Sunday, March 22, 2009

TV Review: Dollhouse "Man on the Street"

The Plot: (from Echo (Eliza Dushku) tries to help a client (Patton Oswalt) heal the ache of a lost love as a TV reporter (Patrick Stinson) prepares an expose on the Dollhouse.

The Review: Dollhouse is still a fairly new show, but it's one I've come to love. It's an interesting science fiction premise that opens up world of possibilities. Our main character can literally go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone. Of course, this also present an enormous challenge to the actress, who must literally reinvent herself with each new episode. It's a difficult feat that Eliza Dushku pulls of admirably if not quite perfectly. It's definitely a chance to show her range, and she's already surprised me over and over again. The only place she really falters any is when she's in her "tabula rasa" mode, but in her defense it's very difficult to pull of a state of complete mindlessness.

That's not to say the show is perfect, however. One of my initial fears going in was that the show would be just like the promotional material, which focused almost entirely on Echo's sex appeal. As it turns out, these fears were not entirely unjustified. No matter how interesting and complex Echo's character is, almost every episode has to take a moment to remind us how physically attractive she is, as if we'd forgotten. There's always that bit were she's gotta seduce somebody, or somebody ogles or hits on her, or when she gotta get naked, etc. It's like the show keeps saying to the audience, "Hey, by the way, she's HOT! And not only that, she's HOT! Oh, we forgot to tell you, she's HOT!". Enough already!

I had another complaint, but this episode more than makes up for it, as I knew they eventually would. My complaint was the Agent Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) and his plot line didn't seem very relevant to the story. It was like every episode had the same old b-plot: Ballard running around in circles trying to find the Dollhouse, while DeWitt (Olivia Williams) supplies him with false lead after false lead. While the assumption was always that eventually Ballard's and Echo's paths would cross and he would actually become part of the a-plot, he was getting a little repetitive, and I was beginning to wish they would just get on with it.

But not only did this episode mark the first face-to-face encounter between Ballard and Echo, but is also featured a number of new mysteries, and twist I never saw coming. Now we not only have the questions revolving around the rogue active Alpha and his intentions, but now we're told (spoiler warning) that there's a mysterious insider in the Dollhouse organization working to expose them. Who is it? Is it Boyd? He certainly believes that what is done to the Dolls is wrong. Dr. Saunders? She obviously has some kinda past we don't know about, I mean what's with those scars? Topher? He seemed shaken up after he was told Alpha was still alive, no telling what he may do with his upgraded clearance. Or maybe Alpha is the informant, manipulating Ballard as well as Echo? Can't wait to find out. (spoiler end)

The news expose angle was interesting, inter cutting scenes with clips of random people being interviewed on the street about the much-rumored Dollhouse. It the first time the show really dealt with how, to the world at large, the Dollhouse is nothing more and an urban legend. In general, it didn't lend anything to the plot other than a few laughs, but it did help establish the Dollhouse's place in the world.

The show's creator, Joss Whedon, is greatly beloved by the geek community for creating shows such as Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But despite his widespread and devoted fan base, for some reason his work often doesn't make money. Firefly was cancelled after the first season, and even it's cinematic revival Serenity didn't do well financially. Dollhouse had also been performing poorly in the rating for the first four episodes, and it looked like it was doomed to be another of Whedon's lost gems. Last episode, when the ratings went up, I thought it might've been just a fluke. But wonder of wonders, the ratings remained high this episode! They didn't really rise, but still that's pretty impressive considering it was going up again the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. Please support this show, guys. We don't want this cancelled in the first season like Firefly, especially with Whedon saying he's got the first five seasons already mapped out.

Click here to visit the official website for Dollhouse.

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