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October 8, 2015

Dollhouse: Belle Chose

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 10th 2009 3:55AM
Dollhouse: Belle Chose
(S02E03) It looks like the production schedule had this one slated to be the second episode of the season, rather than the third. It was a little odd how much time was spent in showing Ballard getting used to the complete process in turning a Doll into an Active. I kept thinking, "He was fine with last week's mommy engagement?" Knowing that this was intended to be the first episode after he took on the role as her Handler makes more sense.

It also means FOX is screwing around with Whedon's intended schedule on his show ... again! I can't understand how network executives think narrative flow between episodes means nothing. Do they think that fans are so stupid we can't follow a thread between episodes, nor will we notice when things are out of whack?

This would probably have worked better as a second episode anyway, because it got a little more into the technology behind the Dollhouse, as well as how it can go wrong.

I didn't even see the mindswap coming when Topher tried the remote wipe on Victor. I guess I should have, though, because otherwise, Echo's engagement was about the most boring thing we've ever seen her in. Poor sad and lonely professor. He paid big bucks to get a dim-witted college student who could bribe her way to sex, and instead he wound up with a puncture wound in his neck.

The whole crazy kidnapper killer storyline was a little bizarre. I wasn't sure how they were going to bring Michael Hogan in, but I was hoping for more than him busting out his nephew (in Victor's body) and then taking a header into the steering wheel. "Thank you, Mr. Hogan. That will be all."

I did enjoy the nephew's character, though. The "dolls" he made of his victims to re-enact croquette, of all things, were certainly surreal. The one who died in the beginning was very convincing as a plastic doll. It gave a new meaning to the name of the show, and can make you think a little about what they're doing to these real personalities at the Dollhouse.

Speaking of which, Topher's abilities with the mindwiping and swapping are getting more and more dangerously advanced. These are the things the series needs to give us more of if they want to survive 2009. The rate the series is hemorrhaging viewers doesn't bode well at all.

Even though Summer Glau isn't scheduled to appear for two more episodes, FOX had to trot out promos of her now in the hopes they'll still have viewers by Halloween. It worked for FlashForward. They started hyping Dominic Monaghan in the first episode and we're still waiting.

The bottom line for me, still, is that this doesn't feel like a winning Joss Whedon concept still. Whedon builds amazing ensembles and "family" units in his shows, and there's none of that here. I still don't feel anything for anybody on the show, and that's not good when we're 16 episodes in now. I'm not sure if its too high concept, or if its just not coming out right, but something's gotta change.

And then they need some major buzz-factor to lure viewers back in. Summer Glau might help, or it might remind people that FOX canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in its second season, just like they might end up canning this one. What would have really helped was an airing of "Epitaph One." At least then people could have seen that there was more to this world than Eliza Duskhu getting imprinted as someone else each week.

[Watch clips and episodes of Dollhouse at SlashControl.]

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I love the underlying metaphor that the Chair and the Dollhouse are serving a need for myth. The stories follow the logic of the Heroic Journey, which is ultimately a journey of self-understanding. And for the audience to really look in the mirror, the writing has to bend itself to show two (or more) sides to everything. Even to the extent of having empathy for those who have none. Given mixed emotions, the audience has to sort them out, they have to pay attention - which drives them crazy.

October 11 2009 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoyed Viktor being switched w/ Eliza's brain. And then of course, that jerk (Andrew DiPalma) from Deadgirl was present. Could've sworn he'd be the gay guy, with the upturned collar and all.

October 11 2009 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have learned to ignore the numerous plotholes in Dollhouse. The premise of the show is fundamentally inconceivable and everything related to it can't be placed in real world context, even logic (I know that's ridiculous).

I found the episode to be very engaging with the serial killer and Topher's manipulation of Dollhouse technology. The Echo story I could do without, but overall, it was a strong episode. Full review of the episode.


October 10 2009 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoyed the episode for the most part, but I'm not really enjoying the inane writing that has the Dollhouse staff be so inept. The place sure seems to be easy to sneak in and out of and they never seem to learn from past failure.

