1.08 “Needs” Review – The Good & The Bad [Catch-Up]

by admin on June 7, 2009 · 8 comments

Dollhouse 1.08 NEEDS Review

I’ve finally managed to watch this episode – here are my thoughts on the good and the bad of 1.08 “Needs”.

THE GOOD

  • The underlying theme of this episode served as a fantastic exploration into humanity and what motivates us, doll-state or otherwise. In particular the idea of ‘freedom’ was turned on its head – typically freedom is universally accepted as representing the same for everyone – freewill, choice and the ability to suffer the consequences of one’s own actions. However, we got to see that freedom varies from person to person. For some individuals, like Echo/Caroline (referred to as “Echoline” from here on), liberation may be seen as reacquiring memory and making their own choices, but there are also those like Mellie, who seemingly signed up to the programme to forget, to remove the pain, guilt and any number of other negative memories associated with her dead child. This concept took me by surprise in how powerful it was, particularly when Adelle told Echoline: “you’re free to leave – who are you to decide for the others?”. This was a stunningly good question, who IS Echoline to force her own perception of ‘freedom’ onto others? Some of whom are too broken to face the realities of the real world. In some ways this reduces the immoral distance between Echoline and the Dollhouse – who are by no means cleared of all wrong-doings, but there is no doubt that their service is beneficial for some of its actives. Whether it’s right or wrong is another matter entirely – but since when were needs always right?

