Page 2 of 4 FirstFirst 1234 LastLast
Results 21 to 40 of 64

Thread: Dollhouse watch : Season 1

  1. #21
    Library Researcher PuckRobin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Posts
    212
    Thanks
    874
    Thanked 793 Times in 190 Posts

    Default

    I love the Charlie’s Angels reference in American Aurora’s review. This seems exactly the sort of assignment that Charlie would send his “girls” on. So, does that make Echo’s handler “Bosley”?

    I’ve seen the plot of Stage Fright somewhere before. Maybe I’m thinking of the Angel season one episode “Eternity”. Maybe I’ve got a mishmash of some Forever Knight episodes stuck in my head. Who knows – maybe a rerun of Charlie’s Angels is rattling around in my brain. Whatever the case, the singer’s motivation seems phony. It’s like a comment on society rather than genuine feeling. And so far, Dollhouse just doesn’t have the wit to work as true social satire. If we’re going to be this detached from the characters, then the show needs to be much wittier.

    I agree that Dushku’s Echo seems far more consistent than the plot would dictate. It would be interesting to see changes more akin to how Tatiana Maslany plays the different clones on Orphan Black. Seeing a core true personality be lurking underneath more outwardly dissimilar characters would be interesting. It would make the growing awareness more intriguing.

    I just don’t buy the world building either. Would millionaires pay through the nose for a good fantasy? Maybe. But that would require an awful lot of investment on Dollhouse’s part -- to maintain the Actives, program them, bribe the politicians to keep secrets. It seems like a lot of expense eating into their profits. And really, I don’t understand why they were so shocked at the violent and sick fantasy in “The Target”. It seems to me that psychos like that would be the most likely to pay top-dollar for an Active. It’s the only mission so far where the expense would have been justified. I just can’t see getting these Actives as bodyguards or hostage negotiators. The Actives seem less capable than the less expense real thing would be.

    Also, aside from the hints towards Alpha, most of the menaces on this show seem pretty small time. That works in Firefly, where the heroes are a ragtag band just trying to survive. But I think Dollhouse needs greater stakes in the assignments. Right now, the incompetent cops on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit could handle these cases.

    Maybe Dollhouse mainly specializes in tough Black Ops assignments, and we’re just seeing the boring assignments they do on the side to make an extra buck while waiting for someone to hire them to destabilize a foreign government, conquer a nation or whatever. Maybe all of these assignments are just beta-testing for some kind of master plan.

    As it stands now, they don’t really seem to be making a lot of money or gaining a lot of power. Nor are they working for mankind’s benefit. Maybe a clever twist is coming, but if so, that twist would be far cleverer if the world we’re presented with now made some kind of sense.

    That last bit where Echo cuts off Sierra’s attempt to show recognition is most promising thing I’ve seen in the show so far. I hope the plot kicks into gear soon. Right now, everything I’ve seen feels like it could be compressed into a pilot episode.

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to PuckRobin For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (28-11-16),Stoney (26-11-16)

  3. #22
    Slayer Supporter vampmogs's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    12,644
    Thanks
    1,993
    Thanked 8,909 Times in 2,707 Posts

    Default

    I think Stage Fright is the weakest episode of the series but these first 5 episodes are... a slog. Actually, I rather like The Target, but overall these episodes were mandated by FOX who were having difficulty with the show's premise. FOX were uncomfortable with the show's darker themes despite Whedon and Eliza being very upfront about what they wanted to explore when pitching the show. It wasn't until FOX saw the original pilot that they got sheepish and then demanded the engagement-of-the-week stories instead. The little glimpses of promise that you keep seeing will start to take shape, but the series doesn't really begin to kick into gear until the sixth episode. Try and stay with it if you can! Episode 6 is a major turning point for the series and it was when a lot of viewers seemed to legitimately become fans rather than just watching out of some sense of obligation.

    I do dimly recall that there was some major backstage drama in regards to this episode in particular. It's possible I'm making that up but I do vaguely remember that somebody, maybe Eliza, called this episode out specifically as being really poor and pleaded with fans to stick with the show. You really can't underestimate just how messy the early days of Dollhouse were. The network and the writers were really at war over this series and it was made very public.

    This episode is just terribly written, though. It's heavy-handed, generic, cliched, boring, badly acted and unmemorable. FOX really is to blame for a lot of this show's problems early on (and to some extent the entire series) but the writers also failed pretty miserably here.

    It's funny that a few of you have mentioned that you can't even recall most of the character's names and are still referring to Topher as "the science guy" etc. I had forgotten this until I read your reviews but I had that exact same problem at this point in the show. That will change for all of you, I think, as it certainly did for me and everybody else who was watching the show at the time, but there is really nothing memorable about any of the characters besides Echo yet.
    - "The earth is doomed" -


  4. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to vampmogs For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (28-11-16),PuckRobin (26-11-16),Stoney (26-11-16),TimeTravellingBunny (26-11-16)

  5. #23
    Slayer TimeTravellingBunny's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    5,786
    Thanks
    5,572
    Thanked 4,716 Times in 2,229 Posts

    Default

    Hey, why has this thread been inactive for a month? I hope you haven't given up, Stoney! The good stuff is still to come! I've finally caught up in the meantime, after having been bogged down in work for about a month and a half, and rewatched the first 4 episodes. I don't have much to say that you haven't covered already, although I found that I liked these episodes more than I did originally, at least the first 2, which tends to be the case when you rewatch a show after you've already become invested in characters and story. I was mildly surprised that these early episodes contain more arc stuff than I remembered.

    American Aurora, it's interesting that you see Fran Kranz (Topher) as an actor with less charm than Tom Lenk, because I would say the exact opposite. I'm not one of those who dislike Andrew, but I wouldn't exactly call Lenk an actor brimming with charisma, and his bizarre acting choices that have been mentioned upthread can be rather annoying at times. And I can't really compare Kranz and Danny Strong, since the characters of Jonathan and Topher are too different. Jonathan is a put-upon, insecure and victimized guy we feel protective of. Topher, on the other hand, is very confident and arrogant.

    In fact, while there are similarities with Topher and members of the Trio in the "amoral nerd/scientific genius" aspect, in other ways he's very unlike them. I've said it before that I see Billy/Dr Horrible as a mix of Warren and Andrew but with a far more charismatic actor and in a protagonist role. But what separates Topher from all of the above (other than a much higher degree of snark) is the lack of the self-pitying Nice Guy nerd insecurity/inferiority complex. Which doesn't mean that Topher doesn't have huge issues about himself - something that we haven't seen in these episodes, but will in the future - but his issues are of a completely different kind. He's a nerd who is an unabashed arrogant a$$hole and knows it.

    BTW, disregarding the whole amoral/evil thing, I think that Kranz (at least in Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods - I'm still to see Much Ado!) is perhaps, out of all Whedonverse actors, the one whose outward persona, way of speaking and appearance remind me the most of Joss himself.
    Last edited by TimeTravellingBunny; 26-12-16 at 04:07 AM.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

  6. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to TimeTravellingBunny For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (08-02-17),Stoney (26-12-16)

  7. #24
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    Still here! I'm hoping to watch ep4 in the next couple of days, great to have you join us.

  8. The Following User Says Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (08-02-17)

  9. #25
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    Gray Hour

    I thought this episode was OK. I suspect that it works better in hindsight when you can more accurately pull out the hints of where things are going, but doubt that it drastically strengthens it. I wondered if we'll see more of Walton as he started to get to know Echo without an imprinted personality in place. But his character wasn't really given individual time or expansion in the episode, so possibly not.

    Seeing the brief clip of the midwifery assignment was a nice touch to expand on the assignments Echo performs, the 'life' she leads, so to speak. But I was a touch disappointed that the main assignment of the episode had ED's sex appeal woven in the plot yet again. And it wasn't just in the fake out role Taffy played to get access to the security room, but was also in the safe cracking scene too through innuendo. The fake out (and I really liked that this was a planned part of the heist) did at least deliberately use the viewer assumption that it was yet another sex assignment to emphasise that, especially following the midwifery clip, that isn't all that she is called to do. But with the following sexual vibe later and the obvious eye candy that the fake scene plays on and so still provides of the actress, it continues to feel problematic. It is possibly just because we have been discussing this as an element of the show that I'm becoming increasingly sensitive to it and how the character/actress is used in this way. I'm still hoping it is a deliberate part of it.

    I actually quite liked Taffy's character and I enjoyed the touch of seeing another active playing the same role too when Sierra was activated. The different responses to Echo from Walton and Vitas when her imprint was wiped, was interesting. I liked the touch of insight it gave to their personalities from the contrast to the dynamic with her beforehand. It's why I hope Walton comes back. Although thinking on this further, I suspect he would possibly map too closely to Boyd's character really.

    The open acknowledgement Boyd isn't as indifferent to Echo as he should be was stated by Adelle but is hardly news as he doesn't even try to hide it (I'm still having to look up some of these character's names). I found his acknowledgement to Topher that they don't know that everyone agreed to this, that they are just told they did, interestingly frank. He doesn't really fit into the organisation smoothly at all, or make any effort to try and appear to do so either. It makes his future hard to second-guess I suppose when he isn't trying to hide his concern for Echo, his disapproval or his disquiet, and yet also chooses to continue to work there and they choose to keep him too.

