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Dollhouse — Episode 1.3 ‘Stage Fright’

Monday, March 2, 2009

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Okay — first you need to get over the whole ‘oh god — a star who wants to be free of it all by killing herself’ thing.

Because once you do that, you realize that this is the best episode yet.

For you see, I’m not interested in the ‘weekly enterprise’ plots.  Not at all.  I actually realized they aren’t important whatsoever, no matter how well or badly executed they may be.  She could be an astronaut fighting a giant space monkey for all I care.  All I’m interested in at the moment is the ongoing story — the ‘arc’ stuff, if you will.  And in this episode we great a lot of great arc stuff.

Most significantly, we find out that Victor is a Doll being used simply to dick Ballard around.  I think even some of the show’s detractors would have to admit that’s a pretty clever idea.

We have Sierra being thrown into the fray in an interesting way, and see how she’s used to further Echo’s ‘differentiation’ from the other Dolls (we also find out how unassailably cute Dichen Lachman is, although that’s more a strictly personal observation . . . where does Joss find all these women?  First Alyson Hannigan, then Amy Acker, then Jewel Staite, now Lachman — good eye, that).

We’ve got tension between Boyd and Sierra’s handler; we’ve got the furthering of the friendship between Boyd and Saunders; we’ve got Laurence still walking around like he owns the place; plus, we’ve still got the whole ‘what’s up with Echo?’ and Alpha mysteries to build on.

Also, the dialogue was a lot better than it could have been given the subject material (whaz up?); and, overall, even though like I said I don’t care about the weekly storyline, this one had a fairly tightly paced plot which tied everything together nicely at the end (in the way Echo used it to ‘build on the parameters,’ like they said, highlighting her ‘difference,’ as I mentioned earlier).

Yes, I was afraid they were going to blow their wad and have Alpha introduced in this episode — obviously I’m glad they didn’t.  This was a very good episode for where they are right now in the series, and according to some things I’ve seen it apparently gets better from here on in.  Hopefully that’s the case.

Also, another very slight ratings drop-off, but not enough to even affect the overall share, so I don’t think it’s a big deal.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. SarahP permalink
    Monday, March 2, 2009 2:35 pm

    Here’s what’s going to happen sometime in the next five years of Dollhouse, if it lasts that long: Echo will continue to compile herself, and slowly get the other dolls to do the same; Ballard will eventually find Dollhouse, and he will either get killed, or bought off/blackmailed, or become a doll; Echo’s handler (Boyd?) will become an accomplice of Echo in her quest to free herself from the Dollhouse and bring it down forever; as for Alpha, he left Echo alive ’cause he knew she would one day bring it all crumbling down to the ground. Or maybe Echo doesn’t need to become self aware. Maybe she already is. Maybe she’s a plant.

    So, with all that cleared up, I’m not watching the episodes for the story arc. I’m watching them to enjoy them as good entertainment. And there’s definitely a fly in the ointment of entertainment in the last episode. G asked a really good question: What did Echo do in this last episode that couldn’t have been done by any undercover agent? I didn’t notice any behaviour that couldn’t have been found in a vigilant black ops bodyguard (black ops ’cause Booty-Shaker Singer Lady wouldn’t know). The personalities being implanted in these dolls just aren’t extraordinary enough to justify wiping their entire persons and charging millions of dollars.

    The premise is not enough to keep me glued to the tv. There needs to be some substance to back it up. And the story arc revelations this week weren’t really revelations. Other than Victor being a doll, I know no more now than I did last week. And even that isn’t a great surprise.

    • James17930 permalink
      Tuesday, March 3, 2009 2:49 am

      “Here’s what’s going to happen sometime in the next five years of Dollhouse, if it lasts that long: Echo will continue to compile herself, and slowly get the other dolls to do the same; Ballard will eventually find Dollhouse, and he will either get killed, or bought off/blackmailed, or become a doll; Echo’s handler (Boyd?) will become an accomplice of Echo in her quest to free herself from the Dollhouse and bring it down forever; as for Alpha, he left Echo alive ’cause he knew she would one day bring it all crumbling down to the ground. Or maybe Echo doesn’t need to become self aware. Maybe she already is. Maybe she’s a plant.”

      Umm . . . all that, plus the numerous possibilities you didn’t mention, is quite a lot that could happen in the next five years. I would hardly call it ‘cleared up’ already, and claim that watching for the arc is not relevant. You could take issue with me not really watching for the individual stories, sure, but taking the opposite approach and saying you’re not watching for the arc seems a bit extreme.

      “What did Echo do in this last episode that couldn’t have been done by any undercover agent?”

      I can think of two possible reasons it makes sense to someone like Echo:

      1) They needed someone who could be on stage during a performance, someone who could act quicker than any off-stage security;

      2) They needed another back-up singer anyway since the last one got torched.

