1.03 “Stage Fright” Review – The Good & The Bad

by admin on February 28, 2009 · 24 comments

Dollhouse 1.03 STAGE FRIGHT

Here is my ‘good and bad’ review for Dollhouse episode 1.03 “Stage Fright”.

The Good

  • The Lubov/Victor reveal wasn’t a real surprise for me because I had already figured it out last week (so I retract that criticism from 1.02). However, for those who hadn’t followed the show before it started, and who didn’t question why Victor wasn’t acting like an Active, this must have been a pretty cool reveal. It was nicely done and didn’t labor the point. We see Topher doing Topher and then the reveal – “did I fall asleep?” – BAM. This was one part of the episode that felt natural. Also, I liked the scenes with Enver Gjokaj as Lubov – better than in the previous episodes.
  • Mellie. Obviously an Active, right? She hasn’t really done much, but sometimes less is more. Her presence provides a greater connect between Ballard (who’s been floating in the wind for the previous two episodes) and the Dollhouse (assuming that she is an Active, which I am). If Mellie is an Active, then that means that Adelle is so worried about Ballard’s snooping that she’s assigned two Actives on his case (Mellie and Victor). I like where this could go. Mellie is interesting – she has a weird aura about her – very soothing, but also very very creepy..almost obsessive. A nice mirror for Ballard. I think this is down to the actress, if so, good job, because these little glimpses provide a rather twisted image of a different kind of Active..one who’s compulsive and probably sleeps by the door waiting for lone-wolf to come home. As I said..creepy! After all that she’ll probably turn out to be a regular civilian 🙂

  • Carry over. Last week I forgot to mention Boyd’s miraculous recovery from the arrow of doom. Thankfully, they showed us that he has been receiving treatment for it. This is a small, but important point for a show which is just about holding onto any credibility. If you create a world like “Dollhouse”, then you have to respect that world – had they not offered some explanation for Boyd’s ‘recovery’ then I would have lost even more trust in the writers.
  • Why is Dichen Lachmen not the lead actress? OK, I know why, but I really hope they give her more scenes in future – I think she1.03 Stage Fright can handle it. She out-performed most of the other actors in this episode, and I don’t even think she had the best material to work with. In fact, her character seemed like an afterthought in this episode. But she still pulled a decent performance out of the bag. She resonated with me because I could believed her ‘duality’ – I could buy the idea that she was both an Active and someone who truly believed that she was a fan of that Rayna chick. I wouldn’t say that she was brilliant, but her portrayal certainly clarified how an Active truly believes their imprint. Sierra’s ‘glitch’ at the beginning of the episode was also way more subtle than any of Echo’s – it didn’t involve falling over, for one.
  • The Topher, Boyd, Claire dynamic. At last Claire is showing some potential, and it’s largely thanks to her relationship with Boyd and Topher. Interesting how Topher is on the amoral left, Boyd on the moral right, and Claire..intriguingly, is somewhere in between. She certainly sees the humanity in the dolls, but she seems to want to hold them back. As she says – “special isn’t always a good thing here, Boyd”. It gives us an insight into her world-view, and suggests that she believes that it’s better to hide who you really are inside, than take the risk of showing your true potential – her scars almost serve as both a reminder and a metaphor. I like her other line – “sometimes the best thing to hope for, is good enough”. This establishes her view that the Actives shouldn’t be treated as conscious individuals, because doing so comes fraught with danger. Being ‘good enough’ is safe. This also reflects her demeanour – quiet, timid, retiring, yet underneath she is brimming with intensity..deep down she knows the truth, but her experiences have seemingly boxed her in, and in turn she reflects this onto her world. She’s scarring the dolls, as much as she is helping them. Whether I’ve interpreted that correctly or not, that’s what I got from her in this episode, and it leaves me hopeful for the future of the Topher/Boyd/Claire relationship.
  • The best line of the episode“that’s all I need, you rubbing off on her”. See how you can create meaning without overdoing it?

