Joss Whedon forsees the future under a Mitt Romney administration, he’s set his thoughts down in a video, and it’s just the kind of thing to gobble up on a Sunday before watching The Walking Dead. Whedon’s “Zomney” vid is whimsical yet blunt. READ FULL STORY
Tag: Joss Whedon (1-10 of 11)
For folks who never watched “Epitaph One” (the unaired, DVD-extra, 13th episode of season one), Dollhouse really ended last week, with “The Hollow Men,” the last episode that took place in the present-day of the original Dollhouse universe.
This week, “Epitaph Two: Return,” set in 2020, wrapped things up in a way I found more effective, even moving, than I expected. I thought the Mad Max-iness of “One” was as derivative as that comparison makes it sound, but “Two” gave “One” context, and really made both of these book-enders cohere dramatically.
Rather than go through a recap of an episode that Dollhouse watchers without benefit of “Epitaph One” may have found baffling anyway, I’ll let you knowledgeable fans discuss it among yourselves in the Comments section below, and instead, I’ll tote up what I think are the Winners and Losers in the great Dollhouse experiment. As Paul Ballard said last night, “This is where it gets interesting.”
Joss Whedon He never stops trying something utterly different from what anyone else in television is doing, and he’s always punished for it with a modest-at-best audience. Who does the cancellation of Dollhouse make more wary: him or any broadcast-network exec tempted to work with him again?
Eliza Dushku Given (a) plum role(s), Dushku sometimes seemed not quite up to the task of portraying all the various characters with which she was imprinted. Sometimes they just seemed like a slight variations on either slow-talking robotic Echo, or butt-kicking Echo/Caroline. Where does the failure of this series leave her TV career? Maybe in search of something very different. Bet she’s looking at ABC’s Modern Family and wondering if her agent should get her the next smart sitcom.
Topher I went back and forth on this character, but ultimately (as in last night’s finale), his manic-nerd mannerisms, no matter how many times they were partially redeemed by a subplot showing the real man inside the man-boy, just grated. The challenge for actor Fran Kranz will be to prove he has the range to do something more nuanced than brilliant-but-squawky Topher.
Fox Not a terrible villain at all, but not a hero, either. The network took a chance, it didn’t pay off, which could have made them look gutsy. Instead, by doing things like the reported big-footing interference in the early-panic stage of the series, not airing “Epitaph One,” and burning off the second season on Friday nights, Fox looks a bit squirrely.
Joss Whedon He’s free to be courted by cable. FX, Showtime, HBO, AMC — who knows where he’ll take his next project, but who among us will not be front-and-center for its premiere?
Olivia Williams She was ultimately one of the two actors whose performances became richer, more sly and knowing, with each week. I’d love to see her in another series, soon.
Enver Gjokaj And he’s the other one who comes out of this looking like a deft, dexterous actor who could slide into almost any genre and succeed with charm to spare.
David Solomon He directed some of the best episodes, from “Spy In The House Of Love” to “The Public Eye” to both of “Epitaph” hours with flair and economy (both in his sense of atmospheric storytelling, and making do with the budget he had).
So, what did you think of the final Dollhouse? And who do you think are the winners and losers now that the series is over?
Follow me on Twitter @kentucker
Last night’s Dollhouse felt crammed, in both good ways and uncomfortable ways. Written and directed by Tim Minear, who really knows how to handle this stuff, the episode “Getting Closer” seemed as though a lot of information and subplots had been added and compressed once the Dollhouse folks knew that cancellation was probably inevitable. Whether that’s true or not, the result was a dense but by no means unpleasant hour. SPOILERS AHEAD.
How could it be unpleasant, with Amy Acker back as Dr. Saunders, and the revelation that Saunders has been having an affair with Boyd? (Or should that be “?!”) Romance was in the air, as Topher was reunited with Summer Glau’s Bennett. They spent a fair amount of time kissing and making goo-goo eyes at each other… that is, until Saunders shot and killed her. READ FULL STORY
Happy new year! And in no particular order, here’s what I’d love to see on TV this year.
