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Dollhouse watch : Season 1

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  • #31
    Gray Hour:

    It was interesting to see the Elgin Marbles in the episode. I remember seeing them at the British Museum, and finding the whole idea of these ancient Greek treasures being made British by Parliament to be absurd. (As I recall the British Museum staff in 1999 didn’t think this to be absurd at all. Of course they were British now – they were in the British Museum after all.) I think there could be a really good satire in exploring the idea of cultural theft being sanctified by formal – if dubious – law. But that kind of satire would not sit well with the story format that American Aurora brilliantly identifies with the Bionic Woman. (Although I think these early episodes of Dollhouse would be far more entertaining if absurd Bionic Woman concepts like the FemBots and Max the Bionic Dog were incorporated.)

    Of course, there are parallels to be had between the marbles and the Dolls, but it didn’t feel that fresh, even if this episode was better than some of the other early ones.

    The idea of a remote wipe is intriguing, but it should have been included back in the first episode. It would have set the stakes early and provided an intriguing mystery. After four episodes, it still feels like we’re just dealing with stuff that should have been covered in the first 20 minutes of the first episode.

    I’m looking forward to the promised dramatic increase in quality.

    True Believer:

    I understand the whole face-feeling gimmick was used to set up the supposed miracle that would get Echo into the camp, but it plays into a tired old trope. I know blind authors who have talked about how this whole face-feeling fetish with TV blind characters is nonsense. I’m not sure the show really benefits from using the trope – even if there’s a narrative and sci-fi justification for it.

    Topher seems to be having a moment of gay panic when he doesn’t want to look at Victor’s erections. I understand that his stubborn refusal to say the word pegs him as a manchild, someone whose evil is utterly banal. It covers the same ground as the Trio – but without the charm of Jonathan and Andrew, or the outright creepiness of Andrew. Topher is just that annoying guy at the office – if your office was involved in experiments that rob people of free will.

    I was a bit surprised that this episode wasn’t better. Tim Minear wrote some of the best Angel (particularly the Darla episodes in the second season) and Firefly episodes. I wonder if Fox’s network interference was holding him back here.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
      The most important thing in this episode is obviously the existence of the remote wipe. I think it's not really a spoiler to tell you that this is going to be pretty important in the show, though obviously I can't go into details.

      The show straight up trolled the audience in the beginning of this episode, first with the opening scene, then by making us think that Echo is on yet another, very sleezy and skeevy sex assignment, before revealing she and the guys are actually just acting as a part of the ruse. I had forgotten everything else about this episode except that there's a heist that goes wrong and that Echo's imprint 'malfunctions', so the ruse worked for me again.

      The episode expands the range of assignments we've seen so far. I have to say my first reaction to the midwife assignment was "but why would they need to pay for a doll for this". But on second thought, whether any of the clients objectively need to pay for a doll to perform a task, as opposed to finding a regular person, is not really the point, the point is that the clients think this is something they need (and have enough money to spend on it). In case of romance/sex assignments, clients are rich people who looking for authenticity, or what they see as authenticity: they are rich people who are probably used to thinking that they can buy friends and lovers, but may also be suspicious of the authenticity of feelings of real people who get romantically involved with them (are they really just pretending for material gain?), or are looking for very specific embodiment of their fantasies but don't want to invest time and energy in finding a person like that, and don't want to hire a prostitute because it would just be pretense/acting. But in cases of people looking for people of specific skills to perform a task, authenticity is not of utmost importance - so, in those cases, the Dollhouses must have been able to really convince their clients that their imprinted dolls can offer top and perfected skills in a certain area, that they are the best of the best, beyond what a regular midwife or hostage negotiator would be able to perform.

      This would also obviously be the case with a heist of valuable art, especially since it was of utmost importance not just to hire a highly skilled thief, but one that would be completely dedicated to the task and would not be tempted to steal the valuable objects for himself/herself. There was talk upthread of how most of the assignments so far have been pretty mundane. This may be, so far, the only assignment big and important enough to justify the expense of hiring a doll. And also a rare case where the client looks a lot more sympathetic/nobler once we find out what it's about (though, ironically, we also find out it's a crime). What/who was the old rich Greek man referring to when he said "it's not for me, it's a gift"? He doesn't want to keep the pieces of the Parthenon in his own collection, so I would assume his main motive is to get them back to his country, but what/who will he give it as a gift? He cannot give them openly to a museum or another public institution, or if he does they won't be able to display them, since they have been obtained by illegal means.

      The fake-out "sex assignment" which was really a ruse to get into the hotel was a Russian doll-type situation: we are watching Eliza Dushku playing Echo, who is being used/abused as a brainwashed slave for the Dollhouse playing the role of Taffy without knowing about it, while Taffy!Echo is also consciously playing the role of an abused prostitute in order to complete her assignment.

      I don't think that "blue skies" was a reference to anything outside the Taffy imprint? It seemed to be a part of it, since Sierra, IIRC, also talked about 'blue skies' when she was imprinted with Taffy.

      Regarding the "childlike" state of wiped dolls, which was mentioned previously, and whether it is plausible that they could really be wiped to such a state that they would not even know to defend themselves against Alpha, in spite of the "fight or flight" instincts. I don't know if that's really so implausible? Yes, people and animals have those instincts, but in order for those instincts to kick into gear, you first have to recognize the situation as dangerous. Would a newborn baby defend himself/herself, if he/she was physically able to? Would a newborn baby have any idea that a person wants to hurt him/her? I don't know, but I think it's more likely that fear is something you mostly learn, based on your experiences. For instance, I have two dogs and a cat, and the older of my two dogs was an adult when I adopted him, who had been living in the streets for some time and had been, reportedly, abused by people, and hit by a car at one point, before he got saved by the association for saving dogs and cats and finding them a home. He was extremely traumatized and at first, scared of everything. With time he became more confident, more trusting and happier, but he is not very social with other dogs, hates children and is sometimes unexpectedly scared of some people. My other dog was abandoned in a park as a 2 months old puppy, and I found him and brought him home - probably shortly after he was abandoned (because I walked my dog every day in that park) and I don't think he had the time and chance to really get through a life of insecurity and abuse, fighting for survival - and he's generally much, much more social and eager to play with every other dog and every human he sees (that's an understatement - he runs to them and literally jumps on them ). And I've also noticed that my cat used to be pretty fearless and curious as a tiny kitten, but grew into a much more cautious adult cat - which is probably a change that happens to many cats (and humans). Wouldn't a fully childlike/babylike state include a lack of fear of many things we have learned to be afraid of as adults, because of our experiences and knowledge?

      Obviously, dolls aren't exactly like newborn babies, but only because they are made to be able to do things like walk, talk, feed themselves, communicate and recognize language (although in a rather rudimentary form, since they intentionally aren't taught any complex concepts) in their wiped state. That would mean that the Dollhouse scientists like Topher are intentionally imprinting the dolls with those skills/knowledge, but not letting them have any other experiences or knowledge that may make them independent, rebellious or defiant, or able to take care of themselves. They may also be stimulating certain parts of their brains that are responsible for certain responses, but keeping other parts of their brain inactive. In short, I think it's plausible enough in terms of SciFi "science" where we don't know the exact details, but can imagine/accept certain premises.
      OMG, yes, the remote wipe will be super interesting in following episodes. Maybe works as a foreshadowing?

