"This is a bad place." -PaulPeople ask me sometimes why I'm so paranoid about spoilers, and/or why I scold people so often about the No Spoilers rule. An episode like "Briar Rose" is why.
"Bad people, maybe. Good place." -Stephen Kepler
Through the course of my travels across this series of tubes we call the internet, I inadvertently found out that "Firefly" alum Alan Tudyk had been cast to play the mysterious Alpha, and around the same time, commenters on the blog tried talking about the Tudyk casting whenever someone would ask if another character (usually Ballard) was really Alpha. I shut all that down, but I couldn't un-learn the fact itself, and I spent a good portion of "Briar Rose" saying to myself, "I wish I didn't know that Tudyk is really playing Alpha." As the word suggests, it spoiled me of the pleasure of experiencing the episode in general, and the surprise twist in particular, the way Joss Whedon, writer Jane Espenson and company intended.
Even with that reveal ruined, "Briar Rose" was still one of the stronger "Dollhouse" episodes to date. Tudyk was terrific in both his personas(*), the Ballard/Boyd fight was as viscerally exciting as every previous fight involving Tahmoh Penikett, and the final moments -- both Ballard coming face-to-face with DeWitt, and Alpha casually executing his plan -- have me very eager to see next week's finale.
(*) I really wish, though, that we had gotten to see him switch from one character to the other. I know it's a performance either way, but I always love that moment in movies like "Primal Fear" where Edward Norton will switch back and forth on a dime.
Beyond that, there were some nice smaller flourishes, like how well Enver Gjokaj was able to evoke Reed Diamond when Victor got imprinted with Dominic's personality, or the obvious despair in Mellie when she realized she couldn't fulfill the mission (to make Ballard love her) she'd been programmed for.
I'm glad we only spent enough time with the abused girl to set up the climactic moment. As discussed last week, Echo on a mission just isn't inherently interesting, both because Eliza Dushku's a limited actress (though this played to her strengths more than most) and because they're asking us to invest in a brand-new character (or many characters) each week, without enough time to make that work. I am, however, confused about two things: 1)Who's paying for that mission? Does the Dollhouse do pro bono work? 2)How exactly did Topher get a map of this girl's brain? The previous episode established that you have to go in for a bunch of painful brain scans over a period of months to create a proper imprint template. How/why would they do that with this girl in the foster care system, particularly someone who's been through enough pain already?
Whatever problems "Dollhouse" has had over this season, Joss always gives good finale, so I'm very excited to see next week's episode, especially since I have no idea what'll be happening in it.
What did everybody else think?