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Thoughts on Dollhouse, 6 weeks in

In comments,j_lovescoffee  asks what I think of Dollhouse now that the show has gotten up to speed?

I think it's improved a lot since the first episode, enough so that I'm in it for the long haul. My favorite episode so far was #4, the one where Echo became a bank robber. I like the Alpha myth arc a lot.

I thought this week's episode suffered from overhype -- it was fine, but after all the talk about what a game-changer it was going to be, the actual revelations were something of a letdown. OK, so the Dollhouse is a global conspiracy, and there's someone on the inside trying to help Agent Ballard (if the mole turns out to be Adelle, that would be a cool twist, but my guess is it's going to be Amy Acker or Topher's assistant).

My biggest concern about the show is that Joss's feminist discomfort with his own premise may end up sabotaging the story. The "sex trafficking is evil!" subtext is already tedious. Yes, if the Dollhouse were real, it would be evil. But it's not real, and if you're going to go to the trouble of imagining it in fiction, surely there are more interesting dramatic statements than "Wow, what a horrible thing I've imagined!"

An example of where this gets to be a problem: One of the things we learned this week is that the Dollhouse has a strict rule against handlers having sex with dolls. Indeed, it's a death-penalty offense. The question is, why? I could think of some in-story explanations that might make sense, but I suspect that the real reason is that the show's writers were grossed out by the idea, Did Not Want To Go There, but at the same time recognized that it was weird not to go there, since the kind of people who would work at the Dollhouse probably would have sex with the dolls, a lot. So instead of just not going there, they decided to make a big deal out of not going there, even though that paradoxically draws attention to the weirdness of not going there, and hey! Did you see how she broke that guy's neck!? Woman power!

Anyway, for now I'm enjoying it enough to let the moral panic slide.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
"(S)urely there are more interesting dramatic statements than "Wow, what a horrible thing I've imagined!""

Hence, the structural problem (for me) of much of Tiptree. (The pain aspect of the sun in Up the Walls of the World, the liquor distilled from emotional agony in Brightness Falls from the Air, etc.)
Mar. 23rd, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
dollhouse week 6
Yep - I'm in it for the long haul too. I'm enjoying it quite a bit (and yes I'm in the demographic they're probably aiming for like you are). I think the mole will turn out to be the cute but underappreciated Ivy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liza_Lapira) that is the obnoxious programmer Topher's assistant. She has the easiest access to stuff to "tweak" it, and good motivation as well.

I think if anything the show is dropping too many foreshadowed hints about people's roles later in the show I had the gal across the hall (Mellie) pegged as an operative from the first time she was shown to us. I hope he is planning to just surprise the crap out of us instead of giving it all away before it actually happens. I find the show a little TOO predictable, even within episodes.

On the other hand I like the fight scenes, the interesting exploration of the whole concept, the idea of "bleed-through" and a mole inside the organization. I think the characters are interesting, and the challenges for the doll actors must be pretty cool - having to take on different personas from show to show much be much harder than just taking on one persona for the whole series.
Mar. 23rd, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
Re: dollhouse week 6
I too hope for some actual surprises -- and I hope that he actually has a plan other than throw a bunch of stuff out there now and figure out how to make it work later.

I still think the single most interesting moment of the show was when the look between Echo and Sierra at the end of a few episodes ago.
Mar. 24th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Perhaps this is a result of my not paying sufficient attention, but it was my impression that the "there's a mole on the inside" thing was just a method of controlling Agent Earnest. There might in fact be a mole, but that message came direct from Dollhouse Corporate.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
I think they did that with last weeks', a bit--there was genuine joy on the Internet guy's face when Echo came to see the house the second time.

Also, the sex-with-handlers thing... Topher said something in the bank robber episode about the mind wipes being very traumatic for the dolls, and that the trauma is eased by being in a place with little-to-no conflict. Maybe the worry is that sex with a handler, with all the associated emotional and potential physical problems, will scar an active's mind in their doll state, which will affect how they take to their personas.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 24th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Because the dolls have personalities pre-wipe, and I don't think those would always go along with the handlers having sex with them...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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