      I´m not a big fan of "Gray Hour". I don´t why exactly but it just seems off somehow. I´ll have to rewatch then.

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      • #33
        1.06 Man on the Street

        Wow there was so much more going on in this episode and it felt very different from the ones that have come before it. The focus this time was more on the idea of the Dollhouse and the social views than on what Echo or the others were being hired to do. The switch in depth and layers was a little jarring to be honest. I don't know if that was made worse by the time delay in between watching the eps. Perhaps the ones preceding this have become even more shallowed by reduction to my more distant recollection of them. But this did feel like a significant shift and, as a flow, it doesn't work well against the previous. It feels like the show just changed some (not a bad thing really) and that a portion of this should have been in earlier, not at this late a stage, six episodes in. Anyway, as we'd been promised by many, this episode did deliver more in many ways.

        I actually saw less of Echo this time than I'd have liked just because I want to care about her more, but the Dollhouse itself was fleshed out and that was a good thing for sure. It felt a little like the vox pop clips with members of the public was being used to ensure that the audience had been thinking the right things, identifying the right issues to have, and I'm not sure really what I thought about the tool of these weaved into the ep. Overall I was unconvinced I think. They were interesting to consider against the (again feeling a little odd in tone and forced in there to me) conversation between the rich guy and Ballard, for the exploration of the reasons why someone who has the means would choose to use a Doll and how dismissive or appalled by the idea people were. But using this method felt a little rushed, heavy handed, like they regretted not doing it more subtlely earlier but now had run out of time. Anyway, these all sat against the final comments and considerations about what is being done to these people. How they are hollowed out, dehumanised into being breathing 'dolls'.

        But, although run alongside with the moral questions around removing their individual personality, their individual desires, Echo's assignment and the sexual assault on Sierra by her handler still very much had the focus on sexual uses of the actives. This was underscored again as, in a very genuinely took me aback moment, Mellie was activated to kill the handler. Not truly Ballard's neighbour, an average girl falling for the guy next door, but another pawn being used for the benefit of the Dollhouse. I always appreciate it when a twist is a genuine surprise. I think you could argue the sexual abuses really focus the spotlight on the violation that is happening to these people (who I still assume did not sign up with full disclosure of what their bodies would be used for), but I find it hard to visualise the Dollhouse as a business that runs mostly in this way for those who can afford it. I'm sure it would be used like that, but it feels clouded as to what the balance is on the types of assignments they take in, what ratio fall to this type and where they fit on the payment scale. We now also find out that there are multiple Dollhouses and the success of this remaining an urban myth starts to feel a bit ropey to me too. But at the least this all works reasonably well with the question of what truly is the purpose of the Dollhouse. Is the business some sort of front? Hmmmm.

        We also had the hidden programming in Echo for when she faced off against Ballard and warned him off the Dollhouse. As an aside, I wonder why they didn't just set him up for appearing to have been killed by an unidentifiable person in a robbery/mugging gone wrong. It is hard to reason why they don't just remove him. I'm going to assume there is something that they want from him or that it is about keeping an eye on those who are against you in some way or other. So, currently suspended, Ballard has been given some warning and told there is someone on the inside of the Dollhouse.

        I'm assuming this relates to Alpha, maybe with an accomplice. It could be him working alone and describing himself as an insider because he knows he has knowledge from within and can remotely access the computer system (or even possibly by any phrases he has set up going by what happened with Mellie when DeWitt called her). I'm still assuming it was him that posted Ballard the video of Caroline/Echo. It could be someone working separate to Alpha too of course, but either way, the Dr (AA) or Ivy seem the most obvious. Boyd I'm assuming is separate to it and is still just fulfilling the employee with open disquiet role, although I am questioning yet again what he is doing there, why he is working there. If Topher himself is working against the corporation that would be a surprise as it doesn't sit against what we have seen of his dismissal of the actives and his self-focus on being the best at what he does etc, but hidden intentions and underlying motivations is the name of the game at the moment, so he definitely also warrants a 'maybe'.

        The idea of all the Dolls being broken from Boyd sat with the rich man's pointed remark of whether Ballard lives in the real world himself. How much are people fixed in their own fantasies and spend time actively seeking them in their everyday interactions anyway? A lot of people seemed to talk about using the idea of a Doll to 'fix' something, to imagine the past hasn't happened or explore something about themselves they daren't in the 'real world'. But how much do we seek these answers and probe these questions anyway? The use of a Doll doesn't necessarily provide you with something you couldn't achieve, couldn't have. It can make it easier for sure as I think TTB suggested earlier, and of course it feels risk free from having to deal with ripples and repercussions from decisions perhaps if it was something that was wanted as a temporary indulgence. The 'written' belief in the scenario for the Doll who can afterwards be wiped enables the first and serves the second. The need for people to use to create this service just draws me back again to where they all come from and what they believe they are signing up for.

        My favourite part possibly came from the small inclusion of the joke in Rebecca's/Echo's horror at the idea it might all be about porn. I think it was quite a disquieting tool, to look for the audience to see something humorous in there. Getting amusement from her constructed personality's reaction is so brief and somewhat unsettling as it comes despite the situation being evidence of the abuse happening to her just through being a Doll and despite knowing of the physical violation also intended for her. Her labelling the staged bedroom as porn strips away the false narrative inserted upon her and exposes the ugly reality somewhat, something we see she didn't in fact escape from either but was returned to the client for at a later date. It all works with the disquiet that someone's personality can be erased as much as one can be lifted and placed in a different person too. Was that a fair depiction of Rebecca and how she would respond or just her husband's idealised recollection of her? Either way, her character's unhappiness at something sordid happening made what is actually happening all the more unsettling.

        I will probably watch this again as others make comments as I'm sure I'll benefit from a rewatch to consider other thoughts. It just felt like such a shift I need to get my footing a bit better I think. The episode was packed with progress, information, intrigue and action. It was far better paced and even if the chats with the public and the one between Bollard and the rich guy felt a little clunky within the whole, pushed in to steer our thoughts about the premise itself, it was still really enjoyable. I will be very interested to see how the tone of the subsequent episodes feels following and if they will continue to deliberately spoonfeed as many thoughts.

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        • #34
          Hey, Guys!

          Watched “Man on the Street” and wanted to echo Stoney’s post that it was very different from the episodes that came before and the show itself might have worked a lot better had this episode been tweaked into the actual pilot for the show.

          Firstly, I think that this episode is miles above previous episodes in terms of plotting, dialogue and characterization – there are some really sharp scenes. And instead of the monster-pervert-of-the-week, we get a connective-tissue feel here as the plots start to converge and connect in ways that weren’t clear from the original set up.

          And it's really a brilliant example of the difference between a good writer and a great writer - amazing how the same characters who were mired in Dullsville start to come alive in dramatically compelling ways under Whedon's hand. A textbook example, really, of the difference between writers who are trying to shape their work to corporate standards and a real writer who has other fish to fry.

          The “man-in-the-street” interviews that are interspersed throughout the episode finally bring a bit of the outside world into the rather closed-off scenarios that the dolls are assigned to solve. We see a gamut of various opinions regarding the very notion of what the Dollhouse represents – for some, it’s a dream, for others, a nightmare. This black humor that plays upon the desires of people in a post-technological age – to be someone else, to live out someone else’s dream – without suffering any consequences of their actions is amusing and helps to contextualize the Dollhouse.

