Friday, September 25, 2009

Dollhouse, "Vows": Who am I this time?

Spoilers for the "Dollhouse" season two premiere coming up just as soon as I think about Fozzie Bear...
"My whole existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest. What do you suppose I should do?" -Dr. Saunders

"We are lost, but we are not gone. Will you help me?" -Echo
I had initially planned to do a full column review of the new season of "Dollhouse," but time and space limitations during Premiere Week meant I eventually ended up combining it with my "FlashForward" review in one long column. By doing that, and therefore by focusing on the structural links between the two - that "FlashForward" has an excellent premise and iffy execution, while "Dollhouse" has the opposite combination - I had to leave out the larger point I would have made in a "Dollhouse"-only review, which is this:

What "Dollhouse" is about theme-wise is fascinating, and what "Dollhouse" is about story-wise is only sometimes interesting.

What episodes like "Man on the Street" and, especially, the unaired "Epitaph One"(*) showed was that the dramatic meat of the series wasn't in Echo's missions, or even in Ballard's attempt to take down the Dollhouse and save Caroline, but in those much larger questions of identity, and of the moral implications of being able to erase a person and make them into someone else entirely.

(*) The "Epitaph One" world was originally going to be revisited in this episode, but Joss Whedon said those scenes were cut for time, and he's not sure exactly when this season he can get back to them. If you missed them over the summer, you can read some of my concerns about how the show will deal with the non-airing of such an important episode in the grand scheme of things here and here.

So Echo's undercover assignment for Ballard in "Vows" didn't do a whole lot for me - even if Jamie Bamber's guest appearance, alongside Tahmoh Penikett, made for another "Battlestar Galactica" smackdown between Apollo and Helo - until Bamber started smacking Echo around and inadvertently brought her prior imprints back to the surface. It's easy to get on Eliza Dushku for having a more limited range than the part calls for, but I thought she did a very good job in that scene, both as her undercover FBI agent character was trying to convince Bamber, and then after her brain went haywire again. And her kung fu fighting character from "Man on the Street" is always welcome.

But really, there was a lot of treading water in that story until we got to the climax of that mission, and then to Echo telling Ballard in the Dollhouse that she remembers all of her personae in some way. (I still don't quite understand, or care, why Ballard was so invested in using Echo to bring down this guy, nor why DeWitt indulged his desire to do so.) Echo retaining her old imprints, and Ballard becoming her handler, were both revealed in "Epitaph One," but those moments were still well-played, and compelling as part of the larger "Dollhouse" world.

The highlight of "Vows," though, was the Dr. Saunders storyline. Because the fate of "Dollhouse" was very much up in the air last spring, Amy Acker signed on to do ABC's midseason show "Happy Town." So she'll only be in 3 of these first 13 episodes, though Joss said on a conference call last week that those three "will be extraordinarily memorable," and "Vows" certainly qualifies.

Saunders' struggle to accept that she's really Whiskey - and that she'd rather stay Dr. Saunders then "die" by going back to her true identity - was really well-played by Acker, and the sort of story that typifies "Dollhouse" at its best. Eliza busting out kung fu moves or Dichen Lachman in a Jackie O pillbox house are fun and all, but where "Dollhouse" really gets gripping is when it's asking these existential questions about identity and the soul.

Of course, it doesn't hurt if these questions are being asked while a half-naked Amy Acker is trying to jump Topher's bones to mess with his head, which made the scene sick and funny even as Saunders' story was getting darker. And I should say that, between "Epitaph One" and "Vows," I'm coming to not hate Topher quite as much as I used to. I still don't think Fran Kranz is as funny as Joss and company think he is (or want him to be), but having the show more overtly question the morality of the Dollhouse - and making Topher have to hear and absorb those questions - he's becoming less of a wacky sociopath and more of a tragic figure. He's worked so hard and so fast proving he was the smartest kid in the room that he's only now coming to realize he should have slowed down to ask "Should I do this?" before he asked "Can I do this?"

A few other thoughts:

• Victor's face is healing, which means he'll be back on assignments soon (and which explains why his face is fine in "Epitaph One"). And there's a good explanation for why Saunders hasn't had her own scars repaired.

