Friday, April 03, 2009

Dollhouse, "Needs": Caroline says

Spoilers for tonight's "Dollhouse" coming up just as soon as I mentally run through the roster of the 1992-93 Knicks...
"We're good people. Nice people. We help people become better people by giving them what they need." -Topher
"You murder people. You gut them and use them as playthings." -Caroline
I want to start off this week with an exchange Joss Whedon and I had on the conference call he did to promote the miraculous healing powers of "Man on the Street," but which applied to events from this episode that troubled me:
Am I interpreting correctly that when Sierra goes to the see the man she says is responsible for putting her there, that basically he kind of sold her into the slavery with the Dollhouse?

More or less. I wouldn’t even say sold, so much as kidnapped. Her situation is by far the worst of anyone’s. How complicit the Dollhouse was in that, how much they actually knew about her past, we don’t go to in the episode, but what actually happened to her is just as appalling as anybody’s story.

Because one of the things I hear from people who may have been a little bit reluctant to get into the show is what they call “the ick factor” of the premise. And Adelle tries to argue in that episode that most of the dolls are there voluntarily and they’re doing a good service for them by wiping out these other memories. But knowing that this is possible for at least one of the dolls, does that continue to make the show uncomfortable maybe?

I don’t know, maybe. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not going to lie. But for me, it’s part of what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with people who have power and are abusing it and people who don’t and are trying to regain it. And in some instances, we want to show the Dollhouse and in the instance of November, I think (it) is providing a service... And then in other instances, that is going to be abused and the ick factor gets very high. It seems to get high with Sierra quite a bit, I’m sorry to say, poor girl. She really gets put through it. But it’s not something we feel that we can shy away from without being a little hypocritical.
It's that line about "how complicit the Dollhouse was in that" that's the key to deciding how I feel about "Needs" -- and, for that matter, about "Dollhouse" as a whole.

It's already become quite clear that the Dollhouse itself is an abomination. The revelation of how Sierra wound up as a doll simply confirms that reality. Even if every other doll is someone like Echo or November who needs to forget their old life for a while as much as they need the money, even if Sierra is somehow the only slave in the bunch (which I doubt), that's still one slave too many, and shows how easily and horribly the technology could be abused. And someone at the Dollhouse is complicit in her slavery; whether it's Adelle or someone higher up the food chain has yet to be revealed.

But if it is Adelle -- and based on what we've seen of her recruiting both Caroline and the science student from last week, it appears she handles intake for all the new dolls -- well, then everything she tells Caroline in the final scenes is a big, fat, disgusting lie, and it once again brings us around to the idea that this is a show where we're spending most of our time hanging out with despicable villains. A commenter last week tried to parry that charge by pointing out that plenty of great shows like "The Sopranos" have been told from the point of view of pretty monstrous characters. In response, I wrote:
I would argue that there's a significant difference between "Dollhouse" and, say, "The Sopranos." "Sopranos" was structured in a way that you saw the world almost entirely from the viewpoint of the bad guys (even Melfi became morally complicit after a point), and while you saw examples of the people they victimized, they weren't the centerpiece of the show the way that Echo is. It'd be like watching a version of "The Sopranos" where the main character is Tracee the stripper -- only perhaps even worse, because it would be a Tracee who has no idea how Ralphie's abusing her.
And if you look at it that way, "Needs" was interesting because it showed us Tracee (or, in this case, Caroline) briefly regaining self-awareness and doing everything she could to bring down the bastards who did this to her.

What made "Man on the Street" seem like such a promising new direction for the series was the way that it shifted the focus away from Echo's missions and onto Agent Ballard's quest to bring down the Dollhouse, while at the same time reminding us of why the place needs to be brought down. "Needs" continued in that vein, and if it wasn't as strong as "Man on the Street," Caroline's growing realization of what this place was, followed by her one-woman attempt to bring it down, was fairly inspiring, and leaves me feeling good about where the show might be headed for the rest of this season.

My concern, though, is that, after getting a Ballard-heavy episode a few weeks ago and one tonight where Caroline's personality (if not her memories) returned, the show will have to get back to the Dollhouse at least attempting business as usual again, and I don't really want to watch more episodes where the only people who really know what's going on are Adelle and Topher and Mr. Dominic.