The Bad

  • The episode felt too forced and much of the symbolism was contrived rather than meaningful. I mean, literally dangling Rayna’s life by a rope, and then having Adelle make the reference. Really, writers?
  • Echo should be sent to the “attic”. She’s just not resonating, and it’s down to the terrible dialogue and the ‘samey’ acting. Back-up singer chick was basically a slightly tougher Jenny and biker chick and Miss Penn. On the evidence of the three episodes, Eliza Dushku doesn’t have the flavour..the range to portray all of these different characters. I have every faith in her ability to portray tough chicks, but where is the light and shade, where is the contrast? I don’t enjoy saying this because I want her to be good seeing as this is clearly her show and all, but when the Rayna actor out performs Dushku it’s time to ask questions. I know people will disagree with me, but I challenge anyone to watch Toni Collete in The United States of Tara, and then re-watch Dushku in these first three episodes. As I’ve said before, Dushku would probably be better in a Ballard-type role.
  • I have to give the dialogue it’s own mention, because whoever is writing for Echo is trying way too hard to make her ‘cool’. So1.03 Stage Fright hard in fact that it’s just cliched. I could reel out a list of cheesy lines, but why bother if the Dollhouse writers can’t be bothered?
  • The character motivations made little sense. I know what the writers were trying to say, I understand their intentions with the parallel between Rayna being a ‘music factory product’ and Echo being an ‘Active’. But that potentially powerful device was made pointless due to the poor dynamics of the episode. Rayna’s on screen ‘change’ (or should I say ‘reveal’?) from stuck up ‘diva’ to suicidal maniac didn’t have enough texture – it was as if the writers wanted to get their messages across too quickly, and tried too hard to shock the audience – yeah, because we just care so much about Rayna! They set their bases up poorly, and restricted the natural flow of the story, which made it feel too cliched and contrived – words which are now synonymous with “Dollhouse”. Likewise, Echo’s character felt too forced, and was as much a maniac as the lunatic fan or Rayna herself. Seriously, Echo needs to back-off, and people need to go to the authorities with their problems, not the ‘Glitch-house’. The problem is not the underlying symbolism (even though it’s rather unimaginative), but the method with which the writers chose to tell the story – was this really the best route? We had partial explanation for Echo’s motivations via Topher’s mention of the “parameters” (or instructions) of echo’s personality, but not only was there no explanation of the science behind this (Popular Mechanics, are you out there??), but it lacked any value because  it gave the writers an excuse (not a reason, but an excuse) for the disparity in Echo’s attitude when she first gets the job, to the ‘I’ll slap you, bitch’ moron who ends up ‘teaching’ everyone a lesson. What? Also, I don’t see why Rayna would suddenly want to live thanks to Echo’s ‘lesson’? What did Echo really achieve here? Are just supposed to accept the fact, or is there any actual meaningful lessons that Rayna could possibly have learned whilst being held captive by Echo? The woman wanted to die, so what exactly changed her mind? Again..contrived. Here’s an idea – let Echo fail her mission one week, that would actually be more believable. The DH can’t keep on getting lucky like this.
  • Most of the episode felt like an American Idol Behind The Scenes. Enough said.
  • Adelle and Dominic – they just feel too disconnected from the rest of the world. I can’t believe that Adelle made the command decision to NOT take out lunatic fan, when she didn’t even have visuals on what was happening. Boyd was her eyes and ears, all she had to base her decision on was his ear-piece. What? Adelle clearly values Echo and there’s something going on there, but does anyone really care? There’s not enough resonance, not enough reason to care. There’s a difference between trying to make a character mysterious and making her devoid of any personality, or seeming motivation. She’s almost as bland and forgettable as the Dominic dude (who really did deserve a slap last week for taunting whatsherface), who is really beginning to get on my nerves. I think that Olivia Williams is a good actress, but honestly, they’re not giving her enough to work with, and dare I say she’s not doing enough with what she’s been given.
  • I’m sure that the fans will geek out over the ending where Echo and Sierra show ‘awareness’, but for me this was bizarre. Not the fact that it happened, but that it happened before such a moment has even been earned! I realise that this could just be a sign of things to come (like last week’s ‘wheel to the arm’ salute, or whatever the hell that was), but it didn’t sit well with me. At the beginning of the episode, Sierra and Echo didn’t have awareness, then a few days later (I have to assume it was a few days, since the episode didn’t feel like informing us of the time-scale!) they have such clear recognition of one another? And here’s the thing, they were BOTH aware enough to have immediate recall? Really? It would have been more believable had one of them stopped and stared at the other for a few seconds, as they tried to figure out what was going on..why they remembered (or something). I don’t feel as though the journey so far has earned the right to depict such mutual and agile awareness. What’s the hurry, DH?
  • Yeah, so what is the time-line for all of this, exactly? We know that Victor (and presumably Mellie) get re-imprinted every day, but we didn’t see Echo getting re-imprinted, yet the episode feels like it takes place in one day. Now if it turns out that all of this happened in one day (the choreography, the performance, the bonding, the other crazy shi..), then I simply will not believe it.
  • Echo is clearly a risk, and the powers that be know this. Why has she not been terminated yet? Having Adelle make excuses for her isn’t going to cut it. Three episodes, three occasions in which Echo has..echoed – operated outside of her imprinted parameter. Dominic, Adelle and the other handlers know that something is not right with her – this on the heels of the Alpha situation. It seems unlikely that they’d continue taking these risks, not without someone losing their job (here’s looking at you, Topher..or Adelle!). It seems that one of the strongest aspects of the show (awareness, identity), is currently one of the weakest plot elements to buy into.
  • This episode tried too hard to make philosophical statements about the world. Whilst I appreciate the efforts to incorporate some intelligence into the show, it didn’t feel natural. It’s too noticeable, when it should sneak up on you. I just think that they need to reconsider the vehicles that they use to relay their messages. So far it’s either really cheese-ball, or rather pretentious.
  • I could have done without all of the singing. I know where Dr. Horrible is, and I know what time Idol is on. Please spare me in future. I know that the episode required some singing, but again, I question the vehicles that they use to tell the stories. Sometimes I wonder whether this is Dollhouse or a showcase?
  • It could be argued that there’s no point of the Handlers being on location with the dolls. Boyd spent the episode drinking coffee, surfin’ the web and running around aimlessly pointing guns at people. Since the ‘communication’ between the Handlers and the management is pretty poor, why not have Boyd track Echo from the base? I like Boyd, but there was no real point of him being there in this episode – especially since on each occasion so far Echo has basically done everything on her own. I preferred his chats with Claire – can we just sit him, Saunders and Brink down over a cup of coffee? That would be better TV.
  • The episode could have, and probably should have, ended at around the 25 minute mark. It felt overly long and quite tedious at times. I don’t usually watch television this bad.
  • Rayna. The actress may have out-performed Dushku, but that doesn’t mean she was good. I could have done without her drama to be honest. Were we supposed to care for her, to want her to live? That’s the problem with this show, there’s no-one who I feel invested in. For a ‘reset’ drama that is a major fail. Also, was Rayna supposed to be, like, the Rihanna of the music biz or something? Because I didn’t buy it – she was performing in front of 30 people inside a tiny area. Are they having a laugh or what?