          And this answers one of my main concerns while watching the first few episodes - how can this very sophisticated, high-tech operation be concealed in our very mundane world? What Whedon is trying to do in this opening bit is to position it as an urban legend – a conspiratorial myth that is believed by some and mocked by others – a gambit that should have worked well if Dollhouse had been set up properly to begin with. However, there are still a few problems that are built into the series as a whole that I think will prevent it from being another Buffy – at least so far.

          One of the major problems with the premise of the show is that the technology of the Dollhouse clashes so much with the outside world that it’s hard to accept its existence. We don’t see any evidence that the outside world is different from our own. This could have been solved by an equally high-tech and secretive antagonist – but the FBI agent Paul Ballard is far too much of our own world. He should have been a member of a secret organization akin to the hidden Dollhouse so that fire could be met with fire – something like the Watchers Council or The Initiative – but in the show itself, the pursuant FBI agent just isn’t reflective of an organization savvy enough to pit itself against the Dollhouse.

          I find it peculiar that Whedon doesn’t take advantage of a national belief in FBI/CIA deep state cover ups to cement the Dollhouse as a precursor to widespread mind-control and one world government in the public’s mind. The subsequent paranoia and fear might have lifted the show into something akin to Mr. Robot where there are wheels within wheels of knowledge and no one is really sure who is a doll and who is not. We learn that there are 20 major Dollhouses around the world – and yet, they seem to have no connection to real world events and/or other people who might want to utilize their applications. The people in the interviews are too normal – it should have been chock-full of conspiracy theory nuts – or even filmed by one who is also tracking the Dollhouse. (The more entities interested, the more chaos and drama ensues!) The interviews could even have been a cover for an organization/individual seeking out more information.

          Because if such an organization had come up with such an amazing technological breakthrough, one would think that numerous international organizations and government entities would be crawling all over the place to get their hands on it. And Ballard could have been at the forefront of one of these organizations – if a representative of the US Government, then his job would have been not only to penetrate the Dollhouse, but to keep others from discovering it to their advantage as well.

          Instead we get a tale of personal obsession – Ballard has apparently destroyed his real life in pursuit of what his colleagues consider a chimera. There’s a lot of sloppy muck about chasing down various “clients” through their financial records and some seriously questionable anonymous documents that give him a tangible subject to pursue – but since we hear very little but bits and pieces about his previous work as an investigator (in fact, he seems to have been somewhat of a failure) our interest in him is tied solely to his personal issues rather than the FBI as a group.

          This works to a great extent when we learn that his girlfriend is a “doll” – but since the viewer learns but Ballard does not, it has no dramatic impact outside of a reveal that the audience has likely already guessed. And without a consequent reaction by the FBI agent or another character, it fails to create any real suspense. And that is what the show is still lacking – the only tangible emotion we continue to follow is Ballard’s obsession with Echo/Caroline. The dolls are still too far removed from cogent thought to relate to – Echo isn’t making decisions on her own, but is obviously programmed by someone else to do so. So her steps outside of the Dollhouse aren’t steps of independence – but more spy vs spy with Echo as the go-between, sandwiched between two separate puppet masters.

          Of course, in “Man on the Street”, we see how such personalization of the dolls is anathema to an organization which prefers to remain as uninvolved and as unfeeling as the dolls themselves. When Sierra’s handler reacts to the dolls as objects of lust – a base, human impulse – then he must be taken out because emotionalism is the worst thing that can happen in such an organization.

          However, saying that, I have to praise the episode for being very compelling within the parameters that Whedon has created – even if it was very talky and “on the nose” as Stoney remarked. At last, we truly get inside the minds of one of the “perverts” and find that they are not so much a pervert as a lost soul – someone who is trying to grapple with loss through fantastical means.

          And this touches upon several issues that feel pertinent to the show – does psychological well-being depend upon being kept in the dark (or pretending to not “know”) that others are being exploited in order to create an illusion of happiness? There’s a correspondence here to societal ills kept secret – we don’t want to see the unpleasant aspects of a society that buys and sells a dream – the sweatshops that create ipads or the lack of freedom allotted for a certain group of people in order to enable others to have what they want? Olivia seems to believe that she’s a kind of humanitarian – as so many organizations do – at the same time that the viewer sees her as a kind of monster. But the “rape” of the dolls isn’t simply on a physical level – it’s a metaphor for slavery and subjugation of personality for the benefit of a select few.

          There’s an interesting blend of liberal hand-wringing and libertarian outrage here – a metaphor for people who act like robots without independent will – or even those who WANT to act like robots as they sign their life away for various reasons – blindly accepting what a certain segment of society designates as appropriate no matter the emotional or economic damage that might ensue. I’m really looking forward to seeing why Caroline chose to join the organization – was it a desire to free herself from difficult past/present memories – or was it simply financial need? Is that why she responds despite her state to others who are trying to flee their own pasts?

          The whole “rapey” aspect of Dollhouse – both sexually and emotionally - still rankles though. The attempt to cast doubt upon another doll as the rapist to lure out the actual rapist – and the usage of Echo as a subversive deliverer of messages to Ballard by we-assume-Alpha – both used as means to an end – shows the dehumanization of the dolls to such an extent that we see them living openly constructed lives (like Mellie) until something triggers them to act according to plan. (Does Ballard ever hear the answering machine message? Or does Mellie delete it later?) The conflict between the fantastical world of the show and real human trafficking/exploitation is hard to accept.

          I also believe now that the whole “Alpha” thing is an inside job – the moment in which Topher was interrupted as the assistant watched the upload of Echo’s brain scrambles was an obvious spot of sabotage. And this tells us that Topher may not be a part of the resistance movement – but there are a ton of moles within who are. And they themselves may be programmed dolls from afar.

          I really love your thought, Stoney, regarding whether “Rebecca” was a construction of the husband that bore little relationship to the actual wife – and this does seem to tie into the paranoia/Stepford wife aspect of the show that men are using Echo as an idealized version of an actual person who existed.

          A few caveats: no FBI guy could violently attack another without a LOT more blowback. And what was with the totally empty Chinese place? The fight was a lot of fun though – one of the slam downs we’ve been expected between these two since the series began!

          I am really looking forward to the next episode.
          Last edited by American Aurora; 18-03-17, 02:44 AM.

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          • #35
            There's a lot to this episode, and in some ways while it's where the series really begins and gains some sort of narrative direction, it also is some of the most maddening BS that this series has to offer, and if you're me, that's a competitive field in this series.

            Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.

            Another profound annoyance about this episode is... nobody associated with the making of any Mutant Enemy show knows a freaking thing about the law and just regurgitate other stuff wrong from other shows. It's tiresome. Y'know what Agent Ballard should have gone ahead and done? Exactly what Joel Mynor insists smugly he could not; arrest him. He went to the house on a lawful purpose, whereupon he was attacked, which on its own would probably satisfy probable cause that a crime was being committed on the premises with or without the exigent circumstances exception which also would apply. He personally witnessed a missing person on the premises in the company of a man lying about her identity -- right there, Mynor could be arrested for conspiracy to kidnapping, for starters. It takes me out of the episode entirely, this phony-baloney legal stand-off we're presented when even at that point, Ballard was 100% on the up and up. Sigh.

