1.06 “Man On The Street” Review – The Good And The Bad

by admin on March 22, 2009 · 63 comments

Dollhouse 1.06 - Man on the Street - Review

Here is my review of Dollhouse episode 1.06 “Man on the Street”. As always, I refrain from reading any other reviews or opinions until I have written my review — that way I can give my honest opinion on the episode.

The Good

  • This episode benefited hugely from better story-telling. By that, I’m referring to the pacing and plotting – it was richer than previous episodes, and much more purposeful. Whilst it could be argued to have been a rather ‘slow’ episode, there’s nothing wrong with that if the story builds momentum, which is what this episode did well. There were a few of these slow moments early on — specifically the long-winded conversations between characters — but this was  probably a consequence of earlier episodes not having enough context, meaning “Man on the Street” had to lay down the foundations, character motivations AND propel the story forward. On the whole, I found this to be a well crafted episode, and it gives me reassurance in my opinion about the previous episodes being pretty dire.
  • Patton Oswalt was excellent in his guest star appearance as Joel Mynor. Not only did he make the character believable, but Joel’s motivations carried weight. I can see why he would hire an Active in light of what happened to his wife — it was a human reason, one which made more sense than sending an Active in to a religious commune, or acquiring her services to deliver a baby. But crucially for Joel’s character, he doesn’t attempt to justify his reasons as being ‘good’..he doesn’t pretend that he’s not a “predator”, as Ballard put it. Of course, just because I can buy his motivations, it doesn’t mean that I condone them — far from it. He’s one of the many people in this show who treat these Actives like meat — objects that they can pick up and put down whenever and wherever they want. Joel was an important addition to the world of the show — he’s someone who abuses his status (money, power, etc), and yet he has a somewhat sympathetic story. However, my ability to feel sorry for him is short lived due to his amoral attitude, but I feel that he provides a clearer illustration as to the shades of humanity that the show seeks to explore: the fantasy of reality. Joel sought a form of escapism..of comfort, from the harsh reality of his tragic loss. This one conversation (with Ballard) explained more succinctly why someone might hire an Active – in Joel’s case it was out of atonement, bereavement..something to make him feel “better” from the tragic twist of fate that took his wife away from him.  I guess everyone has a role to play — we all play out fantasies to some extent; whether they are expectations (of ourselves and others), hopes, dreams, whatever. And I enjoyed how Joel threw this idea back at Ballard, who, after all, wants to be Caroline’s knight in shining armour. That’s a fantasy he’s been chasing for a while..the sudden truth of which, guided him into Mellie’s bed that night. I guess truth hurts, and it can influence our decisions.

  • This episode touched on some edgy issues – the Sierra rape aspect was very disturbing, but it provided greater understanding to the vulnerable and completely powerless position that the Actives are in. It illustrated just how much power a handler has over their Active. The handlers are the very people who the Actives are programmed to trust, and this seems to play on the idea of why trust is such  a difficult thing to give to another person — in a way, it’s giving away a part of yourself. A loss of empowerment for one person, and total control for the other can lead to disastrous consequences. Imagine not having control over who you give your trust to, it’s unthinkable really, except it happens all around us, maybe not in such overt fashion as shown in this episode, but certainly on other levels. When thinking back to what Sierra’s handler did to her, I was struck by the scene from a few episodes ago, where Langton and Echo had their ceremonial ‘trust building’ whatchamacallit. In that moment, Echo trusted Langton, implicitly, and he responded to that; it made him see some semblance of humanity (or dependency?) in her, it made him want to protect her. It goes to show that trust is a two-way thing, not only does Echo trust Langton, but Langton has to trust Langton. He has to see her as a human-being in spite of the world that he’s working in. Clearly, Sierra wasn’t so lucky with her Active. On the whole, I think that this was a worthwhile story to tell, as it explored the boundaries in an Active/Handler relationship which ended up intersecting into the main story towards the end, with Mellie giving rapist-handler some ‘payback’. Interestingly, this throws Adelle’s morality right into question. There’s no doubt that rapist guy was a nasty piece of work, but Adelle made herself judge and executioner; playing God with people on multiple levels — I’d imagine that there’s an argument which suggests that what she did was no better than what rapist-handler guy did to Sierra. And just like rapist-handler guy, she also abused the power than she has over an Active — Mellie. For me, this is powerful story-telling, and props to the writers for crafting this together.
  • Speaking of Langton, I was happy to see him playing a much more relevant part in the show again. I’m reminded of why I marked him down as being the best thing about the show. Not only was he super awesome by punching rapist-handler through the glass (lol), but he addressed one of my concerns about his world-view;  I had been worried that he was becoming too accepting of the immoral acts that were taking place all around him, and that he was only invested helping in Echo — but he proved that his care does extend to the other ‘mind-wiped zombies’. The way in which he sneered rapist-handler guy was rather ‘convenient’ (OK, so there’s a ‘blind spot’ in the DH surveillance where an act like this could take place, but the breadcrumbs which led to the light-bulb going off in his head seemed a bit of a leap), but I’m willing to overlook that, as I feel that the Langton/Sierra story was effective. Whilst I’m on the subject of Sierra, I found her mannerisms and facial reactions during her scene with rapist-handler guy to be quite interesting. I don’t think this was Dichen’s Lachman’s best performance, but she portrayed Sierra as knowing that what she was ‘agreeing’ to was wrong. I like the fact that Sierra wasn’t ‘enthusiastic’ or completely willing to to what her handler was making her do. Because they so easily could have gone down that route, and I don’t think it would have had the same impact. Having Sierra show signs of resistance through her facial expressions (you could see her almost fighting against the ‘programme’) not only made this scene all the more terrifying, but also showed that the dolls are not completely blank. There was something beneath the surface that told (or tried to tell) Sierra that this guy didn’t have her best interests at heart. I like when they make  multiple points without making it overly obvious.
  • Ballard/Mellie. It’s clear that the writers of this episode did a major overhaul of the Mellie/Ballard relationship. Suddenly they are good friends now? Really? The earlier episodes (except maybe 1.05) gave us no indication of this budding relationship. That said, I can overlook this because I like the general direction that Ballard character has now taken. He’s a character who had spirit but lacked a reason to care (at least from my perspective). But now that he’s involved in a relationship with Mellie I can buy into how his investment in bringing down the Dollhouse(s) will become personal. The motivations of his character were a lot better defined in this episode – it’s amazing how a little back-story and one-on-one discussion can layer a character far better than any spliced kick boxing sequence. As for Mellie, I’m not surprised that she is an Active, as I predicted as much weeks ago. However I still enjoyed the reveal as it was well done. The idea of having “sleeper” Actives who can be toggled on/off remotely, expands on the episode where Alpha remote-wiped Echo. It slightly makes the frantic running around in that episode somewhat contrived in retrospect, but as I said, I’ll overlook that on this occasion. 😉
  • The suggestion that there are multiple Dollhouses all around the world may finally give  the story the ‘grand scale’ that it so badly needs. Whilst  I don’t think that the suggestion of global Dollhouses, tied to government interests, suddenly eradicates the difficulty they’ve had in making the show ‘relevant’ to viewers, it certainly provides a platform for the ‘world of the show’ to expand it’s own importance.
  • It’s now been two episodes in a row where they have resisted sexualizing Echo. It feels slightly wrong for applauding them for it, but at least they’re beginning to address that rather lazy ploy.
  • Less Echo = more win! I’ve always said that making this show more ensemble would be one of the best things that they could do, and this episode went a long way to proving that point. This episode was a lot less Echo focused, and as such the story flowed a lot better. Other characters and actors were finally able to shine – Tahmoh Penniket and Miracle Laurie were among the best performers, and Patton Oswalt gave the best acting performance of the show so far. Enver Gjokaj gave another believable performance as the confused yet horny Victor. Harry Lennix and Fran Kranz were both solid in their respective roles. We got to see more of Claire, and even a couple of the other handlers. Not only that, but finally Olivia William’s had more (and better) material to work with, and I began to see potential in the character again. Eliza Dushku was good as the tough assassin-esque chick, but I still don’t believe that she can carry this show on her own, she just doesn’t have that kind of range — that is evident in almost every scene. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if they water down her role a bit, and spread around the focus. This episode highlighted that the other actors are more than capable of handling larger roles, and if the powers that be have realised this, then the show may have a chance. That said, I’ve just been reminded of the title for the next episode..

