Saturday, March 14, 2009

Terminator & Dollhouse: Your thoughts?

As last night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" was mainly set-up for next week's episode, and as last night's "Dollhouse" was the last episode before the magical sixth episode that will feed the poor, heal the sick and clothe the nude, I don't have much to say about either one. But feel free to discuss one or both in the comments.


Jon88 said...

"Dollhouse," or at least as much of it as I could hear (anybody else having audio problems?), was as unengaging as it has always been, with the added "you can't be serious" moments of Ballard's moony neighbor wandering unescorted through the FBI office to his desk, and then standing in the room while they watched the video. Awaiting the magic.

Stef said...

Like Jon D. above, I couldn't believe the lasagna neighbor (who still must be a plant) was able to just hang around in the FBI watching that tape. Gee, look, here's the identity of a Doll!

I did think Eliza did a pretty good job as the blind believer, until she got her sight back and just reverted to tough-chick-Faith again.

Next week's episode better be amazing.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought this episode of "Dollhouse" was better than expected, especially given its fairly pedestrian set-up. Eliza Dushku wasn't bad in her persona as the blind cultist -- she was less annoying than Bryce Dallas Howard in virtually the same role in "The Village." And the plot intrigues finally seemed to be leading somewhere. (Except... Nobody actually brings a giant baking dish of pasta to somebody's workplace... ever heard of Tupperware? And, um, the doctor would know that you can't turn off a man's "male response" for long periods of time without eventually damaging his ability to have one.)

I would have liked to know more specifics about the generic religious group. What did they actually believe in? Was anyone being harmed, or were they all just happy to be there, up to the drinking-the-Kool-Aid part? Was the leader still a con artist, or had he become a true believer? (It was interesting that the biblical passage the leader used to justify burning everyone up was so similar to the lyrics of "Walk Through the Fire," the song about heroes being resigned to their fates from the musical episode of "Buffy.")

Unlike "Buffy," though, this show seems to be working through a murky sense of morality -- the Dollhouse is awful, but at least seems to be accomplishing good things; whereas government agencies such as the FBI, the ATF and even the Senate are full of people who are just as amoral, or at best ineffectual. I guess that's part of the show's theme, but it still gets awfully confusing.

Pamela Jaye said...

Yeah Eliza was okay for a while.

It *was* the 6th ep, right - not *after 6 ep* or anything like that?

Unknown said...

Terminator: terrible. I don't give a shit about Jesse on a sub. Just kill her smug ass already. Everyone assumes Cameron plugged Riley and Cameron never really bothers to deny it (nor can she imitate Riley's voice too well either). Between this episode and the Boring Sarah Trilogy, they are deserving to get canceled at this rate. The only interesting moment was Savannah and John Henry playing hide and seek. Really, Ellison should have clued in here that Weaver is a Weaverbot by her "let's play" reaction rather than "Where the hell is my daughter?!" Not looking forward to more submarine crap either.

Dollhouse, on the other hand, I really liked. An Active would be the perfect person to send in on a job like this, so that makes sense. I enjoyed watching "Esther", even though the sudden "move your ass" felt incredibly out of character for that character and took me out of the show for a bit. I liked that Ballard actually saw her on TV and got a lead. Plot movement, yay!

As for the "man reaction" plot, it was stupid and it made me laugh a lot and I enjoyed it very much.

The only thing I didn't like was desperate Mellie and her perpetual Italian food dropoffs. Good lord, woman, it's not the 1950's, both of you aren't 80 and you don't have to stalk him with casseroles before the other widows get to him. Also, he's way too busy to pay attention to you. If she isn't some covert anything I will just be annoyed.

Anonymous said...

