I will follow their vision.

  • Tenmaneko

    Last night was awesome! This show has really kicked it up a notch. Mellie’s reveal was great (and she’s incredibly hot as well) and all the fight scenes were some of the best. We got an episode jam packed with info and goodies. I want more!

  • heather

    I believe I said, out loud, “Holy Frak – she’s a doll?!?” bout 20 times last night. I knew it was in there, but I’m so glad to see it come out. And Halle-freakin-lujiah that the Joss quotables are back!! That Kindle line killed me.

  • tappy

    Yes I am along for the whole ride. Please make it a long one.

  • M

    I love the show! I don’t get to watch it on TV but I do watch it online on Saturdays. Go Whedon!

  • John

    Aside from the wealth of new info and the return of Jossalogue, this was a very emotionally satistying episode. We all kind of suspected Mellie’s dollness, but holy crap was the reveal not only surprising but SATISFYING. Only thing I’m stumped on (in the good way) – do you think Caroline really came out within Echo to Paul, and that the encounter was real, or do you think it’s an elaborate faux-conspiracy that their giving to Ballard so he can feel his satisfaction and yet be lead in the wrong direction?
    Either way, count me in from here on out, no more questions asked. Go Joss.

  • CC

    I just watched the scene again, and it’s Ballard who says “I have to take down the Dollhouse.” Also, unless I’m missing something, Echo said what she said in that scene because the Dollhouse wanted her to. I didn’t get that this was Caroline talking. Can someone tell me if I’m missing something?
    I’m still liking the show though. I think it gets better every week.

  • Marty

    The show is getting better and better. And it showed that Whedon actually wrote last night’s episode (should write more). I’m hooked now. Wasn’t sure after 3 episodes…but I gave it a chance and i’m glad I did.

  • BJohnson

    First of all, hell yeah I’m in. I had faith, pun totally intended, that Joss would bring on an episode that would have me rewinding the scenes (the fight and dialogue after..woah). I wondered about Mellie esp. after the reveal of Victor, but to know that have sleeper agents just made this so deeper. I completely believe that there is someone on the inside corrupting Dollhouse b/c Topher did completely leave the room to talk to Echo’s handler leaving time for the mole to corrupt the system..my guess is Topher’s asst. who he likes to treat like his little gopher. She knows alot about the systems. I’m assuming this relates to the agent that killed a bunch of dolls and is not “dead” as other people believe. Fight scene was AWESOME! But…the flower is in the vase soon as I heard that I knew. Great reveal of that.

  • noelle

    I am definatly along for the ride. Last nights eppy was awesome!

  • stella

    I also thought the Whedon dialogue was back. The fight scene was very well-choreographed. When Echo talked to Ballard in the alleyway, I thought that maybe someone hacked into the download while Topher was away…maybe Alpha?
    Anyway, after last night I am totally in!

  • dan

    That episode was truly remarkable. It was what I’ve been waiting for since the premiere. From the emotionality of the Patton Oswalt story line, to the news documentary with on the street interviews… it reminded me of all my favorite Whedonesque qualities. I wasn’t sure if I was invested in this show until now. And if they keep going with episodes like last night’s, I’m SO there.

  • Tee

    I have been underwhelmed from the beginning, but I have to say, it does seem to be getting better.

  • Jessica S.

    I’m absolutely in! I loved last night’s ep and can’t wait to see where Joss is going with this. I’m so glad I stuck it out past a couple of mediocre hours of television! The sleeper Active was a nice surprise, Eliza has really started to improve, Tahmoh was shirtless countless times, and that snappy Joss-logue was in full effect! So happy this episode was as brilliant as anticipated!

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