The Bad

  • Ballard started the episode very shaky. He sees Caroline in Mynor’s house, is literally stunned that he’s finally found her, but once the fight is over with Mynor’s two body guards, he doesn’t seem to care that she’s gone. Huh!? Sure, WE saw Langton whisk her away, but did Ballard? I expected him to at least scan the room for her presence, or curse his luck for coming so close (yet so far) to finding his ‘damsel in distress’. Instead he laid straight into Mynor. It’s just one of those things that put me out of the show for a moment or two. I fear that things like this are indicative of Dollhouse’s inability to cater for the small details — natural character reactions that would make the world of the show much more believable. I also find it somewhat difficult to believe that one of Mynor’s men would have called the police instead of rushing Ballard from behind. I find it even harder to believe that Ballard didn’t make sure that all three men were tied up or something. He just sat down and ate strawberries with the man? Really Ballard? Are you sure you don’t want some cream with those? 😀 Don’t get me wrong, I liked that scene overall, but there were a few questionable aspects to it.
  • I wasn’t overly impressed with the Ballard/Echo fight scene, in fact it was a bit of a disappointment considering the hype it received. I saw two people throwing a lot of pots and pans, unconvincing choreography and camera work that didn’t quite conceal the stunt doubles. And why was Echo dressed up like that, what purpose did it serve for this mission? Why engage Ballard in a fight at all if her mission was to make him believe that the DH is willing to work with him? It could be argued that she was programmed to buy rapist-handler dude enough time to attack Mellie, but was fighting him the only way to stall him? Also, the fact that by-standers (including a cop who Echo shot) only appeared once what seemed like an hour long fight was over, was a bit too convenient. In truth, this was only done to keep the suspense — other than that there was no reason whatsoever for Ballard to stop asking questions. I’m sure a lot of effort when into that sequence but it fell wide of the mark in my view.
  • Eliza Dushku was wholly unconvincing as Mrs Mynor. It’s now 6 episodes in and each of the characters that she has portrayed have been ‘Eliza Dushku’, same mannerisms, same speech patterns — narrow range. I actually think that this was one of the worst portrayals yet, I just didn’t buy it. This show will fail unless the much-hyped lead-actress can portray people who believe that they are the different imprinted personalities. So far, she has portrayed the different imprints as though they are acting out the role, instead of the imprint believing that they are that person. This goes against one of the core premises of the show..
  • The ‘urban legend news report’ interruptions were vastly annoying. One or two news reports would have sufficed, instead it totally took me out of the world of the show. It actually diluted the story, making it look slightly cheap. They tried to inject too much ‘funny’ into those scenes, when this was a very serious episode. Sometimes the two can mix, but not in this way, it just didn’t feel right (i.e. the jokes weren’t funny, and didn’t hold enough weight), and it didn’t ‘look’ right. Perhaps they were gunning for those new viewers, but are they going to do this kind of thing each week? I doubt it, which means that they must surely have better ways of making the show easier to follow for ‘newbies’? Especially since the powers that be told us that the first 5 episodes were meant to all be Pilots. So did we need such an overt form of pandering to new viewers on the sixth episode?..has a series which dumbs down on a weekly basis really reached the level where viewers need to watch each week to understand what’s going on? I doubt it.
  • Whilst this was clearly the best DH episode so far, I do have concerns over it’s lack of appeal. It had some very good moments, and touched on some very interesting themes, but even so, I didn’t feel engrossed in the story like I am when I’m watching my favourite shows. There was something not quite dark, but ‘gray‘ about this episode. I think they need to find a way of adding more vibrancy and artistic quality to help define the show. It’s still searching for it’s own identity at the moment, and by the time it finds it, it might be too late.

All in all this was a good episode – the twists and turns were nicely done (if not completely surprising), the story was handled with intelligence and insight (for the most part), and the overall acting was of a good standard. There wasn’t much glaringly “bad” about the episode, other than the usual mid-range problems which a show like this suffers from. I think that my biggest problem with this episode is that despite all of the hype. I’m left feeling somewhat unmoved by the end product. This was not an episode that I will “never forget”, nor was it of the standard that I’m used to with other shows that I watch. It was just ‘good’. That’s taking nothing away from the episode, it’s just my honest appraisal.

If this were the Pilot episode I might continue watching/blogging, but I think that this is the last episode for WatchingDollhouse.com. I think that I’ll make one more post after this one (giving my final thoughts, etc), and then call it a day — as I said last week, I can’t justify spending time blogging about a show that I don’t believe in. I started this blog with the best intentions, and I’ve given it a chance to get better, but I don’t think it’s the show for me. I really do hope that the show proves me wrong — and if that happens then I might start up again, but at least I can say that I bowed at on a good episode, eh?

Episode rating: 8/10. Episode rating in relation to my favourite shows: 5/10

Bad Mouth March 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

OMG! What no more Watchingdollhouse.com? That’s about the best thing about this show. This episode was OK, not fantastically brilliant, but showing promise. Still too much plot being explained by conversation and not enough letting the viewer thing for themselves. The fight went on for way too long but you could tell that Fox really tried hard with this episode. No matter how hard Eliza trains she just could not beat Ballard-we have seen him hospitalize how many people so far? I just don’t believe Mellie could beat a man to death-she is too chubby. The dollhouse is such a pit of nastiness-where is the road to redemption?

Roco March 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

The dollhouse is such a pit of nastiness-where is the road to redemption?

Good question. I have to believe that there is some alturistic motivation to their existense, but that will have to be tinged with shades of gray, especially after this episode.

Justin March 22, 2009 at 11:42 am

It’s sad to see that you are giving up on the show, however I believe it is for the best. Most of what you claim to be negatives are what true Whedon fans relish. The interviews from the reporter, the porn lines delivered hilariously by Dushku, and the amazing fight scene, all true to what Whedon is. His humor and touches on this episode were completely evident in each scene, so if you didn’t get that, I feel that you are exactly right, this is not the show for you.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Hello Justin,

So, because you think that I don’t get Whedon’s ‘inside jokes’ and humour, it’s for the best? lol.

Thank you for your veiled comments, but just because I wont be blogging about the show, it doesn’t mean that suddenly everything will be fixed. A lot of fans struggle to accept the opinions of others, especially those who don’t sugar-coat everything. If you’re enjoying the show, then great, but don’t expect everyone to say only good things about it. Me? I prefer to keep it balanced, and that is always “for the best” 😉

Also, you make mention to “true Whedon” fans ‘getting’ his style. But isn’t that the problem? Doesn’t this show need folks like myself, who wont watch his shows out of loyalty, to keep it on the air? I’m comfortable with my assessment of the show (both it’s negatives and positives), and I don’t claim them to be anything other than my opinion. But at the same time, this show wont survive if only you and hard-core Whedon fans are watching it, Justin. This blog is the perspective of ‘a’ non-Whedon fan who was more than captivated by the premise of the show, and probably contains the most balanced set of opinions from people in the comments that I’ve seen (i.e. people here have more freedom to speak honestly, without feeling that they MUST say something good about the show). So make of my departure what you will, but if you think it’s ‘best for the show’ (which is what you really mean, right?) that myself (and more importanly, other non-Whedon fans out there who may feel the same as me) are bailing, then you might want to re-examine that mentality. Don’t forget, this is a show that needs all the support it can get, alienating people by suggesting that ‘only true Whedon fans get his style’ is not “for the best”.

Page 48 March 22, 2009 at 11:51 am

Well, now we know why it was called “Man on the Street”, but every one of those interview segments were awful, completely un-natural, painfully scripted and wasted valuable time. Hopefully, had it not been for remote-free TV, those bits would have been left on the cutting room floor.

Considering the god-awful racket that Ballard and Echo were making in a deserted restaurant kitchen for such an extended period of time, I can’t believe no one stuck their head thru the door to see what was going on. Doesn’t anybody work there?

I always enjoy seeing justice meeted out in my TV shows, so Langton dropping the hammer on Hearn was sweet and I loved the way Adele dealt with disposing of Hearn by way of Lasagna Girl. These are the sort of unexpected twists and turns that keep life interesting for viewers.

Efforts were made to complicate the story, which was desperately needed. Adding DH’s round the world and suggesting that their REAL purpose was not catering to fantasy, but something perhaps far more sinister, helped to add substance to the story. This revelation about more DH’s reminded me of Vaughn showing Sydney the diagram of the vast network of SD-6 cells in existence in the 2nd eppie of “Alias”. This by no means suggests that DH is ‘up there’ with “Alias”, cuz that just ain’t happening.

This was the best episode by far, but there is still so much work to be done. They better have some good stuff up their sleeves, or this week’s momentum will soon be lost.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Well, now we know why it was called “Man on the Street”, but every one of those interview segments were awful, completely un-natural, painfully scripted and wasted valuable time. Hopefully, had it not been for remote-free TV, those bits would have been left on the cutting room floor.

I think that’s the word I was looking for – “unnatural”. It was almost a parody, and maybe that was the point, but I found it to be a distraction more than anything else.

Good point about the other DH’s possibly pertaining to something more “sinister”. I instantly thought that this may show Adelle is a more complicated, possibly alturistic light, but even she answers to someone, so perhaps she is trying to do ‘good’ through ‘evil’..

Phoenix March 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Well, I sort of have to agree with your reasons for not continuing this blog, even though I really wish that you would — it’s hard to find such deconstruction of episodes the way you do it! But, hey, “Lost” and “Fringe” are about to come back on, so at least you’ll have something positive to focus on (lol). I really do wish that this episode had been the pilot.

My first difference with you was that I found the expository “man on the street” sideshots to be a fairly interesting plot point — how would we as average joes react to the idea that there really WAS a Dollhouse? I found it interesting how the joe schmoes went from entirely dismissive to disgusted to quasi-interested to seeing how the Dollhouse could be a GOOD thing (and I still maintain that the guy who wanted to “experiment” was hilarious); the ending clip wherein an “expert” stated his doomsday theory about how this technology would be abused seemed a little contrived to me but overall I found it as an interesting little side-note on how the existence of the Dollhouse would affect ordinary human beings.