More questions Dollhouse raises that it really shouldn't. Like, if a U.S Senator knows about the place, how do they have him in their pocket? He could just turn them in and be proclaimed a hero. If the dolls work for the government once in a while, shouldn't there be more of them? Why put a government operation in the hands of a defective active, Senator?
As for the story itself, how can you have a compound full of guns and not have people trained to use them? What kind of cult is this anyway? And why are the townspeople OK with it? So the Feds are at your door. Rather than get your trained men to start a war--oh, wait you don't have any--you set fire to yourself? How is that going to stop them?
The most egregious questions concern the tech guy/programmer. Is he supposed to be written as Chandler from Friends or as a Nazi doctor? Sneezure? That's not funny; the casual dismissiveness-- guised as humor--of real people is monstrous.
So what is this show about? Every week we have a parallel between the case at hand and the Dollhouse where the case involves some loss of identity, loss of freedom, rise of groupthink or individual suppression--this week it involved a religious cult-that mirrors the circumstances the actives are in when they lose their own identity. If good science fiction is metaphor, does the Dollhouse represent a corportate climate or a peek into the real world problem of human trafficking, where the girls are made slaves, much like the actives? If Whedon had in mind none of these things and just wanted to explore identity, then why set up your main metaphor as a brothel? Go simpler, because as it stands now, we can't apply any of the questions Dollhouse raises to the real world, to us, unless one is a sex slave.

sedeyus said...

Probably the first episode of Dollhouse that I thought was terrible. It's not a good sign that this show seems to falling to a pattern: interesting material on the side while the case-of-the-week is snooze-worthy, screw-ups in Echo's programming that once again highlight how implausible the central premise is, and more material that makes you wonder if Eliza Dushku is the right actress for this role.
It doesn't help that tonight's story was particularly bad. I'm generally not a fan of cult stories and who thought it would be a good idea to have characters in a room for most of the episode quoting scripture at each other? Whedon's got me until the end of the season but I kind hope by then I'll actually enjoy the show.

Stef said...

Also on Dollhouse, it was nice to see Brian Bloom working again. I was one of those girls in the 80's with teen mag pics of him on the wall. :-)

So in their "resting" state, are the dolls programmed to be like children or just like blank slates? Their level of awareness is so low.. I did laugh at Topher's snark that if Echo was any more relaxed she'd be like ooze, or goo, or whatever he said. Which only made me want to go live at a spa for a week, like the Dollhouse without all the human trafficking and cortex-reassigning surgeries and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Still watching Dollhouse based on my previous love of Joss and his ensemble, not based on loving the show. Eliza for me is still someone I like despite her acting, not because of it. Also, there seemed to be an awful lot of deliberate vagueness about what the cult actually believed - I automatically assumed it was so as to avoid offending viewers' religious beliefs. Yawn.

The teaser for next week - "FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW!" - sounded a bit desperate. As in, If you've hated it so far, don't worry - the real show isn't anything like what we've broadcast for five weeks now.

And also... if I'd had to see Echo get hit across the face one more time, I would have seriously considered turning it off. Her apparent recognition of Dominic at the end was the only glimmer of hope that Jossiness will return at some point.

Sarah Connor? Eh. Still watching it, still bored by Jesse, still annoyed that Cameron can't give a straight answer ("No, I didn't kill Riley" - how hard is that?). Not expecting to see it return. Sad, because I like the cast.

Anonymous said...

SCC: Another solid episode.

I think John knows, from looking at Riley's fingers, that Cameron didn't do it. Riley would never be able to get Cameron under her nails.

Also think Derek is on to Jesse.

Only part I didn't like was the submarine set. The sub's interior looked as roomy as a carrier's. Someone needs to watch Das Boot.

The John Henry/Catherine/Ellison plot was fascinating. Why does Catherine want John Henry to learn ethics? What future is she driving, anyway? Obviously Skynet and guilt don't mix, so...

I think Future Cameron's in the box that the undersea terminators turned over.

Byron Hauck said...

I thought Dollhouse was probably the best episode so far. I'm very excited for next week, but as I keep saying, it took 25 episodes for Angelus to show up, so that's how many Dollhouse gets to start being awesome.

Anonymous said...

