Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another One Bites (the Dust)

Dollhouse: Echoes
Season 1, Episode 7

And we're back to form after an exceptionally average episode. We're back to reminding people that despite having an international reach and possible plans to realign global society, the Dollhouse can still work as nothing more than a high-class prostitution ring. It's nice to stay in touch with your roots, right? This week's episode does nothing to convince me that this will ever be a good show. The question needs to be asked if this will ever be more than a rarely mediocre effort.

Through the numerous looks into her pre-Big Wipe past, the show hasn't established a very compelling history for Caroline, since Dushku hits the same notes she did in the Angel arc where Faith was starting her desire for redemption when talking with DeWitt and before that she proved that trying to uncover a corrupt chemical testing never ends well (cough28DaysLatercough). But at least the moderately interesting history with the company behind the Dollhouse helps establish the eventual motivation for her rebellion.

The main point of this episode, that the outbreak of an inhibition degrading chemical (coughBandCandycough) infects a college campus as well as the Dollhouse organization, doesn't work well at all. It's a funny gimmick if it infects characters we've learned to like over the course of years (coughBandCandycough), but not if it we hate the characters. Topher is a creepy Xander ripoff, DeWitt runs a prostitution/assassination branch office (like a sociopathic version of Michael Scott) and Dominic tried to kill the lead character a couple weeks ago. Until Echo develops more of a personality and Ivy is revealed as the spy, Boyd and Ballard are the only characters worth paying attention to/giving a damn about it. So obviously, its a terrible episode when they are the two least featured characters. Sure enough, when Boyd giggles and utters, "Wow, did not maintain control of that situation." It's just about the only chuckle-worthy part of the episode.

Just because the Dolls always glitching is getting old, doesn't mean letting them work (except Echo) as normal (for a while at least) while the puppet masters freak out is an ingenious twist. It seems more sophomoric than impressive. That the writers of this episode (Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain) are the show runners isn't inspiring much faith that things can improve. And the combining of glitching and tweaking isn't funny, sad or dramatic - it's just more of the same confusing mishmash reality, nothing more than a deus ex machina to let Topher explain how the problem will solve itself.

Our good buddy Ballard is looking far too domesticated, making breakfast for his Doll-friend, but quickly at least states his determination to continue pushing. Why leave your best ass kicker on the sidelines so much? Why is he talking about doing things instead of doing things?! This does not compute.

As for the revelation of the name of the company being behind the Dollhouse as the Rossum Corporation, the mystery behind the company is only interesting if we've started to care about the people being hurt by them. Victor, Mellie and Sierra are (except for the briefest of flashes this week) creatures without human personalities. And as I mention above, Caroline/Echo isn't anyone we've especially been made empathetic with. Her flashback scenes set before the Big Wipe aren't interesting since we know it all falls apart and her being a PETA-ish sympathizer doesn't work any better for her character than it did for Brenda Walsh.

Final score: D


Billy said...

The flashbacks were an interesting choice, it makes me wonder if they were used in every episode to show pre-wipe Dolls, would this show be any better? Probably not, seeing as how Caroline was pretty gorram obnoxious as an eco-terrorist wannabe.

Totally agree on the deus ex machina ending, I was glad someone noticed besides me...

Billy said...

Oh, and the references to Band Candy in your review were cute, but seriously, the people losing their memory or acting funny plot is one of the most overused sci-fi devices...

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