1.01 “Ghost” Review – The Good & The Bad

by admin on February 14, 2009 · 31 comments

1.01 GHOST

Here is my ‘good and bad’ review of Dollhouse episode 1.01 “Ghost”.

The Good

Langton Boyd / Harry Lennix. Perhaps the most overlooked of all the “Dollhouse” cast/characters. I thought Harry Lennix did a good job in portraying Langton Boyd, the moral ying to Topher’s amoral yang. Putting a former cop into the mix as Echo’s handler is an interesting idea. Clearly Boyd sees the world a little differently from many of the other Dollhouse employees. It’s this empathy and his 1.01 GHOSTawareness of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ which I think will add a deeper level of understanding to the world that Joss Whedon is trying to portray – a world of good and bad, a world where a man like Boyd is working for an illegal operation which itself is both both good and bad.

Topher Brink. Was always one of the characters I was looking forward to seeing. His amoral attitude may be mistaken for uncaring or heartless, but perhaps he’s more of an opportunist of ‘fate’ – a man who doesn’t see right or wrong in his actions, a man who simply facilitates. A giver of life, a taker of memory. He was one of the best things about the episode – give him some more scenes with Dr. Claire Saunders, please.

I was always attracted to Dollhouse by the interesting themes of identity and memory. There was one moment in the episode where I was reminded of this fact – it came when Topher used the analogy of a person running very fast. He used it to convey the idea that even at our best, we all have flaws, and that it’s these weaknesses which  help us to excel. I think that this was a very useful analogy, not just for the Echo/Miss Penn asthma plot device – but for some of the broader strokes of the show. The idea that what makes us human is not perfection, but our ability (or otherwise) to rise above these imperfections; “Achievement, is balanced by fault..by a lack”. It’s an interesting notion especially for a show which centres around perceived perfection. In truth, even the Actives have their faults – they are imprinted with ‘real’ memories and persona’s. The trick is to balance them out, which I guess, is a good metaphor for who we are in our everyday lives.

Sierra. I know she only had two small scenes, but I felt that the contrasting imprints between her and Echo was a useful comparison to show the audience. As I’ve long said, we need more than Echo – we also need those around Echo to give her a sense of the world. No man is an island, after all.

Alpha. That’s all. Just leave that hanging there. Nice.

The Bad

The episode wasn’t slick enough. It just about held my attention. Despite the ‘re-tooling’, this was far from seamless, and at times, labored
For such a subtle premise, there were some heavy-handed moments. I wont list all of them, but what was the deal with the Ballard flashback/cut sequence with him boxing? Yeah, we felt each punch, yeah we get the idea that he’s not going to give up in his pursuit of the uncovering the Dollhouse, but sheesh, can we please be a little less obvious? There were also a few ‘Echo’ moments that we over-cooked. I think that more subtlety is needed.

The beginning of the episode was incredibly bad. It was so cliched – had I not known that I was watching I show that I have invested 11 months blogging about, I would have turned off. Sorry, but it’s true. I know that they were trying bridge the premise and the idea that the very rich and powerful have access to these “who do you want me to be?” actives, but seriously, there were too many cheese-ball moments in that opening. I can’t believe that they couldn’t find a better way of introducing us.

Echo doesn’t resonate with me at all. This is perhaps my biggest criticism. It was my fear going into this, but despite an open mind I fail to 1.01 GHOSTfeel invested in Echo. For all I cared she could have got killed in that shoot-out and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. As far as I’m concerned Echo (or Caroline, or whatever her name is, was..) wasn’t a very nice person before she was imprinted – she was aggressive, dirty and bloody annoying. I know that humans aren’t perfect, and that’s kinda the point, but if they want us to care about the girl then they have to give us SOMETHING if they are going to show us the prelude to her becoming an active. Give us some quality that we can invest in – no-one is perfect, but we all respond to human qualities, even if it’s just a spark. So yeah, Echo? Echo WHO?

Surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy any of the Paul Ballard scenes. Sorry, I know that his passionate fans will think differently, but what a let down. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Tahmoh Penikett will become one of the best things about Dollhouse, but something went wrong there. Not sure it was his fault though…
The hostage negotiation scene was pretty poor and unimaginative. It had some good moments, most of which included Sierra (which tells you how good I thought it was), but it made little sense at times. Why didn’t Topher do better research before imprinting Echo (he may be amoral, but he still has a job to do)? Why were the ‘bad guys’ so stupid? What a coincidence that one of Echo’s imprinted personalities had previously come into contact with goon #3..etc, etc. Seriously.

I’ve said this all along, but I think the show would be better if it focused less on one person or character. I can’t see how Eliza Dushku will be able to effectively carry off all of these different persona’s and personalities as the series progresses. It’s a tough task for anyone, so either they will have to share the load a bit more, or this will get real messy, real quickly. She’s not terrible by any means, but there has to be more than this.

The production values are quite good when the scenes are inside the dollhouse, but outside of the facility it’s pretty uninspiring. A bit bland.

Overall I thought that the episode was quite good, but far from earth shattering. It fell way short of the Fringe and Lostpilot episodes and didn’t have the ‘come back next week!’ attraction which those two shows had and continue to have. I was happy to see that some of the themes that initially attracted me to the show are still there, and there were some good surprises, such as the Boyd character. But all in all, the series has a lot to do in order to convince me that the past 11 months of following the show doesn’t deserve it’s own imprint. That said, I’m hopeful. I think.