• One early part of the undercover story that I liked: the editing of the sequence where Ballard sublimates his feelings for Echo by working out while she consummates her marriage to the arms dealer. As DeWitt puts it later, "Fighting crime by listening to Echo have sex - it's terribly noble."

• Another Whedon alum joins the proceedings, with Alexis Denisof as the mysterious Senator Perrin, who somehow knows about the Dollhouse and is publicly angling to shut it down. Hmmm...

• This is the first episode at a standard length for a network drama, as opposed to the 50-minute "Remote-Free TV" cuts that "Dollhouse" and "Fringe" got to make do with last year. Joss said last month that he was relieved to not have to fill so much time each week. The downside, though, is that at the 50-minute length, I imagine they could have made room for the "Epitaph One" stuff.

What did everybody else think?

43 comments:

Maxed Out said...

This is still so uneven. You are right in that I totally don't care about the storyline with the arms dealer. I have never watched BSG, but the guy who plays the husband is like out of some 80's show. In fact, I don't even care about the Paul/Echo angle. They don't have real chemistry together. Paul/November at least were more interesting. The best characters are Adele and Whiskey. We are going to miss Acker although I think I totally don't understand the Topher/Whiskey angle. He made her to challenge him, but did they have some sort of relationship before? Why would he make his smell horrible to her?

This show seems a lot like the later shows of last season. Uneven and I just can't love it, but enough interesting moments to get me to watch a bit with some fast-fwding on the dvr. I bought the Season 1 dvd and found that I could only really watch a couple of the episodes all the way through.

MattB said...

I enjoyed the episode, mostly for the Topher/Saunders stuff, but maybe I was just happy to be seeing a new episode.

I thought it was REALLY interesting that there was a total lack of "in case you're new to Dollhouse..." introduction for new viewers.

And then I had to come here and read two pieces of bad news: about Amy Acker and the lack of Epitaph One seasons. Should I read your comments to mean that we won't be seeing Epitaph One-related scenes at all this season? That's quite the letdown after all of the comments about them this summer.

Rachel said...

"What "Dollhouse" is about theme-wise is fascinating, and what "Dollhouse" is about story-wise is only sometimes interesting."

Exactly. When Dr. Saunders was on screen, I was riveted. Topher and Sierra, too. Boyd and Adelle? Awesome. But two seconds on Echo and Ballard, and I was falling asleep.

It didn't hurt that the engagement-of-the-week had plot holes so large and gaping I could drive an exploding car through them. Either Joss Whedon needs to make a show that doesn't need these stupid monster-of-the-week plots, or MAKE THE PLOTS NOT SUCK.

Tom M said...

As a whole I liked tonight's episode. I hear the many criticisms, some valid, of this show, but I think the reason I keep coming back is for, like you said Alan, the "big" questions and moral dilemmas the show presents. So because of that, I'm willing to put up with standalone stories that are sometimes weak or uneven in service of getting to those larger moral questions.

Couple of points to either counter or add to what you said... I think the reason Ballard chose Echo as his "instrument", so to speak, goes back to freeing Millie/November. He played his trump card at the time, essentially, and chose to free her, but I'm sure he still feels an obligation to free or help Echo/Caroline and so a closeness or familiarity with her "evolving" skill-set serves him in that regard. As far as why DeWitt would indulge him, that, I hope is gonna be one of the fun chess matches for the forseeable future. Ballard has leverage over her, unless she chooses to just kill him, which she said tonight she'd prefer to avoid. If she's not gonna take him out though, then it again serves his interests to try and push the boundaries to see what he can get away with.

Also loved the Topher/Whiskey stuff. I think Topher's great, but I have kind of a cracked worldview, so maybe that says more about me. The way I read the exchange between them is that Topher is someone who, by the very nature of what his job is, can't have fear, can't ask himself moral questions, can't be wrong. When Alpha composited, that represented Topher's greatest failure to date, and to guard against another, he built himself a check or a safeguard in the new Saunders/Whiskey. Topher's still free to be Topher, but he'd be challenged and questioned and accountable and forced to stay sharp. You could kinda see the "what hath God wrought" moment cross his face as they talked and you could see the beginnings of what he becomes in "Epitaph One", loved it, interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

"What "Dollhouse" is about theme-wise is fascinating, and what "Dollhouse" is about story-wise is only sometimes interesting."

