I spent the weekend in Philadelphia celebrating the 125th anniversary of my college newspaper (and marveling at how much better the 34th Street website looks than it did back in my day), so I only got around to "Dollhouse" this morning. Some quick thoughts coming up just as soon as I get the ventriloquism upgrade...
It feels like a fool's errand to talk about the long-term of a show with such microscopic ratings, but an episode like "Instinct," coupled with the parts of the season premiere that didn't work, are reminders that "Dollhouse" still has some foundational problems. The series is capable of offering knock-out episodes like "Epitaph One" or "A Spy in the House of Love," or even great storylines like Whiskey's struggle last week, but until/unless the show shifts away from its current format, it's never going to totally click, even for the increasingly-tiny audience that's sticking with it.
There were some interesting ideas on the fringes of "Instinct" - that Topher has figured out how to use the brain to effect changes to the body, that retaining elements of all her personas is really beginning to mess with Echo's head, and that retired actives still have a relationship with the Dollhouse - but the main story suffered the same problems that most Echo-on-a-mission episodes do.
First - and this is a problem that all anthology shows (or faux-anthologies like this show and "Quantum Leap") suffer - there's rarely enough time to make the guest characters and their world interesting enough in an hour, particularly when Echo is herself a new character each week. The client's rationale for hiring a doll was actually a rare occasion when an engagement made total sense (who else could provide complete maternal devotion to the baby and then have no problem walking away from him?), but I was never engaged with him or the circumstances.
Second, we again see that the Dollhouse is just terrible at contingency plannings. I recognize that Echo is supposed to be an unusual active, and therefore adds more wrinkles to her missions than, say, Sierra, but there are too many times where we see the dolls go rogue - sometimes while interacting with other dolls - for the Dollhouse to not have figured this out by now. As an evil organization that may one day bring about the end of the world, it's pretty incompetent.
But unless the DVR numbers turn out to be huge, it doesn't really matter, does it?
Still, what did everybody else think?