Obviously we disagree on the issue of Eliza Dushku, but I’ve always agreed with you — Whedon works best with an ensemble cast. Witness “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” There were episodes where I wanted to punch Buffy in the face, but Xander or Willow would save the day; or Xander would do something so stupid that I had to ignore him in favor of Giles for the rest of the episode. “Dollhouse” showed a much stronger suit in this episode when the other characters weren’t just a subplot, they were PART of the overall plot. We didn’t just see the formulaic “Echo goes on a mission, Echo glitches, Echo saves the day, see a little Ballard on the side.” Instead, we saw a multilayered story whose parts added up to a fairly positive whole. And I honestly was almost crying with laughter when “Mrs. Mynor” was escorted from the house the entire time screaming “Porn!”

I thought the issue of Mellie was handled very oddly in the show, and I found myself getting irritated with it until the sleeper scene; I was horrified that Adelle was going to sic Monsieur Rapist on her, of course, but I found myself questioning her through most of the episode. I would have preferred it if they hadn’t slept together — so she’s going to tell Ballard to not transfer his feelings for Echo onto her and then turn around and sleep with him anyway? It was forced and didn’t make sense. However, her creepy turn as Sleeper Assassin was enough to keep me interested and the clips of her freaking out and glitching next week was enough to keep me very interested for the next episode (which also looks like they’re going to continue with the ensemble cast thing).

I found the disturbing parts of this episode the best of them — the perverted Handler, the rape of Sierra, how Echo and Viktor can’t understand what’s going on and start to get frightened, Joel Mynor’s wifely fantasies and his deconstruction of Ballard’s motives — it raised all the questions that “Dollhouse” should have been raising from day one, instead of vaguely alluding to them. It gave the actors a chance to stretch out, and as you pointed out Adelle is FINALLY starting to become a somewhat interesting villain. I also rejoiced at the fact that Dominic had almost NO screentime in this episode; he’s very one-dimensional and he wouldn’t have served any purpose at all. And I do agree that Langton’s expanded role in this episode was very welcome.

I was thrilled at the end of the fight scene where they FINALLY gave the Dollhouse concept a bit of a global meaning — “There are twenty Dollhouses, with ties to major political and economic powers” was one thing, but the real kicker was “The Dollhouse deals in fantasy, but that is not its purpose.” Now, THIS is what we’ve been waiting for from the very first episode: something to sink our teeth into! It put me in mind of the first season of “Alias” where Vaughn tells Sydney to draw a map of how far she thinks SD-6’s influence reaches, and then he pulls out the global drawing. We needed some shaking up, we needed to see that yes, the existence of the Dollhouse is more than just a freaksome science-fiction form of human trafficking.

One suggestion that I had for you for the Ballard/Echo fight scene — well, I enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty brutal and the part where Ballard finally just loses his temper and slings her over his shoulder and throws her around like a doll (pun intended) was very in-character fighting for him. I think what you might not have liked was how they were trying to make it very knock-down drag-out and not flowing — my personal belief is that they were again trying to divorce Dushku from her “Faith” character on “Buffy,” in giving her a radically different fighting style without any hint of real martial arts knowledge. But that’s just my suggestion.

In any event, I’ll be truly sorry to see you go and I hope that the next episode just might convince you to give it another shot. But, even if it doesn’t, thanks for doing what you’ve done so far!

Roco March 22, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I definitely appreciate your take on the ‘man on the street’ exposition, Phoenix. I just wish they had found a way to convey that device as succinctly as you wrote it. I can see why it could be a valuable insight into what ‘average Joe’s’ in the world of the show think about the DH legend, but I think my other problem is that I found them to not be untrue to the the world of the show. In other words, they felt like they belonged to another show – a comedy sketch or something, and not the show that I was watching. That said, your perspective on it has aleast allowed me to see the intention behind that device.

Good point about Mellie’s change of heart! I forgot about that. It did seem a bit out of place.

Interesting take on the Echo/Ballard fight scene. You might be right there, they may have been trying to seperate the two characters from each other. It’s hard to put my finger on why I disliked it (other than the reasons that I gave). I think you make a good point about the flow though. I’d also say that it tried to be brutal without actually coming across that way – it felt more ‘showy’ than anything. But that’s a nitpick compared to some of the previous episodes.

Great review as usual Phoenix, I hope that you continue to enjoy the show and share your thoughts.

Justin March 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Actually the point I was trying to make was not that the show was perfect, nor was I trying to alienate viewers, however I believe that if you feel this strongly against Dollhouse, especially “Man On The Street,” which is Whedon’s self-proclaimed baby, I just feel you would never really get into the show. Obviously the humor and general Whedon tone was not conveyed for you and I completely respect that. In fact I have read your blogs for weeks and weeks, loving it. I enjoy reading other peoples’ opinions and yours is always very insightful. In spite of these things, I still feel that maybe this show is not for you. Not because your opinions are dumb, or because they do not matter, but because I feel ep. 06 is essentially what the show is and what the show will be. While i’m sure there are better episodes to come, the core of the show will remain the same. That is my only reasoning in agreeing with your comment of leaving the show, because believe me, your opinions will be missed.
(Oh and FYI I do not watch the show out of loyalty to Whedon, I watch the show because I enjoy it. I never once watched Firefly or Angel until there debut on DVD, only Buffy have I watched week to week.)

Roco March 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

OK fair enough, thanks for clarifying Justin.

(Sorry, I wasn’t referring to you specifically regarding being a loyal Whedon fan. Reading back I can see that I didn’t make that clear. I was making a general reference, in particular to the poll that I posted on the blog several months ago, when the vast majority of people voted that they would watch DH simply because it was Whedon’s project).

bekki March 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

hey roco (look! i finally spelled your name right and it’s the last time you’re blogging 😉 )-

i’m honestly really going to miss your writing. as always, we disagree on a lot of points, but that doesn’t make your opinions any less valid. it’s nice hearing a plain, honest viewer’s opinion outside of all the ‘joss is god’ stuff floating around. as i said, i’ve never been much of a joss fan so i’m kind of an outsider here. i guess maybe that’s one reason i dig your likewise outsider opinion so much.

Still, if you don’t like the show, no harm no foul, right? I honestly feel one reason you might not like the show is because you’re sick of putting so much into it and not getting anything back. Maybe watch it a few times more without bothering to blog and see if it lightens your load a little more.

“It slightly makes the frantic running around in that episode somewhat contrived in retrospect, but as I said, I’ll overlook that on this occasion. ;)”

Actually, I don’t see that. I still see that the frantic running around makes sense because the remote control doll thing is obviously something only Adele and others at her level know about and it is also a very highly guarded secret. After all, secret dolls are the best way to take down inside dissenters. Especially someone of, say, Topher’s level. Let’s say he gets angry and tries to go out and sabotage them somehow. If he thinks he knows all the dolls, he’ll feel safer. Especially if he doesn’t know that there are sleeper agents. So for Adele, keeping this a secret allows any ‘mess’ can be cleaned up immediately with little trouble.

“Ballard started the episode very shaky. He sees Caroline in Mynor’s house, is literally stunned that he’s finally found her, but once the fight is over with Mynor’s two body guards, he doesn’t seem to care that she’s gone. Huh!? Sure, WE saw Langton whisk her away, but did Ballard? I expected him to at least scan the room for her presence, or curse his luck for coming so close (yet so far) to finding his ‘damsel in distress’.”

Again, that didn’t bother me in the way that he obviously knows that ‘Rebecca/Caroline’ has no idea what he’s talking about. When she’s gone, he immediately focuses to someone who knows EXACTLY what he’s talking about. In many ways, an established patron is much more valuable to him than Caroline who’ll just sit there and scream and deny all knowledge. He also probably figures that the Dollhouse is MUCH more interested in protecting her than Mr. Mynor. Therefore, instantly getting at Mynor made sense to me. What DID bother me was that he didn’t even bother locking the dudes/security agents in a room somewhere. But, that’s television. I’ve seen the same annoying things happen on other shows – especially SciFi from Battlestar to Buffy to the X-Files – that I’m not that concerned with it.

“The ‘urban legend news report’ interruptions were vastly annoying. One or two news reports would have sufficed, instead it totally took me out of the world of the show. ”

I agree they could’ve cut some of these reports out. I mean, did we really need 5 minutes of them? Still, I think they were valuable in showing that the average joe knows about the myth of the Dollhouse and that it is something that’s more or less openly discussed. That really brings the show out into the ‘real world’ for me and connects it with the average folks that populate this world. So, even if some of them were TOTALLY unnecessary, I understand why it was done and appreciate what it established.

As for the Dushku, I really liked her acting her. It didn’t bother me at all. Obviously, she’s not the best actress on the show. Boyd, Adele and Victor are MUCH better (sorry, don’t know the actor/ess’s names off the top of my head). But she made me laugh and I thought the fight scene was kick ass. I mean, I will never complain about seeing stunt doubles if they have fights like that. Yes, you can occassionally tell, but dude. Did you watch Buffy? I could never get over how SMG would suddenly become a foot taller with a completely different build every time there was a pull away shot. At least Tamoh and Eliza do the majority of their own stunts.