            Now, stuff I liked -- this episode features probably the smartest and most decent person in the entire series with the first of the eponymous interstitials -- recognizes the Dollhouse for what it is. A couple of those people I want to just Gibbs headslap, like the hippy dippy "it's beautiful to be a programmable toy" girl. A few of those interviews touch on some pretty important ground for the series, plotwise, of course.

            The twist with Mellie being an active was actually not as effective to me as it could have been if it wasn't, as it was happening, actually almost boringly predictable. I mean, let's think about it, this is a Joss Whedon joint, it would be much much more surprising for her to just have been murdered in service to Ballard's story arc, right? The subversion of a trope can be a trope of its own, can it not? If anything, it also seemed to be revenge not for the rape per se, but like Hearn learning hard not to mess with Dewitt's stuff (because again I will never given an iota of credence to her moral protestation on this subject -- having non-consensual sex is all these men and women do while in her employ).

            I did enjoy the climactic fight scene, especially once Ballard decides to actually participate, even though he is ultimately no match for the Matrix there. I'll be honest, I've seen this series a couple times through and I'm still not entirely sure I follow the thread of where this bit of coded "help" to Ballard came from, whether it's Alpha or an actual mole inside the Dollhouse that I'm misremembering, so it's kind of fresh in a sense. But with the caveat I may have missed nothing and it's just kind of poorly developed later?
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            • #36
              Ha, okay, so just me that was surprised by Mellie then.

              Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
              Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
              I possibly just didn't register her outrage/disgust because I was in accordance with it, rather than noticing it as a double standard. I think that it is feasible though that Dewitt can be separating workers/clients in such a way that she has issue with someone taking advantage of the situation and abusing their position of trust as an employee. I think the moral perspective is completely messed up of course and I agree it is absurd considering that using people is what they do, but I don't think it has to be beyond an annoyance at someone taking advantage, as you say, of the company product. I haven't rewatched it yet though so I'll pay attention to her reactions when I do.

              It could also make some more sense if seen perhaps as a frustration at him causing a traumatic response in a doll during their resting state that could compromise their work and make her job more difficult. Obviously the personalities they implant to complete an assignment 'fill' the doll who they try to keep void of individuality, as much as they can, whilst in their resting state. I'm sure that is primarily because it makes it easier to do what they are doing to these people and not have objections/disruptions etc. But it might also be to stop the risk of disruption to the implanted persona. A traumatic memory gained in that resting state might possibly interfere with an assignment if triggered. So it could also be that the lack of any complicating additions to overwrite and remain suppressed by the created personality is also a key reason why they keep them so 'blank' at rest.

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              • #37
                I was a little late with rewatching the latest 2 episodes due to work and lack of time. First, a few comments on True Believer. I like this episode more than most people seem to. I mean, it's one of the first 5 comparatively uninteresting "assignment of the week" season 1 episodes, but by those standards it's pretty good.

                Sure, the cult scenario is very common and done many times in episodic TV, but I don't remember an instance where the government guy trying to take down the cult was at least as much of a villain as the cult leader (maybe there are other cases but I haven't seen them? Someone correct me on that). And it brought about the theme of "saving people who aren't asking to be saved" and the question of whether the motives behind it are really altruistic. Aside from the obvious/spelled out comparison between the cult and the Dollhouse, there was also a more subtle parallel between the government bad guy (I really can't remember his name or the name of the government unit he was working for) and Ballard. Of course, Ballard is leagues better and not an a$$hole like the other guy, who, as we get to see, doesn't really even care about the people he's supposed to be saving, and doesn't care if he makes their situation even worse (like, almost getting them killed), because it's all about his personal obsession with catching the cult leader, settling the score and being successful in what he's supposed to be doing; in a word, it's all about him. But Ballard's motives are also questionable - he may think he's being noble and altruistic and simply trying to beat the bad guys, but there's certainly a strong hint (which the next episode, The Man in the Street, makes explicit, though that's complicated by the fact that it's put into words by Joel Mynor, a morally problematic character who has a reason to try to paint everyone, including the guy trying to arrest him, as morally not much better than himself) that a large part of Ballard's motivation - even if he may not be conscious about it - is his fantasy/desire to play the part of a heroic white knight who will save a beautiful damsel in distress. If someone had sent him a picture of Victor instead, would he have been as ardent in his pursuit of the Dollhouse?

                I also like the way that Echo easily slipped from being Esther into being Echo when the moment required it, including a very non-Esther like "Move you a$$!". I think we're getting enough hints, in these moments in each episode - as to who Echo is as a person: proactive, resourceful, no-nonsense, quick to react, and with a natural instinct to not just defend herself but protect other people, not because she wants to be a white knight, but because it just comes to her naturally. We see some of that in her relationship with Sierra and Victor, too - she is starting to act almost like a big sister to them.

                On another note, what is it with Fran Kranz always getting to utter these hilarious euphemisms for erection? Although in Cabin in the Woods, Marty was ironically quoting/using the "husband's bulge" expression, while in this case, it's another sign of what a manchild Topher is.

                But yes, whatever merits or non-merits of the first 5 episodes, The Man in the Street is leagues better, and it's here that the show really gets free of the episodic nature and starts following its arc. It feels almost like a second pilot, with not just a number of plot developments, but something like Joss' mission statement. The interspersed and very different comments of 'people in the street' point out to to the themes that Joss originally wanted to explore with the show. The idea for the show originally came to Joss and Eliza during a lunch, when they were discussing what she does as an actress - slipping into various roles and pretending to be someone else, then slipping out of them - and the general idea that people, often unconsciously, use other people to live out their fantasies, or try to fit other people into their fantasy roles. Or even try to fit themselves into certain fantasies and roles - tropes, you may say. The people interviewed by the TV reporter offer a number of views and ideas on the issue. There's the fact - undeniable fact - that what Dollhouse does is basically slavery and human trafficking. But there are also insights as to why people may find the idea of Dollhouse appealing - as we see several people admit that they would perhaps love to use a doll, if they could, or even to be a doll. The idea you could live out your secret fantasies without having to suffer any consequences (like that bi-curious guy who would clearly love to have a gay experience, but only if the other guy forgets about it and he never has to confront or be afraid of being found out) is pretty appealing to a number of people. And maybe the, apparently shocking, view of the young woman who thinks being a doll is awesome, is not so surprising, if you take into account how often people can't stand having responsibility, and how often and how many people are ready to give up their freedom so they wouldn't have to be responsible for their actions. Which also connects to the other theme that one of the interviewers brought up - how much we're all 'programmed' and brainwashed by the media and the culture to want certain things.

                These themes are also reflected in Paul's story. This episode makes it blatant what had previously been hinted - that Paul may be, to quite an extent, driven by a white knight fantasy/obsession with Caroline (Echo). Is it a coincidence that Paul starts a relationship with Mellie so soon after his conversation with Joel Mynor? Maybe his words got to him, and he wanted to prove to himself that his quest is not about a romantic fantasy. Maybe he wanted to prove he can 'live in the real world' and have a real relationship with a girl next door, rather than chase an idealized image of a woman he doesn't really know. But the twist is that the sweet, loving "girl next door" who has been by his side and waiting for him to notice her devotion and respond to her feelings, is in fact not real, but also a deliberately constructed fantasy. While the person who sent him Caroline's photo and information may have deliberately used the white knight savior/beautiful idealized damsel fantasy to manipulate him, the Dollhouse has manipulated him, too, by using the "girl next door" fantasy.

