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Dollhouse — Episode 1.4 ‘Gray Hour’

Sunday, March 8, 2009

dollhousepreview_1229719020Well, seems more than just Mr. Beal thought last week’s episode was pretty shit — there was a quite substantial ratings drop-off for this episode.  Did those impatient people who jumped ship miss anything good this week?  Yes.  Even though I was enthusiastic about ‘Stage Fright‘ because of the way the story worked within the overall arc, I do admit the premise of the episode was lame.  Here, though, we get the same sort of thing — the arc being advanced within and through Echo’s ‘engagement’ — but, I think most people would admit this one was done in a much better way.

First, there was the whole ‘red herring’ bit at the beginning, where Echo and her Merry Men gain access to the underground security office by way of some play-acting and subterfuge.  Now, a detractor will probably say, “Pbff, shows do stuff like that all the time.”  Sure.  But did you see it coming?  If not, then to me it doesn’t matter.  It served its purpose.  Then the plot of the episode was okay, if not wholly original, but there was a slow build to it, and some betrayal and such, to keep it interesting.

Then, of course, the other main detail was the ‘remote wipe’ that Alpha pulled off on Echo.  Okay, I also know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, yeah, it’s just the same thing that’s been happening all along — Alpha is playing around with Echo during her engagements, big deal” (see also ‘The Target‘).  But remember, we are still only four episodes in; I think it would be a bit too early to claim an insurmountable repetitiveness; Joss is putting together a 13-episode season here, so he must have everything planned out for the appropriate times.  I’m thinking everything’s gonna explode in Episode 6, given that it’s the half-way point of the season, and, you know, both Joss and Eliza have said in interviews that episode 6 is going to be really good.

But, now, based on the ratings, will we even get there?  If I were Fox, I would at least let these 13 episodes play out and then see where things stand in the summer — see what the reaction is to the overall thing and then make a decision whether or not to renew in the fall.

You may also be thinking that if the show really had a bright future ahead of it, it wouldn’t require so much defending; well, possibly.  And I admit that I’m defending Joss’s reputation and methods at the moment more than the actual show; but I’ve made the point before: seasons 1 of both Buffy and Angel had some real clunkers, but the network at the time didn’t panic and pull the plug too early, and both of those shows grew into fantastic pieces of work.  Hopefully enough people who couldn’t be bothered to tune in on Friday get curious enough to catch up online and then make their way back to their TV sets next week.

Although, I just thought of something.  A Neilson box might not be a great way to measure ratings for a new show, because, once someone with a box has decided they aren’t going to watch something any more, it basically means that viewer is forever lost; there’s no way to know how many new viewers are being picked up in non-Neilson houses.  Or maybe they take that into account, somehow.

Oh, who knows.  Just don’t cancel it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. SarahP permalink
    Sunday, March 8, 2009 2:51 pm

    Yep, I would have to agree with you in almost every instance. It was a much more solid episode. There was some witty banter and a more intriguing engagement for Echo. Not only did I think that she was being assaulted by the drunk men, but I thought the hotel manager was going to take advantage of her as well; I’m glad I was wrong. I’m still not sure why a Doll would be required to perform that role when the client was able to assemble the rest of the cast of burglars, but oh well. I’ll suspend disbelief on that point for a while longer.

    I think that the fall in ratings is accurately reflecting the weakness of the show’s start-up episodes. I’m not saying it won’t get better – I too am looking forward to episode 6. I just thing that if Dollhouse does get cancelled, and Whedon has to try again, he may want to take this experience into account and make sure he’s got something strong from the start. He’s got potential to be one of the best tv creators/writers out there, but if he can’t bring in an audience, who cares? Maybe he should try some more movies.

    My final point, not to detract from the rise in quality between episodes 3 and 4, is that I’m still not enjoying the overall mood. Hopefully that will improve with more character development.

    • James17930 permalink
      Monday, March 9, 2009 11:45 am

      “Yep, I would have to agree with you in almost every instance.”

      I feel sad that the world is coming to an end . . . there was so much I wanted to do ;)

      “I’m still not sure why a Doll would be required to perform that role when the client was able to assemble the rest of the cast of burglars, but oh well.”

      Well, it kind of felt like they didn’t necessarily have any special skills (except for the antiquities expert) . . . they were just hired help. He needed an expert safe-cracker and job-doer, and getting a ready-made Doll is probably easier than finding a ‘real’ person.

      “I’m still not enjoying the overall mood.”

      I agree. It’s hard to quantify at the moment, but things still feel a bit . . . hollow. I agree that this feeling will probably go away the better we get to know the characters.

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Monday, March 9, 2009 2:32 pm

    We were all debating before why a black-ops type individual couldn’t work just as well as one of the dolls, but in this episode I kind of got it for the first time. Not only is what they are doing illegal, and requiring a special set of skills, but I think you’re paying more for the assurances that no one is going to double-cross you… Or if someone does (as happened in the episode) you’re paying for someone to make sure you get what you want in the end.

    I thought it was a really good episode… I can’t wait for more… I also have the Dollhouse theme stuck in my head.

    • James17930 permalink
      Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:03 am

      Yes, although, admittedly, the midwife thing at the beginning really strained the plausibility of it all.

      But it was just a quick intro thing so I’m willing to forget it.

  3. tgjkennedy permalink
    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:44 pm

    I liked the midwife thing… Because theoretically, that couple hired someone who would be cool to hike up to a chalet with, and could also deliver their baby if it came early. Maybe they wanted the kid born on a mountain, who knows.

    • James17930 permalink
      Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:09 pm

      I hope the show lasts long enough for us to find out just where they get all these personality imprints from.

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