Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Dollhouse" recap: To the Victor goes the booty-shaking

This week's episode of "Dollhouse" was a pretty strong one, highlighting the show's creepy underpinnings (it is SERIOUSLY dangerous to meddle in family disputes, particularly when they involve homicidal maniacs), while also providing some solid entertainment value (every time I think of Victor as Kiki, I smile).
Despite some weaknesses, which I'll touch on below, this episode is an example of how good "Dollhouse" can be. I seriously hope its ratings improve, because I'd really like to see where they're going with this. You?
Below are some more thoughts on this week's episode "Belle Chose."
* I like the moral complexity they're giving to Ballard as Echo's handler. Despite his decision to work for the Dollhouse -- and his own past with November/Madeline -- Ballard is SUPER uncomfortable with Echo going on sexually charged engagements. So much so that he'd rather profile a serial killer than watch Echo seduce a skeevy professor as the coquettish Kiki. Does this make him a hypocrite? Does it mean he truly cares for Echo/Caroline? Thoughts?
* By the way, I loved the doll costume room and am glad we're seeing it again after that glimpse in the "Needs" episode. And I loved that image of Ballard and the other handler waiting awkwardly for their charges as they "shop." "I won't even do this for my wife," moans the other handler. Ha!
* Ok, let's get into the meat of the episode -- the killer plot. Clearly, we're meant to notice that the sociopath in the coma isn't that different from the folks at the Dollhouse. He kidnaps women and forces them to play the roles of women in his life. He uses paralytics and not cutting edge technology, but there isn't a huge gap between this guy and Topher, brain scan not withstand. I guess Topher is marginally better, as he doesn't actually beat people to death with croquet mallets. Still, did he really have the right to get all judge-y about waking coma guy? Or, in the words of a highly amused Boyd Langton: "Topher has an ethical problem. Topher!"
Also, isn't it kind of weird that no one remarks on the similarities between the killer's actions and the Dollhouse? Not even Ballard or Langton? Wouldn't someone say something?
* In Topher's defense, I was happy to hear him use the phrase "man reaction" again.
* Reservations about the killer scenario aside, I loved that this week's episode was really a showcase for Enver Gjokaj as Victor. It's hard to say I have a favorite "character" among the actives as they are, by definition, without character. But Gjokaj is by far the best actor, able to be convincing in any persona. He was amazingly creepy as the killer, and sounded just like the actor who played the part in the episode's early scenes. But he was just as convincing as Kiki, prancing around like a nympho sorority girl, oblivious to the fact that he's really a man. Oh, and what a dancer!
* That said, it did Eliza Dushku a MAJOR disservice to have her and Gjokaj play the same characters. Though I think Dushku's really good as the evolving Echo, she's just not a chameleon-like performer, so it's hard to buy her as all these other characters. The scene where we realize the killer has been transferred to her body is jarring, and I did love the moment when "Echo" returns and warns the kidnapped women that the killer won't be truly gone until she is dead. But after Gjokaj's amazing, natural work as the same character, Dushku seemed a little flat. This isn't a knock on Dushku. When she's playing to her strengths, she's excellent. But Gjokaj is more versatile and this episode really showcased that.
* By the way, if "Dollhouse" doesn't make it beyond this season, can someone please find a vehicle for Gjokaj? He's a real find, and I'd love to see what he can do with a more developed character.
* OK, so why did Echo return to her body? Was it just a glitch? Or was it that she sensed what she was doing was evil and wanted to try and stop it? Also, the killer still seems to be in there. Is that just a tease, or is Mr. Creepy bound to return?
* Also want to mention that Dr. Saunders's departure finally came up this week. I liked the disagreement between DeWitt and Langton over whether she's "missing" or if she just left. Their differing viewpoints on this matter of semantics speaks to a larger issue. DeWitt still sees Saunders as an active. Langton sees her as a person. For all his supposed loyalty to the Dollhouse, he sees the soul in Saunders, just as he eventually saw it in Echo. Makes you wonder about that loyalty, doesn't it?
* One more point: Topher talks about the code needed to do a remote wipe via phone. I'm assuming this is the technology that he (or someone) will use to cause all the hell that happens in Epitaph One. Thoughts?

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