OK, I’ll try to stay positive: In general this was a better episode than the previous two, despite being much about nothing. I’m glad that we got to see more of Lachman and Gjokaj – they have promise. Also, glad that we got to see another Handler – it was just useful to see that not every Handler is like Boyd, and gives us something to work with. Boyd and Topher were solid I guess, and Claire stepped her game up, which was pleasing to see. I also liked Mellie – I can’t exactly put my finger on why, I’ve tried to explain, but there’s something else there . Anyway, she makes the whole Ballard situation more interesting. Ballard himself is still so-so, but he’s showing more potential. There’s also more mythology floating around which is interesting.

On the down side, there’s still so much wrong with this show, more than what I mentioned above. The concepts are there but they way that they deliver them seems awkward and often ridiculous. Echo was Echo, but still nowhere near where she should be – this is the lead character don’t forget. I really disliked Dushku’s portrayal of back-up singer chick – there’s no entry point, there’s no diversity in her acting. She seems too aware of herself, which I think holds her back a bit in terms of delivering believable performances. I’m trying not to be too hard on her because this is her show and she’s obviously trying her best. But I’m having a real problem caring for Echo, or any of the characters that she becomes. This is why I’ve said that the focus should be shared around a bit, not because I’m being mean, but because it might give her the opportunity to grow into the role, whilst taking some of the pressure off. That said, they’ve already filmed all of the ordered episodes, so what’s done is done, I guess.

Overall I’ll give this a 7/10. A generous score, but this is purely on the basis of “Dollhouse” standards, and not any of the other shows that I watch. Don’t get it twisted, I’ve rated some really good episodes of other shows 7/10 that blow this out of the water.

I’ll watch next week, but I’m far from a true believer in this show. The United States of Tara on the other hand – wow..

Phoenix February 28, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Sadly enough, much as I’m starting to really get into “Dollhouse,” I agreed with most of the Bad Points part of this review – “Stage Fright” is likely going to stick out in my mind as my least-favorite episode of the first season.

I was more engaged with two different minor storylines in this episode than I was with the main action, which isn’t a good sign. Agent Ballard is starting to keep me interested, and I actually had no idea that Lubov was actually the Victor Doll. It really surprised me, which is good in a show like this — you want to be kept guessing.

Also, Topher is really starting to creep me out. I’m going to be looking forward to seeing his character develop, because he’s striking me as unintentionally evil, and in a scientist that usually results in atomic-level badness. Claire is also an engaging character who I look forward to seeing more of in the future, and Boyd Langton is really starting to draw my interest.

The bad, however, was enough to weigh down all the good.

One of my major peeves was your point: “The Character Motivations Made Little Sense;” I couldn’t agree more. In Dushku’s doomed series “Tru Calling” (which I adored, actually), there as an episode called “Death Becomes Her” which featured an actress trying such drastic means to escape her life. In “Tru,” I sympathized both with the actress and with Tru’s attempts to save her life. I had absolutely nothing for Rayna in “Stage Fright.” She was flat, dead, and truth be told a little creepy. Her reasons for wanting what she wanted just…made no sense, not even on a psychosis level. I had no idea what to make of her, and so her song about wanting to live at the end of the episode really didn’t touch me so much, at all.