Anyways, I loved this episode, but its bitter sweet if you’re leaving. Take care and best luck to you, buddy.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Hey bekki,

Hehe, no worries about the name 😉

Still, if you don’t like the show, no harm no foul, right? I honestly feel one reason you might not like the show is because you’re sick of putting so much into it and not getting anything back. Maybe watch it a few times more without bothering to blog and see if it lightens your load a little more.

That’s a good point. Maybe I will find just watching the show more enjoyable. I’m not sure that I will continue to watch, but you’re right in so much as I need a reason to squeeze the blog into my schedule. Currently it’s not a labor of love, although I maintain that the underlying themes are facinating, as are everyone’s different interpretations on those themes..

Actually, I don’t see that. I still see that the frantic running around makes sense because the remote control doll thing is obviously something only Adele and others at her level know about and it is also a very highly guarded secret. After all, secret dolls are the best way to take down inside dissenters. Especially someone of, say, Topher’s level. Let’s say he gets angry and tries to go out and sabotage them somehow. If he thinks he knows all the dolls, he’ll feel safer. Especially if he doesn’t know that there are sleeper agents. So for Adele, keeping this a secret allows any ‘mess’ can be cleaned up immediately with little trouble.

Good shout. Although are you saying that Topher doesn’t know about Mellie being an Active?

Again, that didn’t bother me in the way that he obviously knows that ‘Rebecca/Caroline’ has no idea what he’s talking about. When she’s gone, he immediately focuses to someone who knows EXACTLY what he’s talking about. In many ways, an established patron is much more valuable to him than Caroline who’ll just sit there and scream and deny all knowledge. He also probably figures that the Dollhouse is MUCH more interested in protecting her than Mr. Mynor. Therefore, instantly getting at Mynor made sense to me. What DID bother me was that he didn’t even bother locking the dudes/security agents in a room somewhere. But, that’s television. I’ve seen the same annoying things happen on other shows – especially SciFi from Battlestar to Buffy to the X-Files – that I’m not that concerned with it.

Hmm, I see where you’re coming from, but Joel can be picked up at any time, Echo is the one who he’s had difficulty finding..she’s the “ghost”, as it were.

I guess I at least wanted a customary glance around the room, or maybe a lil’ peak out of the window to double check that she has actually gone. I don’t think he even acknowledged her disappearance at all, he simply carried on as if she was never even there. For a man so obsessed with finding her, he took his near miss extremely well. Had he got hold of Caroline (for want of a better expression), he would have had proof – and proof is what his case depends on, it’s what he’s been chasing all this time.

But as you say, we do have to suspend disbelief on occassion. I was just thrown for a moment or two, and it distracted my focus away from what was otherwise a very good scene.

As for the Dushku, I really liked her acting her. It didn’t bother me at all. Obviously, she’s not the best actress on the show. Boyd, Adele and Victor are MUCH better (sorry, don’t know the actor/ess’s names off the top of my head). But she made me laugh and I thought the fight scene was kick ass. I mean, I will never complain about seeing stunt doubles if they have fights like that. Yes, you can occassionally tell, but dude. Did you watch Buffy? I could never get over how SMG would suddenly become a foot taller with a completely different build every time there was a pull away shot. At least Tamoh and Eliza do the majority of their own stunts

Haha, yeah I watched Buffy for a while (before I lost interest in the show), and I understand what you mean. I guess this episode had lots of little annoyances that distracted me from the good parts. I’ve seen far worse fight sequences, but I just couldn’t wait for this one to be over so we could move on already 😀

I appreciate your comments and views as always bekki, always insightful.

bekki March 22, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Good shout. Although are you saying that Topher doesn’t know about Mellie being an Active?

I don’t know. He might know she’s an Active…but he probably doesn’t know what she’s doing. He probably thinks she’s just a sweet girl programmed for a long-term very wealthy patron who wants someone innocent and nice. But just because Topher knows about Mellie doesn’t mean he knows about other Dolls from other cities that are also sleeper agents. Or even that there aren’t other dolls besides Mellie who are out there that Adele is controlling.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Yeah, you could be right. Although I would assume that he’d know where Mellie is, and that she’s been assigned to Ballard. After all, he’s the programmer, I assume that much of the technology used is his (or has been influenced by him).

True, he might not know about every sleeper Active. I guess this would say something about Adelle’s technical knowledge though, if she can operate Topher’s tech without his input. It could well be that she intentionally sent Alpha on the rampage..

tmess March 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Although I don’t always agree with your opinions, it was always interesting to read them. It is too bad that you put all this work creating and maintaining this site and you’re not enjoying the show.

If you ever have some free time are you going to check out the later episodes on hulu or is this just a clean break from which you’re never coming back?

Roco March 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Cheers tmess,

Yep, it’s a shame, but I’ve enjoyed talking about the show for the most part.

I will never say never. But I fully intend to make one last post and then leave it there. But who knows, if the show inspires me to blog again and I have enough time, then I’ll certainly think about it.

Blue March 22, 2009 at 2:35 pm


So many things you failed to see, too many things you’re willing to pick holes in.

We can do without you.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Wow, Blue.

That’s very classy from a fellow DH blogger (I just saw your site, never knew it existed before now, needless to say I removed your link above).

That’s the problem, Blue. Judging by your comment, you expect everyone to see the world the way that you do. If you disagree with my opinion, then by all means, tell me all about it, you might even make me reconsider some of my points like the good people above. But for someone who runs a dollhouse blog, you’re not making yourself look very good are you?

And who’s this “we” you speak of? Is this another form of alienation?

Perhaps I can do without ‘you’, Blue. Ever thought of that 😉

pinky March 22, 2009 at 2:57 pm


One less blog by someone who doesn’t get it works for me.


Roco March 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Oh, I get it pinky. I get it plenty.

I think you’re the one who doesn’t get the idea of someone giving their honest opinion on a show.

If I were merely pointing out negative aspects of the show, I could maybe understand your point. But clearly my ‘complaints’ about the show seem to resonate with you the most. Is it because you only want nice things to be said about DH, irrespective of a person’s own perspective?

Don’t be shy to take off the blinkers, there’s a whole world out there that, apparently, “doesn’t get it” 😀

I’m jesting with ya, it’s not that serious — take it easy.

Joshua March 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I haven’t seen anybody question the message that Echo gave to Ballard. This review assumed it was part of the plan. I am not so sure. They made a point to have Topher being irritated that Boyd interrupted him during his process. I immediately thought uhoh, something is going to get messed up with the imprint. Also notice when he comes back, the transparent screen was in a different state then it was when Topger finished creating the imprint. He also gives the screen a double take as he walks by. The things against someone changing the imprint is that they have made it clear that it is only Topher who is capable of creating imprints. Whether it is fairly simple to change a parameter they haven’t been made clear. I think possibly Tohper’s assistant would be able to make the change, although it is clear that he keeps her at arms length and isn’t teaching her everything. If someone changed the imprint how could they be sure thy Boyd would keep Topher occupied or would he need to involved too. Lots of questions. I am leaning toward someone really changing the imprint.

bekki March 22, 2009 at 4:08 pm

i wondered about that, too, actually. i wasn’t sure if it was a glitch or if it was intentional – as in the DH is intentionally fucking with Ballard. i’m kind of waiting for more info to see if it really happened or not.

personally, i’m beginning to wonder if there is a ‘man’ inside. and if that person is adele. think about it. she’s so obviously fond of echo despite having a pretty good idea that echo is ‘waking up’. she seems like she has her own agenda completely and she obviously knows a hell of a lot more technologically than we thought (the remote wipes, etc.).

Phoenix March 22, 2009 at 9:33 pm

I’m pretty sure that there is a man inside, as it were — notice the pointed denial when Ballard asked if he was talking to the same someone that gave him all the Caroline clues in the first place. We know for sure that Alpha is the one who gave him those clues, so I’m fairly certain that there is someone who’s trying to take down the Dollhouse from the inside.

I don’t have a clue who it is, though — lots of people suspect Topher’s overworked new intern, but Whedon usually does more twists than that, so if it does get revealed it’ll probably be someone fairly unexpected, like Dr. Saunders?

I still maintain that Adelle is a villain through and through, though, but who knows where that’s going to end up?

Roco March 23, 2009 at 7:34 am

Good point Joshua,

I think it could work both ways, although I kinda hope that someone tampered with Echo’s imprint whilst Topher’s back was turned, as I find this a more interesting plot line.

A couple of weeks ago I speculated that Topher’s assistant was in cahoots with Alpha, so I agree with you that she could have been the one to change the parameters when Topher wasn’t looking.

So I guess we have three main possibilities:

1. Someone else tampered with Echo’s parameters, thus overriding the original message that Adelle wanted her to give to Ballard.