Episode Rating: 6.5/10

Page 48 February 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

I thought is was beyond mere suspension of disbelief to think that Topher just happened to supply Echo with an identity who had actual first hand knowledge of the child molesting kidnapper. To think that Miss Penn even knew that the girl was in the fridge left me slack-jawed.

The opening scene reminded me for all the world of the scene in “Bionic Woman”, where Ruth and Jaime exchanged this dialogue: “I’m Ruth”, “I’m Pissed”.

As a pilot, I would have hoped for the usual big budget extravaganza. Pilots like “Alias” and “Fringe” had a much more ‘movie-like’ quality to them. This looked like it could have been 1.14 instead of 1.1

I fell for the many charms of Joss’s “Firefly” right off the bat, but nothing in DH stirred those feelings. I’ll be back for more, though. As Irina Derevko would say, “truth takes time”. Sometimes a good TV show takes time, too.

Ginger February 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

The Buffy pilot was pretty weak too, but it went to cult phenomenon. I imagine that Dollhouse will improve.

alby February 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm

For Roco:

You are quite smug with your mostly negative point of view and you cease to give any credit to Eliza which is pretty unbelievable considering she is the reason this show is on TV. You keep saying you will come back for more, but if you hate her so much than why don’t you just stop watching. I just find your commentary to be transparent and unaware. Her portrayal of a young and naive girl that is all of a sudden given the brain of a hostage negotiator is too subtle for you to understand. People can actually have their genetic makeup printed out, for real, so this concept, as sci-fi as it may seem, is pretty damn scary and actually possible. So when a young sorority girl is in Echo’s position, she is not “acting” a cliched role like a spy or such, she is still in her body, in her voice, believing she is someone else and having limited memory as to her past. Eliza did a brilliant job with finding the essence of these women and I look forward to seeing how Caroline develops and what types of people Adele thinks Echo is best to doll to inhabit.

There is so much grey in Joss’s world and that is why his shows, when given a chance, tap into something that most other show-runners in the business could only imagine touching upon, but right now you are undermining the intelligent design and skilled craftsmanship of each and every artist that has put Dollhouse together.

My suggestion is that you start to watch the show as if you didn’t blog for 11 months leading up to it. It only does harm when you watch the show as if this is a popularity contest or as if you are a professional judge. We all know that JJ Abrams is the “most liked” right now and that if he threw poop on TV, people would say it is fantastic. Fringe is actually quite an awful show in my opinion and you seem to like things that have already become mainstream rather than seeing beyond yourself and into the bigger message of a show like Dollhouse, which demonstrates that life is full of contradictions and hatred and sadness, as well as happiness, laughter and desire. This show is more honest than most shows on TV right now. And all I’ve heard is how great it becomes

Lastly, if you have been tracking the show, you should remember that FOX scrapped the pilot and basically told Joss how to write the new one. Unfortunately, good shows don’t always stay on the air. We have many examples to back this up. Does this mean that Joss should have stood by his guns and told them to F-off? Maybe, but then we wouldn’t have Dollhouse anymore. Just remember that the hand-feeding to the audience that we saw last night in the first episode was FOX’s doing and was actually still better than I thought. Also worth noting…certain shows that are extremely popular are so incredibly vapid which to me says a lot about the viewers. That is why most artists can easily see the difference between “glossy” “big-budget” thrills that frequently equal crap, and documentary style, gritty film or video that really takes oneself to a place of emotion. These can be sometimes harder to take in, but equal art of the moving image…what are you comparing Dollhouse to anyway, and what are you’re qualifications? What shows out there are better when looking at the current human condition and the state of television?

Signed, I care.

Page 48 February 15, 2009 at 12:23 am

@Ginger, I watched the first 3 or 4 Buffy eppies but never got beyond that (and never saw “Angel”), but judging from the lingering popularity of the Buffyverse, I think I will have to find the time to pick up where I left off. I kind of enjoyed what I saw, but it seemed kind of lightweight for my taste. I also just recently finished watching Buffy’s Anthony Head in S1 of the BBC’s “Merlin”, which one could argue is also light viewing, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. “Firefly” was just plain shiny.

@alby, it’s great to be passionate about favourite shows and actors(although good manners never go amiss), but unless we were watching different pilot’s, DH 1.1 just wasn’t all that. If you’re looking for standard-setting pilot’s, check out the brilliant “Alias” pilot, “Truth Be Told”, any one scene of which easily eclipses anything seen in last night’s debut of DH.

Whether it featured Dushku or Katherine Hepburn, that rich-boy birthday party scene was boring, and wasting the show’s only real action scene (motorbikes) on a frivolous, but no doubt lucrative, prostitution assignment is the sort of thing that will get old really fast. I understand that Actives are available for a wide variety of customer ‘needs’, but in the interests of the show’s longevity, I suggest they spend a lot more time on assignments that are meaningful to the bigger story.

Whether Eliza was convincing as a hostage negotiator is less important to me than Echo’s eventual ‘awakening’ and Ballard’s investigation of the DH and the escalation of tension that hopefully comes from that. I’m all about double-dealing, backstabbing, conspiratorial twists and turns. I’m less about Echo’s weekly costume-changes and the CSI procedural that her hostage negotiator-type gig makes me live in mortal fear of. If her clients mean nothing to the plot, they mean nothing to me. Unless her assignments advance the plot, they’re just filler, IMO (and BTW, no show does client of the week better than “Burn Notice”).

