Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Dollhouse: Haunted

Boyd: "So we can give you life after death."
Topher: "Only if we really like you."

The preview for this episode turned me off. Just a murder mystery with a twist, I thought. So I wasn't expecting it to be so good. Stories like this one are what I was originally hoping Dollhouse could be.

Do people really love us for ourselves? What do they really think of us? Who will mourn us when we're gone? Adelle's friend Margaret (or rather, Margaret's imprint) discovered that her beloved son was a compulsive gambler who poisoned her for her money, and it broke her heart. But at least, she also learned that her daughter and her brother truly loved her. And, unexpectedly, so did her young trophy husband. And she got to posthumously right some wrongs, like re-write her will. Who wouldn't want a chance to do that?

And she didn't even try to keep Echo's body. At the end of the episode, I liked Margaret enormously. And I thought better of Adelle for having such a quality friend.

What really interested me, though, was the concept of dolls as life after death. My favorite science fiction author, John Varley, wrote several times about a future method of immortality: clones with memory imprints, like Margaret's. People get scans every now and then, and when they die, a clone is created and downloaded with their last brain scan. Someone goes on, and they look like you and they act like you and they even think they're you -- but they're not you. You're still dead and gone. Ersatz immortality, but better than nothing. Or is it?

Has someone actually done this in the Dollhouse 'verse? Is there a doll out there living someone else's life? I bet if someone has thought of it, someone has done it.

So Topher has his hand in the Dollhouse cookie jar, too, much like Adelle. Who was this person that Topher had imprinted once a year to play with? A real person that Topher cared about, or a construct? Male or female? Not that it matters, since Topher is so asexual. I suppose it doesn't matter.

This was the first time I felt any empathy at all for Topher. He's brilliant but childlike, and he has no one to play with. How narcissistic that he imprinted a buddy just like himself, not a lover or someone with a different perspective. Adelle's understanding was, well, understandable, I guess, considering she had a similar need. But note that she let Topher have it, while denying it to herself.

On to Paul and Mellie, who aren't doing so good. Paul isn't faking it well; he can't control his anger. I was disappointed in him taking out his frustrations on Mellie by getting rough with her in the bedroom. He knows what she is; he knows it isn't her fault. That wasn't very nice of him, was it?

Bits and pieces:

-- I thought "Margaret" was way too exuberant when she "awoke", too accepting of her own death. Later, it felt more logical; she seemed to be that kind of person, joy in the moment, acceptance of the inevitable.

-- Paul brought November's fingerprints to his friend at the FBI, and the file imploded. This can't be good for Paul. Or his friend.

-- Boyd was still fretting about being separated from Echo. I saw no sign of Echo's new handler in this episode, probably because the mission was off the grid and the Dollhouse was officially "inactive."

-- Speaking of which, Victor got an imprint as a horse breeder. No vacation for him. Or for Echo, November, or Sierra. Everyone else was down, and our four lead dolls were still working. And I thought they were the problem dolls?

-- Margaret got to ride her horse one final time. I know that if it were me, I'd want to spend time with my two cats.

-- Nice performances by Olivia Williams and Eliza Dushku. I particularly loved Eliza's performance on the terrace when her "son" hit on her and she was trying not to throw up. Very cute.


Topher: "You were no fun as Echo's handler, and now you get to be twice as no fun as head of security."

Echo/Margaret: "Am I being paranoid?"
Adelle: "You spent a year and a half having regular, painful brain scans because you thought someone was going to murder you. Paranoid is still a contender."

Boyd: "Eternal life."
Adelle: "Nice adjective. Excellent noun."

Sierra: "Speaking of sci-fi, can we play with the sleepies?"
Topher: "No."
Sierra: "Come on, Topher. We could have them battle one another and bet on them like gladiators."

Topher: "In a world where all men are guilty until proven dead..." Where was that from? It sounded like a quote.

Mellie: "I don't want you thinking I'm in here nuzzling your shirts while you're gone. Anything weird like that."
Paul: "Good to know."
Mellie: "I mean, they smell really good. Some of them, not so much. But overall, your shirts are nuzzle-worthy."

Echo/Margaret: "Will I see my whole life flash before my eyes?"
Adelle: "Every single moment."

Excellent. I am starting to seriously like this show. And waiting on renewal news is getting aggravating. Enough with the suspense, you nasty Fox suits,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Nice episode.

    My opinion is that Topher was having fun with... an imprint of himself. Anyone with me?

  2. "Stories like this one are what I was originally hoping Dollhouse could be."

    Exactly. And it will be a shame if the show doesn't get a second season to tell more stories like this.

    But honestly, the ratings for this episode were terrible and cancellation is most likely to happen. Sigh.

    Anyway, "Haunted" was the good standalone we expect from a Joss Whedon show. The final scene was terrific, specially the exchange you quoted.

    And next week we have Jane Espenson + Joss Whedon again! If for nothing else, Dollhouse was worth it for putting Jane, Joss and Tim Minear all on the same show! The next two episodes are to be terrific.

  3. I enjoyed this episode but it was not without its faults. The A plot, a delightful Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, was great fun (especially the aforementioned awkward terrace scene) but couldn’t say the same about the B and C plots.

    Topher really needs to grow out of his Peter Pan complex. He sees himself as nothing more than a big kid and everything is just a game. It’s not loveable but quite sad and a tiny bit pathetic. Maybe if he wasn’t so much of an arrogant arse he might not need to invent friends.

    I did find it odd that Echo’s core personality never bubbled to the surface as it often does. Was this because Margaret was a real person not a mish mash of other personalities and therefore more dominate? Sadly it seems increasingly doubtful we’ll ever get any answers to all our questions.

  4. Just like Carlos, my early thoughts were that Topher's buddy was a Topher imprint. The idea of painful brain scans reduces the likelyhood, and two Tophers would probably have spent a lot of time comparing notes on what improvements could be made to the systems further reducing this likelyhood.

    I did love their discussion of classic sci-fi blunders.

  5. This probably felt the most Joss-like of the episodes. The murder thing was interesting, but the Topher part was my favorite. I was expecting us to find out that the imprint is that of a former (likely deceased) buddy of Topher's, but imprinting the actives with himself would make sense.

  6. Eliza was amazing here especially the scene where Nicholas tried to hit on her and all of her scenes with Olivia. I also feel sorry for Paul who has to fake normalcy with Mellie.

  7. So when Mellie asks Paul if he's going to hunt for Dollhouse clients, and he says, "I found one," he means himself, right? His anger is directed at himself now, because he is using this person who doesn't know that she is a doll. But he has to keep up the relationship in order to keep working on the case...very twisted and morally grey.

  8. >>"I was disappointed in him taking out his frustrations on Mellie by getting rough with her in the bedroom. He knows what she is; he knows it isn't her fault. That wasn't very nice of him, was it?"
    I have major affection for the actor ever since his character on BSG so I don't know if it means he's a really good actor that I was always a little uncertain about how much I liked Ballard from the beginning of the show. But it didn't really surprise me or upset me that he'd do this, even though Mellie is a cute. A CUTE! Sierra is victimized on this show too though, repeatedly, so I don't know why that doesn't bother me as much as poor Mellie
    ^^And yeah @Wendy I assumed he was referring to himself as a Doll in spirit now.

    Anyway I just wanted to praise this episode. Dollhouse so far has been the one Whedon show where I cared way more about the mythology than just spending time in its universe and I cared about the procedural stuff as little as the ones on the earliest episodes of Justified before they went properly seasonal. But I dug this one as well.

    I like to think that was just another Topher imprint, because I like stories where clones actually get along fine with each other.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.