Dollhouse Discussion

I know, I know, I'm just asking to get my heart broken, but demonstrating my faith that the Show Will Be Good (much cheered by this i09 review) and also because I miss our TV chatter of old (see: the Gilmore Gossip Circle, Veronica Mars Talk, Heroes Yammer), here is a place for, um, discussion after Dollhouse airs.

Episode description ahoy:

Ghost. Echo is one of the "Actives" in the elite and illegal Dollhouse. Through different personality downloads, she plays the role of a lovestruck girl on a romantic weekend, and then a ruthlessly efficient kidnapping negotiator. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Paul Ballard is struggling with his assignment to uncover information on the Dollhouse. The chase has destroyed his marriage and is wrecking his career, and it doesn't seem that he'll stop until he uncovers the truth.

Fingers crossed.

13 thoughts on “Dollhouse Discussion”

  1. Had a drink with neighbors so I won’t get to watch until tomorrow morning, but I’m v. curious both to see and to see what people think.

  2. Hard to tell what it’s going to become, but it’s got possibilities. Dushku was, of course, a pleasure to watch, and so was Helo. None of the other characters stood out for me, which isn’t good, because I think Whedon’s series usually work best when there’s an assortment of colorful characters playing off each other… but I’ll wait and see if they start showing up.
    I thought this episode was kind of all over the place, but I’m willing to chalk that up to pilot-itis. It’s clear that Joss is trying to do something other than his usual pop-smartassery; the episode had a kind of action-spy-noir feel to it that felt a little forced to me, but again: pilot-itis? Because I love that kind of thing when it’s well done (I kept being reminded of the tv series La Femme Nikita, which I really enjoyed for its style and swagger), and if this show settles into its rhythms and hits a confident stride, it could work.
    The premise of the mind-wiping personality-transfer stuff isn’t all that fresh but there’s power in the sort of geisha undertones the episode started out with, and the superspy skillset idea actually turned out to be more interesting than I’d expected. The one detail I really liked was the idea that in order to get the full skill set, you have to include the flaws and history that drove the person to become who they are. That’s a pretty neat idea, non-obvious, and opens up plenty of fun plots.
    Overall, I’d say the pilot didn’t thrill me, but if they warm up the character interactions and give Dushku a bunch of lively personalities to play, and if they continue to explore the science-fictional premise in non-cliched ways, I could definitely learn to like it.

  3. and give Dushku a bunch of lively personalities to play
    You’ve just given me a thought: recurring personalities. Not necessarily imprinted on the same Doll each time. Hmm.
    I am intrigued by it, not least for the ways in which it appears to be quite different to Whedon’s previous shows.

  4. Yeah, I agree with you both you guys. And am also intrigued by nude!renegade at the end–even if it is a little Bionic Woman remake-esque. I liked that they at least made an attempt to show that the male actives are also forced to be cheesecake specimens, and I’m hoping a couple of those will become personalities as well. It’s pretty clear they decided to spend all the time developing Echo’s primary problem and Hilo the Detective (he was great), and a little bit the Dollhouse staff personalities (Fred!). So surely we’ll get more character development as it goes on.
    It strikes me as far more stylized than Whedon’s previous shows, for sure, and, in fact, what it sort of made me think of was Tim Minear’s short-lived Drive. Something in the quality of the visuals outside the Dollhouse (wish I liked the set better–it seems like a big old spa).
    But I’m definitely willing to give this time. It has a lot of potential and the ooky parts of the premise aren’t being handled in an ooky way thus far, and actually seem to be giving plenty of room to undercut the ooky in an interesting way. And there’s so little good SF on TV these days. Goofy and hypersexualized as the River Tam/Faith commercial interstitials promising date night were, it makes me happy that it’s those particular two actresses being pitched as geek appointment night television.

  5. Oh, also, the premise seems like it will really lend itself to supporting the overarching storyline and satisfying weekly contained plots as well.

  6. Not much blown away, and if it wasn’t Whedon I’m not sure I’d continue watching. Dushku was mostly flat for me, though I did admire the choice to make her first “role” a negotiator and not an ass-kicker. That felt gutsy. But Echo as a blank is a problem because there’s nothing to latch onto or care about. I didn’t start getting interested until the FBI agent came in; I liked the juxtaposition of him getting grilled with him in the ring. His scenes were better/more interesting than the rest of the show, I’m afraid.
    I am optimistic it will get better, but the above doesn’t even touch on the really problematic things about the show concept and all the skeevy things that has to engage with and overturn in order for it not to be a weekly squirm-fest.