2. Echo gave Ballard Adelle’s message to the letter.

3. Echo (Caroline) became ‘aware’ and gave Ballard her own personal message towards the end of their ‘meeting’.

I agree with you bekki, Phoenix, there is definitely an inside man – this is likely to be tempered with Echo’s own awakening/glitching. Like you, my best bets are Topher’s assist. or Adelle herself. I too think that Claire is a strong possibility, despite seemingly wanting to keep the dolls in their shells, so to speak.

It’s great that there are so many possibilities. Everyone seems to have an agenda concerning Echo and her fellow dolls. I just wonder how she can empower herself when everyone else is seemingly making decisions (good or bad) for her. I also wonder whether she will feel a certain kinship for Alpha, if and when they do meet?

pinky March 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I don’t have a problem with your opinion dude.

I just think it was kinda dumb on your part to have an entire site dedicated to a show that you only will watch 6 eps of.

Why didn’t you just have a livejournal or myspace or sumthin?

All I’m sayin’. That’s what doesn’t make sense to me. In my opinion, your negative points prove that you don’t get it. Was just pointing that out.

No hard feelings.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Far from “dumb” my friend. I’ve very much enjoyed the premise of this show, and if you actually read this blog (I assume you haven’t, properly), you’d realise that.

It’s probably dumber leaving negative comments on a blog and not backing up your reasoning. 😉

Anyway, I am not a time-traveller, I have no crystal ball — As I said, I started the blog with good intentions, I hoped that the show would live up to my expectations, but that hasn’t happened. Which is why I’m stopping now — I waited for the much hyped episode 6, as I said I would. I’m happy with my time blogging DH.

I don’t do livejournal or myspace – everyone has their own preference, you cannot box a person in. Sheesh!

My negative points don’t “Prove that I don’t get it”. Do you realise how silly that sounds, pinky? It’s called having an OPINION – surely you have opinions on things? Do the things that you see fault in equate to you “not getting it”?

Painting Dollhouse and Whedon’s works as this ‘secret club’ probably does more damage than good — you do realise that, right? Don’t be small-minded, by all means give your opinion and challenge others, but don’t think that you’re a cut above because you giggled your way through 1.06. 😉

pinky March 22, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Everything you find negative with Whedon’s work is what his fans love about it.

It’s not dumbed down (like the first 5 eps were) and it threads throughout the season. That is the kind of television I like. Not dumbed down shows (looking at you Hole in the Wall).

It’s unfortunate that we live in a *i want it and i want it now* mentality of a world. People are afraid to try something new and it has hurt television as a whole.

My main problem with your blog is you just say what you like and what you hate. I find that to be a laundry list more than an opinion.

Also, I’m curious to know (outside of the premise) what it was that attracted you to the show to begin with. Or was that it?

I think you’ll find it could end up being a case of you don’t know what you have until it’s gone when the new reality series: What the Hell Am I Still Doing on TV?” Hosted by Danny Bonaduce premieres.

Just a thought.

Roco March 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm

So you’re the official spokesperson of Whedon-land then? Is that right? Seriously dude/tte, it is possible to like Whedon’s work, and not like every single thing that he does. I’m pretty sure there are Whedon fans out there who have not disagreed with every point I’ve ever made on this site. At the end of the day, if you’re surrounded by “yes fans”, how is that healthy..how does one grow, or see their own limitations? Nothing is perfect..and ironically that’s one of the themes that this show will seek to explore.

I don’t like dumbed down shows either. But you’ve kinda contradicted yourself by saying the first 5 DH episodes were dumbed down, and then saying how you don’t like dumbed down shows, like HITW. With this in mind, I’m surprised that you take offence to me not lauding a show which produced those first 5 eps.

Yes, it is a shame that people have little patience. Not sure if you’re angling that at me or not, but just in case you are, my issue with the show isn’t so much that I’m impatient, but that I literally can’t justify spending more time blogging about a show that I’m not feeling. I’m able to do it for “Lost” or “Fringe” because to me, they are truely exceptional shows (well, Fringe still has a long way to go still, but it’s on the right path) that are a labor of love.

I’m sorry that you perceive my blog as a “laundry list”. That said, I’ve probably provided more opinion on DH than any other Dollhouse or Dollhouse-related site out there. Even back in the dayz before it became ‘cool’ to pimp the show. I may use a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ format for my reviews, but I give plenty of opinion (just imagine if I actually enjoyed the show). If you don’t like it no-one is forcing you to read — perhaps you should have set yourself a 6 WD blogpost limit, because I’ve heard it gets really good after that. 😉 In other words, if you disagree with my points, challenge me, but if you dislike the blog then I never forced you to read it, I swear, I’m innocent. In all seriousness, there are plenty of DH/related websites out there that will tell you all the nice things that you want to hear – they will tell you what’s good and what’s good. Fantasy land, huh.

Outside of the premise? Well it’s extremely difficult to say what attracted me to the show other than that, because it ‘was’ the premise, and the layers that came with it. I’m not a Whedon or Dusku fan, if that’s what you’re asking. I didn’t start this blog for any other reason than the premise piquing my interest.

As per your last comment. Well I’m not exactly saying there is a heap of good quality TV out there at the moment. My wish is not for DH to be canceled — although should it be, I would be able to see why (at this point). That said, when I speak to those who do enjoy the show it gives one a sense of hope, that, for their sake, the show doesn’t disappear. Like I’ve always said, I’ll always give my honest opinion on this blog, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder..I can respect that. Maybe you should too.

Take it easy.

gossi March 22, 2009 at 7:17 pm

For the record, to the people coming out saying ‘these are the things Whedon fans love’ – hey, you’re not the boss of me. I think speaking for every Joss fan is a little bit of a generalisation.

I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, and I run arguably the biggest Dollhouse fan site- but I think Roco has been pretty on the ball with his commentary. I don’t agree with all of it, but the issues he has raised are generally worth talking about. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of the series yet, either.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 7:47 am

Cheers gossi,

That’s the general message I was trying to get across – everyone has their own opinion, be it those who are big fans of Whedon’s works, those who are yet to be convinced, and everyone in between.

Matt March 22, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I’ll miss your commentary, Roco, you really bring up some good points and make me think about some things that I didn’t notice before.

In regards to this episode, I think that you touched upon some good points, though I disagree with you on two things. First off, I liked the Man On The Street mocumentary bits. I thought that they provided an interesting way to ground the show in reality, and show how people are reacting. That being said, I think it would’ve been more interesting to just go to real people on the street and ask what they’re opinion on the idea is, could’ve provided some interesting stuff.

Secondly, I actually thought that the fight scene was very good and well-choreographed, though it’s a matter of taste I suppose.

Also, I want to ask, what are you comparing this to for the rating out of 10? I remember at some point you said that your favourite show is Lost, and if that’s the case then I personally found that this was on par with a good episode of that show. Granted, I haven’t watched any of the last season, which i’ve heard is very good. I unfortunately fell behind last season and missed the last 4 episodes, and when this one started I didn’t want to come in not knowing what was going on. I’ll buy the seasons when they come out, though, and watch them and hopefully be on track for season 6.

Anyway, i’ll miss this blog, thanks for all of your effort Roco.

Joshua March 22, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I am going to have to agree about both the interview scenes and the fight scene. I thought there was some extremely funny stuff in there. But more importantly, I think the purpose was to show the extremely varied reactions that people have to the idea of the Dollhouse. We see many reactions that run the gamut from completely immoral to possibly altruistic. There has been lots of talk about the shades of gray that this show has. That is exactly the point of these scenes. The morality of the Dollhouse is largely a product of the point of view of the person.

As for the fight scene, I have been really enjoying the fighting style that Ballard is using. It seemed to me perfect to his character. It is somewhat graceful, but more tilted to power. He uses his upper body strength to throw people alot. He also tends to make the fight close quarter, almost like wrestling. He doesn’t use sweeping kicks or acrobatics. I like it, since it different from what is seen in most TV and movies. It’s not as pretty, but I like that it seems to me more what I would expect from him.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 9:31 am

Thanks Matt,

You’re right, it is a matter of taste. I think that your idea of using ‘real’ people who weren’t acting the part, might have worked better, although I think it would still have come across as awkward. Personally, I still think that one scene would have been enough to get the same message across. Maybe they needed to fill those extra ‘remote tv’ minutes like Page 48 suggested?

As for my episode ratings, I try to judge DH on it’s own merit, which is why I give two ratings – one based on DH’s previous episodes (where I look for overall improvement, or otherwise) , and the second rating I compare to my favourite shows of the same genre, such as “X-Files” and “Lost”.

I would personally disagree that this episode was on par with a good ep of Lost. I mean, I’d rank “Flashes Before Your Eyes” and “The Man From Tallahassee” as examples of ‘good’ Lost episodes. I think that Lost ticks the boxes right across the board (acting, production, mythology, layers, story, repeat viewing value, philosophical subtext, relevance, writing, scale, depth, etc) — even early in it’s first season. Whereas DH is still very much finding it’s feet — feeling rather ‘small’ (story-wise) in comparson. That’s not to say that your opinion is wrong, just that we all have different tastes, as you say.