    The little time we got to see of Echo making sense of the world, of exploring the vault and talking to Walton and Vitas was interesting. She was likened to a newborn but there was some continuity in her wish to be her best and alongside the flocking that Topher was talking about, the true limitations of this blank state is being pressed and questioned again. I can't remember (my head is too fuzzy at the moment!) if there has been a previous link for the sky comments she was making too, but they felt pointed. Drawing the lines in the steam over herself again showed these blurs of continuity cross the lines, showing her behind it throughout. They are building and she simply isn't erased each time.

    The repeated references to being broken in the episode linked to what was happening with Echo, but I feel like I was supposed to see her as having saved herself when Sierra wasn't able to get them out. That they are looking to also build a continuity to the character emerging of having an innate capability in varying situations and that this is something Boyd is witnessing in her. His statement then of seeing her as 'not broken' when she emerges is intended to confirm this with us. But I have to say, she didn't really get herself out of this scenario as the smoke that Walton threw and his instructions were what got them moving out of that room. Not that she didn't show emerging character and make her own choices (such as stabbing the syringe into Vitas and rescuing Walton), it's just that their escape wasn't from her individual success.

    Alpha breaking in on the assignment and wiping Echo expanded on those little slivers of other experiences coming back to her that we've had. It is interesting to wonder why he is fixating on Echo. It could be from something he has found out about her past, before or after he stormed the organisation, but it is strange to have not killed her then and yet put her in the situation now where she may be executed to protect the organisation. I still find it difficult to think that Alpha is the only other solid previous example they have of the system failing.

    I am becoming more interested in Topher's character. His arrogance and paranoia are a great mix to watch. He is more concerned with the possibility of being bested than what could be happening to Echo. The reason for Adelle increasing his security clearance and updating him on the truth about Alpha will I presume be because of the additional measures he may need to apply to manage the threat to the security system from Alpha. Clearly the reliance and belief in the technology in this business are a weakness that has, and can further, be exploited.

    I'm still finding the cop a little difficult to get interested in. His interactions with Victor when he is activated as Lubov just don't grab me. I like the idea of his dogged determination, but he still feels like a two-dimensional cliché cop character at the moment for me. The biggest plus from this episode was that I was more interested in Topher as an individual character and I cared more about Echo by the end. A little more anyway.

  10. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (29-12-16),PuckRobin (29-12-16),TimeTravellingBunny (27-12-16)

  11. #26
    Slayer TimeTravellingBunny's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    5,786
    Thanks
    5,572
    Thanked 4,716 Times in 2,229 Posts

    Default

    The most important thing in this episode is obviously the existence of the remote wipe. I think it's not really a spoiler to tell you that this is going to be pretty important in the show, though obviously I can't go into details.

    The show straight up trolled the audience in the beginning of this episode, first with the opening scene, then by making us think that Echo is on yet another, very sleezy and skeevy sex assignment, before revealing she and the guys are actually just acting as a part of the ruse. I had forgotten everything else about this episode except that there's a heist that goes wrong and that Echo's imprint 'malfunctions', so the ruse worked for me again.

    The episode expands the range of assignments we've seen so far. I have to say my first reaction to the midwife assignment was "but why would they need to pay for a doll for this". But on second thought, whether any of the clients objectively need to pay for a doll to perform a task, as opposed to finding a regular person, is not really the point, the point is that the clients think this is something they need (and have enough money to spend on it). In case of romance/sex assignments, clients are rich people who looking for authenticity, or what they see as authenticity: they are rich people who are probably used to thinking that they can buy friends and lovers, but may also be suspicious of the authenticity of feelings of real people who get romantically involved with them (are they really just pretending for material gain?), or are looking for very specific embodiment of their fantasies but don't want to invest time and energy in finding a person like that, and don't want to hire a prostitute because it would just be pretense/acting. But in cases of people looking for people of specific skills to perform a task, authenticity is not of utmost importance - so, in those cases, the Dollhouses must have been able to really convince their clients that their imprinted dolls can offer top and perfected skills in a certain area, that they are the best of the best, beyond what a regular midwife or hostage negotiator would be able to perform.

    This would also obviously be the case with a heist of valuable art, especially since it was of utmost importance not just to hire a highly skilled thief, but one that would be completely dedicated to the task and would not be tempted to steal the valuable objects for himself/herself. There was talk upthread of how most of the assignments so far have been pretty mundane. This may be, so far, the only assignment big and important enough to justify the expense of hiring a doll. And also a rare case where the client looks a lot more sympathetic/nobler once we find out what it's about (though, ironically, we also find out it's a crime). What/who was the old rich Greek man referring to when he said "it's not for me, it's a gift"? He doesn't want to keep the pieces of the Parthenon in his own collection, so I would assume his main motive is to get them back to his country, but what/who will he give it as a gift? He cannot give them openly to a museum or another public institution, or if he does they won't be able to display them, since they have been obtained by illegal means.

    The fake-out "sex assignment" which was really a ruse to get into the hotel was a Russian doll-type situation: we are watching Eliza Dushku playing Echo, who is being used/abused as a brainwashed slave for the Dollhouse playing the role of Taffy without knowing about it, while Taffy!Echo is also consciously playing the role of an abused prostitute in order to complete her assignment.

    I don't think that "blue skies" was a reference to anything outside the Taffy imprint? It seemed to be a part of it, since Sierra, IIRC, also talked about 'blue skies' when she was imprinted with Taffy.

    Regarding the "childlike" state of wiped dolls, which was mentioned previously, and whether it is plausible that they could really be wiped to such a state that they would not even know to defend themselves against Alpha, in spite of the "fight or flight" instincts. I don't know if that's really so implausible? Yes, people and animals have those instincts, but in order for those instincts to kick into gear, you first have to recognize the situation as dangerous. Would a newborn baby defend himself/herself, if he/she was physically able to? Would a newborn baby have any idea that a person wants to hurt him/her? I don't know, but I think it's more likely that fear is something you mostly learn, based on your experiences. For instance, I have two dogs and a cat, and the older of my two dogs was an adult when I adopted him, who had been living in the streets for some time and had been, reportedly, abused by people, and hit by a car at one point, before he got saved by the association for saving dogs and cats and finding them a home. He was extremely traumatized and at first, scared of everything. With time he became more confident, more trusting and happier, but he is not very social with other dogs, hates children and is sometimes unexpectedly scared of some people. My other dog was abandoned in a park as a 2 months old puppy, and I found him and brought him home - probably shortly after he was abandoned (because I walked my dog every day in that park) and I don't think he had the time and chance to really get through a life of insecurity and abuse, fighting for survival - and he's generally much, much more social and eager to play with every other dog and every human he sees (that's an understatement - he runs to them and literally jumps on them ). And I've also noticed that my cat used to be pretty fearless and curious as a tiny kitten, but grew into a much more cautious adult cat - which is probably a change that happens to many cats (and humans). Wouldn't a fully childlike/babylike state include a lack of fear of many things we have learned to be afraid of as adults, because of our experiences and knowledge?

    Obviously, dolls aren't exactly like newborn babies, but only because they are made to be able to do things like walk, talk, feed themselves, communicate and recognize language (although in a rather rudimentary form, since they intentionally aren't taught any complex concepts) in their wiped state. That would mean that the Dollhouse scientists like Topher are intentionally imprinting the dolls with those skills/knowledge, but not letting them have any other experiences or knowledge that may make them independent, rebellious or defiant, or able to take care of themselves. They may also be stimulating certain parts of their brains that are responsible for certain responses, but keeping other parts of their brain inactive. In short, I think it's plausible enough in terms of SciFi "science" where we don't know the exact details, but can imagine/accept certain premises.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

  12. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to TimeTravellingBunny For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (17-01-17),PuckRobin (07-02-17),Stoney (30-12-16)

  13. #27
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    I have to say my first reaction to the midwife assignment was "but why would they need to pay for a doll for this". But on second thought, whether any of the clients objectively need to pay for a doll to perform a task, as opposed to finding a regular person, is not really the point, the point is that the clients think this is something they need (and have enough money to spend on it).
    I agree the perception of the client of the need to have someone 'created' who wants to perform the jobs is key. But I do think there has to be some scaffolding for that need and I think the point for the midwifery assignment was that they were on an extremely snowy mountain in an isolated cabin (or some such if I'm indeed remembering correctly!). I suspect the majority of midwives wouldn't be willing or, even if they were, would not be able to travel to such a remote location and/or the couple wouldn't be geographically within the areas most health services would cover.

    But in cases of people looking for people of specific skills to perform a task, authenticity is not of utmost importance - so, in those cases, the Dollhouses must have been able to really convince their clients that their imprinted dolls can offer top and perfected skills in a certain area, that they are the best of the best, beyond what a regular midwife or hostage negotiator would be able to perform.
    Yes I agree that the ability to pour knowledge and skills into one person to become the epitome of whatever profession or field of knowledge required is the selling point in a very separate way to the ones who are looking for an authentic experience where the person doesn't know they are playing a programmed role. It is weird though when the client obviously still knows it isn't really real but can find enjoyment from seeing the other person believing it is. I think your point about some people not wanting to put the time and effort into making the connection with someone is probably sometimes true.

    I don't think that "blue skies" was a reference to anything outside the Taffy imprint? It seemed to be a part of it, since Sierra, IIRC, also talked about 'blue skies' when she was imprinted with Taffy.
    Ah okay. So it was only being used so pointedly to strengthen the sense of consistency when they were playing the same role.