I also agree, but I think part of the problem is that, based on interviews from when Joss originally conceived the show, it always sounded like he was most excited about the fact that Eliza could play a different person every week and that every episode could be something totally different. I don't think he thought about the greater implications of the Dollhouse technology until later (or, really, Amy Acker would have been a regular from day one) and I think those parts of the show aren't always serviced by some of his original ideas (namely Ballard and Echo.) And while the themes of identity, morality, and the implications of the Dollhouse technology are definitely the best and most interesting parts of the show, I'm still not sure they're enough to build an entire series around.

Myles said...

I wrote a big long review on why, but suffice to say I agree with your thoughts Alan - by so focusing on the ramifications of the technology, the premiere kept me engaged and excited for what's to come.

What worked best with the episode for me was how they focused in on what each actor could do best: Echo's attempt to define not only her own identity (Caroline) but also being able to isolate all of the other identities floating inside of her is by nature categorical or mechanical, which Dushku can handle. Saunders, meanwhile, has that more compelling and human storyline of trying to deal with one life (not human life, but life nonetheless) planted inside of her. One doesn't know who she is (blank stares are Dushku's speciality), while the other is terrified about knowing all too well and not knowing whether to trust it (which Acker nails out of the frakking ball park).

Throughout the episode, you could see the shift being made: rather than focusing on the ethical ramifications of the Dollhouse's operations, we're leaning more to the side of research (Senator Perrin's objection, after all, is not with the Dollhouse but with the withholding of the research results which stem from the Dollhouse) and the ramifications of the technology on a wider scale. It's a welcome shift that allows for a transition into "Epitaph One"-style stories, which although difficult to maintain considering its complex position in the narrative at least promise to be riveting.

William said...

Shows like this have to balance the simple episode to episode plot and long-term plot in order to hook viewer while moving a larger story. I just saw Epitath One today after watching tonight's episode. I was very impressed with the long-term vision.

I don't know how they're going to best move that along. It's a similar problem to the one Alias had. Advertise as "hot chick plays dress". Deliver weak contrived episodic scenarios but promise a complex intricate long-term vision.

I'm more interested in the fact they basically turned Echo into a version of Rogue from X-Men.

meopta said...

It still has the rape problem. The Dollhouse style Rohypnol is going to have to be repudiated for the show to really soar. It can't be "Wow, this is so unethical... hey, it's time for someone to climb on Echo or Sierra's stalker ex to get another shot!" I give it some credit for Topher recognizing the rape problem. I've long felt that the imprint he used on Sierra for his birthday is actually Whiskey's original self.

At the end, it felt like they were trying to go back to the dynamic set up in Alpha (and destroyed in Omega) but with Ballard in the renegade role. The Dollhouse has destroyed Ballard - they made him a rapist via Mellie, then he made himself a pimp via Echo, so if it's back to the shattered couple fighting to overturn the system I suppose he'd qualify by now - but it's not as strong as Alpha and Echo were.

God, this is such a frustrating show. There is so much to hate about it, but these tiny things here and there (Acker's amazing) keep me watching just one more. I can't even say it's enjoyable. I want it to be something else, and it could be, but I don't think it really wants to be.

Kensington said...

For all its faults, Dollhouse remains one of the most provocative shows on television right now, and I don't mean that to be a backhanded compliment -- I'm truly fascinated by what's going on and hoping that Fox gives Whedon as much time as he needs to tell this story through to its natural end, wherever that may lead.

I'm really glad that the first script of the season was written by Joss, too. Over the Summer I forgot about the details of how Ballard and Adele came to be working together, and it was nice how skillfully Joss's script get everyone back up to speed through some judiciously casual exposition.

As for the problems, the biggest one for me remains the unfortunate fact of Miss Dushku's lead. I'm a big fan and supporter of hers, but it's hard to deny that every other woman on this show acts circles around her. Even in her brief appearances, Dichen Lachman effortlessly brought into stark relief Eliza's limitations.

Again, though, I don't want to be too harsh on Eliza. She's very talented. Her performances as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (particularly during season 3) were compelling, and even endearing. I just think that Joss is mistaken in his belief that she can carry the kind of weight that Dollhouse bears on its lead.