I definitely recommend buying the Lost DVD’s though – watching them all back to back after the series ends next year will be a treat! 😀

Phoenix March 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Oookay, just wanted to drop back in and say, “WOW, people on the internet are annoying.” So Roco doesn’t particularly like the show — that makes him an idiot? Grow up, people!

From the Whedon angle, not everything Joss touches turns to gold. “Dollhouse” is not the best of his shows, at least thus far, and I agree with Roco that it’s still struggling to find its true voice that Whedon’s other shows found rather quickly. Just because someone doesn’t particularly care for it doesn’t make them an idiot.

And from the “‘Dollhouse’ is the greatest show ever” angle, if everyone loved everything equally then this world would be a pretty boring place. So thanks again, Roco, for actually taking the time to give an opinion on something, and people like Blue and Pinky should keep in mind this special quote:

“Arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics — even if you win, you’re still retarded.”

Page 48 March 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Good work calling out the twins, Pinky and Bluey.

I think there’s room in “The Attic” for that pair. Or maybe we should send them over to Ballard’s apartment to kill Mellie (and don’t tie up the phone)

Joshua March 22, 2009 at 10:37 pm

When comparing Dollhouse to Joss Whedon’s other shows, we need to remember that he had tried Buffy as a movie, and that turned out to be mostly a disaster. He knew from the failure of the movie exactly what the show should be. Buffy pretty much hit the ground running, but I think most of that comes from his past experience with the character. He know what he needed to do, what to emphasize and what to minimize. For Angel, remember that the characters of Angel and Cordelia had spent three seasons on Buffy and were well defined already. Also, if you go back and watch Angel, it did take some time for it to find its voice distinct from Buffy. They tried the episode of the week with little over arching story for awhile before settling on the overarching story as the way to go. I confess that I have never seen Firefly, and so cannot comment on it. So far, Dollhouse has aired less than have half of its first season. I haven’t been as disappointed as some by Dollhouse so far, but I will agree that this is a much better episode than the others. I love the overarching serial storytelling that Joss Whedon favors, so I can allow a few episodes that might not stand on their own very well, but might play into the overarching story. I look forward to what is in store for the rest of the season. I also really hope that Fox gives the show a chance at a second season, because I expect that, like Buffy, it would really come into its own in the second season.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

Nice post Joshua,

I agree that we can probably only judge the show fairly once the entire season has aired. The overarching story is indeed something that Whedon seems to gravitate towards, and I hope that he manages to piece things together over the course of the series. The 5 Pilot idea didn’t really pay off (for me at least), but maybe a more serialized format will help the story-telling come to the fore from here on in?

These days a show needs to do something to lock viewers in from the get-go. It’s a shame that they re-shot the Pilot and still didn’t manage to do that. Thinking about 1.06, I think this would have made a far better Pilot episode. Not perfect, but it would have provided a stronger platform for them to build from. Now it seems to be a question of whether or not they can improve the show from here, and whether or not it’s too late.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 10:09 am

Cheers Phoenix,

It’s a shame that some people have to resort to insults on the basis that I fail to see things their way.

Page, those are two viable options! 😀

Joshua March 22, 2009 at 10:49 pm


I am sorry for the negative reactions that you getting to your decision. I am disappointed with your decision because I have really enjoyed that comments that you have made on each episode. If you have read my other comments on this episode, you can see that I have not agreed with some, even alot, of your opinions, but they are extensive and well thought out, and that is extremely hard to find. One thing that I love about Joss Whedon shows is that they have something to say. What they are meant to say is always up for debate. The differing viewpoints make uncovering what the show is trying to say all the more rewarding. It is always sad when well thought out writing disappears, but if you are not motivated to write, then it will quickly become just a weekly job and will not continue to be of the quality that it is now. I would also suggest that you consider the suggestion above to just watch the show without blogging. From your review, it is clear that you liked this episode much more than the previous. I would give the rest of the season a chance. See what you think after its over. Often the season is more than the sum of its parts. I suspect that will be the case here. Thanks for the reviews that you have posted so far; they have been thought provoking.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 11:07 am

Cheers Joshua,

I agree, the show may not have lived up to my personal expectations, but it offers up some interesting talking points. It asks questions that are not immediately clear, and allows for different interpretations to be made — I like that in story-telling.

You hit the nail on the head — the last thing I’d want to do is blog about the show in a half-hearted fashion. In the past few months I have already cut down the amount of time that I invested in posts/content, but I’d hate to blog for the sake of blogging. I’m not saying that would happen just yet, as the themes still interest me, but the passion for the show has to be there.

That said, I will continue to keep my ear to the ground to see how the show is doing. Who knows, if the show does improve dramatically, I might go back and post my thoughts on episodes 7-13.

Justin March 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

I know that you are probably tired of hearing from me, but I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed each of your blogs. While there are many topics we have disagreed on from the beginning, namely Dushku’s portrayal of Echo, I really enjoyed reading this blog every week. In fact I couldn’t wait until the “Man on the Street” blog, hoping it had changed your opinion. You showed alot of insight into the show I completely mulled over, taking a small scene of Echo observing a broken painting, turning it into so much more. I also just wanted to clarify myself, in that I did not want to be placed into the same category as these people who are blasting you for stating your opinion of the show each week. While I do find this show to be fascinating and completely enjoyable, it still has a long road ahead, a road which I hope FOX will give it time to travel. As an avid fan of both Whedon and Dushku, I really hate to see you go, however I stand by my assessment that it is probably not the show for you. Solely based on your opinions, what Whedon is, and what he has always been is what you disagree with. In all, I just wanted you to know that there really are some great Whedon fans out here who are nice, and who do not consider him some kind of God. So I just hope that one day you could come to enjoy what I anticipate to be an amazing show, but in the mean time did I hear something about you having a LOST blog? I have been watching since day 1 and would love to hear some of your opinions on the show.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

Hey Justin,

Thanks for your comments.

Don’t worry about those blasting me, I have pretty thick skin 😀 I just wish they would support their points and maybe discuss their views in a mature way. I appreciate you clarifying your earlier point.

It has been interesting being a part of a community for a Joss Whedon show, but I won’t paint all Whedon fans with the same brush, it’s like with anything – people are people. We’re a mixed bag, all of us.

I do have a newish blog were I talk about Lost, but it’s under major reconstruction atm. I’ll eventually add the RSS to the side bar of this site once I’ve given it a a lick of paint though. 😀

Cheers Justin.

SF March 23, 2009 at 4:20 am

Hey roco 🙂

My comment is only about your decision to stop blogging. A friend explain me your announcement and I read the last lines to not be spoiled.. (I don’t see the episode yet).. I have to say that I’m sad you won’t keep watching the show, cause this site is probabely the only one who gives objective criticism, not only because I’m agree with you (most of time), but you know how to make a real and professionnal review with a touch of humor. – I run a site as well (in french) and, as well, I try to write objective review… I failed cause I can’t write a line about good points as you did. I only see the bad ones and I have this same impression to waste my time by watching, reviewing and being on the site for updates and all that stuff… I can understand your choice and I have to say that you will really miss the “Dollhouse” community.
I would love to say more, especially to people who said it’s better for the show you stop blogging, but my english is rusty and crappy and I’m not here for polemic ^^
I hope you’ll change your mind and all the best for your futur project.

Roco March 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

Hey SF 😀

Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate it.

Keep up the good work with your site btw, you’re doing a fine job!

Sansterre March 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I’d like to say that I love your reviews. They are remarkably thoughtful, and explore the depths of meaning that a show with a very nuanced subtext. I am very grateful to read the transcriptions of how your mind works.

I respect your decision to allocate your time where deemed appropriate. But I’d posit that Dollhouse merits your trust. Or more appropriately, Joss Whedon does. The first seasons of Buffy and Angel were both weak. They merely set up the characters and devices that made the subsequent seasons work. Whedon’s first seasons build the world that the series will live in. I mean, think about it. Angel’s Season 1 finale did nothing more than set up the long term productive relationship of the Angel/Cordelia/Wesley triumvirate. Buffy’s Season 1 finale wasn’t particularly momentous, it just set up the premise of the rest of the series. Even Firefly’s finale did nothing more than solidify River’s place on Serenity. Whedon thinks long term, and his first seasons are the rock that he builds his castles on. That Firefly’s first season was amazing, well, I don’t pretend to know why that happened, suffice to say that expecting Firefly-level performance on any first season will leave you disappointed. I think Dollhouse so far is on par with Buffy/Angel in comparable places. The difference is that Buffy/Angel distracted you from weaker episodes by being funny, where Dollhouse plays for bigger stakes, and is more thought provoking in general. I watch them, and feel more satisfied and less entertained than I did with Buffy/Angel. Those two always felt like popcorn – light, tasty, and I wanted more, but I never felt full. (Not in the first season anyway.) With Dollhouse, I always spend the next day thinking about the episode, on the nuance of intrigue, on potential angles… So much happens in one of these episodes if you’re looking for it (and you are), and I appreciate that, and look forward to what Whedon will do with so rich a palette. But of course, you call 😀

On a lighter note, I suspect that the informant revealed at the end of the episode is DeWitt. Let’s face it – who was Echo’s handler on her Ballard-mission? It weren’t Langton – he was noncommed. It just seems like the odds that Echo could pull off her defection without Topher/DeWitt/a Handler discovering things is so low. Topher has no initiative, he just wants to play with his toys. If DeWitt told him to do something, he’d do it. And DeWitt isn’t a power-craver, she believes in the Dollhouse mission, but she is certainly capable of an independent agenda. I don’t know who else could have both motive and opportunity.

