Mini Review: 2.12 The Hollow Men

by admin on January 29, 2010 · 7 comments

2.12 The Hollow Men

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, bumped to Jan 29 (where I plan to post a full review, thus bringing closure to my WD journey). Below the jump I post my ‘quick and dirty’ but always honest thoughts on episode 2.12, “The Hollow Men”.


  • Amy Acker. A genuinely good actress on this show. Her performance as “Clyde” enhanced the episode.
  • Harry Lennix – his best performance of the season. I thought he did well to somehow sell the idea that he was the show’s ‘big bad’.
  • Tension and high stakes.
  • Despite its faults, this was an episode that was worth watching – I couldn’t always say the same for some of the past efforts – particularly those in season 1.


  • Where this episode falls down is that it expects the viewer to believe that Boyd is suddenly the bad guy in all of this. As much as I loved the twist, it feels extremely heavy-handed and undermines some of the finer moments of the show’s past. They’ve effectively taken the two best characters (and I mean that both in terms of their moral and ethical displays on the show and in terms of their performance) and made them “bad”, whilst in the same turn painting Adelle, Echo, Caroline and Ballard et al out to be angels – the saviours of mankind. (Excuse me whilst I throw up). I get the premise of turning good and bad inside out, but their portrayal of this concept is frustrating because it feels unjust. I really can’t believe they had Adelle sit there like butter wouldn’t melt and act like she was on the high ground. There was no redemption for her character, nor did she have any journey to becoming one of the good guys – it was just transparent story-telling, one that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I just think that the writers got lost in their own twists and turns and ended up with a bunch of cool ideas but very little substance, especially where the characters are concerned.
  • Boyd/Rossum’s plan just seems a little (OK, a lot) far fetched. Why go through all of that when there were far easier ways of controlling the world? Had he just hired Topher years ago I’m sure he would have created the mass imprinting weapon without too much conflict (it’s only recently that he’s found his ethical side). I’m also still unsure as to why Caroline was so special. I don’t get it..why her? It makes no real sense.
  • After everything he and Sierra had been through, would Victor really risk imprinting himself based on a random post-it note with a smilie face? Way to go undermine their entire journey in one scene.
  • The episode – and the series in general – spends too much time injecting unfunny jokes in inappropriate places. Mellie has just blown her brains out and Ballard still has room for a wisecrack as Boyd puts a gun to his chin.
  • The end scene when Echo’s running out of the ‘exploding’ building. I don’t get it. Didn’t the building blow up? Why was it still standing with not even a trace of smoke coming from it – yet Echo has a smudge of dirt on her face and even did an action ‘hero dive’ as she got caught in the back-draft. I’m thinking this was down to budget constraints, if so, surely they could have found a more convincing way of bringing Rossum down without LITERALLY bringing the building down.
  • The Mellie/Ballard Love Affair Part II seemed like false drama. Wasn’t he just in love with Echo? I realise that he lost that part of him, but still..
  • When all was said and done I didn’t believe that humanity was at stake. I’m glad they widened the scope of the show, but just because Echo and pals said that they saved the world, doesn’t mean I believe them. For that reason the episode felt a bit…hollow (seriously, no pun intended).

Other Comments

I would say that this was easily the best ever episode of Dollhouse, but for some of the character turns that took place. And this isn’t just me complaining about my two favorite characters turning out to be the ‘Big Bad” – even before this episode, I was confused as to how the writers could possibly paint Adelle & Co. as ‘good guys’ without doing *anything* to illustrate their transition. It’s just such a shame that they made the decisions they did, because that apart, the show has genuinely improved with the last few episodes being very entertaining, if nothing else. I do think that some of the deeper, more interesting themes of Dollhouse got lost at the expense of heightened drama – the execution of which hasn’t lived up to my highest hopes.

That said, all in all, I think I will take away my own merits from the episode and not those that have been forced by the script. For example, the importance of freedom and individual choice, and the ability to be different.

A good “Dollhouse” episode, but cheapened slightly.

Best Character: Boyd

Episode Rating
: 7/10 (originally given 7.5 but loses half point for ridiculous character turns and poorly developed context)

Phoenix January 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I'm actually in awe of you that you watched this much TV and still coherently commented on it the entire way. I wasn't gonna comment on each of your reviews so I waited for this one. By the way, I'm not cyberstalking you, I was just at work most of the day and this is the funnest blog to read while killing time.

The main problem was time, for season two. So much of this show would have had such a large impact if they'd had more episodes to develop it. I'll start with "Stop-Loss":

1) They needed to show Tony's conflict longer. Him jumping right back into Scytheon was somewhat hollow because he was only free of the Dollhouse for what? Two days?

2) I love Echo, especially now that she's her own person. I accept that you don't. But the cool thing about her not hurting anyone with this is that it wasn't her superpowers so much as the Dollhouse's: she has about 50 people in her right now, and the force of all of those minds overcoming the programming of the computer chips, I thought, was cool in a *very* sci fi sort of way.

"The Attic":

1) Lawrence Dominic wasn't as much of a stretch, I felt. He was doing everything he could to protect himself in season one, and by protecting himself, he was protecting everyone. You remember that Daniel Perrin is being groomed to be the President; he wanted to prevent Rossum getting that much power. And he was right, too, to warn DeWitt that one day Echo would be erasing all of *them*.

2) There are twenty-two Dollhouses worldwide, counting the one that just started in Dubai. If, say, you've got broken dolls, enemies like Ballard, spies like Dominic, and information you don't want exposed like the Japanese man, you've got the potential for quite a lot of people for Clyde to kill.