This doesn’t come down to a contest between JJ and Joss. There are enough prime time hours being wasted on all networks to accommodate both of these guys. And let’s face, viewers knew exactly what to do with JJ’s “Six Degrees” and “What About Brian”, neither of which should have made it to air. I think the real challenge for both is to find a way to present thoughtful shows that literally beg for serialization in a way that allows them to survive without it. The fight against weekly procedurals must be won. I’d kill for DH (or “Fringe”) to be great serialized shows, but in 2008/2009, serial is apparently a fate worse than leprosy, so I need to cool my desire until the next cycle comes around, which will happen.

Cal February 15, 2009 at 3:32 am

To Alby

“you cease to give any credit to Eliza which is pretty unbelievable considering she is the reason this show is on TV.”

So what? Just because she helped the show get aired doesn’t mean we should just bow down and kiss her feet. We are all entitled to have our own opinions I didn’t thinnk think was that great, while you kiss her ass. That’s fine. You have your opinion and I respect it. You should respect other’s opinions as well.

Also, just because this show was made by Joss Whedon doesn’t mean we should give it a free pass and overlook its flaws. No show is perfect (despite the protests of the contrary by uber-fans like yourself). Some of us are normal people and like to analyse and think over the good and bad of shows we enjoy. Others, like yourself, overlook the bad and focus solely on the good. If you have problems with the opinions of others, especially others who like to analyse shows, maybe you should just stick to sites by fanboys and girls that kiss the asses of Eliza and Joss.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Dollhouse. But “smug” (your word, not mine) fanboys/girls like yourself annoy me.

JAMES February 15, 2009 at 4:43 am

I would just like to stand by Alby. While I do respect people’s opinions of the show, pointing all your negativity at one factor (i.e. Eliza Dushku) is a little biased. You may not like her, however if you look solely at her performance, nothing from the past, she was solid in each character displayed, down to vocal tone and body language. I have been psyched for this show to air since I first read of its creation, as I am a huge fan of both Eliza and Joss. At the same time I do realize that Whedon’s original pilot was probably what most wanted to come from this and the aired pilot did have some flaws. I think a hostage negotiator was not the best entrance for Echo, something with a little more pep or action would have worked a little better to grab viewers. I will say again your review was completely negative of Eliza and her character, which I believe stems from the fact that she has been the number one character promoted. It has not sat well with you for a while and those negative conotations are carrying over, clouding your judgement while watching the pilot. I say rewatch the episode with a little faith in both Dushku and her character, you may find your bitterness of her to subside. Again I understand it had flaws, most of which I believe will fix themselves with coming episodes.

Teiza February 15, 2009 at 6:28 am

I watched and I didn’t care. I finished the episode and felt absolutely nothing. This was a Fox first episode not a Joss one.

I love first season Buffy as much as I love fourth season Buffy, OK first season Angel was ridiculous so I will still watch Dollhouse even though I felt NOTHING for the characters brought to me this time because I believe Joss can deliver if he’s not hamstrung by the network.

What needs to happen is 1. A sympathetic character who is NOT constantly changing (ie not an Active) to sympathise with and experience through. 2. Someone within the “realm” of the Dollhouse to despise, nothing like a flawed but negative character to push the audience to your sympathetic one (and still manage to instigate a deep love from the fans). 3. Pull the audience in deeper into the Dollhouse world before threatening it, make us see more of the good/fun aspects even the “Hey this is normal” before you make it all bad. You want the fans conflicted, they’ll come back for more. 4. Make the audience ask questions, it’s the Joss way and he has legions of fans because of it.

Roco February 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

@Page 48, I agree, I’m willing to take a leap of faith, but it was just too coincidental that Echo would be downloaded with an identity who had first hand knowledge of the kidnapper.

You know, my mind also cast back to BW! We both know how that turned out! I really hope that DH becomes more “Alias” than “Bionic Woman”.

@alby, you are entitled to your opinion. I understand very well the premise of Echo’s awakening – if you look back through the archives you will see many posts relating to my hopes and expectations for the portrayal of such themes. You seem to have a problem with points that I have not made. I am aware that this is a sci-fi show, I’ve been blogging about it for a long time now 🙂

The reason why I put Eliza Dushku is my ‘negative’ section is because I was not convinced by her portrayal. Simple. Not everyone is a fan of Eliza Dushku and not everyone has the faith in her that Joss Whedon does. You also seem to be blowing my criticism out of context. I also do not “hate” Eliza Dushku – I don’t know her. I don’t believe I hate anyone, least of all someone I don’t know. Come on now, you’re only looking at my recent posts – the archives contain some very positive posts about Dushku.

I’ve always said that I would give my honest opinions on this blog – just as I have done with “Fringe” and “Lost” and other shows. For you to say that I am “undermining the intelligent design and skilled craftsmanship of each and every artist that has put Dollhouse together.”, is, perhaps, rather disrespectful of the people who work in the show. Do you think that they are beyond criticism? Wouldn’t they rather people were honest about the show? I’m sorry, but I can only be honest, and at any rate my criticisms were far from scathing. If I didn’t specifically credit Eliza Dushku for a job well done, it’s because I didn’t believe her performance to be one of the ‘exceptional aspects’ of the show, who knows, mabye next week she’ll be among the positive aspects of my review. Take a look at the elements that I did include – those are the elements that resonated with me.