Whatever you end up doing, I hope it makes you happy 🙂


Roco March 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Hey Sansterre,

I wish I shared your faith in the show. I can appreciate what you’re saying though – despite it’s flaws, DH has meaty subtext. Season 1 has introduced a lot of ‘set-up’ so far, and that wouldn’t normally be too much of a problem for me (especially if it’s only 13 episodes), but I’m not wholly convinced on the integrity of the show. Every so often I get the feeling that it’s more of a vehicle, or show-case rather than a piece of work that the creators are totally passionate about. I could be wrong, but this feeling also detracts from my willingness to stick it out.

That said, it’s been interesting following this show, and as you say, there’s always some interesting themes touched on in the episodes.

Good shout on Adelle. The more I think about it, the more likely it is that she has her own agenda with the DH — possibly using Echo to help fight her battles (which are for the good of humanity, of course ;)).

Thanks Sansterre

LeParisianFrog March 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Ohlala! Merde de merde as we French frogs like to say when sad news bump on our foreheads! Your comments are going to be trully missed monsieur Roco! All i can say is that it’s one of the first time i see an honest attitude on the blogosphere: the show hasn’t lifted up to your expections and you’re not going to pretend it did, punto. Clearo. I like. But i’m bumped because reading your excellent arguments on each episode was like -again- a Colombo thingie. Who will i turn to now? Maybe the gang (Bekki, Page, Phoenix, Bad Mouth and Co) will continue commenting elsewhere… hey Roco, how about simply having the title of the ep as a post and we can all share our thoughts? Ummmm?
Nah, this was just a thought!

Well, i’ll go watch the ep now. I’ll try to keep in mind the good&bad’tude and not see each DH episode from a pink or blue perspective 😉

Great job R! Thanks again A LOT!

jtmtzrwj March 23, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I’m sad that you’ll stop blogging about Dollhouse. Although I disagree with some of your views (obviously, you’re more of a JJ fan), I still go here week to week to read your take on the latest ep because you do a great deconstruction. You will be missed.

Regarding the eppy: I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t like the interviews and Eliza as Rebecca Mynor. I love the “p0rn” bits, classic Whedon dialogue. Also, the interview with the “no queeny stuff”, did you see the face of his wife? Was quite funny.

Natalie March 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Hi, I’m a viewer from the start, first-time poster, hope I’m not walking in at an inopportune moment.

Something I’d point out is the “Written By Joss Whedon” credit on this episode. To me, it says that The Creator Himself recognized that the airplane wasn’t getting off the ground and he was running out of runway. And he sat down and rethought elements of his show and wrote letters to critics asking them to give Dollhouse a second chance.

And I thought this episode was head-and shoulders above most of the others, certainly on a moment-by-moment basis. Which tells you a few things:

1. Joss Whedon hasn’t forgotten how to write.
2. Between directing, having a family, his comic books and God knows what other weird stuff he’s doing, Joss Whedon doesn’t have the wherewithall to bring his staff writers’ scripts up to his own standards.

And still, improvements aside, halfway through the season, he hasn’t been able to justify his premise. He hasn’t been able to show us a non-sex-related assignment for Echo that really required a Doll rather than a good private investigator or an FBI agent. So the series feels hollow at the core, because it is. The sex-for-hire stuff, of course, would completely work as a business. But I’m not sure Eliza would have agreed to star in a series called “Robot Whores.” Joss has to make the adventure part of the concept work to justify the series, and we’re still waiting, and time’s running out.

But here’s the main thing I mean to say to you guys: you can see that Joss himself is unhappy with the episodes to date. So nobody’s really being a bad or disloyal Whedonite by being dissatisfied; I mean, would you guys beat Joss into submission for implicitly dissing the first five episodes the way he did?

Personally, I can’t see the series working. But there are enough interesting moments that I already know I’m gonna watch until the end. One thing that’s too bad: the smash-up at the end of the story would be fun. If Joss had done the show knowing it would run only one season, it would have been great to see who survived and who got crushed. But he did the first thirteen hoping for a second season, so we’ll probably never see it.

It doesn’t strike me as a tragedy. Joss Whedon’s failures are better than most people’s successes. And Joss seems to have a healthy ego, he’ll live. I bet he sticks to movies from here on out, though. TV is for guys in their 20s and 30s who don’t have kids and can stay up all night making everything work.

But there’s no need to brand dissatisfied viewers as traitors. Joss himself has made it clear he wishes he could have the first five episodes back. That’s probably an unsurvivable failure in the current state of TV. It’s just a shame, is all it is.

Roco March 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Hey Natalie,

The writing and pacing for 1.06 definitely went up a couple of notches. No doubt this owes a lot to Whedon, but I assume that he was also heavily involved in the creation/overseeing of the previous 5 episodes. I guess this one was his baby though.

I also find it odd that he hasn’t managed to create a solid identity for the show. It’s almost as if the premise is too strong, causing the actual story to collapse into it. I would also add that the show hasn’t been as creative, or as ‘brave’ as I thought it was going to be. They got braver in this last episode, but the suspense, edge and imagination has been sorely lacking, imo.

But like the soul, there is something about the show that refuses to be erased. It will be interesting to look back at everything once all is said and done.

Natalie March 25, 2009 at 1:58 pm

“It’s almost as if the premise is too strong, causing the actual story to collapse into it.” — That’s very well said. The show spends enormous energy explaining itself without ever succeeding. With Buffy, you get it instantly. Buffy kills vampires because they’re evil. The vampires hate Buffy because she kills vampires. And from there, you can go anywhere you wanna go, you can be about vampires this week or you can tell a personal story that has nothing to do with vampires, and it all works because you’ve laid your foundation properly.

And here, despite all the relentless navel-contemplation of its own premise, the show fails to lay out rules that work, even on a fantasy level. And the way Joss keeps shifting the rules shows that he knows that. The attempt to recast the Dollhouse’s mission as a mystery after his original explanation didn’t work is clever – I’m not saying Joss Whedon isn’t a clever guy – but the desperation is showing.

And again, all that said, I’m going to watch the rest of it. It’s kind of more fun, really, watching Joss try to fly a plane that doesn’t really fly. It’s going to wind up a black smoking hole in the Fox schedule in May, but Joss will probably do some cool loops before he crashes.

But really, don’t feel bad about thinking that the show doesn’t work. Your evaluation of the episodes so far is clearly closer to Joss’ own evaluation than the certainty of the fanboys that every word is genius. Your website has been much the most interesting evaluation of the show out there, thanks for your time.

I still feel certain there will be cool moments. I saw a claim on another website that Sarah Michelle Gellar will ultimately appear as Alpha. I cannot explain to you how perfect that casting is, it shows that Joss understands what’s cool and unique about that character. Have you heard anything about this?

Phoenix March 25, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Natalie — just dropped in real quick to say that Whedon & Co. revealed a little while back that Alan Tudyk (most commonly known as “Wash” to Whedon/Firefly fans) will be portraying Alpha, who is a male.

But you’re right — it WOULD be cool for SMG to get in on “Dollhouse.”

Natalie March 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Arrrgh! One of those inferior other Dollhouse sites got my hopes up! SMG was perfect!

You could totally see the SMG version of Alpha. She was like Echo, an especially talented Active. But the low-intelligence authority types worried about her. She felt dangerous to them. So they got nasty and tried to shut her down. And in so doing, they created the very thing they feared.

And the Dollhouse would view her as pure evil, but when you met her, you’d find out she had a strong sense of right and wrong, she wasn’t just out for vengeance. Joss can get thin and on-the-nose writing his villains sometimes (like the kidnappers in the premiere), and this was an antagonist with a world view that made sense to her.

Again, arrrgh. I don’t know. The guy version of Alpha is way less interesting to me. I feel close to the part somehow. Maybe I’ll see how Mr. Whedon sees Alpha anyway.

Thanks for the info, Phoenix. I’ll be less crushed when I finally see Alpha now.

knitcrit March 24, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Roco –

I’ll be sorry to see you go! Your posts were consistently interesting and engaging and they also made me feel like I was not alone in my concerns about Dollhouse. I am also sorry to see some of the nasty comments – you’re right in noting that they are not particularly substantive; in many cases one suspects that their authors have not been reading your work carefully.

I thought episode six was a major improvement, and I was hoping it would be enough to keep you blogging.

The main reason I thought the episode was strong was simply because the ideas it explores are grounded in characters and relationships rather than in a bad, philosophy 101-esque allegory – in particular, I think this episode offered some thoughtful exploration of the question of whether or not people ever genuinely connect with/love one another or whether they just love/connect with what they want people to be. Pretty much any of the developing relationships on the show toyed with this issue in one way or another, with the romance between Ballard and Mellie being the most obvious.