If her co-stars weren't as terrific as they are, this could have been a much more serious problem, but they are, so maybe it isn't.

Henry said...

Amy Acker owned both the scene with Boyd. I thought that would be the only one she would have, but she then owns the scene with Topher.

And on a somewhat related note, WHO TURNS DOWN AMY ACKER?!

Number Five said...

What "Dollhouse" is about theme-wise is fascinating, and what "Dollhouse" is about story-wise is only sometimes interesting.

Yes! And double yes to the Saunders storyline being the most compelling. Amy Acker was amazing, seeing the despair seep in even as she tried all sorts of what Boyd (perhaps unfairly) called excuses. Glad she will be able to appear again despite joining another show as a regular.

Mostly the show has focused on the crimes that happen to the people who sign up for the Dollhouse, but what about the composite personalities? As Saunders pointed out, Whiskey recovering her original self would mean the death of the Saunders personality. Morally, is that murder if the personality didn't exist before Topher created it (making him a God not just metaphorically...nice Frankenstein footage too) Is there really a big difference between a long-term Doll like Saunders and one of Echo's templates? Is the self-awareness enough?

Yeah, the main story was pretty mediocre, even if they pretended that Ballard and Echo worked on it all summer to make it plausible. To me Jamie Bamber was the weakest member of the main BSG cast, but he was fine here as the generic arms dealer. Perhaps another data point for Alan's natural accent theory?

Hard to tell how much Fox will try to order changes the way networks tend to do with low-rated shows. The revised credits sequence (fewer dreamy inside-the-Dollhouse images, more Dushku action and cheesecake shots) and increased use of indie pop on the soundtrack are not promising, but they're minor. The main thing is, will they push for more stand-alone engagements or realize the first part of last season was a mistake?

DeWitt and Ballard's motivations towards each other make sense, although it's in the Dollhouse's interest to keep at least a sliver of daylight between him and Echo. Ballard is certainly in the muck now - he might have apologized at the end of the episode, but he still used Echo in a stunningly selfish way - everything from working out his unresolved arms dealer problem to living out the fantasy of her as his tough-talking FBI partner. The other handler might have been a chump, but he was right that Ballard was the customer.

BigTed said...

It was interesting how they seemed to be trying to get around the ickiness of Echo having sex in one of her doll personas by making the persona a tough FBI agent who sees sexual role-playing as part of her job -- as if that somehow put her in control of the situation. But since she wasn't actually that FBI agent, it was still gross.

And from a dramatic point of view, it seems unlikely that the Ballard of last season would have allowed that to happen, much less set it in motion. And it's hard to see him suddenly being so morally compromised that he's becoming a part of the Dollhouse's operations, even if he thinks that somehow he can save Caroline that way.

belinda said...

My thoughts haven't really changed much - on the one hand, I'll continue to watch this show until it goes down in flames because it is Whedon and I have yet to be disappointed by a project of his. On the other hand, as interesting and provocative as the ideas and themes of the show are, when it comes down to actually watching the show, save for a few episodes, it still feels like a chore. There were some good scenes, but I'm not thrilled with the execution of the premise yet. I'm still not sure how much I like (or am interested enough to care about) some of the characters, so I hope to see the show get it together like Whedon shows do as the season moves along.

Amy Acker is fantastic and I think I will sorely miss her when she's out because she makes a lot of the scenes work because it's her. I have no idea how they'd fill this hole. And she's making me like and interested in Topher, which is a great feat given I spent much of last season finding him insufferable.

And obviously seeing Lee and Helo duke it out was amazing and fantastic and wonderful. Man, I miss BSG.

Karen said...

It was interesting how they seemed to be trying to get around the ickiness of Echo having sex in one of her doll personas by making the persona a tough FBI agent who sees sexual role-playing as part of her job -- as if that somehow put her in control of the situation. But since she wasn't actually that FBI agent, it was still gross.

Dear God, yes. Indefensible, in fact.

jbroyer said...

i agree with the critisism about the "engagement of the week" I liked the story but there was too much left unexplained. Even with the plot holes i am ok with it though because of the cahracter momments and development. Especially this week with Whiskey and Topher. Amy Acker continues to show what an underratted and underused actress she is.