The obsessed stalker is a classic horror piece and the character could have been much more frightening and even more compelling; however, this particular stalker came off cliched and weak. He was weird, and not in the “he’s gonna kill you” sort of way but more in the “stop masturbating on the lawn” sort of way. I was severely unimpressed.

One area where I REALLY didn’t agree with you, however, was your positive view of Dichen Lachmen’s acting performance. Sierra the Doll and Sierra (I forgot her personality’s name) the FanGirl were spot-on, and I continued in my favorable view of what I saw of her in “Ghost,” the pilot. However, once the stalker kidnapped her, her acting performance just…DIED. I mean, was she supposed to be crying? It looked like she had had Botox injections before the scene where he made her sing in front of the camera; she wasn’t teary-eyed or scared-looking. If anything, I LOST empathy for her character after the kidnap because she didn’t look frightened or much of anything, really. I was rather disappointed–

–even more disappointed than when Echo said “I’m from Southie” to explain her roughhousing in the episode. I mean, throwback to Faith from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” much? “Dollhouse” is vastly different from anything else Joss Whedon has done, and we don’t need little hints to his past to irritate us when so many people are angry at the show because his trademark “Buffy” humor isn’t quite at the forefront. If you look at the premise objectively, not from a Whedon-fan standpoint, “Dollhouse” is a serious show: it’s all about identity and slavery and human trafficking, the effects of science on good and evil, the whole shebang. We don’t need Echo to be Faith, we need Echo to be Echo, and I think Eliza Dushku showed her lack of enthusiasm for this episode in her lackluster performance this week.

All in all, “Stage Fright” for me was like watching the Elektra movie — it was a pleasant experience in a world you’re familiar with, but it just drifted in one ear and out the other, leaving me with a fairly ambivalent feeling for the whole thing.

In any case, next week’s episode “Gray Hour” looks MUCH more promising, so I’m going to tune in to that with much more enthusiasm.

(By the way — do you really see Mellie as an Active? That’s the first time I’ve ever seen or thought of that theory, so I may be proven wrong, but I think I disagree on that one.)

LeParisianFrog March 1, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Phoenix> thanks for this review which counterbalances well Roco’s excellent critique. Liked it a lot.
As i said on another post, STAGE FRIGHT’s trailer was already mega ‘repulsive’ (sorry i like this very ugly word, i heard it on a french commercial and it was ridiculously hilarious!) and i think i’ll pass and wait for GRAY MATTER… which for me feels like it should have been the pilot. It doesn’t answer all the questions powerpointly and ED’s performance (from what i got of the trailer) seems a LOT more better. Oh well…we’ll see…

So far the three opus of the show have been dissappointing (i’ll tone it down for Target but that’s because of my parisian sarcastic generosity). Let’s hope GRAY MATTER raises the bar a bit. But to be honest, i am quite bored being all hopes’n’hopes. DH, like you say, is supposed to be a ‘serious’ show or at least a show that deals with serious questions. You can always take the dark humour angle but in that case do it with style. So far i feel DH is trying to please everyone from the super tolerant fans to HBO snobs (i belong to the latter category ;)) and all we get is a mishmash of whatever. On the positive side, this is good news. A lot of us have gotten more critical and writers and/or networks moguls should realize that we don’t need to be feeded with crappy TV content. Quality is something you have to work hard for. I am still willing to give Whedon the benefit of the doubt (aka Fox’s pressure) but if DH doesn’t improve and my viewing experience is all about sighing… might as well turn of my TV and go back to Bergson!

Roco March 2, 2009 at 6:08 am

Quality is something you have to work hard for.


Roco March 2, 2009 at 5:53 am

Nice review, Phoenix.

I had absolutely nothing for Rayna in “Stage Fright.” She was flat, dead, and truth be told a little creepy. Her reasons for wanting what she wanted just…made no sense, not even on a psychosis level. I had no idea what to make of her, and so her song about wanting to live at the end of the episode really didn’t touch me so much, at all.

That’s one of the dangers – none of the clients so far have been sympathetic in any way (apart from Davina, maybe..but her father wasn’t exactly likeable). It makes it increasingly difficult to connect with anyone on this show.

I don’t understand why they used the “Rayna” story in this episode. I mean, who thought that would be a good idea?

