Mini Review: 2.02 Instinct

by admin on January 13, 2010 · 12 comments

2.02 Instinct Review

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 brief (but always honest) thoughts on the episode 2.02, “Instinct”.

The Good

Some interesting themes explored. I found the execution to be predictable but underneath it all there was some good stuff. I particularly enjoyed comparing Echo’s reaction to losing ‘her baby’ to that of ‘Mellie’ – who the saying “time heals all wounds” can apply. For Echo, the bond with her ‘son’ was so real that it was innate..instinctive – and we saw that expressed very well in her raw outpouring as they took him away from her. Whereas for Mellie, the pain was but a distant memory. The Dollhouse has seemingly done her a solid by helping her to forget, bringing her to a happy place. This left me (and Ballard) wondering whether the Dollhouse can be vindicated on some level? But of course it’s not that simple. Mellie’s lack of pain has been fostered through unreal experiences, and Echo’s experience itself is unreal, yet she has conscious awareness that the pain is both real and fictitious. How can love cause so much pain, and loss cause so much happiness? It’s a topsy-turvy world in the Dollhouse, that’s for sure!

I liked how Echo gained strength through her awakened state. This was perhaps the most broken we’ve seen her (from what I can immediately recall) yet she acquired a sense of clarity from the whole ordeal. Without explicitly saying it, she now has a mission, an objective, and I like that. Perhaps the subtext here is that having pain is as important as happiness? Cliched perhaps, but I think it works. For Echo that pain let her know that she’s still real on some level – and what’s more real than instinct? Not much. Which is funny, because I look at Mellie now and she seems as fake as ever. I don’t begrudge her, or anyone, getting over the loss of a loved one, but dealing with loss is one thing, practically glossing over the fact is another. This isn’t a judgement – everyone deals with things differently – but an observation. I guess all anyone wants is happiness and contentment..so perhaps Mellie is just reaching out for what comes naturally to her at this point in her life?

“You were going to give him up for adoption” (paraphrased) – I can’t stand Adelle, but that line was interesting. I mean, what gives her the right to be the moral compass? Whether she has a point or not is not the point – although the fact that she expressed an opinion is very useful as it gives us an insight into the function she sees the Dollhouse playing in society. It should also be noted that the role she sees her organization playing might not be the role is actually plays.

The Bad

Mellie going for her diagnostic just as Echo was having her baby mama drama was more than a bit contrived. I appreciate that they wanted to make the parallel between their stories, but I thought they could have been a bit more subtle about it. Also, why hasn’t the Dollhouse invested in better security systems yet? How Echo could just wander out of the Dollhouse, and into a car with the door not just unlocked, but wide open, is beyond me! Seriously, someone needs to give Boyd his induction, and fast!

Speaking of Boyd, his absence was felt. He’s one of only 2 or 3 consistently interesting characters on this show so to not use him is a crime in itself. I can’t help but feel Ballard has muscled in on his parade, and as handlers go, I think Boyd was far better. But it’s early days.

Overall, I found the episode to be much a-do about nothing (although the subtext was definitely interesting). It just plodded along while I waited for something to happen. We did get some conveniently timed lightning to make Echo look very scary (and I’m sure the knife was a callback to a season 1 episode?), but that was more ridiculous than anything.

Best Character: Echo (hurrah!)

Episode Rating: 5.5/10

Joshua Pangborn January 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm

It’s good to have your thoughts back. I missed your reviews throughout this season.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Thanks Joshua – hopefully I’ll be able to post my general thoughts on the aired episodes before the finale.

Adam January 14, 2010 at 12:04 am

Wow I gotta say I’m surprised you liked this one more than Vows. I thought it was pretty decent. People really didn’t like this episode, so I probably enjoyed it a little more than I should have.

As far as the knife goes, I’m fairly certain this episode was originally meant to be right after Belle Chose. Without giving away too much, I think Echo would have came off even more eerie in Instinct if they hadn’t switched the two episodes around.

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the episode I look forward to your thoughts on all of the upcoming ones.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Hey Adam,

I’m pretty much writing these without knowing how well received the episodes have been, so it’s interesting to see what others thought about 2.01 and 2.02. I can see why some people might place Vows over Instinct though. For me they’re only seperated by fine lines.

Having recently watched Belle Chose I can kinda see what you mean – especially with regards to the end scene.

Cheers for your thoughts!

Page 48 January 14, 2010 at 12:29 am

For my money, the series doesn’t start until the December ’09 episodes. Almost everything prior to that is irrelevant, except that it lays the basic groundwork for what is yet to come.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Hey Page,

I guess I have some way to go before I get to the December episodes. At the moment (2.03) it’s difficult for me to see what big idea they’re building towards – other than the predictable Echo finding herself, etc, etc. But, we shall see..

David F January 14, 2010 at 9:35 am

well since every single dollhouse fan would concur that this is easily the worst episode the show of the thus far off the charts amazing season 2 we all look forward to your “always honest” reviews of tour de forces such as belonging, public eye/left hand, the attic and the ultimate mind fuck episode Getting Closer.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Cheers for the heads-up David. I hope those episodes don’t disappoint.

Phoenix January 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Wow; you didn’t hate it as much as I thought. My main problem with “Instinct” is that the ending scene between Echo and Ballard was poignant…but it was still basically a rehash of their conversation at the end of “Vows.” And, yes, the lightning and the knife was cliched as all get out; the actual conversation between Echo and the father was somewhat moving and it most certainly didn’t need the horror movie cliches to muddle it up.

However, as unbelievable as parts of this episode were, I still feel that Eliza Dushku gave the best acting job she had done up to this episode when they took the baby away from her at the police station; that was incredibly sad and it was the first part of this entire episode that I actually got caught up in what was happening and cared about it. In any case, not to rush you but as you don’t like Ballard you’re in for a treat come “Belonging” — aside from being an absolutely frakking fantastic episode, Ballard isn’t in it from start to finish.

Adam January 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

Gotta say I don’t like him either. He’s easily my least favorite character on the show. I can’t blame it entirely on his acting. His whole side story in the first season was done so blandly (minus his relationship with Mellie), his character just isn’t interesting enough for me to care about.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I’m with you Adam – I just can’t get invested in his story. Season 1 is to blame, but so far season 2 also has to take its fair share. It’s a shame as before the show started I thought he was going to be ‘one to watch’.

Roco January 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Hey Phoenix,

I agree – the raw emotiona she showed in that scene was good. I’d say it was one of her two best moments in the series up to this point.

Put it this way, I’d be happy for Ballard to disappear and never come back. 🙂 Who knows, he might grow on me.

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