                The fact that there are so many Dollhouses all around the world and that it's a part of a widespread, influential business - and that even people in authority as high as US senators are using its services - may explain the lack of investigation into it/reluctance and sabotage of any attempt at investigation, and the lack of certain public knowledge about it (i.e. why it's seen as just an urban legend). If it is such big business/a powerful multinational corporation, it's not surprising that there is a widespread hush-hush job about its existence.

                But the episode also hints that there is some other, bigger purpose behind all this, and that - unsurprisingly - the Dollhouse technology is not just used, or is not just going to be used, only for the purpose we've seen so far. And that's something we'll learn a lot more about in the rest of the show.

                Originally posted by American Aurora View Post
                Firstly, I think that this episode is miles above previous episodes in terms of plotting, dialogue and characterization – there are some really sharp scenes. And instead of the monster-pervert-of-the-week, we get a connective-tissue feel here as the plots start to converge and connect in ways that weren’t clear from the original set up.

                And it's really a brilliant example of the difference between a good writer and a great writer - amazing how the same characters who were mired in Dullsville start to come alive in dramatically compelling ways under Whedon's hand. A textbook example, really, of the difference between writers who are trying to shape their work to corporate standards and a real writer who has other fish to fry.
                I would agree with you generally that Joss is a great writer while some others from the Dollhouse writing staff are just good writers, but in this case, I don't think it's really the reason why this episode is so different from the previous ones. Joss also wrote 'Ghost', the first episode, and that episode was just all right. From now on, he will only be credited as a writer for one more episode - the season 2 opener - and that episode is actually one of the weakest/least interesting in season 2. (He also gets credit for episode 13 of season 1, but only story credit, not teleplay credit.) I would say it's much more about the show finally getting free of the network constraints and starting to do its own thing. As mentioned before, it was the network that insisted on the 'assignment of the week' format.

                It will be interesting to see all your comments about the original pilot, 'Echo', once we get to it, since that may answer some of the questions about what the show would have looked like if it had gone all in from the start.

                Speaking of network demands, I've also heard that Joss and the rest of the writing staff were originally planning to have the show feature 'dolls' of more varied ages (i.e. older people as well) and body types - which I think would have been a good idea, because it stands to reason that some tasks and scenarios would involve them (I mean both all the non-sexual assignments, but and even when it comes to sex, not everyone has same tastes and fantasies) - but the network insisted that all dolls should be young and hot.

                Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
                Eh, not really. Yeah, the Dollhouse itself is exploiting people, using them and violating them. It's a 5 year slavery. But there's a difference in the extent and the nature of the abuse, and it's easy to see why someone like DeWitt can make a difference (yes, even in the moral sense) and draw a line and say "this is as far as I can go" (like, say, hit men who have a 'moral code' and refuse to kill children, or something like that). There are two things that differentiate what Dollhouse does in general and what Hearn did:

                1) DeWitt can reasonably say that the people the Dollhouse is using as dolls have signed up for it - because, well, it's true. It doesn't make it all right that the Dollhouse is using people's desperation and lack of options to make them sign up for 5 years of slavery, but they do sign up for it, and must have a reasonable idea what that would entail. They did not, however, sign up to be sexually abused by their handlers while in the blank/childlike doll state.

                2) When Sierra or Echo or Victor are imprinted and go and have sex (and other things, like emotional/romantic stuff or socializing stuff) with Joel Mynor or Miss Lonely Hearts or whoever, the person they are at that moment is not suffering pain and trauma, they're happy in real time - even if it's an artificial happiness brought about by their programming. And afterwards they forget, or at least that's the idea. But when Sierra is in a blank doll state and Hearn abuses her, she is clearly suffering, just as an abused child would, as seen in her reaction when Victor touched her.

                The only thing that Hearn is absolutely right about is that they should have seen it coming that things like that would happen and should have taken precautions if they cared about preventing it. Well, the latter was not really his point. But "we're all morally corrupt and doing bad things to people, so that gives me an excuse to do whatever I like and do even worse things" is a bullshit excuse.

                The twist with Mellie being an active was actually not as effective to me as it could have been if it wasn't, as it was happening, actually almost boringly predictable. I mean, let's think about it, this is a Joss Whedon joint, it would be much much more surprising for her to just have been murdered in service to Ballard's story arc, right? The subversion of a trope can be a trope of its own, can it not? If anything, it also seemed to be revenge not for the rape per se, but like Hearn learning hard not to mess with Dewitt's stuff (because again I will never given an iota of credence to her moral protestation on this subject -- having non-consensual sex is all these men and women do while in her employ).
                Well, for starters, "Mellie not being fridged" does not equal "Mellie being a doll". I could have predicted the former, but certainly did not predict the latter.

                Secondly, if "deconstruction of a trope is a trope in itself", the difference is that that "trope" is a really good one.

                Thirdly, if you're trying to say that deconstructing a trope is more predictable and boring than playing a really old, tired trope straight... LOL, nope.


                Originally posted by Stoney View Post
                Ha, okay, so just me that was surprised by Mellie then.
                Nah, I was surprised by that too when I watched it for the first time. I'm pretty sure most other people were, too.
                Last edited by TimeTravellingBunny; 19-03-17, 04:55 PM.
                You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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                • #38
                  I am simply saying there was no surprise whatsoever that she wasn't killed. Despite a very well done setup, with juxtaposed tragic classical music, the obviously-too-late breathless running, the mid-season game-changing character death chance to the genre savvy viewer, there was no way because that will simply never happen in an ME production, so any suspense was... tenuous at best? Eyebrow raising surprise at her being an Active, maybe, although looking back I might have found it slightly more compelling if she consciously worked for the Dollhouse as a plant and just blew a hole in Hearn? Because they don't use Actives for everything, theoretically, due to expense and supervision and exposure risk (although the show is wildly inconsistent on just how rare, precious, and unexpendable Actives are from this point forward). Tropes Are Not Bad and Tropes Are Not Good. Just saying that like any good psych experiment or slot machine could tell you, variable rate of reward or random occurrences are more compelling. Every now and then you might need to play what would otherwise be a tiresome trope straight just so that not only does risk to a character like Mellie appeared to be feel more real but ALSO so subverting it still feels like an accomplishment elsewhere. I mean, on "Buffy" or "Angel" it was still occasional enough that the innocent waif was straight victim and not monster that you could always remember how much it mattered that Buffy isn't, or that Darla wasn't. In this moment, though, there was no danger to Mellie to believe in no matter how hard a sell they made.