Bad Mouth March 1, 2009 at 7:49 am

Well another excellent assessment from Rocco. But there are so many things wrong with this series that documenting its shortcomings is like shooting fish in a barrel. Whoever thought of the premise of this episode made any sense needs a brain transplant. One of the characters remarked “Echo is special”…you bet-she is also working as a producer! Maybe Boyd and Claire could have their own spin-off series-their creeping entanglement is far more interesting than anything else going on. Even the handlers were bored stupid by their uselessness-one went off for a coffee and Boyd fruitlessly surfed the web. At least the SWAT team didn’t have to be called in again for a cleanup. But what was the point of putting the talented Sierra in the frame if she didn’t kick ass-she just became a willing hostage and didn’t once get a chance to use the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on the bad guy. Looking forward to a cliche-ridden logic-defying 4th installment of Dollhouse on Friday in a visually-schadenfreude kinda way.

Roco March 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Good points.

Which reminds me, did anyone else think that they made too much of an issue in telling us that Echo is “special”? Maybe this is something they do need to convey in order to raise the importance/gravitas of the situation, but for some reason it felt too heavy-handed.

Yeah, I don’t blame Boyd for surfing the Internets. I kinda think that said it all.

I just hope that we get more of the Claire, Boyd, Topher (they really need a group name) good stuff next week.

Bad Mouth March 2, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Seems like Good-Neighbor-Mellie (Miracle Laurie) is a doll. She is credited as “November” on the IMDB website. Looks like the screenwriters are going to flog you-are-not-who-you-appear-to-be one card trick to death (what happens when they run out of letters of the alphabet???). Perhaps the dollhouse is just a franchise and the people running it themselves are just dolls. Season finale is the entire cast climbing into their pods…

jtmtzrwj March 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

I’m tired of people comparing Dollhouse to United States of Tara. No offense to Toni Colette, but the reason people are able to “see” differences in her performance is that the characters she’s playing are like polar opposites of each other.

Anyways, I still feel the same about the episodes. I still don’t care about the engagements — except for the parts that Echo becomes glitchy. I hate that they’re streching the “Echo” storyline into several episodes. Imagine all the story we would have already gotten, if they stuck to the original plan.

Roco March 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Regarding your first point about ‘United States of Tara’ – Maybe so, but I would say that a ‘hostage negotiator’ and a ‘biker chick’ could easily be at opposite ends of the spectrum, certainly within the world of this show. Yet they were more or less the same character, imo.

Toni Collete also ‘changes’ personality on the spot – there’s rarely a ‘CGI’ interlude to help convey the sense of that change. I just think that her performance helps to illustrate how a change of character can be done so convincingly.

Page 48 March 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Well, DH 1.3 was a snoozer. No Echo-does-Dallas in this one, but possibly something worse…Echo plays bodyguard to emotionally disturbed pop diva.

Of all the intriguing, exciting, thrill-ride situations writers could create for the Actives, why go all mundane and have them double-teaming the latest Beyonce wannabe?

The scenes that don’t involve Echo are more interesting than those where she is front and center. The conversations between Langdon and Dr. Saunders create more of an air of ‘something bad is going on here right under our noses’ than Echo and her treatments.

The diva wanted to die and I wanted Echo to let her, so we could quickly move on to something of greater consequence, which for all we know, may have been going on back at the DH. Unfortunately we were stuck in the mosh pit, waiting for the lead singer to die so we could mourn her passing and grab a burger on the way home.

I don’t understand what Sierra brought to the table here. She did nothing to back up Echo or take down crazy fan boy. Considering the investment that the DH has in her, why throw her into a situation and not let her use her skills to resolve it swiftly? She might better have spent the hour on the treadmill.

BTW, I think it would have been far more interesting if Stalker Boy turned out to be Topher, although I suspect that Adele doesn’t give him a lot of time off to pursue a personal life, as murky as that might be.

Roco March 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Whilst I appreciated Sierra’s contribution (or diversion?) more than you did Page, I agree with your general sentiments. The whole Rayna thing lacked importance. Who cares whether she lived or died, who cares about her drama? The DH scenes with Boyd, Brink and Saunders were far more interesting!

I’m not sure what the powers that be wanted us to take from this little adventure? Has Rayna been rehabilitated after her skirt with death? What did happen to lunatic-fan anyways? I genuinely can’t even recall what the outcome was there – I assume he was taken to the local jail? That’s how important this episode came across to me – I can’t even remember the outcome just a few days later.

Going back to Sierra, despite thinking that she brought something else to the table, I still don’t understand why she was brought into the equation? So one doll wasn’t enough? It seems very convenient that both dolls would miraculously required in the day/s that they were hired for – say stalker fan didn’t plan his attack for another month – would the dolls have been hired out for that entire period, just in case?

Argh, this show… 🙂

eddie March 1, 2009 at 11:57 pm

During the course of a conversation between Rayna and Echo, Rayna mentions something about being from “the factory”. What is “the factory”, and has it already been referenced in the first two episodes? Just trying to keep up, thanks in advance.

