Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to the Beginning

Dollhouse: Instinct
Season 2, Episode 2

While I could tolerate the premiere wasting a great deal of time trying to catch readers up with the status quo (who everyone is and how they are involved in the Dollhouse organization) at least it was well executed. Whedon's script and direction at the least were a form of well-done monotony. But this week's episode is written (Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters) and directed (Marita Grabiak) are new to the show, so perhaps there's some learning curve benefit of the doubt I can give them. I wouldn't classify this as a poorly executed episode, just one that was rotten from the point of conception. Don't misunderstand me that there are some big problems throughout the episode, but the actors all do a very strong job. Dushku does well enough, but really what could any actress do with lines like, "Mommy's here." while holding a newborn and a butcher's knife?

The latest leap forward in imprinting technology of course occurs in Echo. It's funny how all of the other Dolls work so well, especially Sierra (who works with Echo this week and manages not to turn into a lunatic when the assignment is closed). Topher remarks that he imprinted Echo's mind so thoroughly she had a biological reaction. Meaning she's breast-feeding up a storm, as the mother to a newborn who lost his mother at birth. Since dad is blaming the poor kid, he brings in a replacement mother who glitches out (surprised? maybe that there's only one glitch this week) and gets attached in a way beyond memory.

In a way, Fazekas and Butters were a source of hope I had in this season. The creators of Reaper were being added to the writing staff in place of the departing show runners Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, a pair I had little trust in after the first year bounced around so much between a show with potential and an underwhelming mess.

The reason I put a great deal of the blame on the writers is that they kept going back to the glitching well with too much frequency. And they can't adequately get over the easy solution. In the case of this episode its getting Ballard and Echo together. Because once they are in the picture together, their under-explained mutual understanding will take over. First, Echo miraculously climbs out a second story window while holding a baby only to be caught when she goes to the police for help. Nevermind ignoring the questionable ability to scurry out the window (good thing the ladder was there) while holding a baby!, but the only reason they do it is so Ballard can't ask Echo if she would like a treatment. Then the have the supposedly momentous bit involving Echo refusing a treatment and freaking out take place off-screen, only seeing the final bit before she is put in the chair.

Then Ballard gets distracted by Mellie/November/Madeline so echo can knock out Topher after her wipe. Then (again off-screen) she gets out of her handcuffs and wanders past all of the Dollhouse's security forces. She then bounces from asking a car to drive (that's a cheap throwaway joke that the writers probably thought was much funnier than it really was)to driving the car back to the baby's house. Good thing they don't take the keys out of the cars. Anytime a climax needs four or five outstanding lucky coincidences to be achieved that probably means it wasn't earned.

Do I even need to describe the problems with the finale which includes Echo taking a page from Michael Myers (cutting the power before breaking in), turning into another unfunny and blatantly obvious joke ("Mommy's home." Seriously?!?!?! No, I mean it seriously???) and ultimately being convinced to give up the child by the repentant father.

The character of the father is portrayed fine, another take on the grieving widow played by Patton Oswald in "Man on the Street" and this one doesn't even sleep with her. The lack of quasi-consensual rape we get on a weekly basis and his somewhat moving journey to forgive and form a bond with his son is all handled just fine. But even this character is tainted by the unending coincidences that plague this episode. Of course, Echo overhears him calling Adelle to return Echo to sender.

And at the end of everything, we finally get to Ballard and Echo sitting together to commit themselves to taking the Dollhouse. Which would have been great if the previous episode didn't end on The. Exact. Same. Scene. I just wish we weren't sitting around and spinning our wheels with this show.

One of the most enjoyable sequences is the scenes involving Alexis Denisof's performance as Senator Perrin stalling on his investigation of Rossum before getting a mysterious package. There isn't much substance here, we're really just setting the table for this plot. I would hope things would pick up if or when he goes looking for the FBI agent that was assigned to investigate the Dollhouse. I'm anxiously awaiting the guy who played my favorite character in the Buffyverse getting a chance to stretch his legs a bit more.

1 comment:

Fruit Baskets said...

Fruit Baskets and Gourmet Hampers

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