Sunday, March 29, 2009

TV Review: Dollhouse "Echoes"

Season 1, Episode 7 (Original Air Date: Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 8/7c on FOX)

The Plot: (From Echo (Eliza Dushku) abandons an assignment when she is drawn to a nearby college where the entire campus is being affected by a mysterious memory drug.

The Review: I said last week that Dollhouse was a great new science fiction series. And that's still true. But I think now, at the seventh episode, the show has finally produced an episode that I didn't like. I suppose it was inevitable, no show is perfect after all (Although Firefly went it's full season without really disappointing me. Oh, well). Maybe it's just disappointment after the last episode, which was without a doubt the best the series has yet produced.

That said, this is not a terrible episode, it's simply not up to par with everything we've seen so far (hey, that rhymes!) To show's credit, it's entertaining and engaging even on it's off days. I rather watch "Echoes" on a loop for 48 hours straight than 5 minutes of any given reality show or Disney Channel garbage.

The first thing that disappointed me was that it did nothing to advance the Agent Ballard storyline. After "Man on the Street" finally brought Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) to the forefront of the story in a big way, I was excited to see what he would do this episode. But he didn't do anything, except maybe have a small relationship talk of no real consequence with Mellie (Miracle Laurie). He barely even appeared.

Also, the whole episode was, well, a bit of a mindf*ck. Strike that, it was a total mindf*ck. And not a mindf*ck like the ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the pink elephant scene from Dumbo. I mean a mindf*ck more lick the Architect scene from The Matrix Reloaded: you've got no idea what's going on, and you're not sure the writers do either. The plot is convoluted, and story elements go completely unexplained, or if they were I missed them. There were times when I thought I had been affected by the drug. Probably the biggest WTF moment was when they employ the magic reset button at the end with little to no explanation. (spoiler warning) Almost every employee and Active in the Dollhouse organization is caught with their pants down by the drug, out in the field in a populated area, as are the people back at base...And yet somehow they are able to clean the whole thing up without the authorities even noticing. And no, that's not another mystery to be solved, it's just poor writing. (spoiler ending)

But my major complaint was that this episode was, to be honest, a major waste of potential. This plot basically called for almost every single character to have all inhibitions and memory blocks removed. This is a incredible opportunity for character development, the chances to see these people as they truly are. But it never happens. The memory drugs effects are played almost entirely for laughs (not terribly funny ones at that), and when they aren't, they don't really tell us anything we don't already know. The only real exception is Echo, and frankly, the more I find out about her former self Caroline, the less I like her. Apparently (spoiler warning) she was just some crazy animal rights bitch who got her boyfriend killed just because she didn't like labs using guinea pigs as...well, guinea pigs. Incidentally, when she and her boyfriend do break into the lab, they discover the lab's also experimenting on human infants, but she's still way more concerned with the caged monkeys (spoiler ending). Wow. Not only have they spoiled Echo's secret origin halfway through the first season, but her secret origin makes her completely unlikable. There better be more to this, Whedon.

So yeah, this latest episode was pretty disappointing. Hope the show doesn't lose viewers for this, they were on a roll. I still love Dollhouse, as demonstrated by the fact that I expected so much more than this. But hey, we've still got a 6:1 ratio in are favor, and in all likelihood, this was just a rare misstep. Although, there is a part of me that's afraid Joss Whedon's already been handed a cancellation notice, and has to cram his five seasons of planned brilliance into this season. Pray to God I'm wrong.

Click here to visit the official website for Dollhouse.

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