  • I enjoyed the concept of “needs” and how they contrast with a persons ‘wants’ and superficial desires. ‘Needs’, I believe, tend to represent the inner most requirements that a person has to have in order to give them peace of mind..in order to make them happy. As mentioned, for some, forgetting (their past lives) is what makes them happy, it is what made them sign up in the first place – the ability to remove consequences from one’s actions was probably too good a pill to turn down. But for others, happiness..at least for the moment, is remembering – regaining the power that was taken away from them – before and after ‘signing up’. As with Sierra’s story – it doesn’t seem like she signed up voluntarily, indeed, (if memory serves) she was a sold to the DH like real estate. My guess is that her need is both her pain and her liberation – to remember what happened to her in order to re-acquire what was stolen from her. It seems like a vicious circle, she has continued to lose her power through the assignments she’s given and through her former handler raping her. So the need to remember and the need to forget are both understandable and related motivations. Using this idea, I guess the problem comes through the perception of other peoples needs. It could be argued that as humans we personalise our own emotional desires onto other people. Take Ballard, for instance – he so badly wants to ‘save’ Echoline without truly knowing whether or not she wants, or indeed, needs to be saved. Same goes for Echoline herself, which is slightly ironic. I guess, understanding the needs of others is a skill which, when mastered (or honed), makes for more reasoned decisions and actions. That said, ignoring what we perceive as breaches in basic human rights is (or should be) difficult to turn a blind eye to.
  • I am pleased that we got a Dollhouse-centric episode (pretty much). I was losing interest in the ‘house’ and their motivations, but at last we got a glimpse into their murky existence.ย  We all know that the services they provide are immoral and unethical – sexual abuse, human trafficking, de-humanisation, etc. But now we have the solid possibility that they actually provide some good for these people as well. I mean, they protect the dolls from the ‘harsh realities’ of life by pampering and catering to their needs – and after their assignments, they remove the memory of those events (glitches aside ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Some might argue that this is actually more protection than some of these people would receive in the ‘real world’. That said, we’re already exploring the notion that although the memory makes us aware of our needs..it’s is not the only thing that governs them. As we’ve seen with Echoline and the other dolls, their souls..those indestructible signs of life also allow them to remember on an emotional level. So whether or not their minds are wiped of all the horrible things that have happened to them (pre and post imprint), they still retain an overpowering connection to their experiences. With this in mind, I think the Dollhouse will struggle to justify their ‘services’, though eventually the show may be able to make an intriguing suggestion about what makes us human.
  • Which brings me to another surprising element of this episode – the Victor/Sierra bonding. I wasn’t really hopeful after their initial floundering in the first part of the episode, but we soon got to witness some quite heart-warming interactions. In particular their shared recollection of events, coupled with the idea that although Victor was unable to do anything to protect Sierra (when she was being abused by her ex-handler), he waited for her (at ‘bedtime’) to make sure that she was OK. Just the fact that Victor witnessed Sierra getting abused (or that he knew it was going on) is quite a powerful moment in the episode, but the underlying message that his ‘love’ for her survived multiple imprints says a lot. Physically he was unable to help her, but emotionally he was in-tune with her needs. I guess that was enough to keep her spirit alive in there somewhere. I would have liked to have seen more indication of her feelings towards him, but I still found value in that little arc because it suggests that love is a connection which supersedes memory. Also, they portrayed it without diminishing Sierra’s battle for empowerment (it is possible to let certain people in without being ‘weak’), or by having her distrust all men because of what some sick b*stards did to her. I guess that ties into the special connection she feels with Victor.
  • The montage towards the end was hasty..very hasty but it was a great choice of song and witnessing Echo leading out the other Dollhouse - 1.08 NEEDSactives carried heavy symbolism – how ironic that it was all a dream..and illusion. Her fulfillment, her resolution..her needs – it wasn’t even real and yet it was enough to give her peace of mind. I liked Boyd’s description of the tide turning, because all through the episode I got the sense that the build up of their needs was like a dam ready to burst. I like this theme because I believe it holds truth in real life – it is similar, I imagine, to redemption; overcoming one’s personal obstacles and challenges in the game of life – the final hurdle to true freedom. The Dollhouse seem to believe that it’s better to transport these ‘broken people’ past these obstacles, fulfilling their need to heal, stripping them of pain, and if not of pain..of consequence. I am getting the impression that the DH gives people the ability to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without any fear. But in this ‘brave new world’, what sense of fulfilment do those playing god (small *g*) receive?
  • We got an answer to why the dolls minds are wiped and kept “simple” – so that their brains don’t implode. I find this interesting as it perhaps changes my perception of one of the key elements of the show – identity. The implication seems to be that removing the memory from an individual is necessary for the imprint to work effectively – meaning that it’s not necessarily the choice of the DH to remove their previous personality/memories, rather, nature has ensured that a human mind can only be one person at one time. Or at least, that was nature’s intention. The entire show is about multiple memories and persona’s, so perhaps it will ultimately become more than a game of freewill and science..but also one of nature, fate and God? Who knows. I should also mention that we’ve seen (or had implied) what happens when more than one persona is uploaded onto an un-wiped mind – Alpha. One wonders whether his storyline will open the show up to some of the topics I mentioned above? I guess we shall soon see (or if you’ve already seen the entire season, you’ll already know).

