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Dollhouse — Episode 1.6 ‘Man on the Street’

Friday, March 20, 2009

dollhouse-topherBy: Sarah P.

Okay, why wasn’t THIS the pilot?  Talk about exposing the potential in a series, and dramatic character development through plot!  It had me both anxious and laughing in the first 15 minutes (PORN!).  It blew the doors off the mundane, pedestrian plot lines of the 1st 5 episodes.  This is indeed what I’ve been waiting for.


The overall format of the episode really, really lent itself to a pilot episode.  It was able to entertain, as well as intrigue, and proved to be an engaging technique – interweaving the “man on the street” sections with fast paced action, and slower moment of exposition.

I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the Joel Minor omnicient geek character, and the somewhat silly conversation Ballard had with him, but that’s a small point.  The moment when Boyd declared “They’re all broken” was fantastic, as was the revelation about Millie (not to mention the progress of her relationship with Ballard).  Echo’s comparatively limited role in this episode made a much bigger impact on the story than her monopolization of other less interesting stories.

The lasting impression I take away from it is the level of sophistication Whedon is able to incorporate into an otherwise silly sci-fi prime time soap.  The conspiracy feeling he put into this one was great; I’m abuzz with questions, I actually cared about the characters, and the basic premise of the Dollhouse and the ramifications of its existence was made plain.  I’m beginning to like characters, hate characters, and love to hate characters. It’s the atmosphere I was expecting from episode 1 – too bad it took until episode 6 to appear, but appear it has in spectacular fashion.

What can I say.  In one episode, I’m hooked.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, March 22, 2009 1:13 am

    But I don’t think it could have started off like this — would have been too much too soon, I think. I think having this be the mid-season ‘hook’ episode is a really good idea.

    It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but yeah, it was good. You’re right — the convo with the geek went on for too long, but other than that it was pretty tight. I had some suspicions about Mellie all along, so I wasn’t overly surprised to see her as a Doll.

    Now, the two main questions are:

    1) Is there really an ‘inside’ person who ‘really’ gave Ballard ‘real’ information through Echo? Or is that just a setup as well?; and

    2) If the info is true, what is that ‘top layer,’ above DeWitt, the one with the ‘real purpose’ all about?

    And I just realized that there was technically no reason to send Sierra’s handler guy to Ballard’s apartment just to be killed by Mellie, unless it was all meant just as a test of Mellie’s programming; unless it was meant to make Ballard think they’re after him, but then if that’s the case, Echo seems to be the one to give him that info, which would mean the whole ‘inside man’ thing is in fact all a lie.

    Or maybe I’m reading into it too much.

  2. SarahP permalink
    Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:42 am

    Regarding Millie’s revelation and subsequent killing of Sierra’s handler: maybe they’re just really trying to make Ballard run scared. Double whammy. Or even just to cement the trust Ballard has in Millie, which will make him all the more easy to control.

    At this point, I tend to believe that the message from Echo was legit, or else Ballard’s no farther than he was, and the higher-ups are just jerking him around, instead of simply setting up some plausible death for him (like getting Millie to kill him “by accident”) if they really wanted him off their trail. Of course, there could be a third party, with their own agenda separate from both Ballard and the Dollhouse.

    Here’s a thought; DeWitt is a doll. She’s being controlled by her higher-ups. But someone else has gained control over her (Alpha?) and sent Sierra’s handler to his death using a method that is not standard procedure (the third flower in the vase was green). I don’t remember Dominic (her handler if she is a doll) in the room when she gave the hander his mission…but maybe he was, which would throw the whole thing off. This other controller could be the one who imbeded the message into Echo’s engagement. Anyway, it’s all just speculation at this point.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Monday, March 23, 2009 12:35 am

    Yes — there are so many possibilities . . . which actually brings up a potential problem, which is that the possibility for the show to go ape-shit crazy is there and they need to do their best to avoid it.

    Some layers are good, but if there are too many layers it just gets silly. Personally, I hope that the ‘message embedded in Echo’ is legit, because, for me, that would be the right number of layers; if it comes to pass that it was a fake message, and there’s some sort of double-cross brewing, but then someone else sets up a triple-cross, then Adelle is a Doll after all, and the whole Alpha story was a fake to fake everyone out, and then Topher is actually a robot . . .

    You get the idea. So I hope they temper it all well and just tell a good, intriguing story with enough twists to make it interesting but not enough to make the collective eyes roll.

  4. Monday, March 23, 2009 11:47 am

    I’m now all caught up with Dollhouse – watched episode 5 and 6 yesterday. I didn’t think 5 was all that bad actually, I certainly didn’t dislike it as much as Sarah did.

    And I’m going to have to concur with my two esteemed Culturatti colleagues; Episode 6 has been the best yet. It’s what the show should have been like from the start, and I think it makes the case that the stories are much more interesting when they don’t focus on Echo’s ‘situation of the week’ narrative drive, and give us a wide range of subplots focusing on all the characters. Boyd was given something interesting to do, and Ballard’s plight is beginning to be fleshed out nicely. This episode was an ensemble effort, not an Echo story, and it’s much better for it.

    There were some genuinely emotional moments, and the surprise about Mellie was genuine (I had suspected she might have been a doll, then dismissed it during this episode, so the shock that she is in fact a doll was great).

    Whether the show can continue this upward trajectory remains to be seen. I hope it does, as the true potential of it is beginning to reveal itself.

    PS. The only aspect I thought didn’t quite work well were the actual ‘man on the street’ interviews. They were over-scripted and didn’t feel natural at all – I only really liked the professor’s monologue at the end, because he is the type of person that would have said the things he said, and that was a nice moment.

  5. tgjkennedy permalink
    Monday, March 23, 2009 4:54 pm

    I think the “Man on the street” stuff worked well… For the first time, I got that this is supposed to be a world-wide conspiracy type story, not just the story of Echo getting free of the Dollhouse. There may have been a bit too much of it, however, because I got bored with it after a while.

    Generally I think this was a fantastic episode. Really funny (the PORN! stuff had me laughing my ass off as well), and my head is spinning with possibilities for who is double-crossing who. I think that the message Echo delivered was legit. My bet right now is on the other lab tech, the one that keeps getting sent for snacks.

    The Mellie stuff I saw coming… but even when I turned out to be right, it was done in a way that was really fun to watch (seriously, she killed him with a coffee table).

    I look forward to the next episode!

  6. tgjkennedy permalink
    Monday, March 23, 2009 4:57 pm

    Also, totally adorable:

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