A Dollhouse Retrospective

KT takes a moment to look back.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re big Dollhouse fans here at Raked, and I’ll be the first to admit that the show has taken up a large enough chunk of real estate in my imagination that it’s easy to forget that the show premiered less than a year ago.  Remember this?  Aww, how cute and excited we were.  And I know I’m waiting with baited breath for tonight’s series finale.

As Dollhouse fans, you could say we’ve had a rocky time of it.  Certainly the show hasn’t been perfect, and we’ve met a compelling bunch of character who are leaving all too soon.  So before we get our last look at the Dollhouse’s future in “Epitaph Two,” let’s take a moment to look back at our Year of the Dollhouse.

There were moments of glory.  Topher’s brand of Joss-speak has been a joy to chuckle over.  His awkward romance with Bennett was so sweet and his birthday party with Sierra in “Haunted” was probably the silliest, yet most poignant sequence the series has offered.

Echo was not often a highlight for me in season 1, but I very much enjoyed her in “Spy in the House of Love.”   She had developed enough self-awareness to offer her services to Topher, and her investigations as Sherlock Echo were cleverly written.  And I’ve just loved Echo since about “Meet Jane Doe” — she’s become deep and soulful as well as badass.

A definite highlight: Enver Gjokaj and his masterful ability to slip in and out of a character.  I will definitely be interested in his next projects.

And yet, a  person always has some nitpicks.  For me, the glimpses of Caroline in season 1 don’t always seem like the same person as the Caroline we seen in season 2.  Boyd’s speechifying scene with Adelle, Topher, and Echo in “The Hollow Men,” struck me as… well, hollow.  And there’s something distressing about the way the end of season 2 has become a massive effort to prevent “Epitaph One” — to keep the tech from getting out and being abused — when part of the point of the show is that the tech is already being abused right there in the Dollhouse.  Adelle’s rationale about helping people is also hollow.  Also, despite what I said earlier about Topher’s Joss-speak: “man reaction.”  Just not a huge fan of that one.

Lastly (pending, of course, the contents of “Epitaph Two”), there are some things I’ll always wonder:

If everyone in the Dollhouse has compromised morals, what did Adelle do?  Or sweet little Ivy?

Who was Whiskey’s original self?

What was the full story on Boyd, really?  Season 1 gave us all those “ex-cop” hints, and clearly he’s got the skills (not to mention the resources to cover up Nolan’s murder).  But now he founded Rossum in the early ‘90s with Clyde Randolph?  Something’s missing from this puzzle.

All that of course only scratches the surface!  What are some of your highlights, nitpicks, and burning questions?

One season for Whedon?

With the end of Dollhouse looming, commenter CS lent us his thoughts on Joss Whedon–past, present, and future–for a Raked guest post.

And so this Friday, as we say farewell to all of our friends at the Dollhouse, it’s time to take a look back and revisit Joss Whedon’s television career. And, as self-proclaimed fans, to suck it up and admit to ourselves that maybe Joss’s creations aren’t built as well for TV as we tend to think they are. Now I’m not about to start bashing Whedon, as I’m a genuine fan of his work. In my opinion, the four series he’s created have been among the best on TV.

But let’s take an unbiased and complete look at his run on TV thus far: two successes followed by two premature cancellations. Which of these pairs is the exception to the Whedon rule? As fans, we all want to say it’s the cancellations and that given another chance, Whedon will prove the naysayers wrong. But maybe it’s not that he’s had a bad run of luck lately, so much as he had a run of good luck at the beginning. Not that Buffy and Angel didn’t deserve their success. They did. But both these shows had some help starting out. Due to its movie beginnings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was somewhat of a household name before it began. It was also a show about teens on a fairly new network that had just begun building its schedule around teen shows. Not to mention that it debuted at a time when networks were more prone to give a show a chance to build an audience. As for Angel, it was a spin-off of a very successful show with a strong and loyal fan base. It brought that audience with it and kept them by not straying too far from its monster hunting roots.

Firefly and Dollhouse didn’t have these same advantages. Whedon’s name, of course, brought in the faithful, but new viewers were tougher to find. Neither show was given a real chance to develop an audience, and we now have to come to terms with the idea that Whedon isn’t going to get a fair chance at that from the networks. Firefly had 14 episodes televised out of order. Dollhouse had a midseason start, a renewal that admittedly occurred out of fear of fan retaliation, and an early cancellation resulting in what could be considered a rush to the finale.

So we ask, how can Whedon continue to present his ideas on TV and still have everything he wants told? As a creator or as fans, we all just want a complete story, right? No missing parts. No unanswered questions. But when networks have no patience and no faith, how can this be accomplished?