• Dexter Morgan nears a breakdown after last season’s events on Dexter, but quickly rebuilds his psyche to become a guilt-free, even more dedicated Dark Passenger-bearer, intent on offing awful, irredeemable souls. Oh, and sister Deb gets fed up with the police force, resigns, and becomes the toughest private eye you’ve ever seen on TV.
• A great final season of Lost that will leave us not scratching our heads, Sopranos-style, but smacking our foreheads and exclaiming, “Of course! How brilliant!”
• Replacement named for Simon Cowell after the next run of American Idol: Ben Folds.
• Caprica proves to be as engrossing as Battlestar Galactica.
• HBO commits to its adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
• A nightly network news show that features 30% national news, 30% foreign news, and 30% original reporting every night. Every night. The other 10% they can waste on some smiley, feel-good, sign-off feature. ABC? CBS? NBC? Any of you?
• A “Save Better Off Ted” campaign. In fact, I’ll start one myself. (Thanks for this idea, Michael Slezak!)
• Joss Whedon announces READ FULL STORY
It was a great night for Dollhouse if you’re a Victor and/or a DeWitt fan. As who among us is not?
The back-to-back hours, “Stop-Loss” and “The Attic,” covered a lot of ground. “Stop-Loss” found Victor with his five-year contract up but rather than go free, he was caught up in as part of a Rossum-funded para-military organization: “their version of Blackwater,” we were told. Echo, with her new ability to select just the right “imprint” in her skull for the right moment, led the good guys (hard to tell exactly who those are these days, isn’t it?) on a mission to rescue him. Lots of good old-school, Buffy-style butt-kicking occurred in this episode, on the parts of both Victor and Echo. (Eliza Dushku may have had some acting challenges in this series, but her round-house kick is impeccable.)
The other prominent element was DeWitt: Olivia Williams was superb as DeWitt droolingly dead-drunk, under pressure and in despair over maintaining control over the Dollhouse, feeling self-contempt for conducting a years-long secret tryst with Victor under her client code-name “Miss Lonelyhearts,” and — best of all — acting as though she’s willing to destroy Echo in order to survive. So she sends Echo to…
“The Attic,” the second hour and the place we know since last season is a very, very bad place to be. This 60 minutes was dense with Dollhouse mythology. Echo, Victor, and Sierra were laid out on tables in the Attic, covered in Saran Wrap. I kid you not: I think that’s all the Dollhouse budget allowed for special effects on this one — the heroes had to be held down by plastic-wrap. The Attic is, Topher tells Ivy (and therefore us, because that’s why Ivy exists as a character — to act as someone a character can talk to and explain things we need to know), a place that’s “testing the limits of the human mind.” We learn that “all the Dollhouses in the world are connected.”
So are characters from the past: Reed Diamond, as Dominic, had been sent to the Attic in season one, was back in the Attic eternal present. It takes a while for him and Echo and us to get our bearings here, until we all realize that many of the scenes of terror and combat are visualizations of each character’s worst fear. The Attic runs on this fear — “brains soaked in adrenaline,” in a nice phrase — with fear the “processing power.”
Most crucially, we meet a remorseless dark-garbed super-villain, Arcane, who proves to be an alternate-identity for one of the most important characters in all of Dollhouse, and all the more interesting for the way he’s so understatedly brought on here. He’s the brainiac Clyde Randolph (Adam Godley), who helped form what turned into the evil Rossum Corporation before being betryed and exiled. He explains to the hardy guerilla band including Echo, Victor, and Sierra that all the dolls in all the Dollhouse Attics are “networked to a central hub,” their brains being used as super-computers. The mission, therefore, is to “shut down the main-frame” of this network.
And I didn’t even mention that throughout all this, we had to worry about the brain injury of Paul Ballard. The only way to save him was to have Topher imprint him — turn him into a doll, in short.