                  I think Paul did try to "prove" something to himself, but all of that felt very plot driven, including him being frail of mind enough to second guess his motives because the one identifiable Dollhouse victim that was dropped in his line of sight happened to be a smokeshow. I mean, Dollhouse, right? This is going go mostly involve hotties, right? Is it really believable that it is even a valid premise that he could only be pursuing this so hard because of ulterior omgeliza motives? Or that a schmuck like Mynor would glean it?
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                  • #39
                    KingofCretins:

                    Gonna start with my most controversial point first -- Hearn was right. Absolutely right. Unequivocally right. Not to rape the young lady we're asked to know as Sierra, no, obviously, but in his blunt dissection of the moral absurdity that is Adelle Dewitt and the Dollhouse in general. When you get right down to it, the only complaint they could even remotely articulate in any rational sense is that he was stealing from the company. Had someone paid handsomely to have Sierra sent to him in doll state to amuse himself with for the weekend they would have done it, and wiped her afterwards. So what Hearn actually did vis a vis the Dollhouse's moral standing to protest was deny them their fee, abused the merchandise. Dewitt's outrage and disgust ring completely false to me -- not to say, I don't believe her performance, I just don't know where she thinks she gets off.
                    Yes, that is completely true. But I also think that one can see it from a quite cold and calculating point of view: Whether a doll is raped or not is of little concern to the firm - the real crime is taking personal initiative in an organization where secrecy and loyalty is absolutely necessary in order to protect their cover in the real world. If he's so emotionally weak that he decides on his own initiative to rape a doll today, who's to say that he won't be selling their secrets to the FBI tomorrow?

                    So I think there's a level of disgust here that's predicated upon the outrage that any employee at his security level would work outside of the strict orders of the Dollhouse and go rogue on his own for any personal reason at all.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                      I am simply saying there was no surprise whatsoever that she wasn't killed. Despite a very well done setup, with juxtaposed tragic classical music, the obviously-too-late breathless running, the mid-season game-changing character death chance to the genre savvy viewer, there was no way because that will simply never happen in an ME production, so any suspense was... tenuous at best? Eyebrow raising surprise at her being an Active, maybe, although looking back I might have found it slightly more compelling if she consciously worked for the Dollhouse as a plant and just blew a hole in Hearn? Because they don't use Actives for everything, theoretically, due to expense and supervision and exposure risk (although the show is wildly inconsistent on just how rare, precious, and unexpendable Actives are from this point forward). Tropes Are Not Bad and Tropes Are Not Good. Just saying that like any good psych experiment or slot machine could tell you, variable rate of reward or random occurrences are more compelling. Every now and then you might need to play what would otherwise be a tiresome trope straight just so that not only does risk to a character like Mellie appeared to be feel more real but ALSO so subverting it still feels like an accomplishment elsewhere. I mean, on "Buffy" or "Angel" it was still occasional enough that the innocent waif was straight victim and not monster that you could always remember how much it mattered that Buffy isn't, or that Darla wasn't. In this moment, though, there was no danger to Mellie to believe in no matter how hard a sell they made.
                      Well, let's say that All Tropes are Not Created Equal. Some tropes are indeed worse than others, in my opinion. Stuffed in the Fridge/Women in Refrigerators is one of my least favorite tropes. Now, it's not that you can't make it work under some circumstances - but this really wouldn't have been such a case. Not only would it have been an instance of an old and tired and very annoying trope - it would have also been needless and badly done. They would have introduced that character and given her screentime over multiple episodes just to kill her off immediately after having hooked up with Paul for the first time, just in order to... what? Motivate him to fight against Dollhouse? He's already motivated and has been doing that. Show that the Dollhouse people are evil and ruthless? We know that already. So that would have made that narrative choice and Mellie's arc in general completely pointless. It would have looked like they wanted to fridge her just for the sake of it.

                      Now, while this could have made a viewer, especially a longtime fan of Whedon's works, suspect that Mellie will not be killed by Hearn (though I don't know how much time a viewer has to think about all the narrative implications when they're in the middle of watching an episode), I don't think that this is likely to immediately lead to the conclusion "Oh, so Mellie must be a doll, and DeWitt has set up Hearn to be killed" before the revelation happens. If you had guessed it, kudos, you're extremely perceptive, but I don't think most people would. There were lots of potential scenarios that did not involve Hearn killing Mellie. She could have managed to defend herself - sure, it's not super likely that an ordinary untrained woman would be able to kill a man with a background as a cop sent to kill her, but it's possible, people can do amazing things when the survival mode sets in, and they can also be lucky - and Paul did, after all, believe that Mellie did manage to kill her attacker without having any kind of training. Or she could have managed to avoid getting killed long enough, and Paul could have arrived in time and killed Hearn and saved Mellie. Or, to make her more active, Paul could have arrived, got into a vicious fight with Hearn, and then Mellie managed to find a way to kill Hearn or help Paul kill him. Or, Paul could have managed to subdue and capture Hearn, and then interrogate him and find out things about the Dollhouse.

                      And even if you guessed that Mellie was a doll 5 minutes before it was revealed, I don't think that makes it a bad twist. There are great twists in various fiction works that I totally did not see coming, but there are also great twists I was starting to suspect or guessed shortly before the revelation, but it didn't make me think "oh, this is so lame and predictable", instead it just made it satisfying because it was logical, worked as a narrative and made the story a lot more interesting, which is exactly why I was able to tell it somewhat in advance. And the twists that did come as a 100% surprise also aren't always good - some are great, when you can look back and see how everything makes sense and works in retrospect; others are... not so good, when you think "well, you sure got me by surprise, but I don't think this actually makes that much sense in the retrospect". This is especially the case with twists that are there just to be twists and make people surprised and shocked, without any other narrative purpose.

                      I think Paul did try to "prove" something to himself, but all of that felt very plot driven, including him being frail of mind enough to second guess his motives because the one identifiable Dollhouse victim that was dropped in his line of sight happened to be a smokeshow. I mean, Dollhouse, right? This is going go mostly involve hotties, right? Is it really believable that it is even a valid premise that he could only be pursuing this so hard because of ulterior omgeliza motives? Or that a schmuck like Mynor would glean it?
                      No, I don't think that the premise is that he could be only pursuing it because he has the hots for Caroline. I don't think that one could even claim, just based on him pursuing it, that he even has the hots for Caroline, or that he has a white knight syndrome in general. And Mynor could have just been shooting in the dark, trying to bring Paul to his level.

                      But the show has been hinting throughout that Paul does have a fixation on Caroline that's romantic, and that a fantasy about being a white knight to Caroline is one of the things driving him, even if it may not be conscious. (It's not like he's actually thinking "I'm going to save her, and she'll fall in love with me".) We've seen that in the way his scenes with Mellie are structured, with the 'love triangle' aspect (Mellie as the girl next door and Caroline as an idealized, distant figure Paul wants to save), and the way Paul slips and talks about wanting to save "her" rather than "them".
                      You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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                      • #41
                        Dollhouse episode 1... errr, 6: Man on the Street

                        This was certainly an improvement over the past episodes. In fact, except for needing to see the Ballard storyline at a slightly earlier point, this almost could be the pilot episode. It says to the viewer – this is our world and here’s what the show is all about. As Stoney said, it’s a bit on the nose.

                        I think a lot of the “on the nose” aspect betrays this episode’s central function as “mission statement” and “course correction”. As Stoney and Aurora have said, it’s well done because Joss Whedon is a great writer. But still this is about repositioning the show for better episodes to come (hopefully).

                        The “man on the street” idea is enjoyable. There’s a memorable 1976 episode of the TV series M*A*S*H called “The Interview” which is structured entirely as a period documentary, interviewing the show’s regularly characters. TV shows have often turned to this format – especially the sitcom The Office. (Both British and American versions.) And I’ve seen cutaways to man-on-the-street interviews in many TV shows and movies. Xena’s Lucy Lawless makes a cameo appearance in 2002’s Spider-Man where she offers her opinion of the arachnid hero. (The film was directed by Xena executive producer Sam Raimi.)