Here’s my thought: Maybe Joss needs to begin creating and developing his series more in the vein of certain anime series, such as Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo, selling to networks what would be a complete single season series. Within that single season you’d get a complete story, beginning to definite end, with no intent for follow-ups (except potentially an occasional movie or miniseries). There’d still be fan hype, a built in cult following, and big DVD sales based on Whedon’s involvement. Both network and fans would benefit from a more compact and concentrated series with more quickly paced plot development and fewer but higher quality filler episodes. Many series hold off or space out certain events because they are plotting later seasons as they write the current one. There’s no need to do that when you know your series will be completed by episode 22. Consider if Dollhouse had employed this idea. If the series had been intended to only last one full season, we’d still have the same beginning and same end to the series, but the show likely would’ve been stronger with better planning and pacing, while still having approximately the same number of episodes. The standout episodes would still stand out, but each episode on average would quite possibly be of higher quality.

The argument still remains, of course, that a network would still attempt to cancel a show at midseason. But I’d like to imagine they’d think twice knowing the show would be gone at the end of the season anyways, with its story finished and ready for DVD sales. But maybe that’s just me being hopeful.

Your thoughts?

Dollhouse: Do you trust me?

KT is anxiously awaiting the Jan. 29 finale!

DOLLHOUSE:  2.12 “The Hollow Men”

After the huge reveal at the end of “Getting Closer,” I enjoyed the dramatic irony of knowing that the other characters shouldn’t be talking to Boyd the way they were.  In particular, Topher’s explanation in the corridor was a great scene.

I loved that Whiskey showed up again, this time as Clyde, and I was amused by the way the episode was completely matter of fact about having put a man’s personality in a woman’s body.  Those jokes were funny when Victor was Kiki, but they would have been a distraction here.

After Whiskey-Clyde teased Adelle about how much the founder was looking forward to introducing himself, I did think the big scene with Boyd’s unveilling was a little underwhelming.  Anti-climactic, perhaps, in the way that Echo shouted it out — but then perhaps the way I expected to see it would have been too similar to last week’s reveal.

As it was, it was a weird scene — it just felt off to me somehow.  And Boyd’s psychology still remains largely unexplained.  I wanted more discussion of why he and Clyde thought that starting the Rossum juggernaut was a good idea in the first place, and what contact or control he has with suits like Mr. Ambrose.  At this point, he seems to see the tech as almost a living thing, in the sense that it’s can no longer be halted by anybody (or so he believes, and as “Epitaph One” would support).  Echo is his project because of her ability to resist and control imprints.

Topher and Adelle are clearly growing closer again in their shared guilt.  Topher is the single-handed architect of tech that will create a world of “hollow men” — a title pulled from a T.S. Eliot poem about (to over-simplify things) death.

And now we know what it is that happened to November.  Poor Paul.  Poor Mellie.

(Tangent here:  I love the way Miracle Laurie has adopted a fan’s portmanteau and is calling her character Melvemberline — but I can’t come up with anything that works for Claire, Whiskey, and Clyde.  Grr, argh.)

The fight between Echo and Whiskey-Clyde was totally a Battle of the Badass Whedon Brunettes.  We were only missing Summer Glau.  (There’s some kind of Charlie’s Angels-type trio waiting to happen right there, don’t you think?  Maybe that’ll be part of River Tam Beats Up Everyone.)

Boyd’s wipe and final fate were gripping, though I was a little distracted by wondering what the round machine that looked like an arcade game was supposed to be and why it was in the server room.

And though Caroline got her explosion, clearly the brainpocalypse happened anyway.  I figure, if Adelle had paper files on Bennett and Caroline well before she met either one, Rossum has some serious redundancy in place.  Taking down the servers in Tucson just wasn’t enough.

And now I’m wild for an explanation of the latter parts of “Epitaph One.”  Why do we see Whiskey back in the Dollhouse as Claire Saunders, but eventually as a deteriorating Whiskey?  Why do Priya and Tony seem not to be in love anymore?  What have Echo and Paul been up to when they break back into the walled-up ‘House?  Does Echo actually shoot Adelle?  Why does child’s-body-Caroline lead Mag and Zone up to the roof, and where do they go from there?

Dollhouse: With Your Life

Raked would highly suggest you not read this post unless you’ve seen the penultimate episode of Dollhouse. She’s is still mourning the loss of her show–and a certain favorite character–and she’s not holding back.

DOLLHOUSE: 2.12 “The Hollow Men”

With one episode left and last week’s incredible cliffhanger, you knew this episode would be big. And with Joss Whedon manning the ship, you knew there’d be some carnage before it sailed off into the sunset.

This week we said good-bye to two of our favorites. If you’ll notice in my first line, I call attention to one of them. And I’ll get to that right…now.

I miss Boyd. And you know, after first I thought his demise was just too fast. How could we have seen him develop as the big bad in just one episode? Well, a cliffhanger and one episode. We didn’t get to see it enough. We didn’t get to see him turn as evil as the founder of Rossum really should be!

