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Dollhouse: Vows

Echo: "Wait. What did they make me this time?"

Fake wedding in the beginning. Real wedding at the end.

I found the first half hour and the FBI plot confusing the first time through, and that's not good. But I thought the powerful ending made up for it. They fixed two huge problems I had with season one: (1) they finally made me like Echo and see her as the center of the story, and (2) they finally created a strong, emotional connection between Echo and Paul.

In fact, I liked every scene centered around the relationship between Echo and Paul. His distress at her having sex with Jamie Bamber. Him being the only one to realize she was in trouble. The way he recreated their fight in the Chinese restaurant in order to key up her programmed fighting skills. Her confession to him that she remembered everyone she has been, except who she really is.

Paul finally agreed to be Echo's handler in order to protect her -- no small thing, considering how distasteful he finds all of it. That rote recitation ("Do you trust me?" "With my life") actually meant something this time, because Echo and Paul were aware of what they were saying and they both totally meant it. Vows.

Claire's identity crisis was amusing as well as tragic. Interesting what Claire said about not wanting her current self to "die." It raises such complicated questions about self and identity. Isn't the current Claire, with her wealth of experience, just as much a person as whoever she originally was? I hope we see Claire again. I want to know who she is. I want her and Boyd to have a wild and crazy love affair, too. I loved that he asked her out. And that he did it only after he discovered she was a victim of the Dollhouse, too, and not really on the staff.

Topher's reaction to Claire's crisis showed us his human side. He's a brilliant, lonely geek who sleeps in a server room. Claire freaked him out by making a pass, and Topher brings up a Muppet? He's such a sexless man. At least he's no longer creeping me out.

I'm so glad Adelle's guilt over her sexual exploitation of Victor got him his beautiful face back. I'm very fond of Victor. I'm confused about the real Sierra, though. She is partly Asian, and prejudiced against Asians? Is this a "I hate myself" thing that she also expresses with sexual masochism? Or was she imprinted with someone else but dressed in her own clothes? Confusing.

I will again say that I love how Joss Whedon brings back actors that he loves. But having the casts of Buffy, Angel and Battlestar mixed together like this feels a little like television incest. And was outright weird to hear Jamie Bamber and Alexis Denisof reverse accents. Although, oddly, they were returning to their own accents. Television can be strange.

I also wish the first half hour had been easier to follow because I bet it turned off some new viewers; I'm surprised that Joss Whedon made a mistake like that. But it was still an emotionally stirring episode, and I loved it.

Bits and pieces:

-- The cast is the same as season one. New credits, all focused on Echo. Why not the rest of the cast, too?

-- Senator Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof) was introduced. Please give us lots of him, pretty pretty please. Many episodes. Did Paul give Senator Perrin his new anti-Rossum cause? Did Boyd?

-- Too bad Alexis Denisof didn't get to do a scene with Amy Acker. Maybe later, huh?

-- Jamie Bamber was suitably despicable. And he and Tahmoh got to do a scene together, which was fun.

-- Topher used Bride of Frankenstein as his alert mechanism for Claire hacking into his files. Funny and cruel at the same time, like Topher himself.

-- Was Claire about to go for a scalpel, like Alpha? That little hint did not make me happy.

-- Did some client pay to see Whiskey and Echo making it together???

-- Ivy got to add rat catching to her resume, along with fetching inappropriate starches.

-- Echo has three more years on her contract.

-- In this season's hair report, Adelle got a new do. More severe, a bit darker. I'm not sure I like it. Topher's hair seemed wilder and longer, too. Softer, maybe. Like him.


Boyd: "After that news anchor..."
Adelle: "Which one?"
Boyd: "The one who wanted to be rolled in eggs and flour and dipped."
Adelle: "Ah, Tempura Joe. Such a lonely soul."

Ivy: "We're backed up like LAX at Christmas."
Topher: "It's the autumn rush. Temperatures plummet to the high sixties. The leaves fall off that one tree on Wilshire."

Claire: "I like my scars. They bring out my eyes."

Claire: "What if she went over your head?"
Boyd: "I'm very tall."

