Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Dollhouse" recap: Echo and Ballard, sittin' in a tree

This week's "Dollhouse" recap is a wee bit late, and will be short, as I've had a busy weekend of Christmas prep (gift buying, gift wrapping, cookie baking, card filling-out, etc.) and am zonked.
But I was impressed by this week's pair of episodes, "Meet Jane Doe/A Love Supreme." Though I've often observed (as have many others) that Eliza Dushku doesn't quite have the versatility required to play Echo, she was, admittedly, excellent in these two episodes, as we saw Echo finally becoming something close to a whole person.I would have liked to learn more about what happened during those three months between Echo's adventures in dumpster diving and her rebirth as Echo 2.0 (maybe Alpha Echo? Or is that too on the nose?).
But overall, both episodes were solid. In "Jane Doe," we saw Adelle betray Topher in what seemed like a total act of self-preservation. Adelle clearly saw that her bad guys had no shot against the really bad guys, represented by Keith Carradine's smarmy Matthew Harding. So, she decided to play their game, and turned over Topher's design for the remote imprint. You know -- the one that will, presumably, have a hand in destroying the world.
The scene in which Topher confronted her was brutal and an excellent moment for both Fran Kranz and Olivia Williams. "You're the coldest bitch on the planet," Kranz's Topher snarled at Adelle. He's kind of right, but maybe she felt she had no choice.
In "Love Supreme," we saw the very welcome return of Alan Tudyk as Alpha, who started picking off Echo's old romantic engagements. We learned, of course, that this was all a giant ploy to get to Ballard. You see, while spying on Echo and Ballard, Alpha saw them hooking up -- and realized the Echo was in love with Ballard. Not imprinted-by-a-creepy-chair love, but real love. Alpha, seemingly, kills Ballard, but (spoiler if you haven't seen Epitaph One), we know he doesn't really die. So what happens?
Overall, a smart, fun pair of episodes. And yes, it did feel a little strange to be watching a show about exploitation and human trafficking while I wrapped gifts for my 9-month-old nephew, but sometimes you have to multi-task.
Here are a few more observations on "Meet Jane Doe"/"A Love Supreme."
* Must say, it was a little jarring to see Glenn Morshower -- known mainly for playing stand-up guys on "24" and "Friday Night Lights" -- as a racist sheriff. In fact, that whole storyline felt like filler. I would have preferred a little more background on the evolution of Team Ballard/Echo/Langton instead.
* After all that build-up on the Ballard/Echo relationship, I thought the actual consummation of it might be lame or a letdown. But it wasn't. The romance felt sweet, sexy and totally earned.
* Ballard is kind of a tool, though -- at least when he scoffs at Echo's lack of culinary skills. "36 personalities and not one of them can cook." Dude, where are you from? The 1950s? Modernize, for Christ's sake.
* It was a good night for Topher lines. In addition to his "coldest bitch on the planet" line, we also had that great moment when Topher learns that Echo can access her old imprints without the aid of the chair.
"I'm obsolete," says a crushed Topher. "Now I know old people feel. And Blockbuster."
* In addition to Carradine, Morshower and Tudyk, we also saw the return of Patton Oswalt as Joel Mynor. To date, Mynor is the only "client" that I've liked even a little bit. Maybe that's because he turned to the Dollhouse out of a broken heart after losing his wife. But other clients have used the Dollhouse to heal emotionally, and I still thought they were icky. Perhaps I only like Mynor because he's played by Oswalt, who kind of raises the game on every show he's on.
* How scary was that scene when Alpha turned all the dolls into ass-kicking zombies? Scary, and beautifully choreographed.
* I've raved a lot about Enver Gjokaj's uncanny ability to capture the voice and mannerisms of other characters on the show (see last week's hot Topher-on-Topher action). But Tudyk did an excellent job this week of capturing Tahmoh Penikett's voice in that scene when Alpha accessed the Ballard identity he'd imprinted himself with.

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