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DOLLHOUSE…Better Late Than Never!

March 23, 2009 by  

As I settled in to watch this week’s episode of DOLLHOUSE I was cautiously optimistic. DOLLHOUSE’s illusive “sixth episode” was legendary before it aired. It seemed the fate of the whole series was riding on this “game changing” episode. It was going to be huge. Based on the hype, episode six was to be the single most important hour of my life and by simply watching I was somehow going to be absolved of all the wrong I had done in my life, be given riches beyond imagination and somehow transform myself into either Emily Blunt or some hot gay man that would soon be loved be Neil Patrick Harris. Well I watched and none of that happened. My life sadly was not transformed, but, DOLLHOUSE was. Mission accomplished for Joss and team. It took six episodes to finally get me caring about this show. Well done? I think?

Having missed the press conference call with Joss Whedon last week, I was intrigued to find out just what happened in the writers room to get the show from where it was to this week’s strong and enjoyable episode. So I called up Joss and we had a lengthy discussion in which he broke down for me all the notes and elements that led up to the creation of “Man on the Street”. Ok, perhaps that didn’t happen, but as someone who is equally fascinated by the process as I am the final outcome, I really would have liked the opportunity to pick Joss’s brain a little on this one.

I don’t mean to oversell here. Friday’s episode of DOLLHOUSE wasn’t perfect. But what it did was meet the expectation I had of what the show would be and could be. As I was watching I couldn’t help but feel that this episode would have worked brilliantly as the series premiere. The characters, plots and concept were presented to the audience in a manner that piqued my curiosity unlike the first few episodes that left me scratching my head wondering just how Joss Whedon was involved in this train wreck.

In Friday’s “Man on the Street”, the two main storylines – that of Echo and the FBI investigation led by Paul Ballard – intertwined and complimented each other resulting in a more compelling arc foundation for both plots. By elevating the importance of the FBI investigation, it also relieved the pressure on Eliza Dushku from carrying the whole show. I love the Dushku but she bit off a little more than she could chew as the lead of this show. Her action stunts are great, but the emotional depth needed to play someone as complex as Echo just isn’t there. With less focus on her the other parts of the show that work well get a chance to stretch their legs a bit.

As for the episode itself…where to start? A lot happened. Echo was hired out on an engagement where she posed as the wife of a millionaire internet guru, Joel Mynor. Seven years ago Mr. Mynor’s boat finally came in when his computer program skyrocketed to success. As a special surprise to his wife Rebecca, whom had been supporting his for years, he purchased her dream home. But as Rebecca was on her way to meet Joel to see her surprise, she was killed in an automobile accident. Every year on the anniversary of her death, Joel hires a Doll to recreate the excitement she might have felt had she made it to the house.

Ballard got wind of the engagement and confronted Mynor, and in doing some came face-to-face with Echo/Caroline for the first time. And with that meeting Ballard got absolute confirmation that the Dollhouse was in fact real. But Echo got away before he could get any information from her. And without any proper warrants, Ballard had to let Mynor walk.

Patton Oswalt was fantastic as Joel Mynor. Through his character I started to get a little more of what I was expecting form Joss Whedon – a compelling, emotional, and unexpected story infused with the humor that has been missing thus from the DOLLHOUSE. I was completely wrapped up in Joel’s engagement. Here’s to hoping the writers find a way of bringing Oswalt back into the mix again.

Feeling pretty good after confirming the existence of both the Dollhouse and Caroline, Ballard takes his relationship with Mellie to the next level. But unbeknown to him, Mellie is actually a member of the Dollhouse on a top secret engagement. She is programmed to make him fall in love with her. I’m sure somewhere down the line she’ll be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Here’s to hoping she regains some of her conscious state before that happens. I kind of like Mellie. I thought she was a wee bit of a creepy stalker when we first met her, but she’s grown on me. I don’t want her to be a killing machine.

Speaking of Barbie Kill a Lot, Echo was sent on an engagement to kill Paul Ballard, but someone got to her data stream (or whatever that thing that Topher implants into her head) and programmed Echo with a counter mission to share small clues about the Dollhouse with Ballard. Not too much but just enough to lead him down the right path. But as Echo also revealed, with many Dollhouses in existence all over the world, it’s more about exposing who is really behind the for humans, by humans franchise.

So it seems that someone is working on the inside to expose the Dollhouse and he/she is using Echo as an informant. But who could it be? Who has the technical know how to implant the data? Who on the inside wants Dollhouse destroyed? It’s easy to guess Langton but that’s too obvious. And as much as I think Dr. Saunders wants out, I’m not sure she has the hootspa to pull this one off. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the elusive and enigmatic Alpha is somehow involved. Just a hunch based on nothing but…well, a hunch. Anyone with me?