  7. I can sort of feel myself becoming Devil’s Advocate for this show, just because there was so much judgment and negative commentary about the premise and etcetera before anyone really even knew much about it, and certainly before it hit the air. And just because it seems like there are so few shows that really know what they’re about from the first episode…
    I read all the inherently creepy stuff as stuff we were supposed to find creepy, and I was comforted by that. I thought what Niall had to say about the squirm factor–or at least the discomfort factor–over at his site was interesting. Of course, everything depends on where they go with it, whether that factor is pure squick or deconstructs the squick on some level. BUT I’m actually less bothered by the mostly blank slate part of the Echo character, at least in early episodes. It seems clear that she’s not an entirely blank slate, and that she will become less and less so even between engagements, and so there is interesting, not exactly escapist territory to be explored there. It’s a tough task to make satisfying and engaging, and it’s going to be really hard to not have her just be a victim. But I have to believe that Whedon is smart enough to think that through and have an arc avoiding that in mind.
    Not that they did anything with most of that potential, except hit an emotional note too hard, but the co-opting of actual personalities enters some rich terroritory as well. Especially when it’s essentially a phony resurrection, as it was this week.
    That said, I hope that the Echo remembering stuff will go both ways–not just bleed in when she’s an uploaded personality. Because it seems far more interesting on a narrative level the other way around.
    Oh, and yes on the fight scene, which seemed a smart thing to me. Sure he was fighting, but he was also SHIRTLESS and HOTT. So he was also being shown in an objectified way too.
    Basically, this was nowhere NEAR the travesty of the Amy Sherman-Palladino sitcom with the worst Parker Posey performance in history, aka the last show creator of my dreams Friday night entree. So I’m willing to give it time, especially knowing Fox was all up in their grill about the first few episodes. Just hope it has that time to give.

  8. I want to believe!
    It has tons of potential. I’m not worried about the squirm/squick. I’m just not. I am worried that blank slate = using words like, “shall.”
    Whedon’s greatest strength in my mind is the development of of a narrative over time, so I didn’t expect for this pilot to change my life. I just hope he gets the time he’ll need to do something interesting.

  9. Gwenda:
    I can sort of feel myself becoming Devil’s Advocate for this show, just because there was so much judgment and negative commentary about the premise and etcetera before anyone really even knew much about it, and certainly before it hit the air.
    Yeah, me too. Though, as I said in my own post, I really didn’t feel it was that stylish (and I don’t really see similarities with Drive). Someone somewhere said it’s as though Whedon is deliberately not playing to his strengths — they were particularly referring to starting with an absence at the centre of things, rather than a charismatic figure, but to me it feels as though it applies to the design and style of the show as well. I think Whedon shows really get a lot from having an iconic focus location — the library, the Hyperion, Serenity itself — and so far, Dollhouse doesn’t have that.
    The flashback, the incongruous-for-the-body remarks (“I’ve been doing this all my life”), Helo’s investigation, and the emphasis on the complete erasure of the woman we spent the episode coming to know gives me some confidence that we’re not meant to buy into the Dollhouse as escapist fantasy, at all. But as you say, it all depends how things shape up over the next few episodes.

  10. I am optimistic that the show will get better, in case that wasn’t clear; I’m just a) thinking that first-time Joss viewers may have been left wondering what the fuss was, which could hurt ratings and b) seeing so many potential land mines in what they’ve set up that I can’t believe the show isn’t going to run smack into some of them.
    Someone elsewhere pointed out that this episode had a girl (not a girlfriend, though) in a refrigerator, which can’t be an accident. She emerged alive, which seems like a subtle reassurance, perhaps.

  11. I’m willing to give this more time because it’s Joss.
    But, that said — I’m not loving it; and my misgivings are equally about this being an Eliza Dushku showcase as opposed to a Joss Whedon show; as it is about the whole Dollhouse construct.
    That is, will the focus be “watch Eliza as a negotiator! watch Eliza as a hunter! watch Eliza as a spy!” etc as opposed to Joss elements (strong character development, serial storytelling, seasonwide story arcs, dialogue).
    As for the Dollhouse dolls as other people’s toys….I’m willing to give it time, to see where Joss will go, but if this was anyone other than Joss? I doubt I’d be watching. NPR has some interesting posts on it, as well —

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