Home > Episode Recaps, Opinions (TV), TV > TV: Dollhouse (S02E01 & S02E02)

TV: Dollhouse (S02E01 & S02E02)


Wikipedia Fact: "On February 10, 2009, Dushku told reporters in a conference call that Whedon has a 5-year plan for the show, and has decided how his characters will evolve through that point."

Year of Broadcast: 2009 (episode 1 26 days behind US, episode 2 19 days behind US)

Starring: Eliza Dushku, Harry J. Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Olivia Williams, Amy Acker, Miracle Laurie, Alexis Denisof, Jamie Bamber, Kristoffer Polaha.

*Spoilers Follow*

Summary (episode 1): Ballard uses Echo in an undercover investigation to try and bring down a criminal who always eluded him at the FBI; Dr. Saunders struggles with the revelations about her identity, and takes it out on Topher; Senator Daniel Perrin announces an investigation into the Rossum corporation.

Thoughts: As a series, Dollhouse is very likely doomed.  Its ratings in the second season have been consistently lower than even the lowest-performing episode of the previous season, and no matter how much Fox make the right noises about “strong DVR figures” and the like, they aren’t going to keep with a show that can’t generate ad revenue.  It’s a shame, because while the start of season one was fairly poor, unable to justify the Dollhouse’s existence within the series or set up interesting events, it really did pick up  towards the end.  Unfortunately that was once most of the target audience had given up, and so far season two hasn’t brought them back, so hopefully the writers will have the sense to make the season finale into a suitable series finale, because that’s what it’s likely to be.

Anyway, to the episode itself.  It was clear at the end of the first season that Ballard was going to end up as Echo’s handler and replace the recently-promoted Boyd, but things hadn’t quite reached that point by the start of this episode.  Echo’s new handler was so anonymous that I only recall him being present in one scene, with Ballard functioning in that role for pretty much the whole episode anyway, so it was no surprise when it became his official role.

Echo’s assignment itself was Ballard’s choice, using her to marry a criminal he had never been able to put away and try to find incriminating evidence.  We were treated to another incident of Echo’s old memories (which are all supposed to have been wiped and stored on hard drives) coming back to interfere with her assignment.  It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last, but it is sort of explained now thanks to Echo apparently having been ‘sabotaged’ by somebody on the inside, being used to bring down the Dollhouse.  This does also get around the problem of faulty Dolls generally being locked away in the Attic, because Ballard is also still trying to end the Dollhouse’s operation and covers for her.

The ‘case’ itself was fairly standard spy fare: character infiltrates criminal organisation and is then caught by criminal, but ultimately succeeds in killing/capturing the criminal.  Aside from the memory imprinting, it’s the kind of thing that could have been plucked straight out of early Alias, the show Dollhouse is generally most comparable to in its format and premise (strong female character takes on a new identity each week on behalf of an organisation she is actually working to destroy).  It was generally fine, and served as a demonstration of what Ballard is pretending is his reason for joining the Dollhouse, being able to work cases that weren’t possible at the FBI.

The episode also introduced another Whedon alumnus into the recurring cast, Alexis Denisof, who joins Eliza Dushku as somebody to have appeared on Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse (also like Dushku, he played the same character in the first two and a new one in the latter).  Summer Glau is also apparently joining the cast later in the season, and thanks to a minor role in one episode of Angel that also gives her appearances in three separate Whedon shows, but as three different characters.  Anyway, Perrin seems to be stepping into the Ballard role this season, being the person trying to bring down the Dollhouse from the outside, and it will be interesting to see where that goes, seeing as he’s a much more public figure who can’t just be brushed aside like Ballard.

In closing then, this episode was a solid return for the series (with a particularly good scene between Topher and Saunders as they discussed the creation of her current identity and its effect on her mental state), but it probably needed to be something really spectacular to keep the show alive, and it wasn’t.

Summary (episode 2): Thanks to pioneering new techniques from Topher, Echo becomes a new mother wholly in love with her child; DeWiit visits a former Doll; Perrin receives some interesting information from an anonymous source.

Thoughts: For most of the episode, this one felt dangerously close to being filler.  We’ve had Echo take the role of the deceased wife before, though Topher’s success in getting the brain imprint to physically alter Echo’s body and make her really feel like a mother to the child was a slightly new variant.  The assignment went wrong, again, although this time it was because Echo was programmed too effectively rather than malfunctioning.  Echo’s wipe didn’t work (again, which is by design), Ballard covered for her (again), and the person investigating the Dollhouse (Perrin, rather than Ballard) received an anonymous tip (again).  It even ended in a similar way to the previous episode, with Ballard and Echo discussing how she still remembers it all, but I liked that Ballard offered to let her admit she’s ‘malfunctioning’ and have her properly wiped, so she won’t feel the pain.

As such, I don’t really have much to say.  It wasn’t a bad episode and I enjoyed watching it.  That’s about it.

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