Claire: "My entire existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest. What do you suggest I do?"
Boyd: "Have dinner with me."
This is a couple I could definitely get into.

Topher: "Guy's asleep. Could have been Fozzie Bear and I would have... not that I think about Fozzie Bear."

Claire: "So why didn't you stop there?"
Topher: "Because I was designing a person, not a Roomba."

Not sure how to rate it. What did you all think?

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


  1. I'm a bit iffy on this one. I enjoyed it...but I can't seem to formulate my thoughts into a coherent review. Maybe I need to re-watch it.

  2. I like your paragraph about the cast of characters feeling like television incest. After I watched it, I went and told my husband that 'Helo' and 'Apollo' had another throw down, and of course 'Apollo' got whooped again. By 'Faith,' too. And 'Fred' and 'Wes' put in an appearance, too! I also mentioned how weird it was to hear Bamber as British and Denisof as American, even though those are their real accents!

    Good review, Billie. You covered some nice character bits and quotes. And your point about Echo and Paul getting "married" was interesting. Not a parallel I really made note of while watching.

    I liked this one. I don't think Joss really cares about viewership, truth be told. He just wants to tell his story. This second season is just a little bit longer to tell that tale, not bring on new viewers.

  3. What I find funny is that Whedon re-shot the series pilot because test audiences found it "too confusing". Then the DVD release came out, and many fans decided that the original pilot was better than the one that aired. It appears that this season has Whedon sticking to his guns; he wasn't afraid to throw a complex plot into the opener...but fans are still complaining! Would they rather have a simple but blander season opener as opposed to a complex but emotionally-compelling one?

    Perhaps I'm biased b/c I didn't find this episode confusing, but that's what internet discussions are for: to help you figure out your favorite TV shows.

    Nice review, though. Like Lynde said, I didn't notice the married parallel until reading this.

    I'd rate this ep at least three out of four stars, due to all the character development, well-placed plot, and good action scenes (Echo dodging bullets on the windshield was awesome). The Claire/Topher scene alone was worth watching the whole episode. One thing I love about Whedon's shows is that much of the fanservice and eye candy take place in genuinely intelligent scenes. Plus, Amy Acker's acting range continues to amaze me, from the sweet Fred to the arrogant Illyria and now to tough and broken Saunders. Sure, it feels like TV incest now, but if the actors are good enough, we'll get used to their new roles in a few episodes.

  4. I didn't notice the wedding parallels, either. Way to go, Billie!

    Topher and Claire were incredible together. Like you, Billie, I've changed my mind about Topher as a result of this episode and Epitaph One.

    I'm really excited about this season.

  5. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the writing, Joss is usually much funnier.

    Also, Adelle acceptance of Echo's new discoveries seems to fast - or ill explained.

    To remark on Jess's comment about viewership; If Joss doesn't care about the numbers we wont get another season. I am defiantly willing to accept a more mainstream first episode just for that reason.

    Thanks for the review.

  6. You know, I think I've fallen into a "tell the story you want to tell" mode with my TV viewing. Yes, it sucks when shows get canceled, but I'd rather see the story the creator/writer wants to put out there (no matter how short) than something designed to cater to a wider audience. It almost never works when show runners change up their shows just to try to boost ratings. At least from a story perspective. (See Victoria's comments re: the original Dollhouse pilot and the one that aired.)

    Truth be told, I don't think I'd really want extra seasons of a show that isn't true to the original vision. Particularly a Joss Whedon show. Just my take though. I certainly understand fans wanting more and being concerned about writing choices that risk the show's viability from the network perspective.

  7. I thought that Sierra had been imprinted with someone else's personality and didn't realize that she herself was also Asia, which is what made it funny.

  8. Thought this was good if not spectacular start to the new season. The wedding plot dragged on for a while before reaching its kick-ass end.

    The ratings are still weak which is no big surprise. Dollhouse needs a strong lead-in to survive. Maybe it should be teamed up with Fringe and moved to Wednesday nights. But Fox seems intent to scuttle both shows.

  9. This was a so-so season premiere. There are too many plot points that are not making sense, and when you start nitpicking too much, you know the story is not working for you.