By the end of the evening, we were back to where I always thought we’d be: With Echo and DeWitt united. “We can bring them down,” DeWitt said of the Rossum forces. “It’s time for me to be Caroline,” said Echo.”It’s time for me to win her war.”
Best lines of the night:
• When Clyde asks Echo what year it is, she replies, “2010, I think — I don’t know how long we’ve been off the air.”
• Ivy, when the going gets tough, to Topher: “Can I go back to getting you juice boxes?”
• Topher refers to his boss as “Cruella DeWitt.” (How long did the writers restrain themselves from making that joke?)
Another week, another double-shot of Dollhouse. These two hours started out tediously, and concluded smashingly. I could have done without the prolonged wind-up of the first episode, entitled “Meet Jane Doe,” in which Echo was on the lam from the Dollhouse, eating out of dumpsters, and helping a Latina woman, Lisa, who’s fallen on hard times. When Echo and her new friend fell into the clutches of a tritely malevolent sheriff, the only surprise was that he was played by Glen Morshower — Aaron Pierce from 24, but with a Southern drawl that suggested someone among this episode’s three writers (Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, and Andrew Chambliss) had just caught Rod Steiger in In The Heat Of The Night on a sleepless night.
No, the interesting stuff was taking place back at the Dollhouse, where Topher was still babbling about the long-gone Summer Glau’s Bennett: “She went all Cyclon on me,” yelped Topher, “she disarmed me with her arm… and her glasses and her face.” There was a lot of tension between Keith Carradine’s Harding, lording it over Olivia Williams’ Adelle DeWitt. Harding is planning on opening up a Dollhouse in Dubai, he wants to split up Sierra and Victor (oh, the horror!), and as Langton muttered to DeWitt, “You’ve got to take back this house.”
Echo is being trailed, romanced, trained, and deceived by Ballard to lure her back into the Dollhouse… or maybe he’s letting DeWitt and company think he’s doing this and just double-crossing everyone: we shall see. In any case, Echo is now aware of her life as Caroline and her other imprints, or as Ballard cracks when they play house in a dingy hovel, “Thirty-six personalities and not one of them can cook.” (Ballard doesn’t make many jokes, does he?)
The talking-points for this hour are:
• Echo: “They made me aggressively sexual and phenomenally creative in bed; also sociopathic… and at least seven times gay.” But who’s counting?
• Topher: “I figured out how to [create] a portable device that will imprint anyone… an innocent person, with a new personality.” In other words, no “treatments” necessary with Topher’s new zap gun.
• DeWitt: “I accept the situation,” she says of her new subservience to Harding, while warning him, “Power is always used to get more power.” Harding is too smug to hear in this the true subtext: That DeWitt is about to launch a major counter-coup against him, because — Topher’s words here — “You are the coldest bitch on the planet.” Yes: Olivia Williams in full mean-Brit mode is fun.
The second hour had the enormous asset of Alpha: Alan Tudyk making a pretty triumphant return in a dapper suit and a very loud shirt and tie. Committing his first murder even before the opening credits, Alpha has set his sights on Echo, his new “number one” target (Whiskey used to be first in his shrivelled heart).
This episode, called “A Love Supreme” (I didn’t hear any John Coltrane on the soundtrack, but maybe I missed it, jazz fans?), also brought back one of Echo’s best clients ever, Joel Mynor. Not because Mynor is a particularly interesting client (really, have any of them been? they’re all just sad or mean men, aren’t they?) but because he’s played by the always-terrific Patton Oswalt. With Ballard right behind her, Echo wants to protect Joel from Alpha, who wants to kill anyone Echo is rubbing up against. Which also, of course, includes Ballard.
Echo, now in command of her imprints and able to call upon the right one for the right situation (“I’m obsolete,” moans Topher, “this must be what old people must feel like, or Blockbuster”), is nonethless pretty evenly matched by Alpha — once again, the ever-quotable Topher: “a serial killer who imprinted himself with a bunch of personalities.”