Roco March 2, 2009 at 9:52 am

I assume she meant the “music factory” – a figure of speech.

bekki March 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

honestly, rocco, i agree with pretty much everything you said this time minus a few points.

as for eliza’s acting, no, it wasn’t great, but pretty much everything about this episode annoyed me. it is, by far, my least favorite of them all in terms of the dollhouse goings-ons. i liked ballard a lot more this episode and i liked seeing victor become fleshed out.

honestly, the writing for this episode was god awful. i was shocked to go back and see that joss had helped write it. like you said, the whole dangling thing was idiotic. I.D.I.O.T.I.C. and, seriously, you needed to hire TWO dolls to figure out reyna was conversing with stalker dude? i mean, really? no one checked on the freaking flower delivery or traced who was buying tickets to the shows? or even had security cameras taping who was coming into every show so they could pick out what repeat folks were coming in?

i also agree with your assessment that it was strange the sierra and echo seemed SOOOOO conscious of what was going on so quickly. i mean, it would have made SO much more sense just to have them start ‘herding’ together (as the original pilot had them do) and had them wonder why people where staring at them so much when they did or where asking them about it. then they could’ve more realistically had the self-awareness to look away from each other or intentionally stay away. it would’ve been so much more subtle and powerful for them to have the two walk past each other from opposite directions and then backtrack to smile at each other, talk and walk together while dominic or other ominous folks looked on.

i do have to disagree with you on one point, though. sierra doesn’t resonate with me as much as she does with you. i like her okay as a blank active, i thought she was a little grating as the super fan, but as phoenix mentioned before, she sucked in terms of portraying scared and fragile. i bought eliza’s performance more last week in terms of scared and frightened.

and speaking of eliza, i, too, disagree that its unfair to compare her to toni collette because, personally, i think toni collette is one of the best actresses working today. i love eliza to a gazillion pieces, but she’s no toni collette. that much should just be taken as a given. i mean, this is an action show on fox, not an academy or emmy award deserving piece of wonderful entertainment cake. it is a rare thing that actresses of toni’s caliber come to tv and we should enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean we should hold everyone up to their standards.

anyway, i was disappointed with this episode but i kinda felt that coming. the whole premise felt ‘meh’ from the beginning.

i guess my biggest fear about this show is that they’re taking a smart/challenging idea and dumbing it down in the hopes that the average joe schmoo america gets it. that is extremely stupid. just make it smart or don’t make it. i hope what eliza said in a recent interview is true: that the network really demanded that they have a kind of introduction 6 eps that NO one thinks are that great before they get into the meaty joss stuff. i could handle mediocre acting so much more easily if the writing was just a little smarter.

here’s hoping.

Roco March 3, 2009 at 7:09 am

Hi bekki,

Nice review. As you mentioned, we seem to agree on several areas. I can see where you’re coming from re: Sierra though. She was rather grating, especially when she was freaking out. But I like her energy, she brings something different to the game, and I think that the actress has shown potential in what little time she’s had to shine.

I disagree with the idea that we have to settle for sub-standard acting, if you will. I mean, this is Dushku’s show – she’s put herself forward as the focal point, and everyone from Whedon to her hard-core fans have talked her up as being this wonderful actress. So the expectation is going to be there. Maybe Joss Whedon was just spinning the situation by talking up his girl? But then, perhaps he shouldn’t have done that if he doesn’t truly believe in her abilities? Perhaps some of the screen-time should be spread out amongst the other actors?

There are some fantastic actors on the small screen at the moment. I don’t think that it’s a viable excuse to not expect the best because this is a network show. If we want to see the better TV and improved performances, then shouldn’t viewers be particular, shouldn’t we expect to see good acting at the very least? If that’s not the case then what does that say about the industry, and the standards that people set themselves?

Anyway, I like your review in general. As you point out there are some positives, but so far the show seems to be a dumbed down version of what many of us expected.

Kit March 3, 2009 at 12:09 am

So I was thinking about your point, re: Sierra and Echo’s shared awareness. I think one of the things that made it intriguing for me was related to my original interpretation of Echo’s deviation from the “mission” – her line (right as she whacks Rayna with the chair), “Friends help each other out” – seemed to imply that Sierra’s imprint was HER friend – which echoed what they’d said earlier at the dollhouse – friends help each other out… So to me, that was the build for the change in plan – she wasn’t there to save Rayna anymore (except that her imprint wanted her to), but she was really intending to save her friend – and that’s why they had the later shared moment – though I thought it was implying something even more than we’d seen, because it wasn’t a simple nod between two friends, but a caught eye moment, and then a shake of the head, and a pretending that they didn’t recognize each other – which intrigued me… Because something is clearly going on that we don’t have all the facts for yet…

