Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alan Tudyk 'brings it' on Dollhouse

Warning: This post will contain spoilers for Friday's episode of Dollhouse ("Briar Rose").

It wasn't exactly the best kept secret in the world. Everyone seemed to know that Alan Tudyk (aka "Wash" on Joss Whedon's Firefly and Serenity) would be appearing on Dollhouse. And most people were pretty sure they knew what character he would be playing. It turns out that all the buzz was correct — but that didn't stop Tudyk from making the impact he did when he finally appeared in Friday night's episode, "Briar Rose."
Tudyk is best known for his comedic talents, which definitely shaped his character on Firefly. But soon after Dollhouse first got on the air, fan sites began posting that Tudyk would be playing "Alpha," the rogue active who escaped the Dollhouse following a violent killing spree. Tudyk played my favorite character on Firefly, so I was excited by the thought, though I couldn't help wondering how he would be able to play such a disturbing character. Turns out, I really had no reason to have any reservations about this bit of casting.

Tudyk didn't immediately appear as Alpha in "Briar Rose" — in fact, he was first introduced as Stephen Keppler, the man largely responsible for helping build the Dollhouse. Tudyk drew on his comedic chops and played Keppler as a ridiculous, slightly over-the-top stoner agoraphobe. He did such a fantastic job that I actually began forgetting the Alpha spoilers, and began wondering if another actor would indeed be playing the part. Then I found myself trying to figure out why he was acting this way — maybe he just didn't remember being Alpha.

Anyway, it all ended up being part of a twisted plan to get into the Dollhouse, courtesy of slightly-crazed (suspended) FBI agent Paul Ballard. And when Tudyk made the switch from twitchy stoner to malicious killer, I was floored. The man can act. I actually found myself feeling pretty terrified as soon as he took on the Alpha persona, which completely made up for the fact that the Internet "spoiled" the whole thing. It's going to be interesting to see what happens next week during the Dollhouse finale. The preview made it look like we'll be seeing some Natural Born Killers-style plotline, but either way, I have a feeling Tudyk — who can easily take on more non-comedic roles — will be selling this part incredibly well.

Before I go, I'd just like to add some more highlights from "Briar Rose":
  • Actor Enver Gjokaj (who plays the active "Victor") continued to prove how fantastic he is at taking on new roles every week. This week, we got to see Gjokaj act like the Dollhouse's former head of security Laurence Dominic (previously played by Reed Diamond). And I swear, I felt like Reed Diamond was talking to us during the entire scene. Of course, it just figures that the episode ended with innocent doll-like Victor getting slashed in the face by Alpha... so who knows what we'll be seeing of Gjokaj after this.
  • Another interesting reveal: Dr. Claire Saunders is a doll, whose code name happened to be "Whiskey." I'm not sure how much more we'll be finding out about her circumstances, but it was a neatly done, subtle reveal in an episode that was otherwise heavy on allegory (not a bad thing in this episode's case).
  • The fight scene between Ballard and Boyd. Yes, there were a few stupid moments, but I honestly didn't know which character to root for. Both men are sympathetic, but both are flawed in their own ways. Another plus? The fight scenes on this show continue to make me uncomfortable in the sense that they actually feel real. Dollhouse is a dark, morally-grey, gritty world — and I'm glad the fight scenes reflect that so well.
And that's all for now. More to come after the Dollhouse finale next week!

[To get some of Tudyk's own thoughts about Dollhouse, check out this Entertainment Weekly exclusive.]

[Photo: FOX]

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