Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Dollhouse" returns...for now

So, last night marked the start of the "Dollhouse" death march, as Fox aired back-to-back new episodes of the sci-fi drama -- not long after the network announced that it wouldn't renew the series for a third season.
This was the first of three two-hour extravaganzas that will air this month...before the series' final three episodes are burned off in January. The series finale airs Jan. 22 at 9 p.m.
But, as death marches go, last night's double whammy, "The Public Eye/The Left Hand," was pretty darn good.
Spoilers below.
First off, this week's ep featured an excellent guest cast, including Joss Whedon alumna Summer Glau, who played a brilliant -- albeit highly imbalanced -- programmer at the D.C. Dollhouse. We also saw the fabulous Ray Wise playing her boss, in a performance that renewed my sadness over the cancellation of "Reaper."
Those two guests were most prominently featured in the second half of the double feature, as Adelle and Topher traveled to D.C. to retrieve Echo and learn more about Sen. Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisoff), who was revealed to be some kind of active/human hybrid used by Rossum to discredit the Dollhouse theory.
It was great to see Fran Kranz's Topher face off with Glau's Bennett, a character who is basically a female version of himself. His inevitable fascination with her (and what I gather was her at least semi-genuine infatuation with him) was fun to watch. Topher is possibly the character who has grown the most over the course of this brief series. This season alone, we've seen him vulnerable, regretful and oddly sympathetic. And here, we got to see him come close to falling in love.
Well, until Bennett tried to have Echo killed. But such is love.
Anyway, here are some bullet points on "The Public Eye/The Left Hand."
* Not only did the episodes have great guest stars, we got see yet another great performance by Enver Gjokaj, arguably the show's most versatile actor. As Victor, he's been everything from the Dollhouse head of security to a serial killer to a bimbotic sorority girl. And here, we got to see him imprinted with the personality of Topher Brink. Oh my God -- so perfect. As always, Gjokaj flawlessly captured the voice, mannerisms and surface characteristic of the person Victor is "playing." The Topher-talks-to-Topher scenes in "The Left Hand" were a definite highlight. The episode's best exchange came when Real Topher described dead-armed Bennett to Victor Topher:
Real T: "Imagine John Cassavetes in 'The Fury' as a hot chick."
Victor T: "Which you know I often have!"
* Wow -- have to admit, I didn't see the Perrin twist coming. For much of the season, Denisof's scenes have felt like filler, but this week he got to shine as he learned a little about his past, and had to decide whether to face what happened to him or wipe it all away and continue to be used as a pawn. He chose the latter. Why, I wonder? Maybe he's not as strong as Echo, who has said repeatedly that she doesn't want to go back to the "sleep" of being an active. Anyway, he made the choice to be Rossum's monkey, and he took poor Madeline down with him. And how creepy/sad was that final scene of "The Left Hand," with Bennett, calmly standing over a terrified Madeline? Yeesh.
* Dude, what did Caroline do to Bennett? More importantly, when did she do it? And why? Was it during the raid on the Rossum lab? And, though we learned that Bennett is probably not a doll, something is definitely wrong with her. But what? How long has she been in D.C.? Where did they find her?
* What did you think?

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