Dollhouse s2 eps 11-13

Showing three episodes of anything in one go is a disaster for my tv schedule these days, but I’ve finally managed to catch up with the concluding episodes (including, thanks to Jed, the one my Sky box messed up), so it’s time for the post-Dollhouse post-mortem. 

First and best by far was the brilliant episode 11.  Exciting, tense, fast and with the mother of all twists.  Actually there were two massive twists, which I would not have seen coming in ten seasons, so make that the mother and father of all twists.  There was still room amongst the action and the jaw-dropping for a few gems of dialogue, though, with the best lines to be found in Topher’s little speech to Ivy: “You have a remarkable brain.  I think it should stay in your head” was funny, “Don’t become me” was heartbreaking.

After episode 11, there was really nowhere to go but down a little bit.  While episode 12 was great in parts – who doesn’t love Victor’s Topher imprint? – it did eventually turn into lots of scenes of people confronting or fighting each other in corridors or techy-type rooms.  There were some fantastic moments – Adele’s magnificently cool “I’m sure I’ll be far more talkative with my brains splattered all over Topher” for instance – and yes, it was enjoyable, but it also got a tad repetitive.  Not to mention there being a total disconnect between the main episode and the coda at the end.  I wasn’t quite sure how they followed on from each other and an oblique line in episode 13 didn’t really cut it as an explanation.

Talking of episode 13 aka “Epitaph Two”, then?  Hm.  Mixed results there too, I’m afraid.  Action-packed, and with several punch-the-air highs and hang-your-head lows, as well as a welcome guest star in the shape of ssssh-spoiler, there was plenty to get excited about.  But the whole thing took on too much of a Mad Max-ian vibe, with the “Butchers” (very reminiscent of the “Reavers” from Whedon’s “Serenity”) and “Techheads” and whatnot, turning it into one of those odd little post-apocaplytic B-movies they sometimes show on cable channels to fill a quiet slot.  The post-technological-revolution B-movies where people eat each other.  Ugh. 

Thank goodness then for the quieter moments in Epitaph Two, mostly featuring – like the best moments all season – Adele and Topher.  If you’d told me at the start of season 1 which two characters I’d end up liking the most, I’d have laughed at you.  But the tenderness and sadness between Olivia Williams and the astonishingly good Fran Kranz very nearly broke my heart and when you consider how annoying both characters were back in the day, that’s nothing short of remarkable.

As well as them though, Whedon pulled the last episode together in the last third or so, and suddenly, away from all the posturing and pontificating and ninja-fighting, there was self-sacrifice, redemption, hope and a poignant, elegiac quality to the end of this show which had defied appalling ratings and common sense to make it to a second season at all.  

But make it, it did, both intriguing and infuriating me on the way.  In the end, there were plenty of weak moments this season, and a fair few in the final three episodes, but it was light years in quality from where Dollhouse started.  Away back at the beginning, Jed said that, despite the problems with the first few episodes, there was “something going on there” in amongst the dross, and Jed was right.  Goodnight, Echo, I’m glad we made it this far.

Dollhouse s2 ep 10

This was bloody fantastic. 

After nearly 2 season’s worth of hints, we finally got to visit the Attic, where apparently everyone’s “brain is kept in a fear-induced adrenalin-fuelled overdrive state”.  That also describes the state of my brain whilst watching this.  Tense, nightmarish, exciting, clever and even twistier and turnier than ever, it was what we’ve been waiting for since the start of this season; just great.  And now I’m so agog to find out how it all ends (triple bill, Tuesday night, remember) that even the mention of Caroline at the end didn’t put me off.  This week, they managed to make a certain ex-security chief a little bit awesome, so there’s hope even for her.

Dollhouse s2 ep 9

Victor leaves the House and joins the Borg?!?

Not before pushing Adele over the edge though, as our formerly stiff-upper lipped House Madam finally cracked.  Then, um, un-cracked.  Woe betide everybody now…

The shortest drink problem in history notwithstanding, this was a patchwork of themes and ideas borrowed from elsewhere as Victor was “assimilated” into an army with one collective mind between them (or, y’know, a Hive), Echo turned Peter Petrelli and loaded up every skill she could get her hands on to try and rescue him, and Adele went all Darth Vader on everybody’s ass.  There was a particular scene where the lighting, dark clothing and general air of menace meant Ms De Witt looked bizarrely like Skywalker Senior – if she’d said “Echo, I am your Mother”, it would have made my week.

Anyway, a lot of things worked really well; newly-freed Victor going to sleep in the bathtub because he missed the pods was unexpectedly poignant, Adele embracing the dark side of the Force was somewhat OTT but fun in a high-camp way, and Topher was Topher, so that’s always a plus.

I was a bit less convinced by Victor and Sierra’s supposedly epic romance transcending every personality they might have ever, though, and concerned that Echo might be developing slightly Caroline-esque delusions of grandeur with her “I need to save everybody” schtick.  As for the final scene?  I really liked how the story turned out, and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with that particular idea, but I couldn’t get past how much it looked like the Cylon regeneration scenes from Battlestar Galactica. 

I am a total geek.

Dollhouse s2 ep 8

First one worth watching since the mid-season hiatus, and about time too – I’d started to have that “It’s rubbish, why am I watching it?” vs “I’ve come this far, and it’s so close to the end…” argument with myself about this show.

It wasn’t the best Dollhouse can do, but it had a decent, exciting plot actually moving things along rather than some “mission of the week” rubbish, and there were some nice callbacks to season 1 with the return of several minor characters and one major villain.  Topher had the best and funniest lines (as usual), I liked all the operatives going Ninja (you’ll know it when you see it) and I liked that everybody was smart enough to lie to Adele about everything, seeing as she seems to have fully embraced evil and paranoia as the way forward. 

I do have a couple of quibbles though.  Firstly, how come Adele is obsessed with finding out what Echo was doing with her 3 months on the run but nobody seems remotely fussed about where Whisky is or when she might be coming back?  And secondly, why does Adele suddenly hate Echo?  Is it because she’s “special”?  But Echo’s always been “special”,  Adele’s always known that on some level (even though she hasn’t known the full extent of it), and has liked and tried to protect her for it, so what’s changed?  Yes, torturing Echo was a way to try and get Ballard to spill the beans about their little holiday idyll, but given the “Sit. There.” she spat out at No.1 Doll later,  there seemed to be genuine loathing there rather than just the usual machinations.  So what reason are we left with?  The cod-Freudian female sexual jealousy theory Dr Victor was spouting?  What – now?  2 seasons in?  Nah.

Dollhouse s2 ep 7

A bit better than last week’s but still pretty crap isn’t much of a compliment, is it?

Echo, front and centre, doing Echo-type stuff – kicks, punches, vacant stares….yeah, I don’t care.  Ballard getting in on the act, doing Ballard-type stuff – kicks, punches, longing stares…..nope, don’t care about that either.  Not even a little bit. 

Yes, the quick trips back to the Dollhouse between the action rubbish were more engaging, but only slightly, and the flash of casual racism accompanying them annoyed me hugely.  Adele and Boyd will put up with Rossum exploiting the Dolls if it’s done in the US, but not in Dubai? What exactly am I to take from that, hm? 

Anyway, thankfully, the episode was saved by Adele’s scenes with Topher towards the end.  Suddenly, things got very dark and very tense, very fast; an unexpected betrayal changed the tone completely, and made it feel like we were back on course for an Epitaph One future, instead of wasting time with stupid storylines about stupid characters messing up missions like some sub-standard robot version of the A-team.  If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them – don’t go hiring the Dollhouse, they’ll just cause you more bother.

Dollhouse s2 ep 6

An occupational hazard of tv blogging is that while I’m watching a show, I’m often thinking about what I’m going to write about it.  This week, whilst watching Dollhouse, I kept thinking “Bored now” would be a good opening gambit.  Then, about a third of the way in, I started to wonder if “Tosh” might just cover it instead.

This was unengaging, uninvolving and utterly mediocre sub-sci-fi; the kind that you roll your eyes at, and switch over to something else instead of.  New character Bennet’s dialogue is just babble, sometimes of the techno variety, sometimes not, I don’t give a mind-wipe about Senator Perrin or even Melly any more, and I am so over every storyline ultimately leading to yet another somebody fights with Echo” scene. 

And it’s such a shame, because, yet again, Topher, Victor and Adele’s parts of this episode were brilliant.  Enver Gjokaj has a great gift for mimicry and his scenes with Topher were utterly hilarious as a result; and I loved Topher and Adele being awesome in their own ways too. 

I don’t understand why, now that they’ve managed to get all three of them so right, nearly everything else has suddenly gone back to being so wrong.  The twist at the end was fine, and I do like the idea that there is someone on this show who hates Caroline even more than I do, but if this “Rossum  conspiracy” business is what we’re going to have to wade through for the rest of the season, I’m kind of looking forward to the end.

Dollhouse s2 ep 5

Dull-house, more like.

Congratulations to the writers for making Perrin’s scheme to bring down the Dollhouse even less interesting by adding a load of tiresome Rossum corporation skulduggery, “sexy” Echo and that blockish idiot Ballard to the mix.  I’d rather watch my nails grow than sit through this again.

Yes, there were some potentially fantastic twists in the story, and we also had the return of a popular character from season 1, but their impact was lost thanks to the poor dialogue, boring plotting and dreadful characterisation.  Ballard and Echo are still the most under-developed and underwhelming of all the Dollhouse dwellers, and yet this episode went back to the bad old days of focussing on them in all their duffness, and relegating everyone we’ve grown to give a hoot about to minor roles.  And as for new character Bennet –  simply casting Summer Glau may be enough to satisfy some Whedon-ites, but making her mumble every line twice “eccentrically” is not a shortcut towards a well-developed character.  It’s just annoying.