    Regarding the "childlike" state of wiped dolls, which was mentioned previously, and whether it is plausible that they could really be wiped to such a state that they would not even know to defend themselves against Alpha, in spite of the "fight or flight" instincts. I don't know if that's really so implausible? Yes, people and animals have those instincts, but in order for those instincts to kick into gear, you first have to recognize the situation as dangerous. Would a newborn baby defend himself/herself, if he/she was physically able to? Would a newborn baby have any idea that a person wants to hurt him/her? I don't know, but I think it's more likely that fear is something you mostly learn, based on your experiences... Wouldn't a fully childlike/babylike state include a lack of fear of many things we have learned to be afraid of as adults, because of our experiences and knowledge?
    You do raise an interesting point about how learned an instinct actually is. The blank state that they are returned to could very deliberately have them programmed to be relaxed and trusting of others around them even. So I can see the argument that there is a necessity to feel fear and recognise a danger before fight/flight would take hold perhaps. But, as far as I remember, the memory of Alpha's massacre in the offices had Echo sat amongst a sea of doll bodies. Once one person, or maybe even two people, have been killed in front of you some of them would try to run I think. The reduction, or limitation, in cognitive reasoning to stop them realising any danger as that was happening around them would have to be some astoundingly strong programming. But even so, it could then just be that their 'childish' attempts to escape or even to fight back, were just utterly insufficient against someone imprinted to be a skilled killer and were meaningless in making an impact on the situation anyway.

    Obviously, dolls aren't exactly like newborn babies, but only because they are made to be able to do things like walk, talk, feed themselves, communicate and recognize language (although in a rather rudimentary form, since they intentionally aren't taught any complex concepts) in their wiped state. That would mean that the Dollhouse scientists like Topher are intentionally imprinting the dolls with those skills/knowledge, but not letting them have any other experiences or knowledge that may make them independent, rebellious or defiant, or able to take care of themselves. They may also be stimulating certain parts of their brains that are responsible for certain responses, but keeping other parts of their brain inactive. In short, I think it's plausible enough in terms of SciFi "science" where we don't know the exact details, but can imagine/accept certain premises.
    Yes, it is interesting to consider that the blank state is in fact a very complicated programme in its own right to define boundaries and limit the development that a doll that was inactive could make. Great point.

  14. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (17-01-17),PuckRobin (07-02-17),TimeTravellingBunny (17-01-17)

  15. #28
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    1.05 True Believer

    I wasn't particular captured by this episode, but found as I started writing up about it that there were some interesting points covered. I don't know if my problem is that I'm still not being given enough about Echo to care about her individually, if it was that the main assignment of infiltrating the cult just didn't really grab me or if it is just because of the big gaps between watching eps stops me feeling the progression/flow. Possibly it's a bit of all of these.

    I thought Eliza did a passable job at playing Esther, it certainly wasn't her best performance I don't think. I'm not truly sure how well she pulled off being blind because obviously I know that she isn't, so the times where I thought it just looked like someone avoiding eye contact and when her exploration of people's features didn't seem a tactile enough experience, perhaps I wasn't being fair. But I didn't think it was terrible and I'm sure it is a very difficult ask for someone sighted to pull off incredibly well.

    In an episode that looked at several different points of view within the organisation, at different perceptions and reactions, having the corrupt senator, the corrupt agent and the obsessed cop as side characters worked well I think. So, although I wasn't grabbed by the plot, I did find some aspects of the episode worth chewing on when I was thinking back on it. I quite liked the reveal that it was the ATF agent who had already set up the group to gain his temporary warrant by surreptitiously infiltrating their trip to the store, leaving the note to appear to be from one of the group and create for himself that window of opportunity. But still bound by appearing to operate within the rules they were tied at that point, and so I appreciated having a scenario that made it a real asset to the mission to pay to use an active, someone who truly believes they are who they are imprinted to be. Our obsessed cop following his leads in the background, another operating on 'true belief' worked in better for me this episode than some others.

    I really enjoyed the contrast between the Dr Amy Acker plays and Topher this time. The reservations the Doc expressed at the surgical plan to place Echo in the group coupled with hearing she had previously raised risks of repeated imprints added more breadth to her employee disquiet. But Topher made light of the risks, quipping dismissively about the surgery and yet didn't want to watch tapes of Victor in the shower. Perhaps he is just distanced or maybe needs to disassociate the actives as people, believe in the resting state as having zero self awareness. But in that situation the Doc is a lot more practical, distanced and task focused.

    Dominic and Adelle were also showing their own boundaries in how they deal with the company's product. How 'willing' the actives are, or can be for their different assignments, was touched on in the meeting with the senator. The risk/profit balance used to decide what is an acceptable assignment really pushes that the actives are treated as usable assets. Either conned into agreement, misled or 'bought' somehow one assumes. And yet Adelle to Dominic shows admiration for Echo's adaptability where all he can see is potential risks that remind him of everything going wrong with Alpha. With the Doc's scars a constant visual reminder, Dominic's behaviour also seems to tie back to that massacre consistently too. So sure is he that Echo is a disaster in the making that he tries to take her out (although why he didn't just shoot her with one of Sparrow's guns I don't know).

    The inadequate/limited warning system the cult had set up in camp, able to alert them someone was trying to infiltrate but which didn't consider tunnels or a way to escape, made me think of the company's response to Alpha that we are seeing play out from the different characters. Of course we see more than the characters see/know, but it is hard to believe the little example fissures in the process/system they are seeing don't warrant a greater reaction following the Alpha incident. Smaller episode complaints... Esther's ability to read such complicated names after decades of having no sight seemed dubious to me. Also, the quick eye surgery that required no recovery time and left no sign of trauma afterwards required suspension of disbelief. But as we are accepting implanting and wiping personalities every episode, the latter is a small extra ask of the audience perhaps.

    How aware is Echo at the end? She certainly looks at Dominic and seems to recognise him and, it is therefore implied, remembers his assault. Is it just a building breakdown of the process not wiping fully and individuality coming through? Has Alpha somehow hacked the system again unseen and is managing to release her? Could he potentially give Echo a remote imprint? Why did he leave her alive? It would be great to have an episode that gave a little bit more about Echo herself now, it really does feel overdue. I'd like to care about the cop more too, so seeing a bit more of his investigation could kill two birds with one stone for me. The situation inhouse is well established now, give me some specific character meat to chew on please.
    Last edited by Stoney; 06-02-17 at 10:16 PM.

  16. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (06-02-17),Clavus (08-02-17),PuckRobin (07-02-17)

  17. #29
    What? KingofCretins's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Big Honkin' Castle
    Posts
    13,715
    Thanks
    234
    Thanked 3,906 Times in 1,843 Posts

    Default

    Congratulations, you've battled your way through the five episodes that, overall, are so mediocre most of us who had already seen it just couldn't even really feign the enthusiasm to talk rewatch with you about, say sorry. But next the actual series as an serialized storyline really begins, so there will be much more to say

    Banner by LRae12

  18. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to KingofCretins For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (08-02-17),Stoney (07-02-17)

  19. #30
    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    562
    Thanks
    3,642
    Thanked 2,829 Times in 565 Posts

    Default

    Hey, guys!

    I am way behind on the Dollhouse rewatch - and I just managed to watch episode four at last. Forgive me for being kinda punchy and snippy here - it's been an exhausting day.

    It was a mile above the third episode (of which the less said, the better) but it's hard to believe the same writers who worked on Buffy, Angel and Firefly worked on this show. For such an edgy premise, the show is amazingly timid in exploring the possible ramifications of imprinting new identities on a human being - the most intriguing thing about Dollhouse (the identity swap) feels pushed aside by the necessities of working out each cliched "case" of the week.

    And the sexuality of the dolls is truly overused - why not have one of them take over the identity of Stephen Hawking or someone equally brilliant who has been immobilized because of stroke or disease? Why not have them be surgeons, pianists, mimetic experts, mathematicians instead of ridiculous, insipid plotlines that require the lead to be in a constant hyper-sexual state?

    It's almost as if the writers couldn't think of any other reasons (or at least the network couldn't think of any other reasons) outside of sex or high-tech crime in which a doll would be useful - yes, there are mentions of other jobs, but we never really get to see them. So the show at this point is set up as victims vs evil bad guys who basically perceive their dolls as little more than prostitutes. We're not given a scene in which Echo saves a child's life through needed surgery - or saves a community from disaster through some kind of superior knowledge. Everything seems to be filtered through bad spy novels instead.

    It's all trendy TV tropes all the time - bad guys wanting ransoms or trying to kill their sexual partner or fly girls surrounding a suicidal star. Or this time - it's a ridiculously laughable plot about art thieves that feels like something ripped out of a bad Dan Brown novel. I'm still waiting for half the cast who control the dolls to discover that they're dolls themselves (or at least for someone else to realize it) - it feels like it's moving towards that kind of Stepford Wives/Sixth Sense reveal.

    I would like to get swept up in the actual characters - if not Echo (for obvious reasons), then Topher or Claire or others - but the preposterous Psycho of the Week plot keeps interfering. There isn't enough background - and one feels the lack of a major overarching theme (yet!) that should have been carefully woven into the plot of the week. Outside of Alpha's involvement, there's not a lot of tension except for glimpses by Topher and others of what's going on behind the careful mask they present to everyone in the Dollhouse.