3) The surrealism was lovely in this episode. Just FYI, it was directed by a comic book artist. And, yes, the montage was cool.

4) DeWitt: Now, this I saw coming. The thing with DeWitt is that she's self-deluding. If you've seen the VASTLY superior unaired pilot, "Echo," you'll hear all of her self-justifications. Throughout season one and part of season two, she truly, deeply believed in what she felt was her mission, to give people what they needed. She was also very prideful. Her fall began when "Belonging" introduced her to who she was really working for, and began to break her illusions. She is not a good person by any stretch, but all of her badness has been shattered and thrown in her face to slice her open over the course of this season. The scene in the showers was her wiping herself clean. She had two choices: go bad, and go really bad, or confront what a bitch she'd been (pardon my French) and fix the situation. Also, they had a Scooby Gang, albeit briefly. Go team Whedon.

"Getting Closer":

1) Caroline is *not* a good person. You'll remember what DeWitt said: Caroline isn't evil, she's *worse* — an idealist. Now, Caroline may have saved her friend, but do you think she really felt bad about Bennett? She used her willingly and knowingly. Caroline is a bitch, really she is. She may have good intentions, but that's what paves the road to hell. They never really redeemed her, and I thought that was an interesting twist: Echo took all of Caroline's good stuff — wanting to save everyone, etc, and went beyond that to become a true hero.

2) The shock. Oh, the shock. The visceral impact of Bennett's blood driving Topher bonkers (or starting to) was so very Whedon.

3) Yes, everyone knew where the Paul thing was going.

"The Hollow Men":

Here's where I disagree with you. I didn't think the motives were hard to figure at all, so I'll tell you what I think.

Boyd is evil. He's the unassuming kind of evil, the kind that looks at a situation and sees how to benefit from it. He knew that the tech couldn't be uncreated, so he figured out how to use it to come out on top. Then, here comes Caroline. Her spinal fluid contains a gene marker that can resist the tech. With testing, he realizes that when she's wiped, the gene's expression grows stronger. But she won't fight the imprints if not placed under stress. So he sends her to the LA Dollhouse, where he knows Topher Brink is, and goes to keep an eye on her, using the handler bond to keep her loyal to him.

There, he guides DeWitt where he wants her, and Topher where he wants him, all the time watching Echo become, well, Echo. He also uses the handler bond to keep himself in her trust, like when she tries to find the spy in the Dollhouse. This also makes episodes like "The Target" really creepy in retrospect. So, once she's strong enough, he guides her through finalizing herself, so to speak, and begins the beginning of the end.

I thought "The Hollow Men" was fantastic. Sure, it was rushed, but still.

2) The Mellie/Paul thing actually made sense, sadly. They were both dolls, and both aware of that. They really at that point only had each other to cling to, and Paul still loved the idea of Mellie, I suppose. Also, Whedon can't resist echoing the Dark Phoenix Saga in all of his works at some point, and thus Mellie must kill herself.

3) The acting was amazing, even from Eliza Dushku. The end, where Boyd was wiped, was heartwrenching to watch. Also, how evil was Harry Lennix? It was fun how he revealed himself to each individual at a time. I also thought it would give you a laugh how much he didn't want Ballard around.

4) Faith and Fred duked it out. Hah!

5) The Echo running from explosion shot was horrible and cheesy.

6) Budget. They didn't have enough money to blow the building, which was pretty unrealistic, but the idea did the job.

I'm glad that you seemed to enjoy the end of "Dollhouse" for the entertainment value, at least. Those were my thoughts, so, there they were.

Roco February 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Hey Phoenix,

Always good to read your comments – I don’t necessarily agree with some of them (in fact I think we’re about to set a new record with this one 😉 ) but it’s great to have your perspective on things.

Once I’ve watched the finale (shame on me, I haven’t seen it yet) I hope to go back over a few of the points you raised.

Phoenix February 1, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Quick piece of advice — if you haven’t rewatched “Epitaph One” recently, I’d advise doing that before watching “Epitaph Two” because it literally picks up *right* where “One” left off, and it’s a bit confusing if you aren’t fresh up on the “Epitaph” world.

Roco February 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the tip Phoenix! I should have my thoughts on the finale posted within the next few days. *fingers crossed*

Frogger Online November 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I gotta say i can't believe Boyd is a baddie!! I never saw that coming.

Ecarylloh March 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I can see why you wouldn’t like ‘The Hollow Men’. I must have watched it about five times now and it gets less plausible every time I watch it. However, if there’s one thing Whedon does really well, it’s packing en emotional punch. For me, the moments between Echo and Boyd – and especially the part where the tables are turned and she’s in charge of him, teaching him how to destroy himself, gets me every time.

Incidentally, I wrote a blog post about another possible theme behind Dollhouse a little while ago – if you’re interested.

AngieA November 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I've been in a cave and just watched the Dollhouse series. A lot of it doesn't gel but when I was watching it, I was eager to see where Whedon & Co were going with it.
A point you all haven't brought up, I believe is this: Echo is so vested in freeing the Dolls and taking down Rossum–when Boyd/Langton is wiped, how can she leave him there to die? Since he was indeed a Doll, who was the real Boyd? Also, if there were multiple Clyde's, what about other Langton's? How does Whiskey/Clyde get out of the building and back to the LA Dollhouse?

Wish I would have watched Epitaph1 again before Epitaph 2 like Phoenix advised. It seems like this series was just getting warmed up and they did their best tying up loose ends..but, it's frustrating, you know?
Oh, well 🙂 Look forward to the next Whedon series!!

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