And I'm not sure how I feel about Boyd and Dr. Saunders at this point. After previously implying that Saunders might be the mole who reprogrammed Echo two weeks ago, the episode ends with the revelation that Saunders was the architect of this exercise in self-awareness, as an attempt to get the four problematic dolls to stop glitching. You can read that two ways: Saunders as a good soldier in the organization like Topher, or Saunders trying to make the best of a horrific situation and at least keeping these four from being sent to The Attic (whatever that turns out to be).

Boyd, meanwhile, is obviously no saint, or else he wouldn't be working here, but he's generally been shown to care more about the dolls as people than anyone else. But there was enough ambiguity in his discussion of Sierra and Nolan after they retrieved the dolls that has me wondering if he, too, knows exactly what the relation between those two is. It's one thing if he believes the line of BS from Adelle about the Dollhouse as a purely altruistic outfit, but if he knows the truth, then he's just as bad as the rest.

And in looking back over what I wrote, I feel like I'm all over the map on this episode, in part because of information that's hinted at but not made clear. I still feel like the show is heading in a much more interesting direction than in the early done-in-one episodes, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to overcome that ick factor without a significant change in format or point-of-view.

What did everybody else think?

43 comments:

james said...

The first 5 or so episodes suffered from execution-pretty terrible scripts (plot content & dialog) and acting. The last 3 have been a much needed improvement.

I don't want more poorly executed stand alone episodes like the first five.

I want to be moved forward. I felt like they hit pause on the Dolls while Ballard will play catch up.

Aside from his search, I enjoyed the fleshing out of relationship dynamics between Boyd and the Doctor.

I'm kind of disappointed they hit pause on the Dolls. I resent they did that.

Stealth said...

"Sopranos" was structured in a way that you saw the world almost entirely from the viewpoint of the bad guys

Funny, that's precisely why I stopped watching The Sopranos after three seasons, because it became entirely about awful people being awful to each other. I didn't care about a single one of them.

Viewing Dollhouse as you say, I find its perspective much more interesting.

Hoosier Paul said...

Alan, I agree that at the very least, this show seems to be headed in a more interesting direction.

What concerns me is that as interesting as this show is, the concept doesn't seem to be sustainable over the long-term.

Structure-wise, the villains are our main characters. As long as Agent Ballard keeps getting closer to the truth, that creates an interesting tension. But how long can you keep having Ballard get closer ... closer ... still not there ... moving forward with the case ... closer ... still hasn't quite cracked it ... and so on. After a while he just looks like an incompetent buffoon.

I could see this show running for two more seasons of 12-13 episodes each, or one more season of 22 episodes, before Ballard/Caroline/Mysterious Mole bring the Dollhouse down. I think the concept is just about sustainable over that period of time. But unless there's a major paradigm shift (or two or three), I couldn't see it going much beyond that.

Mica said...

The thing that bothered me the most on Needs was Caroline. I don't like her. I don't like her personality. Echo's (specially when she's glitching) is better. I wouldn't mind if Caroline never returned, but unfortunately she will some day.
What I ask is if after those 5 years the Dollhouse will really release them. (and if they did, will their memory be intact?)

I don't have a problem with Sierra being there against her will. I don't think all of them were jumping happily into Dollhouse. They were trapped and that was their only (and if not only, maybe the best) chance.
Dollhouse isn't a good place. Definitely not. But I like the people working there. AS I alredy told you on other oportunities I don't see them as monsters.

Marc Mason said...

As I watched tonight, I was struck by the thought that #dollhouse would have worked much better as a short serial of maybe eight-to-ten episodes from the start, with the ultimate goal of Ballard bringing down the L.A. house and saving Echo/Caroline being at the center of the plot. And if they had gone this route, they still had a world full of houses and an evil corporation to deal with for future seasons.

I hope they can keep up some momentum and get Ballard back deeply involved before it's too late and the potential the series had is completely gone and wasted.

Zack Smith said...

The "plan" in this episode made little sense to me. I didn't see the Actives getting that much closure. In Sierra's case, it just revealed how much of a victim she was. This might well be one of the most victimized characters on network TV. Make something good happen to her, Whedon!

With the "Nolan" character, there's finally someone on this show I want filleted more than Topher.

Quite liked seeing Topher forced in the chair, but I wanted him to at least learn something from this experience. Like Nolan, I have a sense that demented little freak will be even more sadistic next time he's with an Active.