But then, I realized, that was the point. As the viewer, we were seeing Boyd pretty much as Echo was seeing him. We trusted him. We loved him. How could we suddenly believe that he was the evil one behind the Dollhouse? How could his intentions be less than moral?

It was a sense of disbelieving. We still loved him, even as he was turned to a doll and handed the grenade. We didn’t want him to die. Certainly not in an innocent, clean state. It just made it that much harder to watch. We certainly didn’t feel righteous or happy with his death. It hurt us just as much as it hurt Echo.

But what about Mellie?

Well, to be honest, I wasn’t surprised. We were given that hint in “Epitaph One” that something bad happens to November. I didn’t figure she’d make it out alive.

For some reason, I thought that when they had programmed her as Mellie, they would have removed her sleeper status. Clearly, they did not. But do I really think that Mellie would have had the strength to fight through the sleeper? I don’t think so. But she did, nonetheless, and clearly, she couldn’t handle it. It’s actually interesting to think about how Whiskey handled her discovery that she was a doll and the way that Mellie handled it. Very different. But both very conflicted.

Don’t get me wrong. Mellie’s death was still sad and I’ll miss her. I just was less surprised. And the setup that Ballard thought Adelle was at the right hand of Rossum? That was just fantastic.

Ultimately, I don’t know what’s next. I liked that we finally know why Caroline was picked. I still fully expect some secrets and shockers in the next episode. But honestly, this one was a hard one to watch. I’m going to miss Boyd. I still do. I don’t like that he’s gone.

So what do you think will happen in our final episode of Dollhouse? Do you have predictions? Anyone you think will (or won’t) make it through?

I’m not sure how much more I can take. And now I’m pouting…why does it have to end? I mainly mean the show here, but now that I’m thinking about it, doesn’t it scare you a bit? The idea of a Brainpocolypse?

I guess we’ll just have to see in a couple weeks

Dollhouse finale delayed–but for a good cause

image from pbpulse.com

Don’t freak out, but there will be some changes to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tonight’s the penultimate episode of Dollhouse. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that if this was the penultimate episode, next week must be the finale. That’s probably why I’m not too disappointed right now.

The much-anticipated finale of Dollhouse has been postponed. It was originally scheduled for January 22, but will now air on Friday, January 29 (supposedly at 8 pm).

Update: All I’ve got is a few tweets so far, but I’ll try to find a more official statement of the change here’s a link confirmation (note that this link does have a slight description of the finale, so if you don’t want any clues, don’t read the last paragraph). According to that link, yes, the show will be at 8 pm, not 9 pm as usual. This is to accommodate the new episode of Kitchen Nightmares at 9 pm.

But before you get too upset, please remember, that it’s for a good cause.

The show is being preempted by a telethon to raise money for the victims of Haiti’s recent quake. “Hope for Haiti” will be commercial-free and run across a number of networks–including the main five. That’s right, even Law & Order will be preempted by the event.

It’s two hours long and will include celebrity appearances, musical guests, and news reports. I’m not entirely sure why they chose next week and not this week (perhaps there just wasn’t enough time to plan it), but have no fear, all you Dollhouse fans, you’ll get your final fix.

And just imagine how much more that ending will be anticipated after a two-week break. I could barely handle one after last week’s heart-stopper.

Dollhouse: He’s paid not to look surprised.

KT’s mind has been blown, though happily in a less messy way than Bennett’s.

DOLLHOUSE:  2.11 “Getting Closer”

Holy cow.  This year, everything I thought I knew about the Dollhouse has been turned on its head.  And yet, so much of the episode seemed like the logical continuation to what came before.

Last spring, we saw Caroline sneak into a Rossum-affiliated lab as an animal rights activist and come out knowing that Rossum is guilty of more than just animal testing.  I guessed at the time that there was a gap between those events and the scene at the beginning of “Ghost,” in which Caroline reluctantly signs Adelle’s contract.  Now we see that there was a significant gap:  Caroline had time to force a horny security guard help her break into Adelle’s office, become friends and roommates with Bennett Halverson, and plan a major operation involving explosives (which implies a few things too, since in “Echoes,” Caroline didn’t strike me as someone who knew about bombs).  I had been really curious about that gap, so I’m glad we got to see what she was up to.

I suppose it goes with the territory (“ack, our show’s just been cancelled and we have to wrap things up!”), but there’s something very weird about Adelle’s position — the extreme urgency of declaring war on Rossum after finding out that civilization will fall due to schematics she offered up on a silver platter.  Everything escalated so quickly, there was barely time to take it all in. (And yet, the episode was filled with slow, character driven scenes — more on that later.)

