Confession time up front: about a third of the way into the episode (right after Jordan Bridges kissed Echo), I lost all patience in the A-story and started fast-forwarding through all of the scenes with Echo, Victor and the dead client's family.
Earlier this week, Mo Ryan published an interview with Joss Whedon where he had this to say about "Haunted":
The next episode, "Haunted," is a standalone. It's a quirky little piece with a lot of guest stars. I'm a little nervous about it. I think Eliza's great in it. But I'm wondering, are people going to go, "Now wait a minute, [where's the mythology]?" But it was my decision in the middle of all this [i.e., ongoing stories] to say, "Wait a minute, we can't just be about our own mythology. Let's try this other thing."I agree with Whedon's point that the show needs to be about more than its mythology. But the problem is, so far, the mythology is the only part of the show that's interesting. Eliza Dushku isn't a versatile enough actress to disappear into these roles the way the script demands, particularly on an episode like "Haunted" where the character is so far outside her usual range of characters. And an episode like this requires us to care about a whole bunch of characters we've never seen before and will never see again, and in the short period before I gave up on it, the script was just dumping tons of exposition on me.
Maybe it got better as it went along. But once it became clear that this story was going to have little to no connection to the larger Dollhouse world -- that, in fact, we wouldn't even see Echo herself at any point -- it became way too easy for me to take advantage of the DVR buffer and just skip ahead to scenes featuring the rest of the cast.
And even there, it was really only the increasingly dark Paul/Mellie scenes that grabbed me. Paul having an actual doll living across the hall and playing at being his girlfriend is both a great situation for him, in that he's finally getting some evidence and support at work that the Dollhouse exists, and awful, in that he has to act like everything's normal in a situation that disgusts him. Paul taking Mellie up on her offer to “give you what you need and let you take it from me” and having some angry sex was about the ugliest scene of the series so far, and well played by Tahmoh Penikett.
Topher turning Sierra into his ideal birthday playmate wasn't as amusing as I think it was intended to be, because I find Topher such a repugnant, annoying character. (Though I did at least appreciate that it seemed to be an entirely platonic thing, and that he wasn't taking sexual advantage of Sierra in the way so many other men do.) And the Adelle material didn't really work because the early expository scenes undermined the idea that this woman was a close friend whose death really upset her.
We're back to the mythology next week, so hopefully the season's final two episodes will be more along the lines of the batch we got before this one. But if the show's going to come back next year, either the paradigm needs to dramatically shift, or the execution of these standalone stories needs to be more interesting.
What did everybody else think?