You surely cannot tell me that this was a flawless episode of television?

My suggestion is that you start to watch the show as if you didn’t blog for 11 months leading up to it. It only does harm when you watch the show as if this is a popularity contest or as if you are a professional judge. We all know that JJ Abrams is the “most liked” right now and that if he threw poop on TV, people would say it is fantastic. Fringe is actually quite an awful show in my opinion and you seem to like things that have already become mainstream rather than seeing beyond yourself and into the bigger message of a show like Dollhouse, which demonstrates that life is full of contradictions and hatred and sadness, as well as happiness, laughter and desire. This show is more honest than most shows on TV right now. And all I’ve heard is how great it becomes

Thanks for the suggestion, but I would need an imprint to watch the show as if I hadn’t been blogging about it for 11 months. My point is, we all watch the show with different perspectives – for me to forcibly change my perspective would be untrue to myself. At any rate, my blogging about Dollhouse prior to the show starting doesn’t change my opinion of this episode.

I blogged about Fringe for months before that started, so you kinda get my point?

I’m not sure what you mean by “Popularity contest”. Unless you’re referring to “Fringe”? The thing is, I actually enjoyed blogging about “Dollhouse” more than I did “Fringe”, until September. The DH themes facinated me and they still do. I haven’t made a deliberate decision to love Fringe, it just so happens that the show provides the kind of intelligent and interesting television that I enjoy. I have also been critical of “Fringe” – I offer a ‘good/bad’ review of Fringe episodes each week.

The fact that you’re saying that Fringe is “an awful show”, whilst criticising me for being critical of Dollhouse 1.01, says it all really. It’s a game of opinions. 😀 I think the problem you have with my commentary is that I don’t LOVE “Dollhouse” 1.01.

My enjoyment of “Fringe” also has nothing to do with it being “mainstream”, as you put it. And I can see beyond myself. The very fact that I have a Dollhouse blog should tell you that I have a deep interest in the show – I could say all nice things about the show to get more hits, but I prefer to keep it real (real in terms of my ‘honest’ opinion). Infact, it has been some of the more ‘commercial’aspects which have surrounded the show in recent months that has taken some of my initial interest away.

Lastly, if you have been tracking the show, you should remember that FOX scrapped the pilot and basically told Joss how to write the new one. Unfortunately, good shows don’t always stay on the air. We have many examples to back this up. Does this mean that Joss should have stood by his guns and told them to F-off? Maybe, but then we wouldn’t have Dollhouse anymore. Just remember that the hand-feeding to the audience that we saw last night in the first episode was FOX’s doing and was actually still better than I thought. Also worth noting…certain shows that are extremely popular are so incredibly vapid which to me says a lot about the viewers. That is why most artists can easily see the difference between “glossy” “big-budget” thrills that frequently equal crap, and documentary style, gritty film or video that really takes oneself to a place of emotion. These can be sometimes harder to take in, but equal art of the moving image…what are you comparing Dollhouse to anyway, and what are you’re qualifications? What shows out there are better when looking at the current human condition and the state of television?

Alby, I am aware of the re-tooling. I assure you that I have taken this into consideration. But do you want me to make excuses that no longer matter, or should I give my honest opinion on the episode?

You seem very eager to rank DH as being better than these other “vapid” shows that you refer to, and yet you have only seen one episode of DH. I think that this is one of the differences between us here – I support the show and the concepts that they are trying to portray, however, I need proof. I can’t love the show on good faith alone. I love the premise, but I cannot say that I love the show yet.

To answer your other questions:

– I am comparing Dollhouse to Dollhouse. You seem to think that I want this show to fail, and you have also overlooked every positive comment that I made about the episode. Hmm.

I also feel that my appreciation of JJ. Abrams, Lost and Fringe doesn’t sit well with you? As Page 48 said, it’s not a contest between Whedon and JJ. We all have our preferences. I may give shout-outs to my favourite shows, but that’s how highly I rate those shows. One day I may be giving regular “Dollhouse” shout-outs on my other blogs. Who knows? The point is, every blogger has his or her own style. Hopefully this blog is a little bit different from some of the others.

– My qualifications? In this context, I’m a fan of creative and thought provoking television. Why, what are yours? 🙂

What shows out there are better when looking at the current human condition and the state of television?

Now I know that you really haven’t been reading this blog for very long 🙂 My interest in this show stems from the core themes – don’t be fooled by my recent posts, they are out of my disinterest in some of the more low-brow stunts that have been pulled.

Also, I find it interesting that you need to ‘create’ a specific niche for DH in order to place it at the top of a list, after only one televisied episode.

It just seems that you have taken great offence to me not lauding the performace of Eliza Dushku in this episode, and have used it to make unfounded accusations.

There are many blogs that will tell you all of things that you want to hear alby. Hopefully you’ll continue to visit WD for an alternative opinion?

I stand by my quite reasonable opinion that the show will have to give more action to the other actives/characters rather than relying so heavily on Eliza Dusku. As I said, it’s a difficult role..she’s not terrible, but I didn’t think that the performance was of the level I had hoped it would be. Especially considering that this show is, seemingly, all about Echo. Can you see what I mean? Note: I can buy the sci-fi element, it’s just that Echo didn’t resonate with me. However, it’s one episode and there’s plently of time for that to change!