    And it's pretty obvious that network demands for even more T&A were affecting the quality of the scripts. There's still too much "heroine as hooker" for my taste even if it is a fakeout - and a pretty poor one as it was obviously an act as soon as "Taffy" ran down the hallway. Part of the problem is that there are two different aspects of the show pulling at each other - the first is a cheesy Law & Order: Special Victims Unit point of view in which the horrors of real-life sexual abuse and forced prostitution and slavery are addressed in weekly crime stories - and the second is a wildly ambitious exploration of identity in American culture that is fantastical and psychologically unsettling.

    And so far, the show wants to have it both ways - and you can't. If you set a science fiction show inside a concentration camp, the clash of a horrific reality and a thought-provoking fantasy have to be VERY carefully mixed or you end up with a kind of mess. And to be honest, Dollhouse isn't really in the league of Salman Rushdie or Jorge Luis Borges although it shares the same ambition in an attempt to blend the fantastical with the grimly realistic.

    Instead, there's an uneasy blend of pulp fiction and mythological constructs about identity and what it means to be human - I find myself constantly eye-rolling at all the references to shattered identities in every single episode as the writers gamely try to insert higher philosophical themes in the middle of a Bionic Woman episode. From the midwife idea of "birthing" something new to the conversations about art as a rendering of the multiplicities of life, I imagine that the writers were desperate to fill the silly plotlines with meaningful commentary on the idea of identity and the life of the "dolls" - but having a dissertation on the meaning of modern art while someone bleeds out on the floor just feels like a really bad Reservoir Dogs parody. Or a mock Sopranos episode. If it was meant to be telling commentary, it fails - it's too heavy-handed to kick back at the viewer and the theme is forced out only to just lay there like a dead thing.

    The phone wipe by Alpha was obviously the most interesting thing about the episode - and Topher's reaction bespeaks that there's something else inside the character besides the drive of a mad scientist simply following orders. His bump-up in access to information means that we'll finally learn something about the Dollhouse that's been sorely needed for four episodes - namely, why Alpha was created and what he wants.

    To avoid sounding wholly negative about the series, reading Stoney's review of the next episode and KingOfCretins' response tells me that the show finally moves out of this stagnant mire and starts to break away into more interesting territory ( TTBunny and vampmogs and Local Max have been hinting this for a while!) I know that so many people love parts of this series - so I'm assuming like many great shows that it's a slow walk up a long hill to finally hit the heights and get to the good stuff!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 08-02-17 at 01:22 PM.

  20. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to American Aurora For This Useful Post:

    Clavus (08-02-17),Dipstick (08-02-17),PuckRobin (13-02-17),Stoney (08-02-17)

  21. #31
    Library Researcher PuckRobin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Posts
    212
    Thanks
    874
    Thanked 793 Times in 190 Posts

    Default

    Gray Hour:

    It was interesting to see the Elgin Marbles in the episode. I remember seeing them at the British Museum, and finding the whole idea of these ancient Greek treasures being made British by Parliament to be absurd. (As I recall the British Museum staff in 1999 didn’t think this to be absurd at all. Of course they were British now – they were in the British Museum after all.) I think there could be a really good satire in exploring the idea of cultural theft being sanctified by formal – if dubious – law. But that kind of satire would not sit well with the story format that American Aurora brilliantly identifies with the Bionic Woman. (Although I think these early episodes of Dollhouse would be far more entertaining if absurd Bionic Woman concepts like the FemBots and Max the Bionic Dog were incorporated.)

    Of course, there are parallels to be had between the marbles and the Dolls, but it didn’t feel that fresh, even if this episode was better than some of the other early ones.

    The idea of a remote wipe is intriguing, but it should have been included back in the first episode. It would have set the stakes early and provided an intriguing mystery. After four episodes, it still feels like we’re just dealing with stuff that should have been covered in the first 20 minutes of the first episode.

    I’m looking forward to the promised dramatic increase in quality.

    True Believer:

    I understand the whole face-feeling gimmick was used to set up the supposed miracle that would get Echo into the camp, but it plays into a tired old trope. I know blind authors who have talked about how this whole face-feeling fetish with TV blind characters is nonsense. I’m not sure the show really benefits from using the trope – even if there’s a narrative and sci-fi justification for it.

    Topher seems to be having a moment of gay panic when he doesn’t want to look at Victor’s erections. I understand that his stubborn refusal to say the word pegs him as a manchild, someone whose evil is utterly banal. It covers the same ground as the Trio – but without the charm of Jonathan and Andrew, or the outright creepiness of Andrew. Topher is just that annoying guy at the office – if your office was involved in experiments that rob people of free will.

    I was a bit surprised that this episode wasn’t better. Tim Minear wrote some of the best Angel (particularly the Darla episodes in the second season) and Firefly episodes. I wonder if Fox’s network interference was holding him back here.

  22. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to PuckRobin For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (13-02-17),Clavus (19-03-17),Stoney (13-02-17)

  23. #32
    Slayer buffyholic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Portugal
    Posts
    2,576
    Thanks
    91
    Thanked 90 Times in 56 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    The most important thing in this episode is obviously the existence of the remote wipe. I think it's not really a spoiler to tell you that this is going to be pretty important in the show, though obviously I can't go into details.

    The show straight up trolled the audience in the beginning of this episode, first with the opening scene, then by making us think that Echo is on yet another, very sleezy and skeevy sex assignment, before revealing she and the guys are actually just acting as a part of the ruse. I had forgotten everything else about this episode except that there's a heist that goes wrong and that Echo's imprint 'malfunctions', so the ruse worked for me again.

    The episode expands the range of assignments we've seen so far. I have to say my first reaction to the midwife assignment was "but why would they need to pay for a doll for this". But on second thought, whether any of the clients objectively need to pay for a doll to perform a task, as opposed to finding a regular person, is not really the point, the point is that the clients think this is something they need (and have enough money to spend on it). In case of romance/sex assignments, clients are rich people who looking for authenticity, or what they see as authenticity: they are rich people who are probably used to thinking that they can buy friends and lovers, but may also be suspicious of the authenticity of feelings of real people who get romantically involved with them (are they really just pretending for material gain?), or are looking for very specific embodiment of their fantasies but don't want to invest time and energy in finding a person like that, and don't want to hire a prostitute because it would just be pretense/acting. But in cases of people looking for people of specific skills to perform a task, authenticity is not of utmost importance - so, in those cases, the Dollhouses must have been able to really convince their clients that their imprinted dolls can offer top and perfected skills in a certain area, that they are the best of the best, beyond what a regular midwife or hostage negotiator would be able to perform.

    This would also obviously be the case with a heist of valuable art, especially since it was of utmost importance not just to hire a highly skilled thief, but one that would be completely dedicated to the task and would not be tempted to steal the valuable objects for himself/herself. There was talk upthread of how most of the assignments so far have been pretty mundane. This may be, so far, the only assignment big and important enough to justify the expense of hiring a doll. And also a rare case where the client looks a lot more sympathetic/nobler once we find out what it's about (though, ironically, we also find out it's a crime). What/who was the old rich Greek man referring to when he said "it's not for me, it's a gift"? He doesn't want to keep the pieces of the Parthenon in his own collection, so I would assume his main motive is to get them back to his country, but what/who will he give it as a gift? He cannot give them openly to a museum or another public institution, or if he does they won't be able to display them, since they have been obtained by illegal means.

    The fake-out "sex assignment" which was really a ruse to get into the hotel was a Russian doll-type situation: we are watching Eliza Dushku playing Echo, who is being used/abused as a brainwashed slave for the Dollhouse playing the role of Taffy without knowing about it, while Taffy!Echo is also consciously playing the role of an abused prostitute in order to complete her assignment.

    I don't think that "blue skies" was a reference to anything outside the Taffy imprint? It seemed to be a part of it, since Sierra, IIRC, also talked about 'blue skies' when she was imprinted with Taffy.

    Regarding the "childlike" state of wiped dolls, which was mentioned previously, and whether it is plausible that they could really be wiped to such a state that they would not even know to defend themselves against Alpha, in spite of the "fight or flight" instincts. I don't know if that's really so implausible? Yes, people and animals have those instincts, but in order for those instincts to kick into gear, you first have to recognize the situation as dangerous. Would a newborn baby defend himself/herself, if he/she was physically able to? Would a newborn baby have any idea that a person wants to hurt him/her? I don't know, but I think it's more likely that fear is something you mostly learn, based on your experiences. For instance, I have two dogs and a cat, and the older of my two dogs was an adult when I adopted him, who had been living in the streets for some time and had been, reportedly, abused by people, and hit by a car at one point, before he got saved by the association for saving dogs and cats and finding them a home. He was extremely traumatized and at first, scared of everything. With time he became more confident, more trusting and happier, but he is not very social with other dogs, hates children and is sometimes unexpectedly scared of some people. My other dog was abandoned in a park as a 2 months old puppy, and I found him and brought him home - probably shortly after he was abandoned (because I walked my dog every day in that park) and I don't think he had the time and chance to really get through a life of insecurity and abuse, fighting for survival - and he's generally much, much more social and eager to play with every other dog and every human he sees (that's an understatement - he runs to them and literally jumps on them ). And I've also noticed that my cat used to be pretty fearless and curious as a tiny kitten, but grew into a much more cautious adult cat - which is probably a change that happens to many cats (and humans). Wouldn't a fully childlike/babylike state include a lack of fear of many things we have learned to be afraid of as adults, because of our experiences and knowledge?