Did Ballard tearing his apartment apart remind anyone of Gene Hackman in THE CONVERSATION?

Ballard's dream reveals him as kind of a freak.

Perhaps there is more to Caroline's backstory than we've seen -- in being on the run from the evil corporation, all sorts of bad things might have happened to her. Perhaps she became a killer, lost part of herself. But the overall implication is that she was just captured by the Dollhouse for messing with their stuff, and last episode certainly implied that they broke her down. That's not volunteering!

I'm only going to buy this premise if it's firmly established that Caroline was not a good person, and that she felt she needed the Dollhouse. That creates a more interesting three-act arc for her, with Act One as Carolina, Act Two as Echo, and Act Three as whoever she evolves into over the course of the series.

I'm treating this as a one-season show, as I do with...well, almost all new shows I enjoy, but I really, really hope we get some closure, or sense of movement toward closure, by the finale. And that Alpha goes all Reaver on Topher. Or possibly Nolan? Please?

Forrester said...

The most interesting thing about Dollhouse is that I have absolutely no idea where it's heading. There is no path here that we are supposed to follow.

Every TV show or movie has a main goal/plot. It's usually pretty clear. The BSG people wanted to find Earth. The Lost people want to get off the island. Dorothy wanted to follow the yellow brick road to get out of Oz.

With Dollhouse, we really don't know what that goal is yet. We barely even know who the good guys are. Normally, I'd hate not knowing but in this case it is actually kind of neat.

fgmerchant said...

I doubt we will return to the type of episodes from when the show started. From what I understand, the show is now out of network executive hands, and I would like to think that we won't get shafted anymore.

The Doctor seemed to HOPE this would work, but I doubt the closure will actually give any closure. I get the feeling they will keep glitching, but not for a few episodes. The next few episodes will probably focus more on Ballard's renewed search, and him "coincidentally" running into some other dolls.

Jennifer said...

Loved it. Was riveted. Was incredibly frustrated when the reset button was hit- but then again, aren't I supposed to be? That said, yeah, I don't want to watch another "Dollhouse as usual" ep either after this.

I think how I'd like to see this go is to have Echo/Sierra/Victor/November get freed and LA Dollhouse gets taken down in episode 13. "Next season", if such a thing were to exist, which it is not, would have Ballard and the ex-Actives working together to take down some other Dollhouse, or the entire system.

A question about the military names: MIKE is one? Really? That threw me off. I thought that was his real name that he remembered.

I loved seeing the other Actives's real personalities. Victor seems to be an NYC agent/cop, sports-loving guy who nevertheless still remembers and loves Sierra somehow. The two of them together just well...yeah, shipper tendencies kicked in. I posit that Victor was probably recruited a la Caroline, i.e. "did something bad" and "voluntarily" went in. November probably did too- the baby thing, wow. (Though really, not even a last name for the kid on the tombstone?) As for Sierra/Maria...what someone else said about filleting there. That poor girl.

I liked seeing the title finally kick in. I do not understand worth a damn why some kind of sleepy knockout chemical put into their brains would go off once they got "closure," but I did like seeing them get it, such as it was. It did seem like a good way of temporarily pacifying them even if there wasn't a sleepy drug in there.

I continue to think that Adele and/or Saunders is the mole. Both of them have something fishy going on below the surface in this one, big time.

Jenny said...

I see where you're coming, Alan, when it comes to the issue of whether we really want to be watching a show about fundamentally horrible people. However, I'm not sure I feel the same way. And like you I'll wait for more of the story to unravel before I make judgment -- for instance, I think DeWitt will become far more nuanced as time goes on; already, I think Olivia Williams has lent some shading to the character that may not have been on the page.

@Jennifer, Mike is indeed part of the phonetic alphabet (see here). There are a few other letters that have analogs that can pass for ordinary names -- Oscar, Juliet, Romeo and to a lesser extent India. I imagine we'll meet them all eventually.

@Mica, I don't share your antipathy toward Caroline. I don't think she's meant to be a purely likeable character by any means (and in fact I don't think any character on this show is), but I'm interested in how her innate autonomy will continue to fight back against the programming. Right now I'm getting the sense that she was an activist whose dogma and, perhaps, terrorism backfired in a big way. We'll see.

On a more fannish note, I definitely enjoyed the Sierra/Victor aspect of this episode; I really have come to love those two actors.