@Stef: coincidentally, Bloom was on an ep of TSCC last season. I was stunned that he was still as gorgeous as he was in the 80s. Pretty sure he did a car commercial last year, too (whichever model Kate Walsh endorses). Glad he's getting work.

I have given up on "Dollhouse" for the time being. I'll catch up later down the road if it gets a second season. I am, however, sticking with TSCC because I'm hopeful it'll rebound from the boring. I am so tired of Jessie. I'm ready for Derek to just put a bullet in her head and be done with it, because it seems to me that that's the only logical ending for her way too long story arc. I was disappointed that he wasn't more obviously suspicious of her behaviour this week. He does seem to think something's going on, but we're just not seeing it. I'd rather stick with him than go to that sub and watch Jessie argue with some robot that we don't know while working with a group of soldiers we don't know to get a package that I don't even care about. And I *should* care about it because it's most likely very important. I just don't. But, I've committed to the show and there are enough things that I *do* like that I want to see where it winds up.

Matt said...

My Fox feed had serious audio problems throughout. Was nice to have some humor in the "man reaction" plot (particularly Acker's line readings, where her stiffness worked to comic effect), given how relentlessly dour the show has been thus far, but pretty meh.

Anonymous said...

Random thoughts on DOLLHOUSE:

-Brian Bloom, the cult leader, also played a bad guy on Tim Minnear's DRIVE. He gives good crazy-eye.

-Topher bothered me marginally less this episode, in part because he wasn't babbling about his damn mind-wiping technology.

-The neighbor is so unrealistic that I'm hoping there's some sort of mind-blowing twist with her, like she's Alpha in a REALLY good disguise. Hey, he could do female voices, right? And design impressive cleavage? Right? At least it'd be something not seen on prime time before...

-Echo seems to be maintaining a base personality no matter what her imprint, and that shows up toward the end of this episode. This at least makes Eliza Dushku's acting more palatable.

-At first, I thought the red-headed ATF agent was Felicia Day. I must have some sort of "they all look alike" redhead prejudice.

-As others have noted, the plots seem to repeatedly revolve around putting Echo in a social situation that somehow parallels the Dollhouse. Perhaps this is supposed to make us question social mores, or perhaps think, "the Dollhouse is not so bad in comparison." In the words of the SOUTH PARK kids, "no, it's WAY more retarded."

-Episode Six! Full Whedon! Patton Oswalt! Last chance@

Michael said...

I liked Dollhouse, nothing Special but it worked... the ass kicking prase was a bit of and the logic glitches did do some silly dmg.

Might Alpha just be the Guy she Dated in Episode one? He had Made Skills on the Bike... he should care for her not being back but never has been mentioned again (exept if he is Alpha, who i guss is sending the Pictures, Videos and made the Magic Phonecall)

Eldritch said...

Let me cast a vote that this week's Dollhouse was a vast improvement over previous episodes.

Not that it was perfect, but I found myself way more engaged in the characters and events in it. It's a world of difference from how disengaged I felt in the "Stage Fright" or "Target" episodes. I just didn't care what happened in those episodes at all. This was a big step toward confirming the promise of big things in episode 6. Perhaps this episode was more involving, because it spent more time with the supporting characters whom we've had time now to learn something about.

But the criticisms others have posted for it ring true for me as well. The flirty neighbor bring a Pyrex dish of lasagne to the office was both weird and creepy. The whole Branch Dividian cult look-alike seemed like a trite plot device. And, of course, what kind of heavily armed cult leader doesn't train his dupes to use those weapons.

I'm disappointed that this Whedon project hasn't taken off yet, but I recall the first episodes of Buffy were weak as was most of Angel's first season. So I'm willing to give Dollhouse more time.

I just had the opportunity to see the episodes of "Drive" which was honcho'ed by Tim Minear,one of the Whedon crew, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed what seemed like a lackluster premise, drivers in a race. They quickly turned it into a character piece. I see several familiar writer's names from Buffy working on Dollhouse as well. It just seems that there are too many great writers with great track records for this project to fail, if given a chance.