I’ve been reflecting about this show a lot lately, and one of the things that I was thinking of has to do with the fact that season 1 of Buffy was probably one of the most struggling seasons – and yet, over the seven years, it became one of my favorite shows (and now, having watched and rewatched it a bunch, it’s my favorite and most quoted series). Some of the stuff that was built into the show only became obvious in retrospect – and while I understand that they need to build an audience, I think that part of why Dollhouse seems to be struggling with the critics is that everyone expects Joss’ new show to be at the excellence level of the later seasons of Buffy and Angel – forgetting that sometimes when you start anew (especially since this series is so different than anything he’s done before – and clearly, the network played a small part in changing his original vision), you need to start back at the beginning… Maybe I’m just incredibly patient when it comes to Joss Whedon, but I have faith that Dollhouse will get better (and I actually liked episode 3…).

The other thing, re: Eliza’s acting – I think part of the issue lies with the characters that she’s been given. All of them seem similar because to some extent, they are similar. And they’re put into situations that require similar behaviors or attitudes. If the writers and directors gave Eliza different characters and guidance on how to portray those differences, I think she would step up to the plate… My understanding of the united states of Tara is that the characters are VERY different…

I do agree with your good points though – especially the best line! I think the next best line was Boyd’s “I will seriously consider it.” Though I think it’s actually particularly interesting that every time Echo has to go in for her treatment, she talks non-stop about her current engagement afterward – I wonder if the other actives do that too (Audra wasn’t saying anything, but we didn’t see her for very long) – or is that different. The other thing I noticed about the way the two handlers handled is that the other dude said, “It’s time for your treatment,” whereas Boyd asked, “are you ready for your treatment?” – I wonder if that’s a continued difference, or if it was just so they weren’t saying the exact same line…

Roco March 3, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Re: the Echo and Sierra acknowledgment – you could be right, perhaps there is more there that we are yet to see. Maybe this isn’t the ‘first’ time that they have shared such mutual awareness. I’m OK with tracing back the stages of character and story development, but for me, this feel like too much of a leap. It may have worked better for me had they not included the scene at the beginning of the episode where they hammer us over the head with “that’s what friends are for”. That scene had a distinct lack of ‘genuine’ acknowledgement between the pair, which leads me to assume that the ‘nod’ at the end was indeed the ‘first’ time that this has happened. Which in turn makes it seem too rushed..too forced.

I’m even OK with the ‘that’s what frieds are for’ scene being forshadowing to what was to come..had it been done well. For me, forshadowing works best when it’s subtle. DH, for whatever reason, feels the need to make their ‘clever twists’ so incredibly overt that reveals lose any value that they might otherwise have. For me at least.

Whilst I do appreciate your point about Sierra possibly being imprinted as Echo’s friend, the whole sequence of events, where Sierra conveniently gets kidnapped –and even the fact that she gets drafted in on the mission in the first place — is just far too clumsey..to ‘mechanical’ for my liking. I can turn a blind eye once or twice, but this show (so far) has contrivance built into it’s DNA.

I can see your point about having patience, and sometimes the value of previous episodes increase with time. The problem is, I genuinely don’t think that these 3 episodes are very good at all. To my mind, the writing is sloppy, the character motivations erratic, the direction muddled. Maybe it’s to do with all of the changes, but how many excuses can a show have – they had over a year to get it right. Together they have failed miserably so far. Of course this is only my opinion, I’m glad that there are others out there who are more optimistic. My optimism for this show died about a month before it aired, and the first 3 episodes haven’t done much to raise my hopes.

I hear you re: the characters that Dushku has portrayed so far, although I can’t agree entirely. To my mind it’s a bit of both – on the one hand I don’t think she has the ability to portray different characters to the level required for a show about someone being imprinted with different personas. But on the other hand, I think the powers that be (maybe in Dusku herself, since she’s a producer on the show) have intentionally made a few of the characters as similar as possible in a bid to conceal possible short-comings.

When it comes to some of the other portrayals – Miss Penn and Woodswoman chick – there’s no way that those two characters should have come over as being similar, and yet I saw the same character..except one had glasses. Yeah, even the props don’t help..

Not trying to be mean here, but this is her show – Whedon told the world how fantastic an actress she was, we were all told over and over again how she’s so used to being different people in her RL blah, blah, blah. My point is, they structured the show in the wrong way – they built her up and gave her too much screen-time. Had they shared the focus around a little then I think that it would have been better for everyone – more people would be able to shine, including Dushku, who I don’t think is a ‘bad’ actress, btw.

Nice catch with the different approaches of the two handlers. Boyd definitely seems able to see Echo as somewhat of a human being, whereas Sierra’s handler seems to treat her like a comodity..maybe a burden, who knows? The Active/Handler theme is still one of the most interesting aspects of the series. I think it will be interesting to find out whether Boyd is able to see Echo as a ‘human’ because of something about himself (his compassion, his world view, etc), or whether it’s all down to the way that Echo behaves, and her ‘specialness’. In otherwords, how much ‘give and take’ is there in the bond they have formed?..who’s leading the charge for Echo to become aware?

