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October 4, 2015

Dollhouse: Can Actives really earn their freedom?

by Mike Moody, posted Oct 6th 2009 3:05PM
dollhouse november topher foxSuppose you were the head of a real-life Dollhouse that wiped volunteers' personalities, downloaded new ones into their brains, and rented them out to the super rich and privileged. Would you let your Dolls walk away, no strings attached, after they've honored their contract?

Yeah, me neither.

The last episode of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, "Instinct," featured the newly liberated November/Madeline (Miracle Laurie) returning to the Dollhouse to undergo a "diagnostic." According to Adelle, the procedure is necessary to make sure Topher's tech didn't permanently blow a fuse inside Madeline's pretty head. Madeline was understandably cautious when Adelle came to visit her and prod her into getting the check-up. "I have this irrational fear that if I say the wrong thing, men in suits are going to throw me in a black van and take me away," she said.

Can you blame her?

What's to keep Adelle and Rossum from controlling Madeline's actions from afar to make sure she doesn't expose the Dollhouse? It's likely that Topher was ordered to make it so she loses her ability to speak -- or feels the need to do nothing but hunker down in the basement and watch twelve straight hours of Babylon 5 or something -- every time she thinks about telling someone about the Dollhouse.

During her chat with Adelle, Madeline mentioned that she felt the need to stay close to home. It's possible that this need was implanted to make it easier for Rossum to keep an eye on her.

Bottom line, it's silly to think that former Actives would be allowed to run free in the world with full knowledge of where the Dollhouse is and what it does. Once a Doll, always a Doll. At least this means we'll probably get to see more of the talented Miracle Laurie later this season. I doubt the Dollhouse is done with Madeline, and I'm sure Whedon is ready to take her to places we've yet to imagine.

What do you think? Can Actives really earn their freedom?

[Watch clips and episodes of Dollhouse at SlashControl.]

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The former actives have to be aware of the influence and power that the dollhouse has as well as the methods used to ensure that they are able to continue their clandestine operations. Combine that with the vast sums of money individuals are paid to become actives, and you have the perfect recipe to ensure silence.

That said, I don't think for one minute that Mellie/November has truly been set free. I have this nagging suspicion that the sleeper personality is still hiding out in her head.

October 09 2009 at 11:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really I think Madeline put it best herself when she said she was worried if she said the wrong thing that men in suits would take her away. That lingering fear is in everyone who's been a part of the dollhouse because they know the full extent of their power and they know if they set a foot wrong that the dollhouse can and will silence them. They don't need to imprint the fear because it's there on it's own.

I really reckon that this show is fantastic, yeah it was a slow starter but then again what Joss show isn't? Buffy wasn't instantly perfect, it took them a few episodes to find their footing. Firefly faltered due to Studio interfearence. If you stick with Joss he gives you gold and I've yet to find something he's done that's contradicted that idea.

October 08 2009 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't buy it. The whole point of Adele and the rest of the LA Dollhouse breaking away from Rossum in "Epitaph One" was because Adele didn't approve of holding onto actives beyond what they signed on for. Why would she be so outraged by that if they're already doing it now?

Of course, Madeline/November is a bit of a special case, since technically her five year contract isn't up yet, so I wouldn't be too thrown for a loop if it turns out that Adele is using her to deceive Ballard and is still planning on letting her go when her contract actually ends. She's done more gloriously diabolical stuff than that already.

October 08 2009 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you remember November can be activated by phone. Instant self destruct just say the code phrase and the active kills them self.

I think that they are made to retain the memories of the doll house it can be used as leverage against them. They could also still have some programming that can reactivate if needed and have them report to the doll house.

I mean seriously how would you ever know if they were out of your head completely? I don't think it shows up on a MRI. Who would you go to. Your primary care doctor? Hey doc, I was a doll (no memory, under control of others and had my brain wiped) could you check to see that there isn't any programming left? You would be in a straight jacket faster than you could say "just kidding". So from the Rossum Corp. point of view it is a win win. They can reactive you (you probably wouldn't even remember) and discredit you and have you declared nuts.

October 07 2009 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's another one of the logic problems this show's whole premise has suffered from since the first episode. Sigh....

It's weird: I would have said two things for sure before this show started airing. One would be that utterly implausible premises are no impediment to a great show (teenaged Valley girl vampire slayers, anyone?). The other would be that Joss Whedon can do no wrong.

Somehow, I was wrong on both counts. This show just doesn't work. I can't quite put my finger on one concise explanation or criticism -it just doesn't work.

I never would have thought I'd say that about a Whedon show.

October 07 2009 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment

This "logic hole" is easily solved by a voluntary partial imprint added to the original personality to see speaking out about the Dollhouse as a mistake. Or, rather you could use the oldest memory trick: offer them a constant and large source of income if they keep quiet. Consider the enemies former Doll's might risk making and it becomes less likely. They did all agree to BECOME a Doll in the first place to solve some sort of problem them got themselves in, so unless someone decided to pull a bloody incredible sting, (which makes no sense if they knew the dollhouse existed) I think letting the Dolls go seems like a perfectly reasonable choice.

October 09 2009 at 5:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan Chichian

If they really let them go free why would they need the attic?

October 07 2009 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan Chichian's comment

I always just thought that they let them go free because it gave them credibility and a good reputation (for what little reputation they had).
Whereas the attic was for very, very broken dolls. Dolls like Alpha, and maybe eventually Echo, who the wipes just don't seem to work on anymore. Dolls like that, even after re-imprinting their old personality, are unreliable. Who is to say that they won't jump up and go crazy, or suddenly remember everything? Though they don't often say it to each other in the show, the employers know that the imprinting process isn't perfect.

Dolls like November never really malfunctioned, so it's safe to let them go free. Or even let them talk to the new recruits, and reassure the future actives that it really does work out.

That's not to say that Rossum doesn't want to keep an eye on them just in case...

But that was what occurred to me when I watched it...

October 08 2009 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My wife has DVR'd the last two episodes. Wow, this show has just lost any cool it earned with its penultimate episode. It's so generic now. no overriding themes, no menace, nothing...

October 07 2009 at 12:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Gunter

I wonder why they would imprint an active's original imprint and leave memories of the dollhouse intact.Wouldn't they erase the memories of the dollhouse once an active was done?I agree that you can't have former actives running around with the knowledge of the inner workings of the dollhouse and expect nothing to go wrong and everyone to stay quiet.That's another TV series waiting to happen.Maybe even a movie.

October 06 2009 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With something as illegal as the Dollhouse Rossum would never let them go scotfree. There would be some self distruct order left behnd.

October 06 2009 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Based solely on Adelle's behaviour in the past I think she really believes in the system. I don't know what Rossum overall thinks of the system, but in Epitath One Adelle was against using the actives as backup bodies for the highest bidder. I believe she even said that these are real people and you can't screw them over and use their bodies like that.

So yeah, at this point in time Adelle thinks that she's going to give back these people their freedom but it's clear that Rossum has other plans.

It is always possible like you said that when Actives are let go (although I think there hasn't been a generation yet of Actives who filled their 5 year contract) they get their personality back with a few "changes"

October 06 2009 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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