Ballard is now more in this than ever and he’s deeper in it than maybe he ever wanted to be. During their encounter Echo made sure to frame Ballard for shooting a policeman. Seems that whomever is holding her strings wants Ballard to work this case outside of the FBI domain. Could someone on the inside of the government agency be in on this?

For the first time this season I’m actually looking forward to the next episode of DOLLHOUSE. Was this episode a fluke or is it resetting the tone of the show? And more importantly is it all too little too late? Can the show bring back viewers it lost? Does it have a chance at making it past episode 13?

A little late to the game on this one, but jump in and share your thoughts on this week’s DOLLHOUSE. Was it the game changer you hoped it would be? Was it enough to bring you back into the show?

If you missed this week’s episode of DOLLHOUSE, watch it right here, right now.

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11 Responses to “DOLLHOUSE…Better Late Than Never!”

  1. John on March 23rd, 2009 6:40 pm

    I think the person who tampered with Echo’s programming is the assitant to Topher. She obviously knows alot, is being underutilized and I recognize the actress (but I don’t know from where).

    She is too prominent to be no one, but has no obvious importance to the show.

  2. Emily on March 23rd, 2009 6:47 pm

    This was definitely the boost I needed to keep watching. Especially on the same day that BSG ended forever :(, I needed something to look forward to on Fridays. (Well, other than FNL of course!) I’m not really into the whole is it or isn’t it a “Joss show.” I just wanted a good show. And I feel like this episode was finally quality tv.

  3. Kimber on March 23rd, 2009 7:08 pm

    I was actually TWO weeks behind, so I watched this episode, along with the one before it. While this episode was pretty good, I enjoyed the one before much better – where Echo was in the “religious cult”. I don’t know why, but it was pretty entertaining, and I felt she played it well. This episode had its dull moments for me, but overall I enjoyed it. I, too, had suspicions about Mellie, and I was pleasantly relieved that I didn’t have to watch her be raped and killed! She can kick serious ass!

    I agree with the above poster who mentioned about Topher’s assistant tampering with Echo’s program … something’s up with that chick!

  4. Carrie on March 23rd, 2009 10:22 pm

    I agree with you, I think that Alpha is the one responsible for adding that extra info to Echo to help Ballard. I think he may be using the assistant for access into the office or he somehow broke into Topher’s system. I also have to agree that its about darn time that they had this episode if only it would have come a little sooner!!!!!!!! I hope that it will gain ratings that it needs to continue. I hate getting excited and invested in a show for it to only last 10 to 13 epis if we’re lucky.

  5. AJ on March 23rd, 2009 10:52 pm

    I actually totally disagree with you, i think the subtleties of the show run deeper than that, maybe Millie was not programed to fall in love with him, maybe she already loved him and they turned her into a doll implanting her with her own personality and then made her a sleeper agent, i mean what are the chances that they have been tracking Ballard for that long??? I am just saying, Whedon tends to make his shows WAAAY deeper than even we can imagine

  6. Tessa on March 23rd, 2009 10:56 pm

    This episode was definitely a step in the right direction. I’m actually thinking that maybe Adelle is the informant. There’s something suspicious about her and her relationship to Echo.

  7. Ryan on March 23rd, 2009 11:26 pm

    I’ve liked the show all along so it wasn’t really transformational for me, but i think this was clearly the best episode so far.

    I agree with an above commenter that tophars assistant is the person messing with the dolls.

  8. P D Yerf on March 24th, 2009 12:49 am

    Has anyone considered the idea that the dollhouse purposefully programmed echo to throw ballard off the trail, to pretend that there was a mole inside? It’s an interesting twist and is just the way joss works.
    Another idea that I actually think is noteworthy in the theorizing: Boyd wasn’t Echo’s handler for this mission. That means whoever WAS was probably the mole; otherwise wouldn’t he have reported Echo’s reprogramming?? He would have been sure to notice it. This makes me suspect the blond-haired security guy (the one who tried to kill echo in the religious cult episode, i forget his name), because he chooses the handlers. He also background checks the clients, which would make how the crazy boyfriend-turns-hunter/killer guy got through the checks. Just a thought.
    All in all, this episode was a relief. For the first time i BELIEVED that someone would need a doll for this engagement; most times these people could have just hired a much cheaper person. I mean, a midwife? Who needs a programmed person to perform that job? But recreating a lost moment perfectly would need this sort of technology, so it all makes sense to me.

  9. Michele on March 24th, 2009 8:44 am

    I haven’t been spoiled at all with this series (where, normally I’m a total spoiler-whore) so when Mellie was called up as a doll my jaw just dropped open. Nice! I think the series is headed in the right direction.

    Porn! :0)

  10. Wince on March 24th, 2009 10:46 am

    Great episode,

    John, Tophers assistant was the mole agent on NCIS

  11. John on March 24th, 2009 1:28 pm


    Thank you! That is where I know her from.