Kit March 3, 2009 at 1:35 am

Another thing I’ve been thinking about (and reading about, over on whedonesque) is that the stuff that Joss is known for tends to be the slow build-up over the episodes toward something. In Angel this was probably easiest (since it was already building from an established universe, though it eventually had to break ties completely), but this is seen in Buffy for sure, and even in Firefly. It’s not the monster-of-the-week that stays with you – and in some cases, that part is hardly even remembered. It’s the adding up of small details toward the seasonal arcs that is what gets good.

I think Dollhouse has shown so far that (despite the Network’s limitations on the continuity) it is building toward something. There are little details (like the arrow, or the repeated mentions of the attic, Boyd and Topher and now Boyd and Dr. Saunder’s conversations, or my wondering whether there’s something connecting Adelle to Caroline, and thus Echo) that hint toward what it will be when it’s left to grow… Until then, I bide my time, and ignore the stupid monster of the week (read: engagement of the week) and look for the subplots and the side stories – because that’s where the real engagement is.

Phoenix March 3, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I definitely agree — first seasons are NOT Whedon’s strong point (the obvious exception to this rule is, of course, FIREFLY, but of course FOX destroyed that one, so no big deal). I think that Rocco is half-right; I DON’T have high expectations for DOLLHOUSE until we hit “Echoes,” which is I think the seventh episode.

My reasoning for this is that both Dushku and Whedon have stated that FOX wanted the dumbed-down episodes to lead the show off; the whole “six pilots” thing as has been mentioned before. I’ve enjoyed DOLLHOUSE so far, and I think that it’s set the bare bones for good plots in the future, but a golden show? Not so much, or at least not yet.

I do, however, have faith in Eliza’s acting abilities. I think that all the references to UNITED STATES OF TARA have it right: they just keep giving her the exact same role to do, over and over. The only points where she gets to display her actual chops is in “Ghost” ‘s more vulnurable moments, but that episode was bogged down in “meh,” so it didn’t make much of a difference. Once we get into more varied characters, I believe that she’ll pull through — next episode “Gray Hour” looks to me like it’s going to be MUCH better than the first three episodes, so, looking forward to that.

And if her acting doesn’t improve, I have no mercy from the POV of “she’s a producer and everything too.” My FAVORITE actor (emphasis mine) is David Boreanaz, and look at his show BONES: DB is one of the two showrunners, he’s been an executive producer since the third season, and he’s even DIRECTED the upcoming episodes, and he STILL turns out a great acting performance as Booth weekly.

So, here’s sincerely hoping that DOLLHOUSE gets back on track, because to me the premise and themes are intriguing and worth exploring, and I even gave the “Save Hazel from the R. Prime Lab” viral campaign a try. I just hope that FOX doesn’t do to DOLLHOUSE what it did to TRU CALLING and axe it just as the plot starts developing to the good stuff.

A March 4, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I will definitely stop visiting this site from now on. The negativity is killing me. If you don’t like the show, do not watch it. As simple as that.

Roco March 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Really, do you really want people who are not in love with DH to stop watching it? Does DH have that many viewers?


“So long, farewell…”

I think that says it best? 😀

LeParisianFrog March 4, 2009 at 6:37 pm

people i like you, those after comments are the best! kuddos to you all!

Page 48 March 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that the reason there is a lot of negativity here is because, so far, DH has been barely a notch above ‘snoozefest’.

The ‘six pilots’ concept is playing with fire. As I recall, “Bionic Woman” and “My Own Worst Enemy” both went with the nine pilot thingy before they faded to a darker shade of black.

Whedon’s name alone pretty much guarantees the full thirteen episodes will run, especially with the residual guilt that FOX must (should) feel over ditching “Firefly” without just cause, but should DH fail to dramatically improve over the next ten episodes, I can’t think of any reason why it would see the light of day next season.

As we heard in the pilot, “actions have consequences”. The consequence of a show struggling to keep its audience awake is usually a shortened life span.

bekki March 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

i think its important to have a variety of opinions on the subject. if you disagree, say so and share your opinion. maybe you feel that someone is interpreting something wrongly. maybe instead of disappearing, actually having a discussion about it would help change minds or at least balance out the types of opinions out there.

people that just decamp and bitch piss me off. i mean, god knows, roco, you and i agree quite often, but i still value your opinion because it allows me to see the show in a different light.

Previous post:

Next post:

Flash Forward TV Series - Fringe Fox - Fringe Fox - TV Show Blog - Serialized TV Forums