SF February 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

Roco have the right to give his opinion of the show. I don’t think it includes a deep hate for Eliza. It’s just a point of view, you can’t judge it, even if you’re not agree.
By the way, interesting article.

Roco February 15, 2009 at 10:27 am

@ JAMES:

I would just like to stand by Alby. While I do respect people’s opinions of the show, pointing all your negativity at one factor (i.e. Eliza Dushku) is a little biased. You may not like her, however if you look solely at her performance, nothing from the past, she was solid in each character displayed, down to vocal tone and body language. I have been psyched for this show to air since I first read of its creation, as I am a huge fan of both Eliza and Joss. At the same time I do realize that Whedon’s original pilot was probably what most wanted to come from this and the aired pilot did have some flaws. I think a hostage negotiator was not the best entrance for Echo, something with a little more pep or action would have worked a little better to grab viewers. I will say again your review was completely negative of Eliza and her character, which I believe stems from the fact that she has been the number one character promoted. It has not sat well with you for a while and those negative conotations are carrying over, clouding your judgement while watching the pilot. I say rewatch the episode with a little faith in both Dushku and her character, you may find your bitterness of her to subside. Again I understand it had flaws, most of which I believe will fix themselves with coming episodes.

Hi James, while I’d admit that Echo did take up a lot of my focus, it is only natural since Fox decided to make most of the promotion about her (or Dushku). Fox wanted us to focus on her, so I guess they can’t have it both ways if not everyone was convinced by the performance. However, I have watched the episode again and I feel the same way.

I haven’t slammed her performance – I’ve simply said that it didn’t resonate with me, as such, nor did the character of Echo. I can only give an opinion.

I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to lie and say that I loved everything she did?

I must clear this up though – I don’t have bitterness towards Eliza Dushku. You’re right in saying that I haven’t agreed with some of the recent aspects surrounding the show, but it hasn’t left me fuming and bitter. If anything I’ve chalked it down to poor and unimaginative marketing, although obviously no-one forces a producer to do anything that he or she doesn’t agree with.

But that’s over now. Like you, I want this show to succeed, otherwise I wouldn’t have blogged so tirelessly even when I had other shows that were blowing my mind.

I respect your opinion about Echo and the faith that you have in Dushku. I will always give this show a chance to impress me, and I hope to have another watch of the Pilot episode some-time during the week. Who knows, I may see things differently on the third viewing?

Alexis February 15, 2009 at 11:08 am

Hmmm interesting comments. I’ll add mine.

The pilot was a little bit dissapointment for me. After waiting for months, it fell short of my expectation. To tell you the truth, if I havent about this show in advance, I would have turn the TV of after the first few minutes. But still, I watched it and didn’t impress me. But I’ll still watch the next three episodes, maybe it’ll will improve. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the new Buffy. 😉 God knows, I never liked the Buffy pilot at all, but still became one of my fave TV shows of all time.

And yeah, like Roco, I love Fringe too. And I hope I’ll love DH as much as I love Fringe.

P.S.
48 Pages is right. One of the best pilots ever was Alias’. Superb standard.

Darcy February 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

You are pretty negative considering you created a website for the tv show. I thought it was an excellent episode.

Roco February 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

@SF,

By the way, interesting article.

Thanks SF. It’s good to hear a variety of opinions.

@Darcy, The thing is, I can only give my honest opinion. You may see it as “negative” but I don’t see the point in blogging about something and not giving an honest account.

Maybe from the outside it seems strange to have a website for “Dollhouse” and not love everything about the episode, but I started the blog because Joss Whedon’s premise captivated me. I will always appreciate the premise for what it was, even if the show falls short. That said, I feel it’s important to tell the truth if I’m going to invest some of my spare time on a topic. Not everyone will agree with me and that’s perfectly fine, we all have different opinions.

Like I said earlier, I could say that I loved the Pilot and that everything about it was great, but I’d feel slightly dirty inside.

I am sincerely glad that other people loved then episode though. It’s a game of opinions after all.

Roco February 15, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Sorry Alexis, for some reason your comment got caught up in the spam queue – I’ve just seen it and approved it.

The pilot was a little bit dissapointment for me. After waiting for months, it fell short of my expectation. To tell you the truth, if I havent about this show in advance, I would have turn the TV of after the first few minutes. But still, I watched it and didn’t impress me. But I’ll still watch the next three episodes, maybe it’ll will improve.

That’s my general feeling. If I didn’t know that it was “Dollhouse” and what the show was about, I would have turned over long before the necklace/dancing scene. I never want to see that opening again.

Like you say though, I’m sure it will improve. There are a couple of things that I’m looking forward to, like the Alpha story-line, the Dollhouse mythology, and finding out more about Sierra, and Saunders. DeWitt, etc.

Nevermore February 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm

My thoughts/response:
I liked the opening. I thought it gave a good example of what an active can be used for. It showed that people don’t have to use them for political assassinations or the like. Sometimes a person just wants someone to have a little fun with.

I do think Roco was pretty hard on Dushku, but obviously people are going to have differing opinions on the matter. From the beginning I was concerned with her ability to take on this kind of roll, having seen her in nothing that would really indicate she was up for the job. However, I thought she was very convincing in all of her personas. I admit that her performance as Echo was the worst of the four, but it was also the hardest. Echo will probably take a couple episodes to nail down. I always give actors a bit of a pass in the pilot, as it can take a while to really find your groove with your character. Her acting as Miss Penn was perfect, in my opinion.