    Obviously, dolls aren't exactly like newborn babies, but only because they are made to be able to do things like walk, talk, feed themselves, communicate and recognize language (although in a rather rudimentary form, since they intentionally aren't taught any complex concepts) in their wiped state. That would mean that the Dollhouse scientists like Topher are intentionally imprinting the dolls with those skills/knowledge, but not letting them have any other experiences or knowledge that may make them independent, rebellious or defiant, or able to take care of themselves. They may also be stimulating certain parts of their brains that are responsible for certain responses, but keeping other parts of their brain inactive. In short, I think it's plausible enough in terms of SciFi "science" where we don't know the exact details, but can imagine/accept certain premises.
    OMG, yes, the remote wipe will be super interesting in following episodes. Maybe works as a foreshadowing?

    I´m not a big fan of "Gray Hour". I don´t why exactly but it just seems off somehow. I´ll have to rewatch then.

  24. #33
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    1.06 Man on the Street

    Wow there was so much more going on in this episode and it felt very different from the ones that have come before it. The focus this time was more on the idea of the Dollhouse and the social views than on what Echo or the others were being hired to do. The switch in depth and layers was a little jarring to be honest. I don't know if that was made worse by the time delay in between watching the eps. Perhaps the ones preceding this have become even more shallowed by reduction to my more distant recollection of them. But this did feel like a significant shift and, as a flow, it doesn't work well against the previous. It feels like the show just changed some (not a bad thing really) and that a portion of this should have been in earlier, not at this late a stage, six episodes in. Anyway, as we'd been promised by many, this episode did deliver more in many ways.

    I actually saw less of Echo this time than I'd have liked just because I want to care about her more, but the Dollhouse itself was fleshed out and that was a good thing for sure. It felt a little like the vox pop clips with members of the public was being used to ensure that the audience had been thinking the right things, identifying the right issues to have, and I'm not sure really what I thought about the tool of these weaved into the ep. Overall I was unconvinced I think. They were interesting to consider against the (again feeling a little odd in tone and forced in there to me) conversation between the rich guy and Ballard, for the exploration of the reasons why someone who has the means would choose to use a Doll and how dismissive or appalled by the idea people were. But using this method felt a little rushed, heavy handed, like they regretted not doing it more subtlely earlier but now had run out of time. Anyway, these all sat against the final comments and considerations about what is being done to these people. How they are hollowed out, dehumanised into being breathing 'dolls'.

    But, although run alongside with the moral questions around removing their individual personality, their individual desires, Echo's assignment and the sexual assault on Sierra by her handler still very much had the focus on sexual uses of the actives. This was underscored again as, in a very genuinely took me aback moment, Mellie was activated to kill the handler. Not truly Ballard's neighbour, an average girl falling for the guy next door, but another pawn being used for the benefit of the Dollhouse. I always appreciate it when a twist is a genuine surprise. I think you could argue the sexual abuses really focus the spotlight on the violation that is happening to these people (who I still assume did not sign up with full disclosure of what their bodies would be used for), but I find it hard to visualise the Dollhouse as a business that runs mostly in this way for those who can afford it. I'm sure it would be used like that, but it feels clouded as to what the balance is on the types of assignments they take in, what ratio fall to this type and where they fit on the payment scale. We now also find out that there are multiple Dollhouses and the success of this remaining an urban myth starts to feel a bit ropey to me too. But at the least this all works reasonably well with the question of what truly is the purpose of the Dollhouse. Is the business some sort of front? Hmmmm.

    We also had the hidden programming in Echo for when she faced off against Ballard and warned him off the Dollhouse. As an aside, I wonder why they didn't just set him up for appearing to have been killed by an unidentifiable person in a robbery/mugging gone wrong. It is hard to reason why they don't just remove him. I'm going to assume there is something that they want from him or that it is about keeping an eye on those who are against you in some way or other. So, currently suspended, Ballard has been given some warning and told there is someone on the inside of the Dollhouse.

    I'm assuming this relates to Alpha, maybe with an accomplice. It could be him working alone and describing himself as an insider because he knows he has knowledge from within and can remotely access the computer system (or even possibly by any phrases he has set up going by what happened with Mellie when DeWitt called her). I'm still assuming it was him that posted Ballard the video of Caroline/Echo. It could be someone working separate to Alpha too of course, but either way, the Dr (AA) or Ivy seem the most obvious. Boyd I'm assuming is separate to it and is still just fulfilling the employee with open disquiet role, although I am questioning yet again what he is doing there, why he is working there. If Topher himself is working against the corporation that would be a surprise as it doesn't sit against what we have seen of his dismissal of the actives and his self-focus on being the best at what he does etc, but hidden intentions and underlying motivations is the name of the game at the moment, so he definitely also warrants a 'maybe'.

    The idea of all the Dolls being broken from Boyd sat with the rich man's pointed remark of whether Ballard lives in the real world himself. How much are people fixed in their own fantasies and spend time actively seeking them in their everyday interactions anyway? A lot of people seemed to talk about using the idea of a Doll to 'fix' something, to imagine the past hasn't happened or explore something about themselves they daren't in the 'real world'. But how much do we seek these answers and probe these questions anyway? The use of a Doll doesn't necessarily provide you with something you couldn't achieve, couldn't have. It can make it easier for sure as I think TTB suggested earlier, and of course it feels risk free from having to deal with ripples and repercussions from decisions perhaps if it was something that was wanted as a temporary indulgence. The 'written' belief in the scenario for the Doll who can afterwards be wiped enables the first and serves the second. The need for people to use to create this service just draws me back again to where they all come from and what they believe they are signing up for.

    My favourite part possibly came from the small inclusion of the joke in Rebecca's/Echo's horror at the idea it might all be about porn. I think it was quite a disquieting tool, to look for the audience to see something humorous in there. Getting amusement from her constructed personality's reaction is so brief and somewhat unsettling as it comes despite the situation being evidence of the abuse happening to her just through being a Doll and despite knowing of the physical violation also intended for her. Her labelling the staged bedroom as porn strips away the false narrative inserted upon her and exposes the ugly reality somewhat, something we see she didn't in fact escape from either but was returned to the client for at a later date. It all works with the disquiet that someone's personality can be erased as much as one can be lifted and placed in a different person too. Was that a fair depiction of Rebecca and how she would respond or just her husband's idealised recollection of her? Either way, her character's unhappiness at something sordid happening made what is actually happening all the more unsettling.

    I will probably watch this again as others make comments as I'm sure I'll benefit from a rewatch to consider other thoughts. It just felt like such a shift I need to get my footing a bit better I think. The episode was packed with progress, information, intrigue and action. It was far better paced and even if the chats with the public and the one between Bollard and the rich guy felt a little clunky within the whole, pushed in to steer our thoughts about the premise itself, it was still really enjoyable. I will be very interested to see how the tone of the subsequent episodes feels following and if they will continue to deliberately spoonfeed as many thoughts.

  25. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (14-03-17),Clavus (19-03-17),PuckRobin (18-03-17),TimeTravellingBunny (18-03-17)

  26. #34
    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    562
    Thanks
    3,642
    Thanked 2,829 Times in 565 Posts

    Default

    Hey, Guys!

    Watched “Man on the Street” and wanted to echo Stoney’s post that it was very different from the episodes that came before and the show itself might have worked a lot better had this episode been tweaked into the actual pilot for the show.

    Firstly, I think that this episode is miles above previous episodes in terms of plotting, dialogue and characterization – there are some really sharp scenes. And instead of the monster-pervert-of-the-week, we get a connective-tissue feel here as the plots start to converge and connect in ways that weren’t clear from the original set up.

    And it's really a brilliant example of the difference between a good writer and a great writer - amazing how the same characters who were mired in Dullsville start to come alive in dramatically compelling ways under Whedon's hand. A textbook example, really, of the difference between writers who are trying to shape their work to corporate standards and a real writer who has other fish to fry.

    The “man-in-the-street” interviews that are interspersed throughout the episode finally bring a bit of the outside world into the rather closed-off scenarios that the dolls are assigned to solve. We see a gamut of various opinions regarding the very notion of what the Dollhouse represents – for some, it’s a dream, for others, a nightmare. This black humor that plays upon the desires of people in a post-technological age – to be someone else, to live out someone else’s dream – without suffering any consequences of their actions is amusing and helps to contextualize the Dollhouse.

    And this answers one of my main concerns while watching the first few episodes - how can this very sophisticated, high-tech operation be concealed in our very mundane world? What Whedon is trying to do in this opening bit is to position it as an urban legend – a conspiratorial myth that is believed by some and mocked by others – a gambit that should have worked well if Dollhouse had been set up properly to begin with. However, there are still a few problems that are built into the series as a whole that I think will prevent it from being another Buffy – at least so far.