      “The premise is not enough to keep me glued to the tv. There needs to be some substance to back it up.”

      I am now starting to — if not agree with it — come around to the idea that the premise might be flawed. You’re right; if it just keeps traipsing on in this vein for a long time, it’s going to get tiresome. But don’t worry — I know Joss, and Joss don’t let that happen. I think we’ll see some great stuff emerge as long as he’s given time by the network to do it.

  2. Monday, March 2, 2009 4:26 pm

    Scene 1: The party. A group of moderately good-looking culturatti-ers are standing around having excited, often heated, exchanges about the merits of Joss Whedon’s new show, Dollhouse. Suddenly, someone new arrives. A mood-killing record scratch rips across the room, and everyone turns to look at the goofy guy in the Captain Hook costume who has just stumboled in. He tries to think of something witty to say, but all that comes to his lips is: ‘Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate life’, followed by ‘The Crocodile!’ Yet, as the party resumes, the cultured crowd allow the over-acting thespian to offer his own verdict on Dollhouse.

    Will he make Mr. Whedon walk the plank?

    Not yet.

    I thought the pilot was fine, the second episode a bit better (some decent surprises), and this third episode really, really bad. The pop diva plot maybe worked for the 14-year-old crowd who possibly have never thought about how soul-destroying it is to be a pop diva (or even worse, a back-up dancer/pop diva in training). But I think the biggest problem was that there was no reason why the Dolls had to be used at all – everything that they tried to do, could have been done by real undercover agents (the singing maybe not, but everything else). I mean, the manager did come to the Dollhouse first, but that feels like a conceit to get the episode going, rather than a legitimate use of the Dollhouse.

    I loved Firefly, but Dollhouse, in general, feels lazy, like it’s striving to be middle-of-the-road instead of being awesome. I’ve had my own worries about the sustainability of the premise, and yeah, the acting skills of the main Doll, as played by Ms. Dushku, provide barely a reason to tune in every week, but I do believe that Whedon must have a better idea of where his show is headed then do his fans or detractors, so I’ll stick it out for a few more episodes.

    However, if they continue to go down in quality after ‘Stage Fright’, then I may not be able to stick it out for much longer. At this point I doubt whether this show has the interest level that Lost does, or even the fun, watchability factor that Alias had (Alias wasn’t a particularly well-written or even well acted show, but it was certainly addictive).

    But for now, I shall stow my gab and await the always critical EPISODE 4. Well, I don’t know if it’s critical, but it better be an improvement over 3.

    • James17930 permalink
      Tuesday, March 3, 2009 2:52 am

      “I thought the pilot was fine, the second episode a bit better (some decent surprises), and this third episode really, really bad. The pop diva plot maybe worked for the 14-year-old crowd who possibly have never thought about how soul-destroying it is to be a pop diva (or even worse, a back-up dancer/pop diva in training).”

      See the first line of my post.

      “But I think the biggest problem was that there was no reason why the Dolls had to be used at all – everything that they tried to do, could have been done by real undercover agents (the singing maybe not, but everything else).”

      See my response to Sarah’s comment.

      “I’ve had my own worries about the sustainability of the premise, and yeah, the acting skills of the main Doll, as played by Ms. Dushku, provide barely a reason to tune in every week, but I do believe that Whedon must have a better idea of where his show is headed then do his fans or detractors, so I’ll stick it out for a few more episodes.”

      See, also, my response to Sarah.

      And . . . that was pretty straight forward. But don’t worry — I’ve got something fun for you later.

      (Not like that).

  3. Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:40 pm

    If you’ll allow me the luxury of a swear: this episode was fucking terrible. This was god-awful. I am done with this show.

    Unlike these detractors James keeps mentioning (I have no idea who he’s talking about), I do like the premise, and think there’s some real potential to be mined, but that’s not an automatic pass — they can’t heap shit like this atop the concept and expect me to dig through it.

    There were exactly two moments of interest in this episode: the revelation about the Russian Doll guy, and the little head-shake at the end. The reveal was all right, but nothing particularly inventive, while the head shake is a genuinely intriguing moment, crafted in a clever way, that does hit on the promise of the show.

    If the level of that moment somehow becomes the norm further down the line, then maybe I’ll give it a DVD try, but for now, I can’t justify an hour a week on this. It’s not good; the interesting ideas it has floating around in there are smothered in garbage. I don’t find the dialogue good at all. I don’t like any of the characters. And the individual plot episodes have been insulting and cliché.

    I guess that reads pretty hostile. But I’m not rooting for Dollhouse to be canceled; if anything, I’d like it to become the show James is convinced it will become (or already is?!?). After two meh episodes, and then that traffic accident I just watched, it’s hard to picture it getting there.

    Furthermore…

    • James17930 permalink
      Wednesday, March 4, 2009 1:35 am

      See the first line of my . . . oh, nevermind.

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