K J Gillenwater said...

I liked "Terminator" this week. I was glad to see Riley gone and everyone assuming (at least Sarah) that Cameron did it. I hate Ms. Smug from the future, too, but I liked the sub scenes (nuclear subs are quite a bit larger than WWII era diesels, whoever commented on the Das Boot thing). It was cool to see some other part of post-nuked earth.

I want to find out what's in the box and why this girl is wants to go back in time and get rid of John. I'm guessing this is when her whole idea sparked in the first place. This diverted mission to pick up something mysterious.

This is MUCH better than those eps with Sarah. Not sure how much more of this show we'll get, but I keep watching.

annie said...

I checked out of Dollhouse halfway in. Again. I only started this episode due to peer pressure. If the pressure is there next week, I'll watch. If not, very slim chance.

So many questions, so much bad dialog.

Bruce Reid said...

Terminator: I've been as bored with the recent episodes as anyone, but that was always tempered by an admiration for just how intransigent the show runners were in sticking to their moody mission statement. This one was more of the same, really, but some game pieces finally seem in place for interesting developments. Cameron's "I heard you" made me laugh, though.

Dollhouse: This was easily my favorite episode so far; nicely rounded in its portrayal of the cult and the town (I'd guess self-proclaimed objectivist Tim Minear's attitude towards them was summed up by the shopkeeper's "their money spends as good as any"), coming up with a unique skill that only Echo and her handlers could provide, and enough forward momentum on the homefront to satisfy.

In general I think Minear makes Whedon's shows much better. Minear's fondness for juxtaposition (the safety of the dollhouse/compound; "I can see"/"We're blind") requires dramatic clarity, so his scripts frequently tidy up and plainly state concepts that had only been murkily hinted at previously. So Echo's accumulation of imprinted personalities receives its strongest link to Alpha's rampage; Ballard's finally given hints of a personality; and it's made explicit that we're supposed to think Topher's a callous, immature ass.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Dollhouse "Episode 6" is up against the BSG finale.

I know that in an era of time-shifting that this shouldn't matter, but I'm sure these two shows share a good portion of their audiences.

Anonymous said...

Echo smells like poop.

Anonymous said...

Dollhouse: Why did the security guy shoot the cult leader, who was about to shoot Echo? Security guy left Echo in the fire, so he wanted her dead. He could have just let the cult leader do it. But he went and made the classic Bond villan mistake of leaving the person to die instead of staying there to make sure the person dies.

SCC: The only interesting thing about the sub scenes was seeing "Cutty" from The Wire play a terminator.

Withnail said...

Not a spoiler, but a speculation, but I believe that on Dollhouse, Ballard the FBI guy is gonna end up being our long lost ALPHA. Maybe he's got some sort of duel personality, and he's been sending HIMSELF all the clues.

Or not...

Mica said...

Now that you mentioned I hadn't thought that Dollhouse and BSG has the same schedule. I'm so used downloading them...

I really, really loved both (Dollhouse and TSCC). Of course Dollhouse is way behind perfection but is getting better each weak. So I'm sure it will be a great show.
I love Topher, and I like even more his screen time with Dr. Saunders.
I confess I don't care about Echo so much, but even her I'm starting to like. Interesting that on this episode Eliza played Esther and Echo exactly the same.

About Terminator, well, I totally adore this show. I keep coming here and reading you all trashing it, and I keep asking to myself why you can't like if I love so much? Well, I imagine that's something I'll never understand, so I'll just pass.
Interesting that John believed Cameron even before he saw Riley's body (and the prove that she couldn't have fought with Cameron). I liked the scene when Cameron speaks using Riley's voice. She even says 'I love you' to John. She made him mad, definitely ^_^.
I also liked Jesse reaction to killing Riley. She did it, but she felt. I'm happy she felt, specially because Riley liked a lot Jesse and deserves some morning.
I specially liked the sub scenes. We saw a different Jesse there. A Jesse that trusts in a machine totally, even when she notices the metal went to a totally different location from where they were told to go. A happier Jesse. What changed the girl so much?