    One of the major problems with the premise of the show is that the technology of the Dollhouse clashes so much with the outside world that it’s hard to accept its existence. We don’t see any evidence that the outside world is different from our own. This could have been solved by an equally high-tech and secretive antagonist – but the FBI agent Paul Ballard is far too much of our own world. He should have been a member of a secret organization akin to the hidden Dollhouse so that fire could be met with fire – something like the Watchers Council or The Initiative – but in the show itself, the pursuant FBI agent just isn’t reflective of an organization savvy enough to pit itself against the Dollhouse.

    I find it peculiar that Whedon doesn’t take advantage of a national belief in FBI/CIA deep state cover ups to cement the Dollhouse as a precursor to widespread mind-control and one world government in the public’s mind. The subsequent paranoia and fear might have lifted the show into something akin to Mr. Robot where there are wheels within wheels of knowledge and no one is really sure who is a doll and who is not. We learn that there are 20 major Dollhouses around the world – and yet, they seem to have no connection to real world events and/or other people who might want to utilize their applications. The people in the interviews are too normal – it should have been chock-full of conspiracy theory nuts – or even filmed by one who is also tracking the Dollhouse. (The more entities interested, the more chaos and drama ensues!) The interviews could even have been a cover for an organization/individual seeking out more information.

    Because if such an organization had come up with such an amazing technological breakthrough, one would think that numerous international organizations and government entities would be crawling all over the place to get their hands on it. And Ballard could have been at the forefront of one of these organizations – if a representative of the US Government, then his job would have been not only to penetrate the Dollhouse, but to keep others from discovering it to their advantage as well.

    Instead we get a tale of personal obsession – Ballard has apparently destroyed his real life in pursuit of what his colleagues consider a chimera. There’s a lot of sloppy muck about chasing down various “clients” through their financial records and some seriously questionable anonymous documents that give him a tangible subject to pursue – but since we hear very little but bits and pieces about his previous work as an investigator (in fact, he seems to have been somewhat of a failure) our interest in him is tied solely to his personal issues rather than the FBI as a group.

    This works to a great extent when we learn that his girlfriend is a “doll” – but since the viewer learns but Ballard does not, it has no dramatic impact outside of a reveal that the audience has likely already guessed. And without a consequent reaction by the FBI agent or another character, it fails to create any real suspense. And that is what the show is still lacking – the only tangible emotion we continue to follow is Ballard’s obsession with Echo/Caroline. The dolls are still too far removed from cogent thought to relate to – Echo isn’t making decisions on her own, but is obviously programmed by someone else to do so. So her steps outside of the Dollhouse aren’t steps of independence – but more spy vs spy with Echo as the go-between, sandwiched between two separate puppet masters.

    Of course, in “Man on the Street”, we see how such personalization of the dolls is anathema to an organization which prefers to remain as uninvolved and as unfeeling as the dolls themselves. When Sierra’s handler reacts to the dolls as objects of lust – a base, human impulse – then he must be taken out because emotionalism is the worst thing that can happen in such an organization.

    However, saying that, I have to praise the episode for being very compelling within the parameters that Whedon has created – even if it was very talky and “on the nose” as Stoney remarked. At last, we truly get inside the minds of one of the “perverts” and find that they are not so much a pervert as a lost soul – someone who is trying to grapple with loss through fantastical means.

    And this touches upon several issues that feel pertinent to the show – does psychological well-being depend upon being kept in the dark (or pretending to not “know”) that others are being exploited in order to create an illusion of happiness? There’s a correspondence here to societal ills kept secret – we don’t want to see the unpleasant aspects of a society that buys and sells a dream – the sweatshops that create ipads or the lack of freedom allotted for a certain group of people in order to enable others to have what they want? Olivia seems to believe that she’s a kind of humanitarian – as so many organizations do – at the same time that the viewer sees her as a kind of monster. But the “rape” of the dolls isn’t simply on a physical level – it’s a metaphor for slavery and subjugation of personality for the benefit of a select few.

    There’s an interesting blend of liberal hand-wringing and libertarian outrage here – a metaphor for people who act like robots without independent will – or even those who WANT to act like robots as they sign their life away for various reasons – blindly accepting what a certain segment of society designates as appropriate no matter the emotional or economic damage that might ensue. I’m really looking forward to seeing why Caroline chose to join the organization – was it a desire to free herself from difficult past/present memories – or was it simply financial need? Is that why she responds despite her state to others who are trying to flee their own pasts?

    The whole “rapey” aspect of Dollhouse – both sexually and emotionally - still rankles though. The attempt to cast doubt upon another doll as the rapist to lure out the actual rapist – and the usage of Echo as a subversive deliverer of messages to Ballard by we-assume-Alpha – both used as means to an end – shows the dehumanization of the dolls to such an extent that we see them living openly constructed lives (like Mellie) until something triggers them to act according to plan. (Does Ballard ever hear the answering machine message? Or does Mellie delete it later?) The conflict between the fantastical world of the show and real human trafficking/exploitation is hard to accept.

    I also believe now that the whole “Alpha” thing is an inside job – the moment in which Topher was interrupted as the assistant watched the upload of Echo’s brain scrambles was an obvious spot of sabotage. And this tells us that Topher may not be a part of the resistance movement – but there are a ton of moles within who are. And they themselves may be programmed dolls from afar.

    I really love your thought, Stoney, regarding whether “Rebecca” was a construction of the husband that bore little relationship to the actual wife – and this does seem to tie into the paranoia/Stepford wife aspect of the show that men are using Echo as an idealized version of an actual person who existed.

    A few caveats: no FBI guy could violently attack another without a LOT more blowback. And what was with the totally empty Chinese place? The fight was a lot of fun though – one of the slam downs we’ve been expected between these two since the series began!

    I am really looking forward to the next episode.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 18-03-17 at 02:44 AM.

  27. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to American Aurora For This Useful Post:

    Clavus (19-03-17),PuckRobin (19-03-17),Stoney (18-03-17)

  28. #35
    What? KingofCretins's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Big Honkin' Castle
    Posts
    13,715
    Thanks
    234
    Thanked 3,906 Times in 1,843 Posts

    Default

    There's a lot to this episode, and in some ways while it's where the series really begins and gains some sort of narrative direction, it also is some of the most maddening BS that this series has to offer, and if you're me, that's a competitive field in this series.

    Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.

    Another profound annoyance about this episode is... nobody associated with the making of any Mutant Enemy show knows a freaking thing about the law and just regurgitate other stuff wrong from other shows. It's tiresome. Y'know what Agent Ballard should have gone ahead and done? Exactly what Joel Mynor insists smugly he could not; arrest him. He went to the house on a lawful purpose, whereupon he was attacked, which on its own would probably satisfy probable cause that a crime was being committed on the premises with or without the exigent circumstances exception which also would apply. He personally witnessed a missing person on the premises in the company of a man lying about her identity -- right there, Mynor could be arrested for conspiracy to kidnapping, for starters. It takes me out of the episode entirely, this phony-baloney legal stand-off we're presented when even at that point, Ballard was 100% on the up and up. Sigh.

    Now, stuff I liked -- this episode features probably the smartest and most decent person in the entire series with the first of the eponymous interstitials -- recognizes the Dollhouse for what it is. A couple of those people I want to just Gibbs headslap, like the hippy dippy "it's beautiful to be a programmable toy" girl. A few of those interviews touch on some pretty important ground for the series, plotwise, of course.

    The twist with Mellie being an active was actually not as effective to me as it could have been if it wasn't, as it was happening, actually almost boringly predictable. I mean, let's think about it, this is a Joss Whedon joint, it would be much much more surprising for her to just have been murdered in service to Ballard's story arc, right? The subversion of a trope can be a trope of its own, can it not? If anything, it also seemed to be revenge not for the rape per se, but like Hearn learning hard not to mess with Dewitt's stuff (because again I will never given an iota of credence to her moral protestation on this subject -- having non-consensual sex is all these men and women do while in her employ).

    I did enjoy the climactic fight scene, especially once Ballard decides to actually participate, even though he is ultimately no match for the Matrix there. I'll be honest, I've seen this series a couple times through and I'm still not entirely sure I follow the thread of where this bit of coded "help" to Ballard came from, whether it's Alpha or an actual mole inside the Dollhouse that I'm misremembering, so it's kind of fresh in a sense. But with the caveat I may have missed nothing and it's just kind of poorly developed later?

    Banner by LRae12

  29. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to KingofCretins For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (19-03-17),Bittersweettwit (19-03-17),Stoney (19-03-17)

  30. #36
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Blighty
    Posts
    8,052
    Thanks
    10,970
    Thanked 12,979 Times in 5,395 Posts

    Default

    Ha, okay, so just me that was surprised by Mellie then.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
    I possibly just didn't register her outrage/disgust because I was in accordance with it, rather than noticing it as a double standard. I think that it is feasible though that Dewitt can be separating workers/clients in such a way that she has issue with someone taking advantage of the situation and abusing their position of trust as an employee. I think the moral perspective is completely messed up of course and I agree it is absurd considering that using people is what they do, but I don't think it has to be beyond an annoyance at someone taking advantage, as you say, of the company product. I haven't rewatched it yet though so I'll pay attention to her reactions when I do.

    It could also make some more sense if seen perhaps as a frustration at him causing a traumatic response in a doll during their resting state that could compromise their work and make her job more difficult. Obviously the personalities they implant to complete an assignment 'fill' the doll who they try to keep void of individuality, as much as they can, whilst in their resting state. I'm sure that is primarily because it makes it easier to do what they are doing to these people and not have objections/disruptions etc. But it might also be to stop the risk of disruption to the implanted persona. A traumatic memory gained in that resting state might possibly interfere with an assignment if triggered. So it could also be that the lack of any complicating additions to overwrite and remain suppressed by the created personality is also a key reason why they keep them so 'blank' at rest.

