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Dollhouse — Episode 2.2 ‘Instinct’

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Before I begin: if anyone out there still had any doubts that porn had not gone 100% mainstream, the opening of this episode should relieve them of such; when a prime-time network television show can use subtle allusions to ‘squirting‘ and know that its audience will understand those allusions, and then use that ‘understanding’ to make a little joke afterward, well — that’s mainstream.

Anyway, aside from the raunchy/funny beginning, this episode was not so good.  Not only was it not so good, it was exactly what Dollhouse didn’t need right now — another momentum killer.  This felt like a first-season episode, and one of the lessor first-season episodes at that; plus, it was confusing.  Let’s trudge on.

The premise was okay – Echo getting that ‘glandular change’ which makes her all ‘maternal-instinct-y’ which makes her do extreme mama-bear things.  Fine.  But again, this type of thing should have been in the first season; we’re past this part of the show’s and Echo’s development, and so we’re forced to accept it as either glass-half-full redundant or glass-half-empty poor planning.  This type of story doesn’t make sense right now because we’ve already seen Echo fully actualized — at the end of Vows she clearly states that she remembers every single one of her past personae when she’s in her doll state, and we saw her even ‘remember’ her kung-fu skills in the airplane hanger, so how does it make sense that here she doesn’t remember, at first, how to drive, or that she didn’t seem to have any modicum of understanding about what was going on when she ‘felt’ the need to go take the baby at the end?  Okay, sure the father-guy explains it to her and then she ‘remembers,’ but why was that necessary?  What happened to her calm and clinical recognition of her situation from Vows?  Oh, wait, it’s still there — she has basically the exact same conversation with Ballard in the park at the very end of Instinct that she had with him at the end of Vows, but it conveniently takes place after she’s done the crazy baby-stealing bit; don’t want logic to ruin a dramatic moment (and by logic I mean the logic of the show — I’m sure everyone would agree with me that real logic doesn’t enter into the equation here).

Maybe I’m being too cynical or hard on the writers, being nit-picky, but it just really annoys me when an episode like this comes along at this time, because it just causes the show (and so, by extension, the audience) to go running around in circles.  I thought the vagary of Vows was okay, because I expected there to be more forward momentum this week, but now we’re either standing still or taking a step back.

And now to address the whole problem of one of the sub-plots.  I had wondered what exactly happened to the Actives who had fulfilled their contracts and gone back out into the world.  Did they have their memories of the Dollhouse wiped so as not to be a threat later on?  That would seem to make sense.  But no — they are simply trusted not to say anything to anyone.  “Please don’t tell anyone about the Dollhouse . . . thanks!”  Are we really supposed to believe that an organization of this power and magnitude, which goes to such incredible lengths to maintain its secrecy and invisibility, would just let its former ‘slaves’ out into the real world and hope they don’t expose them on faith alone?  You could argue that with so many clients out there who know about it, what’s wrong with a few former Actives?  But the clients are less of a risk to talk because they wouldn’t have any reason to feel aggrieved; it’s much more foreseeable that a person, after thinking about it for a while, could say ‘screw the money, I’m going to the press with this.’  It just seems really contrived.

Although, somewhere the contrived system is not working, because someone is squealing to Senator Alexis Denisof (is it just me or is it hard to listen to him speak without a British accent?).  Suspects:

– Boyd

– Ballard

– Dr. Saunders/Whiskey

– Madeline/November

– Someone else who is not so obvious so as to facilitate a grand ‘gotcha!’ moment later on

Boyd, Ballard and Saunders are obviously the three prime suspects here, especially given that Ballard says quite clearly that his goal is still to ‘bring down the Dollhouse’; but then, if that’s the case, why would he not just to public with it?  Get a video camera, record everything, and release it to the news?  If it is him feeding the Senator information, why do it that way?  You could argue he wants to kill not just the Dollhouses but the entire Rossum corporation as well, but he could bring the whole thing down any single moment he wanted to simply by making it public, and then Caroline would be freed, everyone would be freed.  What really is stopping him from doing that?  Worry about his life?  Maybe, but would he really care?  I don’t know — having him say that, with no ambiguity involved, again just confuses things because there’s no reason now for him to be carrying on as he is.

Muddled.  That’s what everything is now.  Muddled.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Tuesday, October 6, 2009 3:02 am

    I think I may have been jumping the gun a little bit with my ‘we’ve already seen Echo fully actualized’ comment. I think I may have been projecting too far ahead to ‘Epitaph One’ and not realizing that we’re still in a very early stage of Echo’s ‘development’ here.

    Which, I realized, is a potential downfall of Epitaph One. By showing us so much of what is to come, it’s possible we’ll find ourselves not really caring about these intermediate steps (it they’re not done truly interestingly).

    But there’s a good chance the show’s gonna get cancelled, so it may all be moot anyway.

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