    I'm not a Ballard fan. And I can't think of a reason why Adelle is keeping him alive. What was he doing so far that could possibly be helping the Dollhouse? What's with him and Boyd not getting along when they acted like cop partners on "Omega"? And why Adelle made him Echo's handler if she knows he is too obsessed with Caroline?

    It gets worse. Claire found out she was a doll and nothing was done about that. So she left the House to solve her issues. Where were the freaking securities of this SECRET ORGANIZATION? Does anyone actually watches who is entering and who is leaving the House?

    This problem is not new on the show. Echo came back to the House on "Needs" and, even though the dolls were under surveillance, Adelle and co missed that. On "Briar Rose", Ballard and Boyd fought for a MILLION YEARS and no security appeared to help Boyd.

    I wonder if ME can actually pull the whole conspiracy and secret organization thing off. Yes, there were nice conspiracy plots on Angel and Firefly, but they were made from the outsiders point of view. Now it's not the same. The writers are not being as careful as they should.

    And then there's this episode's plot. A bomb dealer? That's it? No twists? No insight on Ballard's past (other than that he is bloody incompetent)? No explanation to why he wanted to take Bambie's character down? Or to why Adelle would have any interest in such a mission? Yes, I know it was all about Echo & Paul, but I wish Joss had tried harder to create an engaging plot.

    I also didn't notice the wedding parallels, but I actually liked the Echo & Paul pairing better the second time I watched the episode. Although I'd still prefer Echo having Boyd as her handler and evolving to Caroline by herself.

    The best part of the episode was Claire. Claire and Boyd. Claire and Echo. Claire and Topher. Claire is a terrific character and it's really unfortunate that Amy Acker is not available. If the show gets canceled, I hope she returns for the two episodes she is due.

    Until then (Acker's return, not the cancellation... hopefully), I hope the writers come up with better stand-alone episodes and start being more careful on the conspiracy front, because the plot contrivances are turning me off.

    All in all, there were good things on this premiere, even though it was missing on the fun (I missed the credits carefully paying attention at Sierra to see if she was hurt, so half way through the episode I was wondering if Joss was the one who wrote the episode) and the main plot was too simple.

  10. Oh, also, there were some weird cuts through the episode. I wonder if it was a budget problem, if Joss simply forgot to take some shots, or if the editing crew blew it.

  11. @ WhyMe: Joss Whedon stated in an interview soon after episode 7 aired that this show wasn't written entirely for the humor. There is only so much funny you could get in a show about people who sell their lives and minds. The witty lines are still there, like when Echo flirts with arms-dealer-guy on her wedding day, but too much focus on the light and fluffy will take away from the themes and spirit of the show.

    @ Lynde: Again, I agree with what you said. Better for an intelligent show to stay intelligent than to start catering to the lower common denominator in an effort to boost ratings.

    However, I think Dollhouse has less of a chance of getting canceled than Firefly did. With iTunes and Hulu around nowadays, ratings start to matter less than they once did. For example, Gossip Girl 1st season apparently got worse ratings than Dollhouse's, but it keeps getting renewed due to high internet interest.

    Also, one of Fox's higher-ups said that they didn't cancel Dollhouse because if they did, "I'd get 110 million angry emails in my inbox the next morning from fans." :) Fox is starting to realize that the Whedon fandom isn't exactly like others. Some producers will make one good show and then struggle for the rest of their career. Whedon, on the other hand, has a devoted and intelligent fanbase who'll keep coming back to his shows again and again and again, because he's proven himself very capable of continuing to pump out the good products.

  12. If anyone has questions about Dollhouse, read this link. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/JustBugsMe/Dollhouse

    If you have your own question, click the "Edit Page" link and type it in. People will answer it within days. It's a branch of Wikipedia, so it's very safe and trustworthy, no viruses or trojans. It'll ask you for a Username and Password, but that's just a formality for spammers and you don't actually have to register. Just type in any username, type the password it gives you, and you're set.

  13. I just remembered. In the episode where Echo returned from an engagement as a dominatrix, Claire told Boyd (or someone told someone) that dolls were never used as submissives. Am I right?

