KT is starting things off this week and Raked will join us shortly. Tea, anyone?
DOLLHOUSE: 2.02 “Instinct”
Last week Echo got married; this week she’s a new mother. Life moves fast in the Dollhouse.
This episode depends on the idea that the maternal instinct is the strongest bond imaginable. It certainly proves to be stronger than the bond between active and handler — and though it’s artificial, last season’s “The Target” showed us how strong that bond can be. Although, as ever with Echo, we do have to wonder whether she’s acting differently because Topher did something new and different or because of her special ability to hold dozens of personalities in her head except for sometimes when she doesn’t seem to remember they’re there. It’s a little confusing and I don’t really understand what the rules are for Echo.
On the other hand, it seems that trauma and kidnapping are the recipe for getting an ambivalent father to bond with his baby son.
One of my favorite things about this episode was that, for a change, the engagement went south (initially) not because of a weirdness in Echo’s programming, but because the Dollhouse and the client made a poor choice regarding how much to tell her. Echo clearly had an idea of what her “husband” was like before the baby and the unexplained change made her suspicious. Topher admits later that imprinting lactation was probably a bad idea, but I think his first mistake was in not programming her to believe that the husband had always been as we saw him. Once we knew he was taking out his grief on the baby, it made sense — but Echo’s initial suspicions about the affair weren’t completely crazy. Plus, they didn’t really play it up here, but wouldn’t it be horrifying to overhear that phone call to the Dollhouse where he asked for her to be removed? And then you watch your best friend waltz into the suspicious black van — the seeds for serious paranoia are all there. (Although, why this imprint got freaked out about the black van when none of the others ever have, I cannot explain.)
At the end, Echo’s plot suddenly turned into a pastiche of a stalker movie, thunderstorm and all, with the twist of course being that stalker-ish Echo felt herself to be the threatened mother. I thought that was an odd stylistic choice, and that Echo’s confrontation with the baby’s father felt awfully long. Writing the climax of the episode as a character moment involving a one-episode character is hard to pull off, and this one didn’t quite get there. I think that’s a big part of the problem with Dollhouse‘s Engagement-of-the-Week plots, and I’m hoping to see fewer of them this season.
One last Echo-related quibble: The shoes on this show are still killing me. Mommy Echo takes her baby downstairs, complains about needing coffee, but is already wearing four-inch wedges? Raked, have we started a Dollhouse drinking game yet? The shoes need to be on the list.
[After the jump, we’ll talk about
people other than Echo!]
I was pleased to see Madeleine back and raising lots of questions as usual. The practical: Do all the former actives have to come in for diagnostics? On a regular basis, or as a one-time deal? Backstory related: What exactly was her recruitment like, that it created this bizarre relationship with Adelle? And outside the story itself: Is this character walking out now, or will the writers find a way to keep her around?
But most of all, is she really so very pleased with what her Dollhouse experience did for her, or is she carefully trying not to say the wrong thing, as she half-joked to Adelle? Her scene with Paul was beautifully sensitive and painfully awkward all at once. Madeleine’s scenes were easily my favorite part of the episode.
Paul Ballard’s interaction with Topher is interesting to me, and I think when we’ve seen a little more it will be interesting to compare Topher’s relationship with Paul to his relationship with Boyd. He condescends to both of them and they all three acknowledge the moral dubiousness of what they’re doing, each in his own way. But watch how Paul puts up with that condescension in order to learn more about the Dollhouse technology and how it works. Certainly he’s providing an opportunity for exposition, but as he reminds us at the end, he’s still out to bring this place down. (Also, he can make that chair look really tiny!)
Predictions! I haven’t even mentioned Senator Perrin yet. Who do you think is sending him information? Ballard seems to be the obvious choice, but it could also be Alpha or even Madeleine, though if we take her chat with Ballard at face value, she seems an unlikely choice. Or, for that matter, are we sure that Dominic was the only mole in the ‘House?