And returning to the topic of unlikeable characters, Topher is still really obnoxious. He's like first-season-Buffy Xander and I hated that guy.

Byron said...

I got really excited that we might finally be done with the Dollhouse proper and it's yawn-inducing missions, but sadly that wasn't to be. I continue to maintain that the structure of this show cannot, stand, with only a few people retaining memories week-to-week and no ability to pull together groups of main characters for Whedon-style banter. I never, ever want to see another mission episode.

BigTed said...

The problem I've had all along, which isn't going away: This isn't a bad show. It's a high-quality, mildly interesting show, made by talented people.

But those talented people should be doing something else.

There's nothing else to be learned here. The lessons about the dangers of technology have been done by sci-fi writers for years. Whoever it turns out is really running the Dollhouse, and whatever their grand plans for domination of the world and the human spirit turns out to be -- all that was done, better, in "Brave New World" and "1984" half a century ago.

Meanwhile, we have plots that are becoming predictable. (Did anyone really not know that the Dolls' recovering some memories was no accident, right from the beginning of this episode?) And there's no definitive ending that could come of the series. Even if Echo and her fellow Dolls overcame their oppressors, the technology is out there -- it's like a horror movie that could always have another sequel.

Other people might say, "Well, if you hate it that much, why do you keep watching?" Once again, I'll say, it's not so bad -- and the reason is that it's made by very talented people, starting with Joss Whedon, who should be making something better.

Number Five said...

Only eight episodes in and Sierra is the Miles O'Brien of the Dollhouse! It works the other way too, when you remember the episode where the aliens gave him decades of fake prison memories.

Zack Smith, that did remind me of The Conversation! In a deleted scene, Ballard picks up his sax and plays mournfully. I was also reminded of The Prisoner episode, one of my favorites, where Number Six actually escapes the Village only to returned there at the end of the episode.

The main problem was to fit the story in, they had to really finesse the concept of closure. Mellie/November's story worked the best. Echo's I could buy because we've seen enough to know that for two years bringing down the Rossum/Dollhouse nexus was her obsession (although it's kind of fortunate for Adele that Echo relaxed before they were even out of the parking garage). But Victor didn't need closure about that civilian dying/military operation we saw last week, he just needed to smooch the woman he's subconsciously attracted to? And Sierra's version of closure was hearing her original tormentor brag about everything he had done to her? Furthermore, the Victor/Sierra romance shouldn't play as sweet, it should play as a another kind of creepy.

I did like, though, that they showed why someone who join the Dollhouse. All the money in the world and a clean criminal record don't justify losing free will and five years of your life. But being able to wipe a memory from your mind that's so traumatic you can't bear to live with it? That's the real benefit, and explains at least some of the volunteers.

I think the additional insight we got this week was that the Dr. Saunders has a heavy conscience but stays out of a sense of obligation towards minimizing the Actives' pain. Boyd is protective of Echo, but was narrow-minded about the closure plan, not realizing what the overall goal was to do. Certainly they're both compromised just by being there, but I don't think we saw any fundamental changes to them (unless Boyd knows about how the Dollhouse got Sierra, in which case I agree with Alan). Saunders' telling Echo "I can't help you IN HERE" seemed to highlight her as the mole.

Maybe a better throughline would have been to make it MORE like Alias. In the pilot, the mole or Alpha sets it up so Echo can retain some of her memories/personality, and she has to figure out what's going on and how to stop it while pretending to be an Active. Initially I liked the setup because of how unconventional it was, but I agree that it's quickly becoming difficult to tell stories besides "Mission of the Week."

Charles III said...

I like the storylines with Helo much better than the storylines featuring Echo.

My problem with the show is that the main character is a blank slate who takes on new personality with every episode. How is it possible to have character development when this is the case?

The only way to fix this, in my opinion, would be for Caroline to permanently regain her identity and be on the run, perhaps with Helo. (I know his name isn't Helo, but I like calling him that!)

I don't think I'd still be sticking with this show if it wasn't Joss Whedon. This is by far his weakest show and is a huge decline in quality from the brilliance that was Firefly.

miranda said...

Didn't they say something about Alpha becoming what he/she is because of a similar type of glitch that escalated before they found out about it? I'm thinking that Saunders helped with this whole plan also because of her own need to make sure the glitchy models won't end up being like Alpha and slice her face up. I do hope to find out more about Saunders.

