Sunday, April 12, 2009

Keep Dollhouse out of the attic

Warning: This post will contain spoilers for the latest Dollhouse episode, "A Spy in the House of Love."

As previously reported, the future of Joss Whedon's latest FOX project, Dollhouse, is a little uncertain at the moment. In fact, many are saying the show is as good as gone. It's unfortunate that such news and rumors have started circulating this week of all weeks, as Friday night's show was one of the best episodes to date. Dollhouse began picking up rapidly with its sixth episode (which Whedon himself said would serve as a turning point), and this week's episode had a compelling mixture of action, betrayal and incredible reveals.
Here's what we witnessed this week:

1. Mellie/November reveals that she's a doll to Agent Ballard. While we already knew this, the moment itself was pretty shocking (and heartbreaking for Ballard who will have to keep pretending that nothing has changed).
2. Adelle is not above using a doll (Victor) to fulfill her own needs, even though she's not likely to do it again.
3. Echo is somewhat aware of her doll status — she actually asks Topher to make her "different" to help the Dollhouse catch a spy in their midst.
4. Security Chief Laurence Dominic is the aforementioned spy, an NSA agent keeping tabs on the Dollhouse. By the episode's end, he's sent to the "attic," which basically means he's had the mindwipe to end all mindwipes.

It was a whole lot of stuff to take in, but the pacing was solid and suspenseful — a sign that the show really has hit its stride. I didn't expect to see a lot of these revelations so early in the show's run, but I'm glad to see that Whedon was willing to put them in. The sense of mystery still remains, but those of us watching have also been rewarded for sticking with the show so far.

As I've previously stated, the first few episodes of Dollhouse did not make the show an easy one to fall in love with. The Dollhouse universe is very different from Whedon's other creations. Thanks to the majority of the characters' mind-wiped or evil tendencies, viewers do not get to watch instantly-lovable characters like the protagonists (and even some villains) in Buffy, Angel, or the preemptively-canceled Firefly.

But the latest episodes, this one included, have finally started to show that these characters do have more layers to them than we initially realized. Even mind-wiped characters like Victor and Sierra are increasingly compelling, and while I admit that the show's star — Eliza Dushku — does appear to be the cast's weakest link for the most part, she was great in last night's episode.

It's hard to say who should really be blamed for Dollhouse's messy start. One could blame the executives, or Whedon for not doing a better job of following up on his vision. However, it's still too early to decide whether or not the show will ultimately be a success. FOX should take note of the fan forums and sites that have been buzzing since Friday night, and give the show a little more time to prove itself. If given a chance, it seems that Dollhouse has the potential to develop into a brilliant sci-fi series.

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