"Oh my! Someone has absconded with our serial killer. What ever will we do?"

October 10 2009 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Interesting, I wasn't aware that they switched episodes, but that does make more sense. I think this was definitely an excellent episode though. It's great to watch a Tim Minear episode (as opposed to the previous week). He's just so comfortable with the world's Joss Whedon creates. I just hope that Fox doesn't screw this up.

October 10 2009 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So sad that this show might not even air its full, shortened season -- chatter around town is that Fox might not air any episodes past 6 or 7 and air double-doses of "Til Death." Great idea, right?

October 10 2009 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why does Joss continue to work with fox? This shows can be done on SyFy for roughly the same budget and have more love. Eff Fox and their treatment of Sci-fi - where the hell is Vituality?

BTW - Why don't they just rename Dollhouse to: "Battlestar Galactica Cast Reunion Power Hour?"

Seriously, whenever I watch Dollhouse I end up thinking "Man BSG was an amazing show. Why am I not watching it right now? I wonder if they can bring it back?"

October 10 2009 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Leroy, to be fair, Fox is literally the MOST dimwitted network on the air...

If this was SciFi (SyFy), he'd be a lock for at least 5 seasons...

October 10 2009 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It always saddens me to see truly intelligent, complex ideas explored thoughtfully on TV because they are always derided and/or ignored by fools too dimwitted to understand them. That's Joss' real failing. He wants to make something actually good for American viewers. Sadly they refuse to accept anything that doesn't spoonfeed itself to them in the most simplistic of terms.

October 10 2009 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Leroy's comment

It's true. Complexity is something that people can't deal with. If it's not in black and white fed by a nice little spoon, people have to deal with mixed emotions and have to think a little bit.

All of the non-dolls in this story are nuanced -- in some ways they mean well, but are compromising in ways that seriously push moral boundries. Topher compromises to work on cool tech, Ballard is compromised by his personal feelings for Echo. Boyd and Adele strive to treat the dolls well, but at the same time tolerate the abuse and inherent injustice of the system they are a part of. Dominick is a nasty brute, but actually had the best intentions of the whole bunch. The Senator trying to bring them down is compromised by wanting revenge against the Rossum corporation for not helping his family. Whiskey is kind, but doesn't want to give up the body she occupies even though she knows its stolen. Echo/Caroline herself is noble and couragous, but at the same time was unable to face her unspecified personal demons and copped out to become a doll.

Look that that list! Every recurring character on the show has an imbalance that makes them some sort of shade of grey. It's kind of incredible -- what makes this show fantastic and interesting. And of course people don't like it -- they'd rather watch fat people eat goat testicles on some faraway island. That's much less challenging.

October 11 2009 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ryan, thank you for taking the time to spell these ideas out so clearly. This sort of complexity is what makes Whedon's work so great to the perceptive and so incomprehensible to fans of mindless dreck. I wish the American education system were capable of producing more of the former and fewer of the latter.

October 11 2009 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm still not understanding why more people don't get this show. This episode progressed the Epitaph One storyline by having Topher remote wipe the dolls. This is his first step toward being able to use remote wiping as the weapon it becomes.

And the idea that the reviewer of this article doesn't know who to root for is ridiculous. The most telling scene was when Echo and Victor had their imprints switched. While Victor went full-blown Kiki and didn't question why he was suddenly a girl with boy parts, Echo began to fight her imprint. That right there shows us how special Echo is. And then at the end, after Topher wipes her, she still remembers him.

We're seeing the beginning of Echo being able to access her other imprints while still maintaining control over her self.

Some of the acting on Dollhouse is clunky (though I think Enver as Victor is maybe one of the most talented Actives... guy did serial killer to party girl with no problem) but I think it's the most compelling show Joss has ever done. The fact that so few people see it makes me really wonder what they're watching.

October 10 2009 at 10:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hutch's comment

i agree! when i was watching this episode, i was amazed at enver's acting

October 10 2009 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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