  31. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Stoney For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (19-03-17),Clavus (19-03-17)

  32. #37
    Slayer TimeTravellingBunny's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    5,786
    Thanks
    5,572
    Thanked 4,716 Times in 2,229 Posts

    Default

    I was a little late with rewatching the latest 2 episodes due to work and lack of time. First, a few comments on True Believer. I like this episode more than most people seem to. I mean, it's one of the first 5 comparatively uninteresting "assignment of the week" season 1 episodes, but by those standards it's pretty good.

    Sure, the cult scenario is very common and done many times in episodic TV, but I don't remember an instance where the government guy trying to take down the cult was at least as much of a villain as the cult leader (maybe there are other cases but I haven't seen them? Someone correct me on that). And it brought about the theme of "saving people who aren't asking to be saved" and the question of whether the motives behind it are really altruistic. Aside from the obvious/spelled out comparison between the cult and the Dollhouse, there was also a more subtle parallel between the government bad guy (I really can't remember his name or the name of the government unit he was working for) and Ballard. Of course, Ballard is leagues better and not an a$$hole like the other guy, who, as we get to see, doesn't really even care about the people he's supposed to be saving, and doesn't care if he makes their situation even worse (like, almost getting them killed), because it's all about his personal obsession with catching the cult leader, settling the score and being successful in what he's supposed to be doing; in a word, it's all about him. But Ballard's motives are also questionable - he may think he's being noble and altruistic and simply trying to beat the bad guys, but there's certainly a strong hint (which the next episode, The Man in the Street, makes explicit, though that's complicated by the fact that it's put into words by Joel Mynor, a morally problematic character who has a reason to try to paint everyone, including the guy trying to arrest him, as morally not much better than himself) that a large part of Ballard's motivation - even if he may not be conscious about it - is his fantasy/desire to play the part of a heroic white knight who will save a beautiful damsel in distress. If someone had sent him a picture of Victor instead, would he have been as ardent in his pursuit of the Dollhouse?

    I also like the way that Echo easily slipped from being Esther into being Echo when the moment required it, including a very non-Esther like "Move you a$$!". I think we're getting enough hints, in these moments in each episode - as to who Echo is as a person: proactive, resourceful, no-nonsense, quick to react, and with a natural instinct to not just defend herself but protect other people, not because she wants to be a white knight, but because it just comes to her naturally. We see some of that in her relationship with Sierra and Victor, too - she is starting to act almost like a big sister to them.

    On another note, what is it with Fran Kranz always getting to utter these hilarious euphemisms for erection? Although in Cabin in the Woods, Marty was ironically quoting/using the "husband's bulge" expression, while in this case, it's another sign of what a manchild Topher is.

    But yes, whatever merits or non-merits of the first 5 episodes, The Man in the Street is leagues better, and it's here that the show really gets free of the episodic nature and starts following its arc. It feels almost like a second pilot, with not just a number of plot developments, but something like Joss' mission statement. The interspersed and very different comments of 'people in the street' point out to to the themes that Joss originally wanted to explore with the show. The idea for the show originally came to Joss and Eliza during a lunch, when they were discussing what she does as an actress - slipping into various roles and pretending to be someone else, then slipping out of them - and the general idea that people, often unconsciously, use other people to live out their fantasies, or try to fit other people into their fantasy roles. Or even try to fit themselves into certain fantasies and roles - tropes, you may say. The people interviewed by the TV reporter offer a number of views and ideas on the issue. There's the fact - undeniable fact - that what Dollhouse does is basically slavery and human trafficking. But there are also insights as to why people may find the idea of Dollhouse appealing - as we see several people admit that they would perhaps love to use a doll, if they could, or even to be a doll. The idea you could live out your secret fantasies without having to suffer any consequences (like that bi-curious guy who would clearly love to have a gay experience, but only if the other guy forgets about it and he never has to confront or be afraid of being found out) is pretty appealing to a number of people. And maybe the, apparently shocking, view of the young woman who thinks being a doll is awesome, is not so surprising, if you take into account how often people can't stand having responsibility, and how often and how many people are ready to give up their freedom so they wouldn't have to be responsible for their actions. Which also connects to the other theme that one of the interviewers brought up - how much we're all 'programmed' and brainwashed by the media and the culture to want certain things.

    These themes are also reflected in Paul's story. This episode makes it blatant what had previously been hinted - that Paul may be, to quite an extent, driven by a white knight fantasy/obsession with Caroline (Echo). Is it a coincidence that Paul starts a relationship with Mellie so soon after his conversation with Joel Mynor? Maybe his words got to him, and he wanted to prove to himself that his quest is not about a romantic fantasy. Maybe he wanted to prove he can 'live in the real world' and have a real relationship with a girl next door, rather than chase an idealized image of a woman he doesn't really know. But the twist is that the sweet, loving "girl next door" who has been by his side and waiting for him to notice her devotion and respond to her feelings, is in fact not real, but also a deliberately constructed fantasy. While the person who sent him Caroline's photo and information may have deliberately used the white knight savior/beautiful idealized damsel fantasy to manipulate him, the Dollhouse has manipulated him, too, by using the "girl next door" fantasy.

    The fact that there are so many Dollhouses all around the world and that it's a part of a widespread, influential business - and that even people in authority as high as US senators are using its services - may explain the lack of investigation into it/reluctance and sabotage of any attempt at investigation, and the lack of certain public knowledge about it (i.e. why it's seen as just an urban legend). If it is such big business/a powerful multinational corporation, it's not surprising that there is a widespread hush-hush job about its existence.

    But the episode also hints that there is some other, bigger purpose behind all this, and that - unsurprisingly - the Dollhouse technology is not just used, or is not just going to be used, only for the purpose we've seen so far. And that's something we'll learn a lot more about in the rest of the show.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Firstly, I think that this episode is miles above previous episodes in terms of plotting, dialogue and characterization – there are some really sharp scenes. And instead of the monster-pervert-of-the-week, we get a connective-tissue feel here as the plots start to converge and connect in ways that weren’t clear from the original set up.

    And it's really a brilliant example of the difference between a good writer and a great writer - amazing how the same characters who were mired in Dullsville start to come alive in dramatically compelling ways under Whedon's hand. A textbook example, really, of the difference between writers who are trying to shape their work to corporate standards and a real writer who has other fish to fry.
    I would agree with you generally that Joss is a great writer while some others from the Dollhouse writing staff are just good writers, but in this case, I don't think it's really the reason why this episode is so different from the previous ones. Joss also wrote 'Ghost', the first episode, and that episode was just all right. From now on, he will only be credited as a writer for one more episode - the season 2 opener - and that episode is actually one of the weakest/least interesting in season 2. (He also gets credit for episode 13 of season 1, but only story credit, not teleplay credit.) I would say it's much more about the show finally getting free of the network constraints and starting to do its own thing. As mentioned before, it was the network that insisted on the 'assignment of the week' format.

    It will be interesting to see all your comments about the original pilot, 'Echo', once we get to it, since that may answer some of the questions about what the show would have looked like if it had gone all in from the start.

    Speaking of network demands, I've also heard that Joss and the rest of the writing staff were originally planning to have the show feature 'dolls' of more varied ages (i.e. older people as well) and body types - which I think would have been a good idea, because it stands to reason that some tasks and scenarios would involve them (I mean both all the non-sexual assignments, but and even when it comes to sex, not everyone has same tastes and fantasies) - but the network insisted that all dolls should be young and hot.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
    Eh, not really. Yeah, the Dollhouse itself is exploiting people, using them and violating them. It's a 5 year slavery. But there's a difference in the extent and the nature of the abuse, and it's easy to see why someone like DeWitt can make a difference (yes, even in the moral sense) and draw a line and say "this is as far as I can go" (like, say, hit men who have a 'moral code' and refuse to kill children, or something like that). There are two things that differentiate what Dollhouse does in general and what Hearn did:

    1) DeWitt can reasonably say that the people the Dollhouse is using as dolls have signed up for it - because, well, it's true. It doesn't make it all right that the Dollhouse is using people's desperation and lack of options to make them sign up for 5 years of slavery, but they do sign up for it, and must have a reasonable idea what that would entail. They did not, however, sign up to be sexually abused by their handlers while in the blank/childlike doll state.

    2) When Sierra or Echo or Victor are imprinted and go and have sex (and other things, like emotional/romantic stuff or socializing stuff) with Joel Mynor or Miss Lonely Hearts or whoever, the person they are at that moment is not suffering pain and trauma, they're happy in real time - even if it's an artificial happiness brought about by their programming. And afterwards they forget, or at least that's the idea. But when Sierra is in a blank doll state and Hearn abuses her, she is clearly suffering, just as an abused child would, as seen in her reaction when Victor touched her.

    The only thing that Hearn is absolutely right about is that they should have seen it coming that things like that would happen and should have taken precautions if they cared about preventing it. Well, the latter was not really his point. But "we're all morally corrupt and doing bad things to people, so that gives me an excuse to do whatever I like and do even worse things" is a bullshit excuse.