Really liked the episode as a whole. It set up the show just like I thought it would, and it made me really interested to see where they’ll take it in the future. It did lack that bigscreen Hollywood vibe that I got from the Fringe premier, but it’s also a much more character-driven show, making that type of thing difficult. Fringe has a lot of supernatural SciFi-ness with a large helping of cop drama on top, and I think that makes it more mainstream. I have to say that I liked this premier a lot more than the Fringe premier, though, which I found a bit uninteresting. Fringe has gradually gotten better and better and become a show that I really enjoy, so I hope Dollhouse can follow that path.

The influence of FOX’s executives on this pilot was obvious. I seriously doubt that motorcycle scene would have ever entered Whedon’s brain if FOX hadn’t pushed him to add more action. It’s interesting, really. From what I’ve read, it seems like no one really cared for the action and instead were more focused on the characters. FOX pushed for something that could end up costing them bigtime. It seems as if we’ll get more into the mythos starting with episode six, but by that time it will likely be too late to attract new viewers.

So, all in all, I found the episode intriguing; it made me look forward to the future. As a stand-alone episode it wasn’t the greatest, but I enjoyed enough. The ratings weren’t the greatest, but they’re not too bad either. I said a while ago that FOX will have to put a lot of stock in the internet/DVR numbers and I think that’s obviously true. Here’s hoping for better numbers in the future.

jtmtzrwj February 16, 2009 at 5:19 am

The episode didn’t feel like a Joss Whedon episode. No emotional resonance, the only thing that saved it were the scenes with Sierra and ALPHA. I’ll be tuning in just for that.

And before anybody starts flaming me, I’m comparing this episode to the original pilot “Echo” which was scrapped to cater to FOX’s taste. “Echo” would have been a better pilot IMHO.

Roco February 18, 2009 at 8:53 am

I pretty much agree with the Sierra / Alpha shout-outs – in terms of the Actives, they were the stand-out elements.

A February 17, 2009 at 9:01 am

To Roco: You are critisczing Eliza way too early. Just because you’ve seen one personality, or side if you will, and didn’t like the way she handled it, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t excel at what she does. Tahmoh Penikett did mention that the first 3 or 4 episodes are very rough and not that engaging, but he did say that the show will get more interesting as the plot AND the characters build up. I, for one, think that Eliza was amazing as Echo. That look she had after the ‘treatment’ just made me love her. She did really seem childlike with those wide eyes and curious personality. I’m not saying this because I am an avid fan of Dushku (I am not, actually, but this show might make me one) I really think she handled herself pretty well and portrayed the four different characters in this episode (Caroline, Echo, The girl with the bike, The negotiator) well. Plus, the asthma scene was perfect. I myself have struggled with asthma (especially when I play football or lacrosse) and that seemed very realistic to me.

I honestly think you guys are overanalysing the episode. It seems to me like you’re looking really hard for faults to complain about, and while I do agree that the episode was not perfect, some of you are making it worse than it is.

It is true about Alias and Lost (both prime examples of great pilots), sometimes it is not about having a great beginning, it’s about STAYING great throughout the show’s whole run. This was just one episode, and while I did like it, others who didn’t should stick around and see what Joss and Eliza have in store for us. Lost, for example, started out as a great show of survival and emotions, but it turned into an over-the-top, supernatural-fest of a show. I thought that was stupid. I love Alias, but it was a bit overplayed and too repeating. Seriously, how many times has Irina ‘died’ and came back? Is she good, is she bad? Overplaying it.

I don’t get the whole fuss over Sierra either. We’ve seen only glimpses of her, and even though she does seem interesting, people shouldn’t be quick to compliment her. Her real acting chops won’t come out until she does an emotional scene. I’ll wait until then to reserve judgement.

I also don’t get why Caroline/Echo doesn’t ‘reasonate’ with you. I mean, aggressive, dirty and annoying? Really? You got that from, what, the whole 10-15 minutes she was REALLY Caroline in it? We don’t know ANYTHING about Caroline so far, so I’d reserve judgement.

Sorry about this being so long, but I am stuck in bed with a flu with nothing better to do, so bear with me.

Roco February 18, 2009 at 9:22 am

I could argue that you’re praising Dushku too early – you see, it’s a matter of opinion. It doesn’t make sense for you to claim that I’m not giving her enough credit, when you’re going over-board in the opposite direction.

It’s not about about what she may or may not do in the upcoming episodes, because I am basing my opinion on ‘this’ episode — this is a review for “Ghost”, not episode 1.02 or 1.03.

Nor am I saying that she’s a bad actress, I’m just saying that based upon “Ghost” and previous roles, she’ll need to improve if Echo and her array of characters are to resonate with those who haven’t already made up their mind that they will love whatever Whedon creates.

I’m not shutting the door on Echo (etc) becoming more believeable, far from it, but we can only judge from episode to episode. I’m glad that you have so much faith in Dushku, but I could argue that you’re making your mind up too soon, just as you claim that I have with my criticisms (criticisms which I think are fair).

I’m not looking really hard for faults – my criticisms are based on things that I noticed — aspects that I didn’t like. I also posted a fair few positives too, but that seems to have gone overlooked. Oh well.