THE BAD

  • Much of the episode lacked real suspense or consequence, partly because the dialogue was a bit off and also because it’s hard to care about these characters (I’ll expand on this below). This was especially the case once it was revealed to be just a game..a test. I know that was the point, but in many respects it turned into a watered-down version of “Survivor” or something.
  • The character motivations baffled me – from constantly looking at the security cameras (don’t make yourselves even more suspicious will ya, guys?) to Echoline deciding to go back into the house when she was on the brink of escaping. Now who would do such a thing, what would it achieve? The logical thing to do would be to escape and call the Feds – thus saving themselves and the others in the ‘house’. It just seemed like the writers were obsessed with making Echoline into some kind of fearless heroine, which just cannot be done in one episode where her motivations are neither compelling or logical. And then we’re supposed to believe that this vapid person had the know-how to rig the electricity? So she some how ‘remembers’ how to do that – how convenient (not that it went anywhere).
  • Eliza Dushku. Still not feeling her I’m afraid. She seems to overcompensates for a lack of subtlety by being too forceful in her acting. She also uses jarring head-movements as if to force home whatever point Echoline is trying to make. She’s obviously trying her best, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if the show had a lead actress who, on occasion, could carry the show when it needed to be carried. Unfortunately, the show has to carry her, and seeing as the show has been on its knees for the best part of 7 episodes, that’s not particularly helpful. Since she’s one of the producers I guess there’s nothing that can be done about that.
  • Paul Ballard – his storyline sucks right now. Perhaps they’re moving him into position, but if that’s the case then we have to ask why there isn’t a better way of marrying his story and character with the main show (Mellie used to be that glue). I mean, it’s been 8 episodes and he’s still chasing his tail (actually, it’s the WAY he’s chasing his tail that’s the problem)! I’m also starting to dislike the character – not only is he boring as hell, but he’s not a very nice guy, lacks charisma, has no personality, is obsessive to the point of no explanation..and he rapes dolls (and then dreams about doing it again). He’s turning into one sick Mofo – I simply cannot root for this guy.
  • The execution of the episode – particularly the dialogue and the ‘rats in a maze’ game wasn’t the best. It felt pieced together and hurried. At one point I think I saw sellotape.
  • The fight between Echo and Ramirez (or whatever her name is) was just an excuse to heighten the tension in a tension-less episode. It wasn’t a well executed fight and if this is the best the DH has to offer then there’s no wonder something goes wrong on every.single.mission. Also, I fail to believe that Echoline could slip back into the DH without ANYONE realising/having the presence of mind to raise the alarm until she had reached the hub of the house..the chair. Speaking of which..
  • That scene where Echo forced Topher into the chair was full o’ cheese! It just about worked on the symbolism level but the Dollhouse - 1.08 NEEDSway it was done was pretty unconvicing. Also, how would Echo know how to operate the chair? I would assume that it would have more than a button conveniently labeled “Imprint” for her to push? If not, then Topher really has to work on getting some passwords installed on that thing. Like, seriously.
  • November or Mellie or whatever her actual name is, has just gone for me. She was FAR more interesting as crazy Doll. Now she’s just bland and rather..ditzy. I’m not talking about her grieving for her lost child – it’s the fact that she seems quite brainless in her ‘real’ state. At least she baked lasagna and slept by the door when she was obsessing over Ballard. That used to be a nice distraction. Can we have crazed-waiting-for-Ballard-to-come-home-Mellie back please?
  • How convenient was it that the dolls all found ‘resolution’ at the same time (from the way it was depicted)? It’s even more convenient that all of their issues were located in the surrounding area – Katie’s grave for Mellie, Sierra’s rapist, Victors..love interest. And I wont even ask how Sierra knew where to find that guy – one minute they were in the DH, the next they were in the guy’s room. The magic of convenience! (OK, perhaps she ‘remembered’..but again..convenient on several levels).
  • The problem still remains that there is no-one to root for. I couldn’t care less about Echoline – she doesn’t have any redeeming qualities – even her sudden ‘need’ to break everyone free is tinged by the fact that she’s abrasive, clueless, doesn’t stop to look at the bigger picture and does that annoying ‘cluck, cluck’ thing with her neck! There’s no reason to like her, IMO. Same goes for Ballard and for Adelle. Only Victor and Sierra come close in the likability stakes, and Boyd, of course, although I don’t think anyone should overlook the fact that although he disagrees with much of what goes on in the DH..he still complies. So basically I’m wondering who the writers think we’re supposed to champion? Surely they must have an idea? Whoever it is it’s just not translating, IMO. Or maybe it’s ‘biker dude from the Pilot’? I hope Echoline didn’t just leave him tied to the bed like that? Hmm, how long can the human body go without food and water again?

At the end of this episode I get the feeling that the DH is, on some level, manipulating peoples needs – but whether they are helping people attain their resolution or withholding it from them is another matter – it’s probably a bit of both. I like the way an individuals needs (selfish though they always seem to be) were brought into focus as being one of the biggest motivating factors for a person. It could be argued that needs are internal, wants or superficial desires are external..merely covering up the unresolved aspects (the needs). Indeed, since this episode touched on the topic – love is all we really need to survive (aww! ๐Ÿ™‚ ). It is at the heart of everything. If this is true, it’s no wonder the world is so full of WANTS to cover up what is missing or what has been lost (again..aww!).