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXmVr9krlqI

                        Neil Gaiman (writer of comic books, novels, short stories, television and movies) used a similar man-on-the-street device for the framing arc of a 1989 special of the Secret Origins comic book that spotlighted Batman’s weird villains.







                        It’s a fun device for world-building, but I agree with Aurora that it makes little sense for the level of tech scene in the Dollhouse to be so far ahead of normal society. But then that’s the dichotomy we see in superhero comics, movies and TV shows. The heroes, villains and spy agencies have access to technology far beyond those of mortal men, but elsewhere things appear just as now. We see this probably a bit in Buffy with season four’s Initiative and even more so in the comics once vampires become public knowledge.

                        But it’s not quite as effective – either as comedy or drama – as some of the Buffyverse’s world building. I think of that moment in “School Hard” between Principal Snyder and the police chief:

                        Chief: So? You want the usual story? Gang-related? PCP?

                        Snyder: What'd you have in mind? The truth?

                        Chief: (considers) Right. Gang-related. PCP.
                        Principal Snyder and the police knew the truth. The sense of denial in Sunnydale wasn’t as strong as we had been led to believe. And this was the first hint that would lead to such adversaries as the Mayor and even the Initiative. On first viewing, it felt like layers were being pulled back and there was something deeper underneath.

                        On a more comic note, we have Larry’s remark in “Anne” that shows the other students are aware of the town’s weirdness. “It's all about egg whites. If we can focus, keep discipline, and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!” This throwaway line would bear fruit in “The Prom”.

                        Another “On the Nose” element is Joel Mynor’s speech to Ballard. This is a guy who had his very special memorial fantasy ruined and yet he finds the time to psychoanalyze the “hero cop”. I suppose it might be statement about the rich – that Mynor to get past his private pain to pull someone down. But more importantly, is there anyone in the audience who didn’t already think that Ballard’s quest was a doll-like fantasy?

                        Like Aurora said, Paul Ballard doesn’t even seem to belong to a 21st century agency. Replace the computer for a visit to a locked filing cabinet while holding a flashlight, and his investigations are straight out of 1950s TV. I imagine we’ll see even more X-Files machinations from his agency masters, but Ballard doesn’t have the smarts or charm of either Mulder or Scully.

                        I’m glad that they appear to finally be moving away from the monster of the week format. Angel vastly improved when they moved past the Saturday Morning TV version of film noir cases and brought in the powerful Darla arc. Echo’s missions up until now have been a bit too commonplace. The plot with Sierra’s rape and the looming threat of Alpha is more intriguing than what we’ve seen from the outside world.

                        Now that Dollhouse has had a good scrub-up and polish, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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                        • #42
                          Great post PuckRobin and I *loved* your trademark comic reference using Secret Origins of course.

                          I'm hoping to get on to the next episode this week now I've caught up with the BtVS rewatch. I've never been great at juggling!

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                          • #43
                            Man on the Street is pretty good. It raises some important questions about what is this organization and what are they using it for. The client using Echo as a semblance of his wife so that he shows the house he never got to show his wife is actually sad because that´s something empty. The wife isn´t there and that part may ease his pain a bit but not for long.

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                            • #44
                              When can we expect the next episode review? It's been over a month. These big breaks in rewatches kind of tend to ruin the momentum. I'm afraid you'll end up forgetting half of what happened in the previous episodes.
                              You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                You're right, you're right. I don't seem to be able to keep on top of this or keep up to date with the rewatch easily at the moment. I need to post on All The Way too this week but I can probably work in watching the next episode here and putting up at least some brief thoughts today or tomorrow.

                                - - - Updated - - -

                                1.07 Echoes

                                So I watched this last night and had some mixed reactions to it. I can't say it was a great episode for me, although there was plenty that moved the overall story forwards which was really good. Obviously we had some interesting and significant information given as we found out more about Caroline, a little more about how/why people are manipulated into agreeing to the offer of signing themselves over to the Dollhouse and a bit more too about the organisation and others involved in the research/tech involved. We also had further breaking down of the imprinting process itself with more 'glitches' occurring and more signs that the imprints and original memories aren't ever truly wiped so much as suppressed, as per the inhibitions the drug released. Also on the plus side, seeing more of Caroline allowed us to perhaps start to piece a little together of traits that may be hers which are playing their part in Echo's more off piste behaviour. So, certainly some good stuff in there for sure and lots of questions following.

                                So why didn't I love it? Well, as much as I appreciated seeing those on the inside of the organisation having their behaviour and actions affected for once, I didn't find it funny but was clearly supposed to. Despite it not being as comprehensive, they weren't being overwritten, what happens to the dolls is so horrific to me that even just the smallest ability to be able to apply any sense of 'see how you like it' due to the loss of control they suffered made it fail to be a comedy situation for me. The feeling of the shoe being on the foot was just too strong and the attempt at comedy actually was quite jarring and irritatingly goofy sat in the midst of the usual awful truth of the exploitation of the Dollhouse. Incidentally, I thought the 'hard R's' comment was also really weird and when I eventually thought I might have worked out what it meant (I think), I just couldn't see a British person saying it. It sounds like an observation an outsider might make, rather than a Brit of themselves, if you see what I mean. Anyway, the 'funny' fell virtually entirely flat for me. I say virtually only because I did smile at Boyd calling them up to play the piano piece and Topher giving Victor superiority over Dominic.

                                In addition to that, there was also a good deal of awkward naivety to Alice as well that I didn't find engaging. Perhaps there was a little bit of a mix of her imprint along with the breakdown somewhat raising a little of her 'blank', more childlike, resting state. That would be interesting, but it is likely that it was just the imprint reacting with uncertainty to the memories flickering and I just found the portrayal of Alice to be a pretty weak, very dilute character. Also, the threat of the drug which the actives were supposed to be containing, in what must have been one of the most expensive operations to date(!), just swung around in the degree of seriousness too much so it all was pretty ridiculous really. So definitely a mixed bag generally for me.

                                So, now to more specific thoughts. If Caroline ran at first and they spent two years, I think DeWitt said, chasing her, we can perhaps see why she may have been feeling desperate by then. But clearly there was something about her which, from the start, had the medical staff call DeWitt to say she was a possible candidate. Maybe it was just her frame of mind from losing her boyfriend and fearing for her own safety? But DeWitt referred to them 'doing this dance' for almost two years, so there could well be more to that flashback than appeared on the face of it. Especially when it concluded with the statement that 'nothing is what it appears to be', ha!

                                It certainly wasn't clear from the scene how well Caroline understood any links between the woman speaking to her after she had been caught and the Rossum organisation she was running from. Had she and DeWitt already spoken in the past and her memories been altered? It would be surprising if DeWitt's interest in Caroline was entirely prompted by the medical staff, and sustained enough to track her for two years just due to Caroline's potential and without any knowledge of her original break-in to Rossum. So surely if the Rossum Corporation knew she had seen industrial and ethically black secrets they wouldn't be happy with her being freed at all. Of course telling her it would be five years doesn't mean they were being truthful anyway. But if it was seen as a good enough way to contain threats and benefit from exploiting those who could otherwise expose them, similar to how Sam was dealt with at the end after his attempt at industrial espionage, then any fear that the mind wipes are failing would raise the question of whether to just eliminate such dolls, surely? We definitely know murder isn't off the cards for them.