  14. And I posted my comment before I finished my thought. That means Sierra couldn't have been imprinted as a submissive.

  15. From my personal experiences, I've learned that it's very possible for people to prejudice against their own ethnic group.

    For example, suppose a brilliant but impoverished Chinese student legally immigrates to America with less than 80 bucks in his pocket. He studies hard, graduates with a phD from Ivy League, starts making six-digit salaries, and gains American citizenship. Life is good for him, but everytime he drives through his city's Chinatown, he starts mocking the "poor, dirty Chinese people". The man has spent so long in America that he consider himself American and has seperated himself from the stereotype of the desperate foreign immigrant. Thus, he feels he has the right to make fun of them. And if he has a son who is American born, considers himself completely as American, and is Chinese only in looks, then the son and will identify even less with his former country, and make fun of it even more.

    It sounds really stupid and impossible to you and me, but both kinds of people will happen if they're not properly educated against racism.

    I'm thinking Sierra was imprinted with either one of those personalities. Perhaps a client wanted a stereotypical British noble as his companion, and this kind of racism ended up being a side effect. :( Prolly something along those lines.

  16. I liked the premiere. Unlike many others, I did not have a hard time following the plot line at all. I'm used to my shows keeping me guessing and sometimes not making since at the start (probably from all my years of watching 'Alias', I swear most of the time I didn't understand most of Sloane's SD-6 briefings), but I think everything came together nicely at the end. It was also fun seeing Jamie Bamber, although his natural accent caught me offguard.

    Those ratings make me fear that we are not getting a third season. Hopefully Joss makes the most out of this one.

    And @ Victoria: Gossip Girl survived with such low viewership because it is on The CW, which is geared towards a very specific demographic and has much lower viewership than Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. Fox has higher standards for ratings and is known to cancel shows early. It was a miracle they gave Dollhouse a second season with it's first season ratings. Now that the ratings have gotten worse...well...let's just try and remain optimistic.

  17. Dose anyone know how Buffy did on its first two seasons?

  18. @ Why Me - Buffy's first two seasons existed in a time when shows weren't canceled after 3 episodes. This is very recent. Back then, they would sometimes even go 2 seasons before they pulled a show.

    I just got around to watching this last night, but I did want to comment. Jamie Bamber + English accent = HOT. I always loved him in BSG, especially after that towel scene ;-) But the accent, and the bad boy arms dealing thing, was just delicious. How can I get my hands on L&O London?

    I thought the plot was a little confusing in the beginning, but I think it was supposed to be intricate and surprising. One thing I wasn't clear on was how long this engagement lasted. The way it seemed, Echo would have had to been in it for some long term if she would meet Bamber's character, get him to fall in love with him, and then get married. No?

    Topher and Whiskey were by far the best element of the night. The cat and rat game Whiskey was playing with him was awesome. It also showed Topher's really more human than we thought. He still cares more for science/technology than human lives, that's for sure, but he's not altogether heartless.

    I have a hard time believing that Dollhouse would fully restore their original selves without some modification - surely they would at least tweak it a bit so that the Doll's experience seems better than it was?

    Amy Acker did a phenomenal job on this one too, and it brought up a whole lot of questions regarding how much of the Doll is left even after s/he has been restored. Does Whisky want to be Whiskey or Saunders or who she originally was? Isn't identity a mixture of your natural personality and your experience? Even if that experience was artificially created and separated from your primary consciousness, I still think it would influence your identity.

    Also, if Echo retains the memories of her personalities, but not Caroline, how come she is still a Doll? She's still acts Doll-like, but she's not a clean slate, she has those experiences and personalities inside her. Is she pretending?

    I don't see these as plot hole questions, but rather as indicators that the concept is working. Overall, I really liked Vows. But again, I could have watched The Hills if it had Jamie Bamber with an English accent reading the phone book.

  19. I enjoyed this ep alot and that was mostly because of the couples. Boyd and Caroline work better for me together than apart and the Dr Saunders and Topher scene's were fascinating, fun and intense. Is it weird that i would love to see them as a couple ?

  20. Amy Acker was amazing and her material and her interactions with Fran were amazing.
    I also really liked the case of the week.


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