But I'm not sure how interested I can get watching either Alpha, Echo/Caroline or Ballard tear down Dollhouse unless we get to see a glimpse of the bigger picture behind Dollhouse. As Alan mentioned, there's the ick factor. I'd like to know/understand at least what the probably evil minds are working towards behind all this ultra expensive hired help/hitman/hooker that I can't imagine is all that profitable, what with the technology and all the supposed huge payoffs for each active after 5 years, not to mention glitchy models that barely get things done in the first place.

I guess, what I'm trying to say is that, Dollhouse Corp. itself isn't interesting enough outside of the 'oooh, we have slaves here, and cool technology stuff to make money. Oh, and we're evil.'to be a good Big Baddie. I have no feelings (again, other than the ick) towards any of the staff members, which I hope would change soon enough.

Anonymous said...

I think the first season is going to end with the downfall of this Dollhouse but like they said, there are 19 other Dollhouses still operating so the rest of the series will probably be focused on the fight to bring down the rest of the organization led by Caroline, who will regain her personality and her memories by the end of the season. She will be freed of the name Echo and will be her own person.

Shaun said...

I agree with Stealth that the Sopranos is about awful people being awful to each other, the only difference is that I kept watching.

All I care about in a drama is that I find the characters interesting. I don't need to root for any good guys in order to keep watching.

I also agree with Hoosier Paul's opinion on how long this show should go on. When I read Whedon had a "5 year plan" I was totally puzzled as to how this show could go on that long.

James said...

For the past few episodes (basically ever since they mentioned the idea of compositing), I've begun to suspect that the show may evolve into something akin to Incredible Hulk, where you have Echo (and possibly a few other Actives), plus maybe Ballard on the run from the Dollhouse, using the myriad of skills from the various personalities to help people. Basically, we're watching an extended "origin" story about how these people have all these skills.

If they did this, it would allow them to heavily focus on stand-alone episodes where they're helping people, and suddenly we'd be able to have some measure of character development.

I almost think they have to do this, because I agree with those who feel that the current premise can't really sustain itself long-term. The audience needs to have a hook character, and since nearly every character with a growing personality (minus Ballard) has shown themselves to be some measure of a scumbag, I don't think that character is there yet.

They could totally do a case-of-the-week if they shift to an on-the-road show, with the larger mythology of taking out the Dollhouse, plus you'd have the action of Actives being sent against them.

On the downside, they'd have to lose most of the current cast for this to happen, of course. What's the point of Topher if they're not being imprinted all the time, for instance?

Still, they may surprise me.

A Nonny Mouse said...

Even if every other doll is someone like Echo or November who needs to forget their old life for a while as much as they need the money, even if Sierra is somehow the only slave in the bunch (which I doubt), that's still one slave too many, and shows how easily and horribly the technology could be abused.

This comes close to how I feel about the Dollhouse at the moment. My guess would be that the whole thing is somewhat analogous to the situation on Miranda in Whedon's film Serenity (the planet where 99% of the population of the planet had been made docile, and the rest were Reavers) - i.e. even if the people doing this believe themselves to be doing good, they are (as Mal put it) working under the belief that "they can make people better. And I do not hold to that."

Anonymous said...

The Sierra story bothered me beyond my normal viewer comfort zone. But worse, for some reason, was the reset of the characters.

Now that they've gotten their "closure", each one is more a victim than ever. Any progress towards escape, towards establishing themselves as anything other than slaves, has been lost.

Who is there to root for then? Victor, who no longer cares that Sierra goes to sleep peacefully? Sierra who doesn't remember that she's regularly brutalized and no longer aware that she's a slave?

I deliberately leave out Echo. I have a strong distaste for Caroline.

arrabbiata said...

The past few episodes have definitely been more interesting, enough so for me to keep watching it for a while. Still not sure how long they can extend the series. A series mentioned by an earlier poster, The Prisoner, managed only 17 episodes covering a lot of the same territory before McGoohan and the producers felt they had exhausted all the possibilites of the concept. Number 6 may have been more aware of his situation, but like Echo, he was at the center of a massive international conspiracy, always monitored on video, and occasionally brainwashed (combinations of drugs and hi-tech machines) into assuming new personities/realities. Not to mention that it was difficult for him (and the viewers) to decide who, if anyone, was on his side.