I don’t understand why you’re calling out “Lost” and “Alias”? Those are not two shows that you want to degrade in an attempt to ‘enhance’ “Dollhouse”. Dollhouse is not in a position to even contemplate achieving what those two fantastic shows have done — you may not like them, but it doesn’t make sense to call them “stupid” whilst praising Dollhouse’s pilot in the same instance. You don’t even know how Dollhouse will turn out. Defend it if you like, but at least compare it to lesser shows than Lost and Alias.

As for Sierra, I think people are looking for something more than what Echo/Penn/etc gave us. It probably isn’t even so much what Sierra did, but the fact that another ‘Active’ was introduced, one who contrasted with Echo’s imprint at the time. As I’ve said for a while now, I think they will need to focus less on Dushku’s characters in order to spread out some of the pressure/focus. I don’t think you can truely replicate a different persona unless you actually have different actors to help facilitate that portrayal – or unless that one actor is ‘world class’. But then this is her show and she’s probably unlikely to want to take a back seat?..but it may be to the detriment of the series. We’ll see..

I also don’t get why Caroline/Echo doesn’t ‘reasonate’ with you. I mean, aggressive, dirty and annoying? Really? You got that from, what, the whole 10-15 minutes she was REALLY Caroline in it? We don’t know ANYTHING about Caroline so far, so I’d reserve judgement.

She made that impression on me. They obviously wanted a contrasting slate from which to depict Echo, but I would have preferred them to have done it with more subtlety. The episode on the whole lacked subtlety, and that surprized me.

But yes, the Caroline character didn’t impress me at all. Are we supposed to care for her? Because Echo is nothing right now..she’s a blank slate. Who are we supposed to root for here? Maybe this will change over time once Echo begins questionning who she is (etc), but based on this episode — which is what this review is all about — Echo/Caroline/etc didn’t resonate with me at all.

Also, you keep saying that you’ll “reserve judgement”, and yet you seem to be positively in enamored with Dushku based on this one episode (you said you weren’t a fan beforehand). We just seem to be at the opposite extremes, nothing wrong with that, but hopefully you can see that if you thought certain aspects were amazing, then it’s likely that there will be other people who disagree.

Thanks for sharing your views — like I said earlier: it’s a game of opinions 🙂

Bad Mouth February 18, 2009 at 6:33 am

Absorbing the comments on this site was a whole lot more interesting than having to sit through the pilot of Dollhouse which was truly dreadful. Reading between the lines this series appears to have been born dead. The effort to resuscitate the series at this stage is hardly worth the bother-I mean the investment has just started. The cause of this abortion is about the most interesting thing about this series-was it Fox over interfering in the production or was it bloated expectations of a once great storyteller? Who knows. But having created a franchise that appears to be appealing as Chinese water torture the fallout of this pileup might be worth checking out.

Roco February 18, 2009 at 10:03 am

I agree that there has been far too much expectation on TPTB, and the behind the scenes reshuffling hasn’t helped. But it’s still early days.

Episode 1.01 wasn’t great (in my opinion), but I was happy to see some of the original themes peering through – they need to get to focusing on some of these themes as we only have 13 guaranteed episodes – not much time to impress!

The fall-out, if there is to be one, will be interesting; expect lots of finger pointing. But hopefully the show will speak for itself and build an audience. There’s always a chance, but it HAS to get better than the aptly titled “Ghost”.

Alexis February 18, 2009 at 8:24 pm

It’s a win-win situation for Whedon. If DH sucked and is cancelled, Fox is to be blamed. But if DH becomes a hit, Whedon’s done it again, he’s brilliant.

I was pretty underwhelmed by the show–didn’t seem like a Whedon product to me, but I’m willing to give it a few episodes to find its feet. It felt a little generic and I missed a lot of that trademark dialogue that he usually brings in spades.

bekki February 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm

hey, rocco-

great article. i’m also a huge eliza dushku fan, too, but i honestly agree with your assessment. people shouldn’t be so hard on you for stating your opinion. personally, i think she did a good job, but i’ve seen her do better so i was left feeling a little disappointed. i mean, i know she can act. i just didn’t feel like she had gotten into the grove yet here.

that being said, i do think bad writing was part of it. one thing that makes shows great (and usually makes joss great) is that they can write for their actors and measure their dialog to the tones and measure of their actor’s natural speech patterns. this was very lacking in the miss penn scenes. but it was just the pilot so i think that can change over time as everyone adjusts into their roles – both cast and crew.

and, honestly, the thing that was most stupid to me about the miss penn role was how they dressed her. i mean, she looked like a stereotypical librarian (which annoys me because i AM a librarian) than she did a hostage negotiator with those thick glasses and the hair in a bun and overly severe suit. i mean, yes, i understand that the viewer is supposed to go ‘holy hell! THAT’S not eliza dushku!’ but i think wardrobe was trying a wee bit too hard here. i ended up thinking that miss penn looked so unlike eliza dushku that i stopped focusing on her acting and the dialog and more how uncomfortable she looked. they could’ve given her a nice clipped ponytail or left her hair down, a less severe yet still professional suit and not as thick framed glasses and she would have been so much less jarring as a character.

and i felt like i had to suspend my belief several times for all the reasons mentioned above. particularly about about echo JUST HAPPENING to be imprinted with a girl who had JUST HAPPENED to have been molested by THAT EXACT dude. i mean, it really felt like everyone involved in making the show went ‘wait, what? fox just sent back the original pilot? so we don’t have a pilot?! ACK! we don’t have a pilot! quick! throw together the most stereotypical Fox pilot EVER and maybe they’ll let us slide later on…’ it was weak, but i am interested in seeing where it goes. from what i’ve heard the next episode sounds like it’ll be much better.