    The twist with Mellie being an active was actually not as effective to me as it could have been if it wasn't, as it was happening, actually almost boringly predictable. I mean, let's think about it, this is a Joss Whedon joint, it would be much much more surprising for her to just have been murdered in service to Ballard's story arc, right? The subversion of a trope can be a trope of its own, can it not? If anything, it also seemed to be revenge not for the rape per se, but like Hearn learning hard not to mess with Dewitt's stuff (because again I will never given an iota of credence to her moral protestation on this subject -- having non-consensual sex is all these men and women do while in her employ).
    Well, for starters, "Mellie not being fridged" does not equal "Mellie being a doll". I could have predicted the former, but certainly did not predict the latter.

    Secondly, if "deconstruction of a trope is a trope in itself", the difference is that that "trope" is a really good one.

    Thirdly, if you're trying to say that deconstructing a trope is more predictable and boring than playing a really old, tired trope straight... LOL, nope.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Ha, okay, so just me that was surprised by Mellie then.
    Nah, I was surprised by that too when I watched it for the first time. I'm pretty sure most other people were, too.
    Last edited by TimeTravellingBunny; 19-03-17 at 04:55 PM.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

  33. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to TimeTravellingBunny For This Useful Post:

    American Aurora (19-03-17),Clavus (19-03-17),Stoney (19-03-17)

  34. #38
    What? KingofCretins's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Big Honkin' Castle
    Posts
    13,715
    Thanks
    234
    Thanked 3,906 Times in 1,843 Posts

    Default

    I am simply saying there was no surprise whatsoever that she wasn't killed. Despite a very well done setup, with juxtaposed tragic classical music, the obviously-too-late breathless running, the mid-season game-changing character death chance to the genre savvy viewer, there was no way because that will simply never happen in an ME production, so any suspense was... tenuous at best? Eyebrow raising surprise at her being an Active, maybe, although looking back I might have found it slightly more compelling if she consciously worked for the Dollhouse as a plant and just blew a hole in Hearn? Because they don't use Actives for everything, theoretically, due to expense and supervision and exposure risk (although the show is wildly inconsistent on just how rare, precious, and unexpendable Actives are from this point forward). Tropes Are Not Bad and Tropes Are Not Good. Just saying that like any good psych experiment or slot machine could tell you, variable rate of reward or random occurrences are more compelling. Every now and then you might need to play what would otherwise be a tiresome trope straight just so that not only does risk to a character like Mellie appeared to be feel more real but ALSO so subverting it still feels like an accomplishment elsewhere. I mean, on "Buffy" or "Angel" it was still occasional enough that the innocent waif was straight victim and not monster that you could always remember how much it mattered that Buffy isn't, or that Darla wasn't. In this moment, though, there was no danger to Mellie to believe in no matter how hard a sell they made.

    I think Paul did try to "prove" something to himself, but all of that felt very plot driven, including him being frail of mind enough to second guess his motives because the one identifiable Dollhouse victim that was dropped in his line of sight happened to be a smokeshow. I mean, Dollhouse, right? This is going go mostly involve hotties, right? Is it really believable that it is even a valid premise that he could only be pursuing this so hard because of ulterior omgeliza motives? Or that a schmuck like Mynor would glean it?

    Banner by LRae12

  35. #39
    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    562
    Thanks
    3,642
    Thanked 2,829 Times in 565 Posts

    Default

    KingofCretins:

    Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
    Yes, that is completely true. But I also think that one can see it from a quite cold and calculating point of view: Whether a doll is raped or not is of little concern to the firm - the real crime is taking personal initiative in an organization where secrecy and loyalty is absolutely necessary in order to protect their cover in the real world. If he's so emotionally weak that he decides on his own initiative to rape a doll today, who's to say that he won't be selling their secrets to the FBI tomorrow?

    So I think there's a level of disgust here that's predicated upon the outrage that any employee at his security level would work outside of the strict orders of the Dollhouse and go rogue on his own for any personal reason at all.

  36. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to American Aurora For This Useful Post:

    PuckRobin (22-03-17),Stoney (19-03-17)

  37. #40
    Slayer TimeTravellingBunny's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    5,786
    Thanks
    5,572
    Thanked 4,716 Times in 2,229 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    I am simply saying there was no surprise whatsoever that she wasn't killed. Despite a very well done setup, with juxtaposed tragic classical music, the obviously-too-late breathless running, the mid-season game-changing character death chance to the genre savvy viewer, there was no way because that will simply never happen in an ME production, so any suspense was... tenuous at best? Eyebrow raising surprise at her being an Active, maybe, although looking back I might have found it slightly more compelling if she consciously worked for the Dollhouse as a plant and just blew a hole in Hearn? Because they don't use Actives for everything, theoretically, due to expense and supervision and exposure risk (although the show is wildly inconsistent on just how rare, precious, and unexpendable Actives are from this point forward). Tropes Are Not Bad and Tropes Are Not Good. Just saying that like any good psych experiment or slot machine could tell you, variable rate of reward or random occurrences are more compelling. Every now and then you might need to play what would otherwise be a tiresome trope straight just so that not only does risk to a character like Mellie appeared to be feel more real but ALSO so subverting it still feels like an accomplishment elsewhere. I mean, on "Buffy" or "Angel" it was still occasional enough that the innocent waif was straight victim and not monster that you could always remember how much it mattered that Buffy isn't, or that Darla wasn't. In this moment, though, there was no danger to Mellie to believe in no matter how hard a sell they made.
    Well, let's say that All Tropes are Not Created Equal. Some tropes are indeed worse than others, in my opinion. Stuffed in the Fridge/Women in Refrigerators is one of my least favorite tropes. Now, it's not that you can't make it work under some circumstances - but this really wouldn't have been such a case. Not only would it have been an instance of an old and tired and very annoying trope - it would have also been needless and badly done. They would have introduced that character and given her screentime over multiple episodes just to kill her off immediately after having hooked up with Paul for the first time, just in order to... what? Motivate him to fight against Dollhouse? He's already motivated and has been doing that. Show that the Dollhouse people are evil and ruthless? We know that already. So that would have made that narrative choice and Mellie's arc in general completely pointless. It would have looked like they wanted to fridge her just for the sake of it.

    Now, while this could have made a viewer, especially a longtime fan of Whedon's works, suspect that Mellie will not be killed by Hearn (though I don't know how much time a viewer has to think about all the narrative implications when they're in the middle of watching an episode), I don't think that this is likely to immediately lead to the conclusion "Oh, so Mellie must be a doll, and DeWitt has set up Hearn to be killed" before the revelation happens. If you had guessed it, kudos, you're extremely perceptive, but I don't think most people would. There were lots of potential scenarios that did not involve Hearn killing Mellie. She could have managed to defend herself - sure, it's not super likely that an ordinary untrained woman would be able to kill a man with a background as a cop sent to kill her, but it's possible, people can do amazing things when the survival mode sets in, and they can also be lucky - and Paul did, after all, believe that Mellie did manage to kill her attacker without having any kind of training. Or she could have managed to avoid getting killed long enough, and Paul could have arrived in time and killed Hearn and saved Mellie. Or, to make her more active, Paul could have arrived, got into a vicious fight with Hearn, and then Mellie managed to find a way to kill Hearn or help Paul kill him. Or, Paul could have managed to subdue and capture Hearn, and then interrogate him and find out things about the Dollhouse.

    And even if you guessed that Mellie was a doll 5 minutes before it was revealed, I don't think that makes it a bad twist. There are great twists in various fiction works that I totally did not see coming, but there are also great twists I was starting to suspect or guessed shortly before the revelation, but it didn't make me think "oh, this is so lame and predictable", instead it just made it satisfying because it was logical, worked as a narrative and made the story a lot more interesting, which is exactly why I was able to tell it somewhat in advance. And the twists that did come as a 100% surprise also aren't always good - some are great, when you can look back and see how everything makes sense and works in retrospect; others are... not so good, when you think "well, you sure got me by surprise, but I don't think this actually makes that much sense in the retrospect". This is especially the case with twists that are there just to be twists and make people surprised and shocked, without any other narrative purpose.

    I think Paul did try to "prove" something to himself, but all of that felt very plot driven, including him being frail of mind enough to second guess his motives because the one identifiable Dollhouse victim that was dropped in his line of sight happened to be a smokeshow. I mean, Dollhouse, right? This is going go mostly involve hotties, right? Is it really believable that it is even a valid premise that he could only be pursuing this so hard because of ulterior omgeliza motives? Or that a schmuck like Mynor would glean it?
    No, I don't think that the premise is that he could be only pursuing it because he has the hots for Caroline. I don't think that one could even claim, just based on him pursuing it, that he even has the hots for Caroline, or that he has a white knight syndrome in general. And Mynor could have just been shooting in the dark, trying to bring Paul to his level.

    But the show has been hinting throughout that Paul does have a fixation on Caroline that's romantic, and that a fantasy about being a white knight to Caroline is one of the things driving him, even if it may not be conscious. (It's not like he's actually thinking "I'm going to save her, and she'll fall in love with me".) We've seen that in the way his scenes with Mellie are structured, with the 'love triangle' aspect (Mellie as the girl next door and Caroline as an idealized, distant figure Paul wants to save), and the way Paul slips and talks about wanting to save "her" rather than "them".
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •