Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dollhouse: Needs (Episode 8)

Fox was idiotic to demand five stand alone episodes up front. They should have started with Episode Six. But I said that last week. Spoilers over the jump.

Warning: this is all stream of conscious and not too thought out.

It started off with a bang with that dream sequence of Ballard's. I really liked that. Good psychology writing. Dealing with his hero issues vis-a-vis Echo and his attraction, his guilt perhaps over Mellie knowing that she expects him to dump her for Echo if he ever has the chance and probably being right AND (most importantly) working out in his mind the problem of how they knew to go after Mellie and knew he had talked to her about the case.

This episode did nothing to make me like the Mellie character more - her doll-like character is really not all that different from her real life character. Or maybe (as I keep thinking) it's a problem with the acting. And as far as plot goes, I wondered why Ballard didn't notice that she'd given birth when he saw her naked. (And I wondered who she was that she could afford such a HUGE headstone for a child. But of course I always wondered on Buffy how amazing it was that in Sunnydale they managed to have headstones carved and in place on the day of the funeral. But I digress ...) I'm more and more enamored by Victor though.

The episode had a lot of good psychology and insight into characters especially DeWitt's character and the Doctor's character. When I realized that although the Doctor had looked helpful to Echo early in the episode but wasn't really helping and had in fact designed the experiment to take away their "glitches", a thought crossed my mind. "Appearances are deceiving on this show." And I wondered if the fact that the doctor's face is scarred is supposed to tie into that thought. Because I've wondered the entire season why those scars are really necessary. They are a reminder of the damage that Alpha can do to Dollhouse but - she could have plastic surgery and she has chosen not to. For a while I thought it was a cover for her - always a reminder to the people who run Dollhouse that she's on their side and has literally taken one for the team. Which gives her cover for being the mole. But the end of this episode makes me doubt that. She is one of them. In any case Amy Acker has so far been my favorite in the mgmt position actors on this show.

On the other hand, did the Doctor come up with the whole plan? Topher was backing up everything at the beginning of the episode - so Echo's attack on the equipment did nothing. They lost nothing. Was that just a happy coincidence? Or did he and DeWitt know what the "better idea" was going to be?

And ... "I'm not your friend in here Echo" ... did that mean the Doctor was her friend somewhere else? I had a sense when Echo first saw the doctor and asked her what happened to her face that she might have known her before the scars.

Finally, I feel like I'm supposed to be rooting for Caroline but I don't really like her. Going back in was stupid. I have a hard time rooting for people who do stupid things. I also didn't like Sierra that much as a real person. This is going to come out sounding worse than I mean, but I thought that her character was a perfect candidate for abuse. In the sense that abusers abuse people who allow it. And look at how Whedon has created this character - she is the victim of rape by her handler but she also was put into the Dollhouse by a man she turned down who now hires her out. I should feel outraged. I am outraged. On the other hand - I still don't like her that much and I want her to be more assertive. The most assertive she was, was her instinct to run. She was passive when confronting Nolan and it was Victor who punched him. And I realize that this was a truly creative way to write this because so many women who are abused get no real sympathy (people are outraged but not necessarily sympathetic) because the women ARE passively annoying. I worked with a woman who was murdered by her husband (who then shot himself). She was very nice. She was also a total doormat. She didn't deserve death. Her death was outrageous. But I would be deceiving myself if I thought that if time were reversed I would feel differently about her and not think to myself - why the hell did you let yourself get involved with this manipulative bastard? Knowing that someone was treated wrongly and that the perpetrator should be brought to justice does not mean you will necessarily have sympathy for the victim. It's one reason why it's hard to convict for rape. Most people aren't able to separate justice from sympathy.

The whole "appearances are deceiving" thing also made me think about Ibsen's play "A Doll's House" in which appearances are deceiving. Ibsen also ponders the meaning of "freedom" in that play and Whedon seems to be doing that also. Especially with this episode where we are told that some of the dolls have chosen to do this to be free of memories they can't handle. For the first time I wondered if there is any link in Whedon's mind with Ibsen and what he is trying to do here.

I have to admit, though, when the episode was over I felt let down. If the dolls really are now "clean" and are starting over blank next week - what was the point of watching all these episodes.