If we remember Buffy/Angel there were a lot of bad monster of the week eps but why were those show a succesc? because of the character momenst and building that heppened in between even if it was just a quick moment here and there.




So after digesting the episode over night i give the premier a thumbs up for finding its voice a little and setting up a mythology that i hope will continue to draw us in.




remember Season 2 Buffy/Angel is right when it started toa ctually get good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kensington that Dollhouse is one of the most provocative shows on right now. I think some of the critcism aimed at it stems perhaps from the fact that the show stubbornly sits in a morally ambiguous and even morally corrupt space and doesn't try to redeem its characters in a neat and easy way.
Watching last season's second half and this new episode, particularly in light of Epitaph One, I'm struck by how unique this show is, even by the standards of cable television. I appreciate the fact the Whedon does not treat the women with kid's gloves as objects of pity or victims. We as viewers (and it seems increasingly some of the characters) have to sit and deal with the discomfort of watching a woman have sex with someone she really doesn't know or even get hit (as in this episode with Ballard and Echo). I think in this sense the viewers' feelings of ickiness is precisely because Whedon doesn't give us easy redemption or condemnation, as they do, for example, in a show like House where he verbally is abusive, responsible for someone almost dying, but no fear, by the end of the hour, you won't have to feel anything even remotely approaching moral ambiguity.
I appreciate that in this show and I really hope the show doesn't go down that road of moral comfort in order to make it "easy" viewing for the audience.

Andrea said...

While I love this show, I'm growing less and less interested in the A-plots. Eliza can't really carry the show, and Ballard's interest in rescuing Caroline seems creepy, selfish and morally suspect. (Maybe this is Joss' point, since there are no white knights in the Dollhouse universe.)

Amy Acker's scenes (with Boyd and later with Topher) were so heartbreakingly complex and resonant —this is the heart of the show and where it truly shines. Her presence will be very much missed.

All in all, this episode was a total crap shoot. The truly excellent mixed with the bad. Way to call your girl power cred into question, Joss. Everyone took a shot or three at Echo this week, but hey! it's all okay because her kung-fu personality resurfaced in time to save the day! Whee! Or not. Dispiriting to say the least.

Hatfield said...

I feel like I'm one of the few who just likes the show, without feeling like it's a chore. No equivocating, no raving about the larger arc while panning the engagements--I just like it. I don't know what that says about me, and it certainly isn't meant to be a shot at anyone else, but I feel like everyone is too hard on it.

I caught up with the show on DVD after it was renewed, and also because I discovered at my reunion that a high school classmate, Miracle Laurie, was in the cast. By the end I was completely invested, even if I didn't care as much about the week to week stuff as the mythology. A little sad that Mellie/November is gone, but Adele flashed her picture so maybe she'll float back into the universe. I also don't despise Topher as much as Alan and others do/did. Don't necessarily like him, but I at least feel for him a bit (and how perfect is it that he sleeps with the servers?).

I see the ratings weren't good, so maybe I should just shelve this until DVD time again, but after seeing "Epitaph One" I want very badly to see how the show gets to or avoids that future.

spectralbovine said...

He's worked so hard and so fast proving he was the smartest kid in the room that he's only now coming to realize he should have slowed down to ask "Should I do this?" before he asked "Can I do this?"
This is it exactly! I was trying to explicate this last night, and you nailed it.

Alf said...

Adele said Echo had three years left on her contract, which I think was a five-year contract. So did two years pass in the first season?

Ira Glass interviewed Joss earlier this week; you can hear it here (826nyc.org).

Kensington said...

Well, the conventional ratings are most likely never going to be great for this, but hopefully Fox will continue taking into account time-shifted viewing and general interest. That played a big part in what convinced them to order the second season in the first place, right?

Charles said...

BigTed said:
It was interesting how they seemed to be trying to get around the ickiness of Echo having sex in one of her doll personas by making the persona a tough FBI agent who sees sexual role-playing as part of her job -- as if that somehow put her in control of the situation. But since she wasn't actually that FBI agent, it was still gross.

Karen replied:
Dear God, yes. Indefensible, in fact.