I agree with your assessment of Patton Oswalt’s performance and his character; I also thought his story, combined with the abuse of Sierra, invited consideration of the category of fantasy, and whether or not there’s any such thing as an innocent or victimless fantasy – an interesting question, and thank god the episode didn’t offer a preachy answer at the end.

Plot-wise, the reveal of Mellie as a doll (it was obvious she was a doll, and you called it early on) was much better than I thought it would be – first, Adelle pretending that Mellie was a normal civilian cast doubt on what seemed to me to be Mellie’s obvious status as a doll, which made the reveal of Mellie as a doll more exciting than it otherwise would have been. Additionally, because Mellie had been set up at the start of the episode as the “real girl” that Ballard is missing out on as he pursues Caroline, it’s satisfying to see that in reality, she’s no more real than Caroline, which calls into question the very categories of fantasy and reality. Whedon did the same trick with the categories of “good” and “evil” in Buffy and Angel, and if Dollhouse also turns out to be a meditation on power, I won’t be disappointed.

That an FBI agent would trust, shag, and confide in his pasta-baking neighbor all in one episode we shall overlook and forgive in light of the strength of the episode as a whole.

In terms of the potential of the series to go somewhere interesting with both plot and characters, it is excellent that we can’t know if the “person on the inside” is an actual person, Adelle’s creation, or Caroline/the emergent Echo herself. That is quite interesting – much more interesting than Alpha, though it’s good to have him/it in the mix, too. The idea that the DollhouseS could have some larger purpose also has potential.

And of course, finally, the fact that this was actually a true ensemble episode helped it along a lot. Hope that trend continues.

For the first time since the series started, I am interested to see what happens next week. Watching is one thing, though, and blogging is another. Is there a blog where the conversation is as interesting as it has been on this site?

Roco March 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Thanks knitcrit,

I think this episode offered some thoughtful exploration of the question of whether or not people ever genuinely connect with/love one another or whether they just love/connect with what they want people to be. Pretty much any of the developing relationships on the show toyed with this issue in one way or another, with the romance between Ballard and Mellie being the most obvious.

Nicely put. I also feel that this was one of the underlying messages (or explorations) of the episode. As you suggest, in many ways the characters respond to the aspects of other people that make them feel good, or give them a reason for being; without getting to see Mrs Mynor on their anniversary, Joel feels like a poor man, robbed of the chance to show his wife that he was worth it all along. With no metaphorical “white rabbit” to chase, what is Ballard..who is Ballard? I guess this ties back to the idea I suggested a few episodes ago, that other people help to populate a person’s own identity..much of that being based on fantasies or half truths.

It will be interesting to find out what happens if/when Echo doesn’t meet Ballard’s expectations — it’s bound to happen, right? He’s going in expecting to save someone, but what if she doesn’t need saving by him, what if she ends up saving him instead? Is this what he wants — is this the way he has it mapped out in his head?

Continuing on from what you said, this episode also seemed to build on the idea that identity in itself operates in degrees – different shades that can either strengthen or weaken another person’s own identity. I liked it when Victor said that Sierra makes him feel “better”. One word that spoke a thousand.

Additionally, because Mellie had been set up at the start of the episode as the “real girl” that Ballard is missing out on as he pursues Caroline, it’s satisfying to see that in reality, she’s no more real than Caroline, which calls into question the very categories of fantasy and reality.

That’s a great point.

For some people, being part of something so unreal wouldn’t be a problem, but I think this reveal would hurt Ballard to the core — to think that he was inadvertantly part of the very corruption that he’s trying to bring down — ouch. The world is a stage, and Ballard is being played. Big time.

It does indeed blur the lines.

Im thinking that the struggle might not only be about Echo and the dolls regaining their identity..but also about the likes of Ballard keeping his, and being able to distinguish between reality and fiction. If he ever finds out about Mellie, I can’t help but feel that he’ll lose a piece of himself..

Anyway, excellent thoughts all round knitcrit — thanks for sharing!

Roco March 24, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Cheers LPF, jtmtzrwj.

@LPF, I hope you enjoy the episode.

@ jtmtzrwj, yeah I’m definitely more of a JJ. fan. Certainly in terms of the way that he brings stories to life and the non-linear approach to telling those stories.

I honestly didn’t find those lines funny. But I can see why others might. It’s just one of those things I guess!

Hux March 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm

First time that i’ve come to these blog.

Sad to see that you give up of dollhouse, i doesn’t agree with all of your points but… we’re all different and i’m glad for that =)

i’m a huge fan of whedon’s work, like buffy, angel, firefly, but with the dollhouse if wasn’t for Eliza and joss talking about the episode 6, i’ve already stop waching it, but like i apreciate the work of both i’ve give it a try…

Not that great episode but, for me i’ll say that this episode is the begining of dollhouse, and the next episode seems to maintain the quality of the last episode, if that’s correct i’m in for the ride of dollhouse but if only one or two episodes have this quality then bye bye….

i’m a big fan of whedon, and i’m from Portugal, so sorry by my english, and in here, only has 5 seasons of buffy, all angel (in a cable network) and no firefly, and i’ve got all the seasons of the shows even Dr. Horrible’s from amazon….

the ones that can’t respect diferent opinions, please don’t talk in the name of whedon’s fans, you give bad name to them, all the whedon’s fans have different opinions and tastes to, but respect the others is bigger that everything.

and if any series of whedon’s sucks according with my tastes and opinion i’ll stop watching, if this two episodes of dollhouse are the only ones that’s good, sadly i’ve to say goodbye to dollhouse… and for the ones that like it despite i don’t, i’m glad for them and hope that the series never been cancel for them to watch…. isn’t cause i’m a fan and don’t like that i’ve all the reason and that i’m right and the others are wrong.

we are all different from each others.

Sorry again for my english

these episode put all the first five in the depths of a black hole xD

And Roco i realy hope that dollhouse can bring something to you, cause for me the last one was the launch pad fo the series, at least i really hope so….

Take care

Roco March 28, 2009 at 11:43 am

Thanks Hux, I appreciate the kind words.

Your english is fine by the way!

A March 27, 2009 at 9:40 am

Dude, you completely wasted your time if you’re giving up on the show already. Oh, and are you gay or something? I can never get enough of Dushku sexiness. She screams HOTNESS.

Roco March 28, 2009 at 11:40 am

Hey A,

I don’t see it that way — as I mentioned in my post, I’ve still enjoyed several aspects of running this site. I didn’t go into this with conceit, I was purely enthused by the premise of the show.

Furthermore, this website is a small part of my exploration into genre, it’s reflection on society, and the creativity of human stories through media. Like any journey, it has been both insightful and valuable — exhanging views and opinions with folks both in the comments and email has only served to validate how incredible the DH ‘premise’ is. I only hope that the show goes on to do it justice at some point.

I can appreciate how it may seem like a waste of time to you, but this site always was off the cuff — I really didn’t need another show to follow, but DH piqued my interest. I don’t regret it, I took a chance, was always honest, but the show didn’t live up to my expectations — there are far worse risks to take. At the end of the day, I knew when to call it a day. I’d rather walk away now than end up forgetting why I started the site in the first place. 😀

Hmm, I’m not sure what my sexual orientation has to do with it, since a person’s ability to like Dushku or not would not be bound by their gender. At any rate, if you dig through my posts, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to see what my preference is. 😉

As for Dushku being ‘sexy’. That may be so, although that’s down to personal taste. That said, I honestly don’t watch TV for that reason. I prefer to seek hotness in real life (no offense to you, just explaining my point), not through the fantasy of tv.

Sure, I can see how aesthetics add value to a production — and I give props on a good look when I see it, but surely it’s an aspect that should be a bonus, not the sole/main reason to watch a show? 😉 I guess we’re all different. And that’s kinda the point.

greennogo June 25, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I know this comment is several months after the fact but…

I have to wonder if the main problem with the stilted “Man on the Street” interview segments has to do with the fact that a certain degree of ‘I apologize if the first five eps ignore the fundamental moral squickiness that the Dollhouse is brain violating human trafficking house of rape’ theme stacking may have been in order for Joss–especially considering the content contained in the original pre-shutdown pilot. I don’t know if the shot episode of ‘Echo’ matches the first draft (we’ll have to wait for the dvd for that) but it seems like the thematic territory covered organically within the drama of the orignal pilot–along with much of the plot mechanics–was shorthanded for the mid-season reboot. Admitedly with limited success.

Roco June 27, 2009 at 8:13 am

Never to late to have your say, greennogo!

It’s certainly possible. Whilst that interview segments will never grow on me, I can see why they would want to ‘recap’ in this way, with a view to re-focusing on the main overarching story.

Tim February 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm

@BadMouth — don’t go around calling people chubby. Miracle Laurie is what normal women look like. Eliza and Dichen and Olivia, though lovely women and talented actresses, are Hollywood skinny. It’s cool to see someone who looks like a real person and not like a… well, for pun’s sake, like a skeletal toy barbie doll… being featured on a Joss show.

(Not hating on thin ladies. You’re gorgeous. Just wanted to slap BadMouth for saying that. I have more faith in Miracle’s ability to beat somebody than Dichen’s… her arms would break off!).

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