Another series that Dollhouse makes me think of sometimes is Dark Angel. That show also featured an organization with major financial and technical resources and an army of attractive young adults with artifically enhanced skills. As some earlier posters have suggested, the focus of Dollhouse could shift to a plotline where the actives work to take down the organization, the way that Max and her friends were looking to expose and/or destroy Manticore.

What would help me get into this series more would be if I actually cared about any of the characters. So far that hasn't happened. For now I'll settle for curiosity about the mysteries surrounding the Dollhouse, but if that ceases to be interesting, I'll probably find something else to do with that hour each week.

SR said...

This episode was my favorite to date, by a considerable margin.

The awakening scene reminded me a bit of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." Once they began their escape, I felt for the first time that I could really relate to the dolls, with the possible exception of Dushku who I continue to find sadly miscast. I'm a lot more interested in Victor now, for one, than I ever was when he was a Russian mobster, or a doll with hard-on in the shower.

The story played out with a couple of twists I didn't see coming, including the introduction of a truly nasty piece of work in Nolan. I can't remember another isntance in which an actor was able to build up so much audience hatred in so little screen time.

I was a bit disappointed that we had a loaded gun pointed at Topher for so long yet missed the chance to see him taken out of our collective misery. (Topher's assistant Ivy is the mole, right?)

Plus, I have a soft spot for any script that can name-drop Mookie Wilson.

Count me among those really, really don't want to see a return to straightforward mission-based episodes next week.

DJ said...

My guess is that Topher himself is the mole, and that the reason we always see him sending the assistant off on menial errands is that she's the only one who could catch him altering the programming to create all of these "glitches" in his attempt to take the Dollhouse down. Alpha was his first attempt, but went horribly wrong, so now he's going about it differently.

Or maybe I'm just hoping that's true because it would mean the character's insufferability is a clever ruse and the producers don't expect me to find him charming.

Though I have to admit I've only seen a smattering of "Sopranos" episodes over the years, I agree with Stealth. I don't think the fact that the show made the villainous characters sympathetic at the expense of their victims somehow makes it morally superior to "Dollhouse." If anything, I give "Dollhouse" credit for managing to create that level of discomfort. I don't really think we're *supposed* to identify with the characters.

Except Echo and the other dolls, of course, but for whatever reason, I find Echo/Caroline hard to like. It would be much more compelling if Sierra were the heroine of the show.

LFL said...

As far as the comparison between "Dollhouse" and "The Sopranos," I thought "The Sopranos" was almost flawlessly executed - beautifully written, shot, acted and directed -- but the fact that it focused only on the bad guys and not on their victims made it feel soulless to me. I couldn't keep watching after season 3 either. If only it had focused on people like Tracee the stripper me, I might have found it to be a transcendant show.

"Dollhouse," on the other hand, isn't anywhere near as well acted, shot, written and directed as "The Sopranos." It does, however, have soul.

At the moment I am still watching. Whether or not I will continue to depends on how much its technical aspects continue to improve.

Karen said...

I don't think Sierra's closure was confronting Nolan, or she would have passed out immediately after leaving his apartment. And I don't think Victor's closure was unclear, either. Those two passed out immediately after kissing each other. Given Victor's growing attraction to Sierra, even when in his completely wiped state, I've got to assume there was some relationship between the two of them in their pre-Dollhouse existence, and that that kiss meant something more to them than the culmination of their sympathetic attraction during the Experiment.

Nolan was truly loathsome, a true sadist--that final "Now it will be even better" was simply chilling. But I have to say I was happy to see that actor, Vincent Ventresca--I loved him in the short-lived series "The Invisible Man."

I'm confused about Mike's participation in the Experiment. Had he been glitching, too? Or was he "revived" simply to be dragged away in sight of the four real glitchers, in order to strengthen their resolve?

Tracey said...

This show is beginning to make me think of Spike Lee's Bamboozled. I picture Joss in a room full of FOX executives, pitching good story ideas, all of which are rejected. Then, in an attempt to get FOX to leave him alone, he proposes the most outrageous thing he can think of: a house full of mind-wiped prostitutes. And FOX loves the idea, and now Joss is stuck making it.

The interview excerpts Alan posted here seem to support my theory. Joss calls Sierra's backstory "appalling" and admits that parts of the show make him "uncomfortable."