I think that's part of the point. Paul Ballard, someone who is a relative "good guy" in the show, effectively put Echo into that situation -- someone he supposedly is trying to "save."

I think the episode shows the whole Paul Ballard/Echo dynamic as somewhat twisted (at best) on Ballard's part.

On a meta-level, I think "Dollhouse" also tends to implicate the viewer as a part of the exploitation. In the show, woman (and men) are exploited but there are claims by the Dollhouse that they help people, and that the dolls are protected and aren't hurt.

As a viewer, you see that woman are being exploited visually (look! skimpy outfit! hot chick on a bike! near-lesbian near-kiss!), but it is supposedly in the interest of some higher purpose. As a viewer, you are a part of the system that promotes as rewards that kind of exploitation, even as the show seems to claim to be subverting that system.

I think "Dollhouse" is trying to put one into an uncomfortable, uneasy place that makes one think. Whether it's successful and whether the ends justify the means are open questions.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who feels the weekly plots are too disjointed, don't forget that Echo's 38 new friends are coming along on her engagements from now on. That should make things interesting.

FoundNemo said...

Did anyone else notice the links this episode established with the past and the future? Adelle unthinkingly strokes Victor's face--a reflex from happier times? Topher mutters "I know what I know", arrogantly now, his tragic mantra in the future.

Stellar Drift said...

*loL* Amazing how hysterical people can be over this "its gross" "its indefensible" - she agreed case closed.

The problem with the show is too much focus on two 'actors' who can't really act (and unfortunately one of them is a producer, so unlike to get lost)

Matt said...

After sitting through her portrayal of Abigail Williams in a pretty awful high school production of "The Crucible," I wasn't convinced that Amy Acker would ever amount to anything. This episode definitely proved me wrong.

Still not sold on "Eliza Dushku, brilliant actress," but this brought the funny in a way the show hasn't before (the Topher stuff at the start worked as comic relief in part because he also got some heavy lifting with Whiskey) and much more solid all around.

Karen said...

*loL* Amazing how hysterical people can be over this "its gross" "its indefensible" - she agreed case closed.

Well, as the person who wrote "indefensible" I'm not convinced that my reaction was hysterical. I don't think nose-wrinkling "ew"-ness counts as hysteria.

But I'm curious about your point: who is the "she" you refer to?

Kensington said...

Karen wrote:
"But I'm curious about your point: who is the "she" you refer to?"

Well, if the "she" he referred to is Caroline, I think he's got a point. We still don't know all the details of her agreement to join the Dollhouse, but I've been working under the assumption that she understood that being an Active would put her in sexual situations.

If I remember the small glimpse we got of Caroline in the pilot, she wasn't happy about going to work for the Dollhouse, but I still don't see any evidence that actual coercion is used to recruit dolls.

So, for me, it's still an "ew," but I don't think it's quite as indefensible as some of you do.

Ostiose Vagrant said...

Every network show in television history has had to tread water through the first half of the season. That's what everyone watching Lost complains about every year. So the question is whether the producers/writers can make these types of episodes well. The jury is out on this, hard to argue that they've been good.

Still, I get the sense that Epitaph One might end up being the best episode of the series however long it ends up running.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of you here that Eliza Duska isn't up to snuff and that Amy Acker rocks. The actors playing Sierra and Victor are really great, too. So it makes me increasingly frustrated when most of the hour is spent on blank Echo and creepy Paul. (And this from someome who really liked Tahmoh in BSG!)

I know it isn't likely, but I wish they'd make it more of an ensemble show where everyone gets airtime. That would stop me from wanting to fast-forward through half of it.

Anonymous said...

Kensington,

I suppose if you focus on Caroline that is true -- or at least unclear at this point. But we also learned last season that Sierra was "sold out" to the Dollhouse by Vincent Ventresca playing a rich guy who was...obsessed with her? (I can't remember the exact details.) We also saw Dollhouse coerce the college student played by Mehcad Brooks (who was stealing from Rossum). And we've certainly been given the impression that they took advantage of a distraught women when they accepted November. I don't think we've seen the last of Miracle Laurie, so I expect we'll learn more about how she feels about her _Dollhouse_ experience now that it is behind her.