But what I'm really excited about is the box. I'm 99% sure is Future Cameron in the box and whatever she will do there will make Jesse go to the past to separate John Connor from the metal.

Please, please, please, don't cancel my favorite tv show. Not now that BSG ended and I don't love anything as much as I love these.

(and I'm sorry for my terrible English. I keep reading and all to improve the language, but I have some problems remiding the exact words and spells)

Anonymous said...
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Girl Detective said...

I'm with those who think this ep of Dollhouse was better, but not good. I liked that the hymn the cult was singing, "Leaning" was the one that Robert Mitchum sings in Night of the Hunter, so it's now forever a creepy hymn. I also liked how they tied in the Biblical Esther, who goes in to slay a tyrant, with Echo's character, and that it's Purim right now!

Ballard as Alpha has been raised a couple times, but even with the spoiler-y comment from James (ahem) it doesn't make sense. DeWitt knows about Ballard, and had a pic of him at some point. They would recognize Alpha.

Anonymous said...

Dollhouse: Watchable. The episode seemed to flow better in the mix of House and mission scenes, and the blind cultist infiltration at least made reasonable use of the premise.

Terminator: Much better. The sub scenes showed a wider universe of the future (not all crouching in rat holes) and the cast were in good form. Loved Cameron's bird quip ("Goodbye bird. There was at least a 51% chance I wouldn't have killed you"). I hope the show keeps it up.

In general, Dollhouse seems to preforming below its intentions: it's just a little too obvious in its messages and slack in its writing, kind of like Buffy Season 6-7. Terminator is weird and quirky, but intends to be.

Antid Oto said...

I liked Terminator this week, but was bugged by what seemed to me like a glaring plot hole: we've already seen that John knows how to take out Cameron's chip and hook it up to a computer. Why did he need to take her word for it that she didn't kill Riley? Just hook her up, play back the last 24 hours, and hey, she's cleared. Jesse should also have known John could do that. So should Sarah. So should Cameron. Just baffling all around that everyone seemed to agree to ignore the obvious solution.

Alan Sepinwall said...

James comment was definitely too spoiler-y, so it's been deleted.

Anonymous said...

Dollhouse: Once more, not too exciting... add me those hoping for episode six to lead us into promised land or whatever. Some random thoughts:

* Maybe I simply didn't pay enough attention to the beginning, but that senator was worried about some shady garden cult possibly harming his chances for an upcoming election, am I right? But at the same time he seems to be perfectly fine with asking a dubious and probably illegal company like the Dollhouse to take care of his worries. Come on? And once again, where do clients learn of the dollhouse?

* As the basic premise of Echo's mission was having someone else watching through her eyes, I enjoyed the fact that other plot reveals also happened in a similar, indirect manner; e.g. the "shower tapes", Ballard's seeing Echo on TV, Echo's handler checking out the security tapes of the store...
Oh, and I wonder if I was the only one who felt reminded of Picard's Locutus operation when they began drilling her eye?

* While Eliza was bearable as the cult follower (that is until she had that out-of-character "move your asses" moment), I would have loved to see Sierra going on that mission instead.

T:SCC: After that dreary trilogy dealing with Sarah's mental conditions, I'm glad to see the plot taking on some steam again - though I believe it's far too late to actually save the series. On the positive side:

* Finally the main crew (+ Jessie) made the episode feel more focussed than the dragfests from right before and after the mid-season break. Also, it was nice to see Cameron getting more than 2-3 lines for a change. (Though some of her dialogue felt fare more ambiguous than should be necessary: "Did you kill her?" - "What if I did?".)

* I liked the visual direction of this episode, and especially enjoyed Samantha's trip to John Henry's basement room. It had a bit of an Alice-in-Wonderland atmosphere to it and was nicely accompanied by sound effects and music.