                                Even if we take what we saw of the scene as the time Caroline chooses to become a doll, there was no real indication of whether she truly knew what she would be passing herself over for still. So coupled with the idea of people being preyed on in times of desperation, it certainly doesn't make the idea of what is happening to the dolls feel more of a real choice. DeWitt actually referred to making choices in the face of forces you can't control, and we also heard Sam when referencing his mum talk about not having choice because of the reliance between them. Manipulating people by using the importance of other people to them or the urgency of a situation against them, just emphasises the sense of some lack of control despite the appearance of choice.

                                Did Boyd ever report that the callback for a treatment didn't work on Echo at first or will it just be assumed to have related to the effects of the drugs? It seems by the question of whether she should be sent to the Attic yet again at the end that they are in fact aware of her individually glitching again, presumably having had confirmation from the client that she had walked out during the assignment. Having Echo refuse to go in for a treatment and run away from Boyd on campus was then shown to change when she agreed to go in after she had relived her original memories. This seemed intended to reflect what had happened originally and emphasise the idea of people becoming willing to sign themselves over to escape something, to be relieved of a terrible situation. But I do still assume it doesn't involve honest disclosure about the assignments. I don't think many people would feel casual enough about some of the risks and uses that we have seen happening to them or be desperate enough to agree. Perhaps we are just supposed to think that this is what is involved in finding just the right candidates, locating people so on the edge of an abyss that anything sounds better than falling. Making choices and living with the consequences of them, as in fact DeWitt and all the rest involved in this system also have to do too. But a level of desperation wasn't conveyed to me by the examples of Caroline and Sam that made the 'anything you like' attitude of becoming a doll willingly, with their eyes totally wide open to the reality of it, seem likely.

                                Of course we also had again the uncomfortable aspect of how the dolls are being used kept front and centre in our minds even after Echo had walked out on the client, due to the ridiculous outfit she was in through the episode. Of course it was intentional to have ED kitted out in such a clichéd 'fantasy' outfit which nodded the head to a naughty schoolgirl look, alongside the client who wanted to introduce her, to 'teach' her, lots of new things. I assumed we were seeing the same client as the first episode, due to the link with the motorcycle. But whereas last time he seemed to want someone daring/confident, this time he is looking for someone more innocent to share his interests with. And this exploitation is a very real part of this organisation that we've seen over and over, being shaped to someone's requirements and prostituted to satisfy their whims/fantasies. This time the visual reminder remained beyond the assignment. Maybe this is an intentional comment about an actor/actress who is a complex individual, has a real life with relationships they are passionate about, different interests they care deeply about like Caroline's drive to expose the Rossum organisation, being reduced to a fantasy performing sex symbol. So much so that even when they aren't performing any longer, they are still perceived to be, still seen to be to some extent, whatever character it was they played which connected to the audience member??

                                We were given some (probably dodgy) science around repressed memories and inhibitors as we were introduced to Rossum, a corporation involved in the background of the Dollhouse working on memory affecting drugs. Other purposes/applications for the research Rossum are undertaking wasn't raised yet but it seems likely they exist.

                                The idea that our personalities are constructed from our memories has obviously been running through the series so far. This then has the potential to be applied both to the experiences gained during being a doll as well as from the person's original memories as the question of whether they can truly be cleared continues to be key. We have certainly seen a variety of memories breaking through for Echo. As the dolls were all glitching due to the drugs, they appeared to be experiencing varying flashbacks that weren't all restricted to their assignments. I may be forgetting something but it could be possible that Victor was actually reliving events that he sought to escape in becoming a doll in the first place, the same as Echo was, and we saw Sierra experiencing again the assault she endured whilst in her resting state too.

                                And there was a further dangerous side revealed as we nearly saw the result of a subconscious trigger being activated during this glitching. Mellie started to repeat the trigger phrase that DeWitt had telephoned through to her. As she has now packed up to leave her apartment, is it possible that this breach could have resulted in her winning a special place in the 'Attic' but they didn't want a sudden disappearance creating questions? Possible, or they may not be willing to lose their connection to Ballard and still be hoping to use Mellie to spy on him and distract him further. It is possible Ballard may decide to try and find her, although I'd have thought it is unlikely when really she was only a salve for his deeper wish to find and rescue Caroline.

                                The little we saw of Ballard had him continuing to be single minded and it was a bit dull to be honest. In contrast, the little glimpse of a weaker side of Dominic was interesting. With his inhibitions down we see that the hard image is perhaps somewhat constructed by himself, a nice contrast against the dolls' stories and their decision to hide themselves under a false front (to whatever degree it is an informed choice). Although it has to be said that the tough guy exterior as a constructed tool to hide a more sensitive side is a bit on the clichéd side!

                                Despite liking that I could see traits starting to link Echo to Caroline I'm not sure the episode succeeded significantly in making me care about Caroline more. And that is despite having very strong opinions which married well to the passions of the person we were being presented with through her revealed memories. This in itself raised an interesting thought as I wondered why it didn't make a huge impact from seeing details of her background. I think it is because seeing some of her 'original self' felt just a little bit too like seeing her playing another, new, constructed role. Maybe that is the point (and the benefit) of having left it so long before showing us some of the real Caroline. It is easier to dismiss who is really beneath the surface if we are used to someone wearing masks and performing constantly? Perhaps that also makes it easy for those in the organisation that are fundamental to the exploitations as they stay more distanced from the dolls as 'real' people. Shown in Dominic's discomfort/apology perhaps. If we, as an audience, are forming views and forming loyalties to people that we don't truly know at all but based on the enjoyment we have of performances where they are presenting a constructed persona again and again, is it too easy to dismiss the truth of that person and them not truly be seen as 'real' at all? If so, when audiences seek to 'know' the real person behind the camera, how much like Ballard are they just bringing their own wants into the mix of how they then interpret what they see?

                                So there was plenty to chew on from this episode, even if it didn't all work well for me. Heading on I hope that we learn more about the Rossum organisation and how it ties with Dollhouse. I'm assuming the brain scan that was seen by Caroline/Leo (was it Leo?) was similar to the scans Topher was looking at and was related to Dollhouse and/or the memory experimentation generally. The deliberately sinister babies in jars seemed a bit over the top, but may relate to something more specific. It would be interesting to also see a little more of whether Echo is the only one having glitches which expose her original memories rather than her assignments/resting state not being fully removed/overwritten. There also seemed to be a question to raise in how much the connections, the strength/intensity of memories, plays a part in what is retained. If the traumatic memories were all ones which surfaced first (considering Sierra's/Mellie's/Victor's/Echo's memories which were shown), what does this say of how 'safe' it is to constantly push people into these extreme scenarios if you can't then remove all the lingering memory/effects? Will this relate to what eventually pushed Alpha over?

                                Perhaps we will meet some more people who recognise Caroline. You would have thought they would have dolls operate far from the place they come from. But anyway, it would be nice to get some more detail/consistency bound back with Caroline now, some more to build up the sense of the 'real' character beneath so that I can start to really care about her more as a real individual and give some weight/importance to those glimpses of her, to the glitches that imply she can break free, and not remain the doll they have spent so many episodes establishing she is.

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