I'm kind of neutral on the show, but I can't deny that there's justification for the ick factor argument.

Kensington said...

That's a great point about coercion regarding some of the other actives. I completely forgot about that over the Summer!

kate said...

[i]For anyone who feels the weekly plots are too disjointed, don't forget that Echo's 38 new friends are coming along on her engagements from now on. That should make things interesting.[/i]

Not disjointed, just painfully dull. The best episodes so far had been episodes that concerned itself very little or not at all with those weekly "Echo is a teacher!" or "Echo is a lawyer!" or this week's "Echo's an undercover agent infiltrating a drug lord!" assignments. I mean, were it not for Jamie Bamber guesting as the drug lord, I would have fast forwarded that portion of the show completely.

I hope we get to see more the head of security guy and the handlers a bit more, given that they are the most morally ambiguous of the bunch - what's the incentive - since they're not the dolls, who agree to the contract for various reasons, nor are they the scientists seduced by the technology, and they're certainly not the higher ups who knows a whole lot more - So, other than money, what is the incentive in becoming essentially what a slavemaster is of their respective dolls? (I can't imagine all the handlers being obsessed with their dolls like they're implying Paul is, so what is it?)

Yeah - that is what I'd love to see instead of Echo's assignments.

Rick said...

"...he should have slowed down to ask "Should I do this?" before he asked "Can I do this?" "

I've been trying for a couple days- what is it you're paraphrasing here? It's SO familiar; I just can't quite place it.

Anonymous said...

I liked it and think it's far better than last season. It's got direction and isn't lifeless.

You guys are really picky!

Rick said...

Got it. I've been thinking of Goldblum in Jurassic Park. Not sure if you were going for that, but it's sure where I went.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Sean, sorry to delete your comment, but you got really explicit about the revelations of "Epitaph One," and given the episode's unusual status (available on DVD, but not everyone has seen it), I think we need to do a straw poll (probably in the discussion for episode two) about whether everybody is okay with us discussing the big revelations in it matter-of-factly.

Anonymous said...

You think Ballard was inadvertant in his hitting Echo? I thought it was a well played guess on his part once he saw her "flashing" on the active roles as a way to provoke more awareness.

I'm soooo curious to who Whiskey was prior to becoming an active, what would make her be so good at being a doll?

-EmeraldLiz

7sTim said...

I thought the episode looked real good, right? Especially within the Dollhouse, they had a bunch of camera angles and shots that felt real sci-fi, and looked cool. Alan, you had said they were going to go for a visual style more like Epitaph One, right? I think it's working.

And damn Amy Acker was great. In the scene with Boyd her every inflection and mannerism was great. Dewitt, too, was great in the episode, and is quickly becoming the Roger Sterling of Rossum, having all the best lines but mostly just pushing things along from behind. Helps that she's pretty.

I think the undercover story would have worked a little better had it been less plot, and more angsty Ballard crying cause he's sending sweet innocent Caroline to screw some guys brains out. Or that could have just gotten old quick.

Anonymous said...

*I think the undercover story would have worked a little better had it been less plot,*

What plot? She gets married, has sex, goes shopping and then gets kidnapped for an arms deal. How on Earth does Ballard think this will make for solid evidence and be able to work for the ACTUAL FBI people? I think if the Echo plot had actually BEEN a well thought out plot, it would have helped.

Anonymous said...

Joss and his writers should wipe their minds and find new careers.

darci said...

I thought that “Vows” was a great episode to kick off the season, and I didn’t think it was noticeable at all that they had budget cuts… its really discouraging to see that the ratings suffered again. Hopefully this show just slowly picks up steam, but I think Fox has just dropped the ball in promoting this show, and also has it in a bad time slot. Such a shame.

Also, I was really happy that they played the song “The World” by Earlimart at the end of the episode, just as Paul realizes that Echo is remembering more of her past than she should. Great song, and I thought it fit the scene real well, too. I actually posted a video clip of the scene on YouTube, but it got taken down for copyright violations, which is yet another sign that Fox doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to promoting the show – don’t they realize that it’s good for a show’s ratings to have YouTube popularity? Anyway, now it’s up on my own blog at : http://modestcomplexity.blogspot.com/2009/09/earlimart-on-dollhouse.html