Toby O'B said...

I think the Dollhouse is going to have some serious staff problems once word gets out that they let one of their own security agents get knocked out by an Active. (At least, I don't think Victor killed the guard.)

Ewww - word verification is "bortion"....

Anonymous said...

Ballard bringing the dollhouse down? is that what you´re looking forward to? that´s ridiculous, this show is very complex and ambiguous, is not good versus evil, caroline is not a helpless victim dominated by monsters...
the show discusses issues that should be conected to our own lives, like how much free will do we actually have? are we self-aware? how many times we become diferent persons to please other people? joss said something like ' how much is real and how much we project or imagine"...
this is a Joss show folks, remember angel, on its fifth season angel had not defeated wolfram and hart but became the "boss" of it. It´s likely that Ballard or even self-aware Caroline will end up working for the dollhouse.
I would like to see the dollhouse grow bigger instead of going down, and I also thinks Adelle has a good purpose to what she´s doing underneath the surface

Anonymous said...

Ballard bringing the dollhouse down? is that what you´re looking forward to? that´s ridiculous, this show is very complex and ambiguous, is not good versus evil, caroline is not a helpless victim dominated by monsters...
the show discusses issues that should be conected to our own lives, like how much free will do we actually have? are we self-aware? how many times we become diferent persons to please other people? joss said something like ' how much is real and how much we project or imagine"...
this is a Joss show folks, remember angel, on its fifth season angel had not defeated wolfram and hart but became the "boss" of it. It´s likely that Ballard or even self-aware Caroline will end up working for the dollhouse.
I would like to see the dollhouse grow bigger instead of going down, and I also think Adelle has a good purpose to what she´s doing underneath the surface

Anonymous said...

BigTed -- talented people? Umm... for God's sakes one of the writers worked on Bionic Woman! How is that a sign of talent.

Charles said...

I am about to give up on this show.

I've only kept up with it because it's Joss Whedon. The only interesting character is the FBI Agent.

If I don't find the next two or three episodes to be compelling, I'm done.

Francis said...

I think a compelling direction for the show would be to require a cognizant Caroline/Echo to "share" her mind with imprints to battle the other Dollhouses. The advantages of the programmed personalities is too great to ignore, and would do a lot to explore the nature of identity that Joss seemed to have such a craving for.

It'd also make the good guys worth following, for a change.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how disappointing this show turned out to be. the missions could have been much more interesting than gross forced prostitution. eewww. I don't know if a stronger actress for Echo and a more realisitic Topher actor who wasn't too young and annoying would have made a difference. I give up on this show.

W said...

I could probably enjoy the 'mission of the week' format. I've enjoyed several in the past that used that format. Quantum Leap is the closest that comes to mind. But I enjoy them a lot more with some sort of over reaching plot to tie them together.

We've been getting a little characterization each week. They're building Caroline through the flashbacks, though I can't say I like her all that much so far. I get the feeling that Caroline joined up with the Dollhouse partly to get out of the legal trouble she was in for sabotaging the lab, but I think being able to forget that she caused the death of her boyfriend type had a lot to do with it.

I suspect we'll be getting some back story on some of the other actives from her 'pod' now as well. Sierra has some story that's aching for resolution, and we haven't seen anything at all about Victor yet.

I think Ballard is also a lot deeper in this than has come to light so far. Have they said how he came to be aware of the Dollhouse? He was already on the trail in the pilot, and he didn't get the picture of Caroline until recently.

Alan Sepinwall said...

In the pilot, they said Ballard was assigned to the case -- a long-standing FBI joke of sorts -- as punishment for taking several previous cases too far.

Anonymous said...

I think the ick factor is all intentional - we should be horrified by what the actives are being used for, and we should be horrified with ourselves when we start empathizing with the Dollhouse management, solely because they are the only ones with personalities.

And I too think Topher is the mole - both because Whedon couldn't bear to have the smart aleck character be the most hated, and because his joining the rebellion solves the logistical issues of Echo & whomever getting new skill sets in their operations against the Dollhouse organization once they go free.

james said...

My brother thought of a way the show can last 5 seasons. This Dollhouse is ultimately turned against the other Dollhouses by the head lady and it's sole mission is to destroy the corporation and its maintaining Houses.

