Spoilers for Friday night's "Dollhouse" coming up just as soon as I go out for coffee...
When a network sends out a bunch of review episodes of a show but skips over one in the middle, it either means the missing episode wasn't close enough to completion to send out (due to F/X work, or reshoots, or other post-production issues), or else it wasn't very good and the network doesn't want critics factoring it into their judgment. "Stage Fright" was the only one of the first four "Dollhouse"s that I didn't see in advance, and now I understand why.
Even more than the pilot and all its plausibility issues, "Stage Fright" illustrated why this maybe isn't a great concept for a long-term series. It's frustrating enough when we have to follow Echo on a mission when she has no idea who she really is, but this one added an additional layer of self-deception: Echo not only doesn't know that she's really Caroline, but she doesn't know that she's really there as the singer's bodyguard. I felt even less connection to her than I usually do, and as the episode kept the supporting cast off-screen even more than before, I found myself wondering why I was watching a bland psycho-drama about a generic Rihanna/Beyonce wannabe. Other than isolated moments -- Eliza Dushku showing she can sing, Tahmoh Penikett reminding us that he can kick ass -- it was a chore to get through.
Dushku's been promising that the show gets much better with episode 6, which jibes with what Joss Whedon told me in our interview. And certainly, "Dollhouse" wouldn't be the first sci-fi show -- or Joss Whedon show -- to need a little while to get its footing, or just to get past that lame "Let's repeat the pilot five or six times in a row in the increasingly unlikely event that new viewers are sampling the show for the first time" phase. So I'm not giving up yet. But it feels like there are much deeper problems at the foundation of this series than there were with, say, "Angel" or "Journeyman."
What did everybody else think?