There was a nicely shot action scene in the Dollhouse during which Alpha does a “remote wipe” of all the dolls, who start beating up Echo, Ballard, and the rest of the Dollhouse staff
I liked these episodes, especially the second one, on the basis of the acting and the dialogue, but I’m not sure I was really engaged by Alpha’s motive — in his final scenes, he tortured Ballard simply because he was jealous of Ballard’s relationship with Echo? Seems rather small-scale for a villain of Alpha’s stature. But then, in the Whedon universe, love does reign supreme, doesn’t it? (And where did Alpha go? He just seemed to exit, stage left, about four minutes before the end of the episode.)
At any rate, although the fate of Ballard hangs in the balance (brain-dead, for now), the real person of interest now was given away by the evening’s final shot: a close-up of DeWitt, newly determined to ruthlessly regain control.
Could it be that Adelle DeWitt will prove this series’ more interesting central character than Echo? When it comes to acting, I’d give the odds to Olivia Williams over Eliza Dushku any day.
What do you think?
(You can follow me on Twitter.)
The guttering flame that is Dollhouse — two new episodes being burned off over three weeks including last night — remains capable of throwing off a few sparks. Sparkiest of all was Summer Glau, glau-ering grimly at Echo/Caroline while portraying Bennett Halverson. Bennett is sort of the female version of Topher, except less manic, promoted a pay-grade, and with a left arm that hangs limply in a sling. She works for the Rossum Corporation’s Washington, D.C. Dollhouse, under the direction of Ray Wise’s Stewart Lipman.
Characters paired off amusingly and effectively. Buffy alums Eliza Dushku and Alexis Denisof as Senator Daniel Perrin were ostensible enemies (Perrin has been campaigning to close down the Dollhouse). Perrin was using the freshly-freed active Madeline (Miracle Laurie) to give testimony about the Dollhouse’s pernicious policies; Echo was dispatched to stop him. But they were brought to a common cause last night when both of their minds were being controlled. In a particularly Whedonesque turn of phrase (the hour’s writing was credited to Andrew Chambliss), Echo said of Bennett and the actives the latter controlled, “I think her bad guys are badder than my bad guys.”
More pairings: Wise’s Lipman tried to exert superiority over Olivia Williams’ Adelle DeWitt, but their delightfully clever, cruuush-worthy exchanges, as they tussled over control of Echo and Perrin, rendered them artful equals.
And in what I will assert was the single best edition of Dollhouse ever, during last night’s second hour, called “The Left Hand,” Bennett and Topher matched wits while pretending to flirt. (The evening’s immortal line, Topher describing Bennett: “Imagine John Cassavetes in The Fury as a hot chick.”)
Really, at this point, the cancelled but ever-more-vibrant Dollhouse has become a critique of itself and its critics. When Perrin described the Dollhouse enterprise as a den of “human trafficking” and a form of “prostitution,” well, hmmm, those are criticisms similar to the ones some of us leveled at this series when it premiered.
Dollhouse and Whedon deserved some of that skepticism. Between a contentious relationship with the Fox network over what direction the show should take and the Dollhouse writing staff’s uneven, working-it-out-as-it-went-along feminist aesthetic concerning the themes of control, desire, power, and freedom, there was much messiness and confusion. Even the show’s most ardent supporters agree that there are some incarnations of Echo (rock-chick back-up singer; blind woman) that they wish had never materialized. And it didn’t help that Dushku was rarely able or given the opportunity to define her role the way previous Whedon heroes played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Nathan Fillion were able to.
But last night’s back-to-back mash-up adventure was the very best sort of (in the phrase of one character) “lurid pulp fantasy.” This was what Dollhouse was meant to be: a rock ‘em, sock ‘em brain-twister with a social agenda.
Couple more random but important things:
• All hail Enver Gjokaj as Victor-mind-wiped-into-Topher: that impersonation was utterly spot-on.
• If you’re any kind of Whedon fan, you’ll want to read Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan’s extensive, fascinating new interview with Joss.
(You can follow me on Twitter.)
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