That'd would be pretty sweet if that occurred.

hobbs said...

I assumed that the horrible thing Caroline was trying to forget by volunteering herself to the Dollhouse was her boyfriend getting shot and killed in her flashback of the botched lab raid during "Echoes."

At this point, I began to consider that, perhaps, Caroline volunteered herself, not to forget, but to get inside the Dollhouse in order to take it down as an of act revenge - both a brash and bad idea.

By the way, do any of these actives have any family? If so, aren't they looking for them?

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"What I ask is if after those 5 years the Dollhouse will really release them. (and if they did, will their memory be intact?)"

They had a chance to address this when Echo/Caroline was asking Topher how long she'd been there, but the script chickened out of telling us an actual figure. If he'd said, say, six years, that would have had some heft to it.

Anyone else notice that Eliza Dushku has less and less to do as the show continues?

Linus said...

Hi Alan, thanks for sharing that interview excerpt. Regarding this being a show where most of the characters are terrible people: I noticed on second viewing of "Needs" that when Boyd and Saunders are talking near the end, Boyd says, "And Echo, she wanted to free us all." Is it weird that he used the word "us"? Does this mean some or all of the Dollhouse employees are not working there by choice? Would this be consistent with the information so far?

Peter said...

I'm with those who think the "5 years" is blowing smoke. If the House really did plan to release the actives back into the general population at some point, why have an Attic? Why not just let them go early? I also assume with all the work the Dollhouse has to do to erase any traces of the actives' pasts, it would be nearly impossible to let them resume their previous lives.

Also has anyone yet raised the possibility that Ballard may actually be Alpha? (Notably he seems to have no family, close friends or any other connections to a deep past, and a fairly odd obsession with Caroline and the Dollhouseg). And would that twist just be too ridiculous if true?

SF said...

Alan--thanks for sharing your interesting ideas.
I appreciate your discussion of the "ick" factor, and I think the comparison to the Sopranos is very appropriate. I have to say that I am with Stealth and LFL and think that a view from Tracee the stripper's point of view is a very good change of pace.

I like the way LFL put it that viewing the Sopranos from the POV of the powerful feels soulless. We sure do see a lot of that in films though.
The view from the POV of the weak FEELS "icky". Shouldn't violence feel icky? The fact that it often doesn't feel bad in films and TV seems to me the problem, not that fact that in this show it does feel creepy.

I read a lot of complaints about the interview bits from Man on the Street, but I thought they did a nice job of bringing across that idea.

James--I love that idea of this Dollhouse turning against the other Dollhouses. It would be sweet!

shiagi said...

I think viewers these days are very spoilt and like to be treated stupid by having everything spelt out for them on the get go or we have grown very lazy.

I was aware that the beginning was very slow but as a Whedon fan I fully trusted that every detail in that show had a purpose toward a bigger picture.

Much like Huxley's 'A Brave New World' this television show explores an interesting social topic that should make the viewer think more deeply about their personal and social morals and ethical viewpoint and not solely as a piece of mindless entertainment. (I get enough of that from Gossip Girl and, a guilty pleasure of mine, Smallville).

Yes, the show gets 'icky' but never distasteful and it still shelters the viewers somewhat from the harsh realities of life. There are people out there right now who don't have the luxury of wiping their minds clean of traumatic experiences due to exploitation of some grievous kind.

As the show continues to develop, Whedon's world becomes clearer and the lines between good and evil get blurred. I feel there is a bigger story here than just the characters. They are just a tool to expose human fallacies. I personally do not think it wise to dwell too much on whether we like a character or not. It is still early days and as this is such a new topic for a tv series, I think we are still feeling out our own ethical viewpoints and the show doesn't make it that cut and dry (which is what I love about it).

If we had not seen the first few episodes and instead jumped right in, would we fully understand the world of the actives? The stage needs to be set before the story unfolds. Otherwise we miss nuances and character development.

I have come to trust Whedon in creating unique worlds in which to explore human behaviour. Every show so far I have seen of his have been unique and adventurous by todays standards.

I feel there are far too many crime dramas (of which I watch plenty aslo) and we are losing a lot of unique shows such as Pushing Daisies and Kyle XY and Whedon's Drive has also suffered the cancellation bug.

I find Whedon so refreshing and stimulating and I hope he finds a way to publish his works where he will never be at the mercy of networks again.