Mini Review: 2.01 Vows

by admin on January 6, 2010 · 4 comments


As regular readers will know, I’m attempting to catch up with the episodes of Dollhouse that I have missed or not yet reviewed by posting mini reviews before the series finale on Jan 22 (where I plan to post a full review, thus bringing closure to my WD journey). Below the jump I post my bare minimum (but always honest) thoughts on the season 2 premiere, “Vows” in 600 words or less.

The Good

Can we make this show about Saunders/Whiskey, Boyd and Topher, or at least give them their own spin off? I loved Boyd’s line about dealing with our design and how we use excuses to legitimise  our limitations. This works well on its own, but throw in a God-playing Topher saying that he created Whiskey so that she could be “whole” and you get another level of subtext (partly because he failed). Being whole is really a fantasy (aside from possibly being completed through love *sappiness alert..oops, too late*), otherwise we’d all live in a perfect world at peace with each other and ourselves. Maybe the dolls are right when all they can strive for is being their best. There’s always going to be limitations, flaws and set-backs, so while humans do make excuses for our make-up, some of those excuses are valid.

I really like the idea that the Actives – even the so-called best ones, are no more or no less human than the rest of humanity. The important thing for me was Whiskey overriding her imprisonment by leaving the Dollhouse and proving something to herself. I guess Boyd’s words rubbed off on her (as did Topher’s) – another moment of identity being shaped by others. Question is, how has she shaped them, and in what ways has she influenced who they are? She may be the one with the physical scars but I’m sure Topher, for example, has just as many.

The vows scene at the end was also pretty neat – mirroring Boyd and Echo’s ‘marriage’ from last season. You have to wonder whether the Ballard/Echo union will last longer. I mean, what do they both really want? Echo, Caroline..whoever, does she even know what freedom is? And Ballard, I think that guy needs a bottomless pit of dolls to save in order to be happy, and even then he’d probably be miserable.

The Bad

The episode became boring whenever it switched to the undercover Echo story *Yawn*. Echo and Ballard just aren’t captivating enough to hold my interest, especially in meaningless engagements. Nor is Echo getting nekkid for the 100000th time on Dollhouse. They’re not sympathetic enough for me to want them to come out on top, so to speak. And Echo still does that annoying thing with her neck – a recurring hint of Caroline, or an unconscious acting nuance? I’d say it’s the latter and it’s just enough to be distracting. 🙁

Moving on.. I found Ballard using his fists on Echo to be very unnecessary. Even as a plot device it seemed too forced. Couldn’t words have been enough to trigger his “Echo of the week” ™? On a character level I’m finding it extremely difficult to like Ballard, and that wouldn’t be a problem except I think that they *want* him to be likable, what with him being the “hero” and all. Some hero – he dreams of saving these defenceless dolls, giving them the freedom they can’t find for themselves, yet he does this by being abusive towards them!? Dude needs a reality check! And yes, sleeping with Mellie when he knew that she was an Active (i.e. the *real* Mellie/November had no say in the matter) kinda falls under the abusive category. I’m not saying that this isn’t interesting in its own right, but as far as liking Ballard and thinking that he’s a stand up guy – forget about it! 🙂

Episode rating: 5/10

Best Character: Dr. Saunders

Page 48 January 6, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Ballard is just a creepy guy (who just happens to have a kind of John Wayne hitch in his git along for some reason).

I think this has been Topher’s breakout season, if you can have a breakout season in a 26 episode series. I find him a much better character than he was in that wasted first season.

This first episode was not far removed from the boring season 1 type of ‘engagement of the week” show that destroyed the viewership beyond repair. I think the whole series could have been rolled out as a mini-series beginning with the back to back post-hiatus episodes which began airing in December. Everything prior to that should be forgotten (which won’t be difficult).

Roco January 8, 2010 at 11:49 am

I guess it’s better late than never for Topher. There’s real potential with his character (as much potential as you can have with a show that has been canceled!), so I’m looking forward to seeing what the upcoming episodes bring for him. I hope he’s more consistant than in S1!

Phoenix January 7, 2010 at 12:02 am

I found “Vows” to be pretty much along the lines of the first five “pilots,” and in that manner fairly pleasant in a “that wasn’t a bad hour of my life” sort of way — aside from the Whiskey/Topher and Whiskey/Boyd scenes, which were amazing. The weakness of this episode was, again, that it wasn’t an ensemble piece.

I’m obviously more of an Eliza Dushku fan than you, but I’ve never thought that Whedon’s shows were at their best when they focused too much on one character. “Dollhouse” isn’t as interesting when it’s just Echo, Echo, Echo, a little Whiskey, Echo, Echo, Echo…Just a bit of warning — you’re *really* not going to like “Instinct.” But it’s worth it to keep going on the next episodes.

I enjoy watching Ballard because he’s such a flawed hero — in some ways, he’s not even a hero, but that’s why I find him intriguing: he’s not really a hero, he’s just an ordinary guy put into an impossible situation. You sort of have to question what you yourself would do in his situation.

Anyways, just to forewarn you again: you’re going to dislike “Instinct,” you’re going to like “Belle Chose” a little bit more, and then the second season really takes off from there.

Roco January 8, 2010 at 11:59 am

I agree, DH is far better when it focuses on the groups/themes than on Echo. I don’t know if that will ever change (now that the show is canceled) but you might be right when you say that it is a Whedon thing.

Good point – Ballard isn’t really a “hero” in the traditional sense. But I get the sense that the writers want us to be on his side. I usually like the ‘untraditional’ protagonist, but Ballard is just,..urgh.

Interesting. I would disagree that he’s been “put into an impossible situation”. From what I’ve seen, everything he does is driven by putting himself in the situation. Unless I’ve forgotten a plot device from S1 (which I might have!) I can’t recall him being dropped into this world without any escape. I see him more as someone who has made conscious choices to delve deeper and deeper into the Dollhouse. Which is commendable on many levels, but I’m not even sure if he’s really all that selfless..

Thanks for the heads-up. I should have my “Instinct” mini review up in the next day or so, 🙂

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