Dollhouse Discussion

For all us poor stiffs not having fun at NESCBWI or the Nebs this weekend:

Haunted. Echo is programmed with the memories of a dead woman in the hopes that she can help solve the woman's murder. Topher secretly prepares Sierra for an engagement, and Ballard looks into Mellie's past.

I'm a little worried since the standalones are my least favorites so far, but the show has been on a roll lately and perhaps this'll be the first truly good one.

8 thoughts on “Dollhouse Discussion”

  1. I recently found your blog and have been enjoying it. As another Dollhouse watcher (fan?), it’s nice to see you are, too!

  2. Looks like the curse of the standalone strikes again. This was basically the same story as a half dozen Remington Steele episodes, and having the victim investigate her own murder didn’t really set it apart from the pack.
    I was spoiled for the Topher/Sierra story, and expected it to be a lot creepier, but now I’m wondering if the sweetness of his desires isn’t a trap. Is what Topher does to Sierra really that much better than what Ballard does to November?

  3. I gotta disagree. Sure, the murder mystery was fairly standard fare, but it was the implication that made it so intriguing. Margaret was dead. And then, thanks to the Dollhouse, she wasn’t. She could essentially live on forever, a vampire feeding off the bodies of others, so long as the technology exists. Not only do we get to see this as a possibility, but it also creates a nugget of morality in the Dollhouse (with Adele especially) because she kills her friend again when she wipes her. Adele could have selfishly kept her friend around forever (and could drag her out whenever she’s lonely too if she wants). That’s a plotline you’ll NEVER see on Remington Steele.
    As for Topher, I think it was more about letting us see that Topher is really as damaged as everyone else. Thus far he’s been made out to be a mad scientist, but at heart, he’s just a shy, lonely kid in need of a playmate. I have a theory that the personality he imprinted on Sierra is likely a sibling or a best friend he lost, or quite possibly himself.
    The Ballard was even darker because he realizes that he’s not just chasing the Dollhouse, he’s part of it. He’s complicit. Every time he touches Millie, he’s complicit.
    I thought this was a fantastic episode.

  4. I didn’t think the life after death aspect of the story was particularly well handled. For one thing, it pales in comparison to Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels, and for another, I just didn’t feel any desperation to live coming off Margaret. I also didn’t think Adelle was tempted to keep her friend alive – she was sad at Margaret’s death, but never seemed to consider letting her keep Echo.
    I think we were probably supposed to look at the Topher/Sierra scenes and think ‘aw, poor Topher, he just needs a friend.’ That’s what annoys me about them. If Topher wants a friend, he should go out and find one. But that would require thinking about someone other than himself, and accommodating their flaws and moods and opinions. You know, the way people do when they care about someone as more than a receptacle for their needs and desires. Topher was using Sierra just as Ballard was using November, in full knowledge of what he was doing and with none of the remorse or self-loathing, and I resent being asked to find that cute.

  5. But I’m not sure if we’re being asked to find it cute. I think we’re supposed to find it … complicating. Like Adelle’s affair with Victor. Or even like the software guy with his “wife”. I think the show is exploring the different reasons people “use” the Dollhouse, and how these reasons can be unethical and needful at the same time.
    I agree with you, Shaun, that Sierra is possibly implanted with a sibling’s personality. That was my guess, too.
    There *was* something a little Remington Steele about the plot, though — what a funny call. Esp. with the horses in the barn. I found it to be like many of the episodes so far — a lot of stumbling, and fumbling, and then all of a sudden some resonant meaning in the end.

  6. If Topher wants a friend he should go out and find one? Yeah, sure, if he was a well adjusted, normal person. The point, I think, they’re trying to make is that Sierra WAS just a receptacle for Topher’s needs. Just like people often get pets because they’re too afraid to make friends in real life, or the reason why the go to on-line dating sites and lie about who they are and what they look like, or why they get involved in relationships with people they know they shouldn’t.
    I don’t think we’re supposed to totally feel bad for Topher because he’s emotionally and socially stunted, I think we’re supposed to see that the Dollhouse tech gives him the ability to do the things that WE might do if we were in his position. I mean, come on, how many times after people have disappointed us have we sat around wishing we could just meet someone perfect. Someone who was interested in the same things we were, who got our jokes, who wouldn’t flake out? I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying he’s more like us than most people want to admit. The only difference between Topher and the poor guy who gets up every day and goes to work, goes home and watches TV and drinks, never making connections, is that Topher has the ability, once a year, to ease his loneliness. 🙂

  7. Oh! I also realized why it all seemed so familiar. Have you ever seen the movie Lars and the Real Girl? It’s about this guy played by Ryan Gosling, who orders a real-looking sex doll, and then proceeds to imbue her with personality. He turns her into this real person because he’s socially awkward and doesn’t understand how to connect to people. He never has sex with it, he takes it on dates and talks to her and even has fights with her. The movie’s not cute, it’s sad. It made me sad for Lars that he is so unable to connect to other people that he has to get this ersatz girlfriend.
    And that’s Topher. I didn’t think he and Sierra were cute, I thought Topher was sad. I thought he was lonely. And in that way, they finally made him relatable.
    If you haven’t seen the movie, you totally should. Ryan Gosling does an awesome job.

  8. For one thing, it pales in comparison to Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels
    Well, but that’s several hundred years in the future. All this episode is dramatizing is the first step along that path.
    I think we were probably supposed to look at the Topher/Sierra scenes and think ‘aw, poor Topher, he just needs a friend.’
    Hmm, I don’t. I think Boyd’s punning line about Topher being able to “make friends” after all is the key to that part of the episode — Adele is wrong, it’s not something Topher “needs”, it’s an easy way out for him, so that he doesn’t have to try for interaction with non-customized people. It’s emotional porn rather than the physical use we mostly see, but porn nonetheless.
    Not that I thought this was a great episode — it was most interesting for the peripheral details.

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