Roco February 20, 2009 at 11:33 am

Hey bekki,

You make a good point about the dialogue – it’s definitely a 2-way thing between the writers and the actors.

I share your frustration regarding the stereotypical aspects of the show. It felt diluted of so much of the charm that it had when I first heard the premise.

Like you, I’m still looking forward to seeing what comes next – my expectations have been shot to sunshine, but there were some positive elements that will keep me coming back for more.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

bekki February 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

dear roco-

i’m a douche and spelled your name rocco above.

so sorry.

Roco February 20, 2009 at 11:34 am

😀 No worries at all!

LeParisianFrog February 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm

I found opus one of DH to be quite ‘toxic’ actually.

It wasn’t as bad as a lot of people expected and i quite enjoyed the distraction. Of course this ghostly episode answered a lot of what, who, where but many why need yet to be solved and i can only hope Fox will allow this to happen. My gut feeling is that yes, the show will improve and move away from being a crazy revisiting of The Pretender (Echo meet your brother Jarod!). Hence it won’t jump the shark as quickly has my reason is telling me it will.

Roco> you did a very good critic of the episode. I won’t go into more details (actually i was going to by my comp went ‘disco’ and i am too tired and jetlagged to redo my 800 words comment which involved notoire references to the Legion, Besson’s Nikita and Ibsen’s play! What can i say, French are lazy ;))

Bekki> I agree with your comment on the caricature of the librarian. If Echo is going to be anyone the scenarii requires, i do hope we don’t end up with the average vision of what a butcher, a firefighter, a guru, a dancer, a doctor is! Could be fun but might just be plain boring!

Overall though i was caught. Toxic seems to be this show. You want to know more once you’ve passed the oh-so-terribly-clichesque ©Honda race. Precisely, ‘toxic’ meaning here that there is a tangible potential which can turn anyone into a DH addict. There is Whedon’s wittiness and hopefully there is Fox understanding and Dushku’s improving (um…) and a lot of things we aren’t even aware of 😉

I want to see episode 2. I can’t completely judge the show on it’s ghostly cover.
And this time i will comment on TextEdit to avoid frustration!
(If i didn’t want to make a super bad joke, i would say my comp has been wiped away Sierra style!)

Oh and by the way… very good blog you have here! Merci!

Roco February 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm

LaParisianFrog: I agree with your general sentiments. I think that one of the (few) ‘bright spots’ from 1.01 was the fact that it leaves a lot of us wanting to know more.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Page 48 February 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

@bekki

I think you’re right about the pressure to slap together a new pilot. As a non-insider in the TV biz, it seems to me that the pilot should always be very well-written because it’s the one episode that the writers have had for-freaking-ever to write. I mean let’s face it, the series was announced a year ago and debuted a week ago, so that episode should have been air tight. However, as you say, the original was tossed and they obviously scrambled to get a replacement pilot in place. So, thanks for that, FOX.

I must say, though, that Miss Penn’s glasses were not thick framed by my definition. Drew Carey’s glasses would fit that bill, but hers were just basic wire frames.

djj February 20, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Yeah, I think that the original review was right on, it reflected my views exactly as far as the negative goes. It seems such a waste of talent from the producers and actors. As far as the good I don’t think I can really see any hope or highlights because as far as the themes or characters go – nothing to write home about. You’re right Roco when you said it is a game of opinions, and I really learned from and appreciated your objective views. There is nothing worse than turning a blind eye to the flaws of media simply because one is a mindless aficionado. As long as you can back up your claims, it’s all good! 🙂

There’s always going to be shows that are ‘inspired’ or ‘reminiscient’ of others before them but I’ve had great experiences regardless. However, with this show, it doesn’t invite me to invest my time, I would think the whole story could have been incorporated into an arc and not a stand-alone series. Some people have pointed out the similarities that points out the unoriginal and overall bland-city premises:

Nip/ Tuck – the opening just reminds me of this show’s commercials
Alias – different covert identities/ assignments every week (complete with Handler!)
Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind – oh, the painful memories, please help erase it all
Chobits – cute and expensive persocoms that bend to your desire with memory wipe functions (by the way, I didn’t buy the blank/ childlike-state scene with Eliza for a second)

More power to you if you do happen to enjoy it; it just means that different people each have their own interests. Keep in mind, I am speaking off of only the pilot and kind of hope to be proven wrong later. Lastly, I want to say that the Dollhouse facilities were gorgeous, I wish I had a house like that!

bekki February 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm

totally agree about the set, djj. i think it just might have been the best character on the show in the last episode.

i kid, i kid. (sort of.)

regardless what anyone thinks about the show, everyone has to agree that it has certainly sparked a very wide variety of responses. i’m endlessly surprised by what facets people seemed to have latched onto and either liked or disliked. some people loved eliza’s childlike state, others hated it. some people love topher, some people hate him. i don’t know, the variety in responses seems much more broad than i’ve seen in other show. but the one thing everyone seems to agree with is that they’re kind of dissatisfied overall. they don’t hate it, but they’re not wowed. at all. that’s the scariest thing.

i don’t know. i’m hoping it will improve. i have faith that it will. i’m finding myself really anticipating the episode tonight and i don’t quite know why. let’s hope i stay pulled in.

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