Monday, March 23, 2009

"Dollhouse" cleaning?

Look, I can't come up with something clever every week. As Khan said, maybe I no longer need to try.

So, tyranist and I got together for our weekly TV watching. I actually enjoyed tonight's "Sarah Conner Chronicles," which hasn't been the case in a very long time.

I was looking forward to the "Dollhouse" episode that followed it, because people were saying that this was a "Mythology" episode, the way that they would any time "The X-Files" would stop the episodic paranormal investigations and look at aliens and conspiracies and black ooze and cigarette smoking dudes.

This week's episode was called "Man on the Street," and it was written by some guy named Joss Whedon. It is framed by a television news report on the Dollhouse, asking people on the sidewalk (on Hollywood Boulevard) if they believed the Dollhouse was real. Tyranist and I watched these closely because, had we written this episode, you would've seen Echo or Sierra or Golf or somebody walk past just as the guy being interviewed says, "Nahh, that's just like bigfoot in the city. There's no Dollhouse."

Didn't happen, though.

It felt to me, like something of a catch-up episode, in case you hadn't been watching much. It didn't even start with the usual "In every generation, there is a Dollhouse..." set-up, but went a bit more in depth as to what the show was about. I thought it worked, even though I could see the seams.

Anyhow, this episode was about FBI Agent Paul Ballard more than Echo, and we follow him as he finds a lead that's what he's really been looking for. Turns out that there's an internet zillionaire played by Patton Oswald, who hires out the Dollhouse every year on his wife's deathday, and they send someone (maybe it's always Echo, maybe it's not) out to the new house he had bought to surprise her before she was killed in a car accident. Echo arrives, thinking she's his wife, he takes her inside, they have champagne, they have intercourse on all the kitchen appliances.

So, Paul Ballard goes to this house, takes out Patton Oswald's bodyguards, and comes in with his gun drawn, meeting Echo for the first time.* Well, she thinks she's the wife and has no idea what's going on, and a moment later, Langton the Handler whisks her away, leaving Ballard and Patton Oswald to talk. We hear the story of how he kept his internet success secret from his wife until he could buy them her dream home, and that she died before she ever found out, and through the services of the Dollhouse, he is able to get that moment with her the Sky Bully stole from him.

It's actually much nicer than I'm making it out to be, and while I find it rather Sci-Fi that a hot chick would marry Patton Oswald when he was penniless, these are the sorts of fantasies that keep us from pulling a Sergei Kravinoff. One of the bodyguards comes to, and calls the police, which finally arrive. Of course, Ballard has no proof, so he is seen as a wacko, and that's the final straw at the FBI, and he is suspended.

There is a subplot that is rather significant. Over at the Dollhouse, our gal Sierra starts to freak out whenever Victor touches her. The brains start to wonder if she is getting molested by Victor at night. They play back the security tapes, and nothing like that is going on. Sierra's handler is pretty sure it's Victor, and he comes off as something of a tool around Boyd Langton. Langton goes around the building until he finds a spot where the security cameras don't show.

Sierra's handler is vindicated when security take Victor away for mistreating Sierra, hauling him to the doghouse, where he is to be neutered. Sierra's handler then takes Sierra to a shady alcove away from the cameras to perform sex acts, only to have Langton step out of the shadows and deck him. The Victor-thing was just a ruse to catch him in the act.

Back on the a-story, Ballard seeks refuge in the quite-capable arms of Mellie, his unsettlingly hot neighbour. He tells her all that he found out, and she tells him she believes in him and will help him find out the truth about the Dollhouse. Then, they roll around in the sheets.

We find out that there are cameras placed in Mellie's and/or Ballard's apartment, so Adelle and the Dollhouse can monitor them. Mellie knows too much. Adelle tells Sierra's disgraced handler that, if he goes to her house and murders her, then he will atone for his crimes and they won't terminate his employment.

Ballard goes out to get ice cream and Chinese food and KY Jelly, and runs into Echo there. We get a fast-paced Buffyesque fight scene, but then Echo suddenly stops. We were led to believe in an earlier scene that someone may have tampered with her upload, and now, she tells Ballard that he has a friend inside the Dollhouse, and that together, they may be able to take the organisation down. Echo doesn't know who it is (and won't remember this conversation ever taking place), but they'll communicate again.

Back at Mellie's place, Sierra's handler bursts in, beats her up a bit, and starts choking her. Mellie's answering machine picks up a call, and it is Adelle's voice, uttering a phrase that triggers a subpersonality in Mellie. She becomes a superhuman killer, and kills her attacker instead. Yes, she too is an Active.

When Ballard gets home, Mellie has no memory of being triggered, and thinks that she managed to kill the assailant by accident. They hug. The end.

There was a heck of a lot going on in this episode. My chief complaint to tyranist was that this probably should have been two episodes, so that this information, the fights, the revelation, and the sex would have had more impact.

My friend Merrill, however, told me he thought this show was better than the first four episodes combined. So there's that.

I think I would've enjoyed the show more if A) I hadn't heard it was totally awesome before I saw it, and B) if I hadn't considered that Mellie might be an Active in the past. I'm sure it would've been an awesome surprise, especially if you thought our girl Mellie was about to meet her end.

Tyranist and I did talk about the mole inside the Dollhouse that gave Ballard the message through Echo. I thought it might have been Amy Acker or Alpha The Rogue Active. He thought it might have been Echo herself, or Amy Acker, or maybe, more intriguing, no one at all . . . that there is no mole, but that she was programmed to act like there was a mole to further mislead Ballard.

Time will tell, of course, and since this show has still not been canceled, we may actually find out.

Rish Outfield

*Unless you've already seen them meet in the unaired pilot like I have.

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