I’m about to start a full re-watch of the series, and something I want to look for is Adelle’s track record of bad decisions (or at least, “bad” in the eyes of her bosses).  She appears super-confident and super-competent, but was getting Caroline back so urgent that they had to kidnap Bennett Halverson?  After all, she put Echo in the Attic just to dig around for information, with no guarantee that Echo would figure out how to escape or how quickly she might manage it.  Surely there might have been more subtle ways of getting her help, ways that wouldn’t lead to Rossum soldiers flooding into the Dollhouse.

Except that maybe they would, since it seems Boyd (Boyd!) is the head of Rossum Corporation.  That was the reveal that completely blew my mind, but now my question is, how much power does he really have?  Is he on the same page with board members like Mr. Ambrose, or is he at odds with some of them?  The latter seems likely:  since he killed the soldier threatening Topher and Echo, I assume he was not the one who called the forces in.  But who knows.

Throughout the series, Boyd has been particularly concerned for Echo and interested in her development.  Was it her potential that drew him to take the handler job, or has he been grooming her for something ever since Caroline blew up the Rossum building in Tucson?  Was she meant to be a special project for Rossum (to be useful or profitable), or as something to use against his enemies within the company.

(Speaking of Tucson, isn’t it awfully convenient that Adelle was in town when Caroline made her move?  And why exactly did Adelle have files on Caroline and Bennett in her office at that time? — I’d expect that information to be stored at Rossum HQ, not on paper in every ‘House.  Odd.)

But as fascinating as the plot twists were, the most beautiful moments were the slow, character driven ones.  The brilliant, bizarre romance of Bennett and Topher (with the inevitable Whedon ending).  The wrenching “Epitaph One” scene between Claire and Boyd.  The reveal of what Paul has lost.   Topher starting to fall apart, yet finally recognizing Ivy for her talents.  And as a member of the church of Firefly, I loved Caroline’s comment early in the episode that Bennett could probably kill someone with her brain.

Clearly, it’s going to be a wild ride to the finale and one that will put our characters through the wringer.  I’m only sad that it has to end!

Dollhouse: Shades of gray and a big reveal

Raked could barely hold it together last night after an epic episode of Dollhouse. Could you?

DOLLHOUSE: 2.11 “Getting Closer”

I knew as soon as she went up to the Rossum office that we were in for a pretty big reveal. We’d never seen Rossum before, and apparently, the only person who had was Caroline. I hadn’t really realized this until last night, and actually, I guess what we found out was that, really, everyone had seen Rossum.

But let’s backtrack and chat Caroline for a while. I find her character–a character that has been basically nonexistent this entire series, while still being a main driving force of the show–to be incredibly interesting. We started the series with Caroline as the victim. The one who needs to be saved. I mean, Ballard certainly thought so. That’s what started his venture into the Dollhouse.

But as Echo developed, so did our impression of Caroline. When we met Bennett, we discovered that perhaps Caroline wasn’t so great. She left Bennett in the Rossum building after the explosion, under the assumption that she was leaving her for the cops to find (or worse). She was cold, dangerous. If anything, we wanted Echo here and Caroline anywhere but.

It’s strange to see how swiftly we were able to accept Caroline as a villain and not the victim anymore. But it’s more than that. Last night, we found out more. Bennett’s view of Caroline was one of abuse and betrayal, when we actually found out that Caroline was saving Bennett. She asked her to leave. She arranged her belongings so Rossum would never know that Bennett betrayed them. She watched her back as much as she could.

And her morality? She was really in it to save more than animals. She wanted to save the people that were in the facility. That’s what caused her plan to go wrong.

So do I want Caroline to come back? Well, I’m still not sure. She could very well fight Echo with all her might. But then again, she does have the answers that we need. Namely, Boyd.

When Caroline entered that room, I knew we’d be finding out something big. That’s why I was straining to recognize Clyde. When did we see him before? Who was this guy? Well, we never have. He’s one of the dolls that his original self mentioned in the Attic. And did his mannerisms remind you of anyone? Say, maybe Topher? I hinted at that before.

Anyway, once I discovered that he’s not the one we should be paying attention to, I didn’t even have time to think about who we’ll be seeing. I had no suspicions. Looking back now, I still wouldn’t have thought it was who we were about to see.

Boyd? Boyd?! I mean, I love Boyd–er, well, Rossum. To know that he’s actually a black hat in the entire series, well, it’s just incredibly hard to swallow. What does he really want with Caroline? Why is she his pawn? And what are we going to see in the next two episodes?

Is it fair for me to say that I’m really not sure whether this show would be as good as it is if it didn’t only have two episodes left? Forcing the show to reveal itself has made for incredible television. I have faith (and wish it were the case) that if it were still continuing, we’d get some great episodes. But this good?

Let’s just say that while I’ll miss it, I’m not missing the next two episodes for anything.