* On the bad side (and not really a first): At least to me, the plot feels awfully contrived at times; for example the whole lead-up to Sarah learning of Riley's death; Jesse getting in some random brawl to have an explanation for her wounds; and the whole submarine plot served no real purpose, either, though this might be resolved in the second part next week.

* Again, not a first, but most of the Ellison scenes don't work for me at all... except for his attempts at teaching morals to a machine, he's just a shadow of his character in the first season. I think they should've just kept the psychiatrist alive instead...

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that, I thought I "despoilered" the information. Guess not.

Unknown said...

Terminator: Pretty much agree w/ "anonymous" above on all points:

* Derek is on to Jesse

* Like the Ellison scenes

* Wasn't a fan of the sub-scenes.

W/ the exception of Derek's initial episodes, I haven't enjoyed much of the other "prequal-future" scenes that lead up to present-day (that's confusing!). The sub-scenes, Cameron's prequal scenes, and the more recent episode where we learn Derek's future is different than Jesse's (each introduced intriguing ideas, but still didn't love the actual scenes) found myself antsy for the action to return to present-day.

But I'll still take a future prequal scene/episode to a present-day Sarah Connor scene/episode any day (the Yule Log is more entertaining than "that dreary trilogy dealing with Sarah's mental conditions" as Matsu so perfectly referred to it).

Overall enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

Re Dollhouse: hmn... I had a really hard time getting past the casual, intentional mutilation of a person without her consent. They made it quite clear that the blindness might not be reversible, might cause permanent damage, and nobody seemed to care. Topher even made a joke about it.

Topher's behavior throughout this episode, particularly with the Victor stuff... seriously, is this character supposed to be 12 years old? I mean, I know that even grown men can be a immature about bodily functions, but really ... if you're not going to use the word "erection," at least use one of the more crude substitutes that real men use. Would Fox have censored "hard on" when Topher already made some "wood" references?

I'm just not finding the show interesting enough to justify how unpleasant it is. I'll hold out for next week's much-hyped "Episode 6," but if it doesn't take a serious turn for the better, I'm putting it on the scrap heap with Heroes.

Anonymous said...

The eye surgery thing was interesting because I just heard about a Canadian having a camera implanted in his eye. NPR

Anonymous said...

Thought the last two Terminators have been better, agree it's probably too little too late at this point though.

As DLP noted, Cameron's line to the bird as it flew away "There was a 51% chance I wouldn't have killed you" (and Summer's perfect reading of it) made me laugh harder than anything else I saw over the past 3 or 4 weeks.

Carolyn said...

re: Dollhouse

I really really hate the Topher character and it rings totally false to me when Joss tries to put the few "Whedonesque quips" that make the show into his mouth. He's completely morally reprehensible and is really the only person working in the Dollhouse who seems to find the whole thing fun & games. Even the owner and the mean dude who hates Echo (can't remember his name, Mr. Stick Posture?) don't act like the job is a joke even if they are pretending to be above morals.

My dad, who is a huge Whedon fan, more than me, can't even watch the show as the premise is "Just Too Icky".

re: Terminator
I'm sad they wasted all the time on the dreary Sarah episodes as the ones that don't focus just on one mopey character are so entertaining. But even these last two eps, which have been better, have still realy lost that "action movie" feel which was one of the things I loved most about this show, particularly the strong start to the season.


Anonymous said...

This might be a useless question, considering the premise of planting a camera in one's eye is out there but...did I miss something? How did she suddenly get her sight back? Was it just supposed to be a blip, or was there an explanation?

I liked it okay, but there was a lot that went unanswered. I'm still watching, and will continue to watch, though.

Anonymous said...

dollhouse is a goner because lets face it. dushku is not a good actress

Anonymous said...

I liked the SCC episode...cannot STAND Jesse. I think I may have said that in an earlier post. Oh well...guess her story arc isn't quite done yet. It was nice to see that kid from Sons of Anarchy in the sub scenes. It was him, wasn't it?