In this episode, more than any other prior, the dollhouse resembles a microcosm of the world. As I mentioned above, I still have problems with how the messages (of the show) are being executed, but the themes do remain interesting and provocative.

As for Boyd’s needs? Letting go, perhaps? His little discussion with Saunders near the end was immensely intriguing. Hopefully his character will be explored with more than exposition in future episodes – he still has a lot to offer. He participates in unethical activities which means that on some level – despite somehow having the ability to distance himself from the DH – he agrees with what they are doing. For me, he is still the most fascinating character.

All in all I give this episode 7.5/10. Some people give me heat for constantly saying that I like the ‘themes and underlying concents’ of the show, well I found the theme/concept of this episode to be so interesting that I was able to overlook many of the glaring problems that often take me out of the show. Perhaps I also went in with a slightly different outlook..with the intention to concentrate more on these concepts than the superficial stuff. For me, this was the best episode so far – far from perfect, but a noticeable improvement.

Next up, is episode 1.09, not sure when that will be though!

Adam June 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Yeah. I pretty much agree with you on everything you said. The only thing is that I don’t 100% agree with is that because all of the doll’s resolutions scenes were one after the other, that they all necessarily happened at the same time.

The next episode is one of my favorites of the season. It really shows the potential of the show (though its not AMAZING by any means), and I think you’d like it because its not centered around Echo. Its a fun episode.

Roco June 7, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Good point Adam. The way it was depicted made it look simultaneous, but I guess that’s more to do with the montage than how it actually happened.

I’m looking forward to the next episode more than I thought I would be. I just hope they build on 1.08 and don’t go back to the stand-alone approach!

Troy June 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm

As much as I hate to say it, I agree with you on the “Eliza Dushku” factor. She’s much better in small doses (ala “Buffy” and “Angel”). I hope the second season focuses less on Eliza and more on the other cast members.

Anyway, you’re about to watch (unless you’ve already seen it) Episode 9. My favorite of the season. Hope you enjoy it and keep up the good work!

Matt June 8, 2009 at 12:01 am

Episode 9 isn’t my favourite of the season (that would go to Briar Rose, whichever one that is), but it’s certainly in my top 3.

Also, good review, I agree with some things, especially the part about Eliza Dushku.

Roco June 14, 2009 at 5:56 am

I’m looking forward to the next episode – I don’t know much about it but I’ve heard good things.

BrassOrchid June 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

Nice review, glad to see you beginning to warm to the series. ๐Ÿ˜€ Just one point – you asked (or rather, didn’t ask)

“And I wont even ask how Sierra knew where to find that guy – one minute they were in the DH, the next they were in the guyโ€™s room. The magic of convenience! (OK, perhaps she โ€˜rememberedโ€™..but again..convenient on several levels). ”

I haven’t rewatched the episode,so I may be remembering it wrong,but didn’t they explain that they gave the dolls a portion of their memories/personalities back for the “test”? So they would have the basic (at least emotional) knowledge of what they were trying to do? Sierra apparently knew the guy well before becoming a doll,and had even been there multiple times since becoming a doll, soI didn’t findit farfetched that she would be ableto find her way there.

1.09 is good,but the last two episodes of the season were the absolute best for me. I adore Alan Tudyk’s character! Not as happy with Echo, but not as against her as most seem to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

Roco June 14, 2009 at 6:02 am

Yeah, perhaps it’s not as far fetched as it seemed to me at the time – I guess my impression whilst watching that scene didn’t marry well with how they structured Sierra and Victor’s arrival.

I definitely agree that they had portions of their memory (otherwise they wouldn’t know ‘anything’ about their former lives – Mellie wouldn’t have found resolution, etc), but it felt somewhat convenient to me (there’s that word again!) – I guess it didn’t help that the guy ‘seemingly’ lived around the corner from the DH. Perhaps he moved to be closer? ๐Ÿ™‚

Not a real problem, but the presentation of some of those scenes just took me out of the show a little.

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