Friday’s two episodes of Dollhouse were well worth the wait. (Spoilers included here). The show became far more political, dealing with a plot by Rossum to both control a Senator and exonerate themselves from the charges against them by those who have a little knowledge of the doll houses. It worked out particularly well to air these two episodes the same night as they presented a coherent two hour story.
The big twist of the show was that Senator Daniel Perrin was a doll to further Rossum’s goals as opposed to really trying to expose them. There were suggestions that his wife was a doll but she seemed far too much in control for me to buy that. I suspected that the twist would be that she was a human planted by Rossum instead of a doll, but in retrospect her scenes with the Senator did point to him being a doll.
Perrin ultimately faced the same type of choice as Sierra and chose to allow Rossum to reprogram him. Apparently the knowledge that his past success was a fake and his role in the death of his wife were too much for him to take.
The portions with Summer Glau turned out to be far less impressive than many other portions of the episodes. Apparently Caroline was responsible for an injury to her arm in her days as an ec0-terrorist before her mind was wiped. This bit of Caroline’s back story didn’t seem very meaningful unless they are going to do more with this. Meanwhile Echo appears to be realizing that if Caroline returns her identity is gone.
Other positive aspects of the episodes included Ballard’s interaction with the real Madeline, who doesn’t seem that grateful to Ballard for her release (if she truly has been released). The best acting job was by Enver Gjokaj (Victor) who was imprinted with Topher’s memories and did an amazing imitation of him.
Unfortunately the ratings were not very impressive, and I wonder if they would have been even worse if not for the guest appearance by Summer Glau. Perhaps the show would be doing better if it was not hidden on a Friday night, and if we had similar quality from the start.
Creative interference from Fox has been blamed for the lower quality of the earlier shows. It has been widely believed that the dispute was based upon Fox wanting more stand alone shows of Echo’s weekly adventures but in an interview in the Chicago Tribune Joss Whedon described the disputes as being more over sex:
“The problems that the show encountered weren’t standalone versus mythology [episodes],” Whedon said. “Basically, the show didn’t really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it. And then ultimately, the show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually think they did a good job, but it’s just not a slam-dunk concept.”
Midway through its first season, “Dollhouse” hit upon a espionage-thriller format that seemed to be a better fit than the standalone, engagement-oriented episodes that aired early in the show’s run. But Whedon said he always wanted look more closely at the desires and fantasy lives of the Dollhouse’s clients. Even into the show’s second season, however, that idea made Fox “twitchy,” according to Whedon.
Part of the show was going to be about “what we get from each other in our most intimate relationships, be they sexual” or whatever else, Whedon said. But “the interest in the client kind of moved away.”
“When you’re dealing with fantasies, particularly sexual ones, you’re going off the reservation,” Whedon said. “You’re not going to be doing things that are perfectly correct. It’s supposed to be about the sides of us that we don’t want people to see…. The idea of sexuality was a big part of the show when it started and when that fell out, when the show turned into a thriller every week, it took something out of it that was kind of basic to what we were trying to do.”
“We got the espionage that the network wants, but it’s the questions about identity that we want,” he noted. “There are other things about the show that never came back, and I didn’t really realize it until the second season — [there were] things that we were ultimately sort of dancing around…. We always found ourselves sort of moving away from what had been part of the original spark of the show and that ultimately just makes it really hard to write these stories.”
I told him I had trouble wrapping my head around the idea that Fox wanted less sex.
“This is the thing that caught me off guard,” he replied. “First of all, network television has taken great treads backwards in terms of dealing with sexuality or the body or anything. I mean, now on cable everybody is prancing about naked and whatnot. On the networks, it’s gotten different since I was last making TV.
“Fox sort of has that reputation for ‘sexy’ or ‘edgy’ or blah blah blah, but they don’t actually want that and it frustrates me,” he continued. “It’s the classic American double standard: torture — great. Sex — oh, that’s so bad!”
Whedon was careful to point out that he could understand the wariness of both the network and the viewers. After all, the dolls, including Echo (Eliza Dushku), aren’t exactly in a position to give what we think of as informed consent to specific engagements (which can range from bank heists to marriage to the kind of heartbreaking exploitation seen in the recent, wonderfully written episode “Belonging”).
“People responded to ['Dollhouse' by saying], ‘This is trafficking. This is sex for money.’ It wasn’t just sex,” Whedon said. Part of the problem was “the other implications of what was originally supposed to be somewhat more of a fantasy. The real-world version of [this kind of activity] was I think what made the network really twitchy and I can’t really fault them for that. I just thought when I went in and pitched it …you know, it frightened me too [but I thought] we all got that that was what we were doing.”
The article suggests dissatisfaction on Whedon’s part with the broadcast networks. I’ve suggested in the past that Dollhouse would have been a better fit for HBO or Showtime where the sexual content wouldn’t have been a problem and many of the scenes could have been more explicit.
The article includes further information on the final episodes. Alpha returns next week. Amy Acker will be returning to the January 8 and January 15 episodes. The finale, Epitaph Two: Return, airs on January 22 and returns to the apocalyptic future seen in Epitaph One.
Dollhouse had poor ratings after returning form its hiatus, and I hope that going on hiatus does not harm shows such as FlashForward and V. The final episode of FlashForward until March at least partially answered some questions but far bigger ones were raised. We were teased about the possibility that the future was not definite by Zoey’s vision of Demetri at their wedding. Now that we know that the future is not set (and even a suggestion of multiple possible futures was raised) we found that Zoey’s vision was not of their wedding but of Demetri’s memorial service.
Lloyd has confessed to his actions which might have led to the flash forwards over Simon’s objections. This confession led to Lloyd’s kidnapping. Seeing Simon’s surprise over the photographs of his design, especially as they predated his work, leads me to believe Simon that they were not really the cause.
I’m not sure what to make of Nhadra Udaya or her statement that Demitri was murdered by Mark. Do actions such as Mark getting thrown out of the FBI and Lloyd’s kidnapping totally change the future as seen in the flash forwards or are these steps which lead to the conditions shown?
The other major event on genre shows this week was Nathan’s death on Heroes. I had a separate post last week on the news that John Borrowman has confirmed he will be returning to Torchwood for a full thirteen episode season. Beyond genre shows, Glee and Friday Night Lights each had one of their better episodes of the season. This week’s episode of Glee sets up the fall finale, with the show also going on a hiatus.
I don’t want to say much about Friday Night Lights as many might not be viewing it until NBC airs the season this winter. As there has already been articles on this, I will mention that the events of the episode (which I will not reveal) give a reason for Lila (Minka Kelly) to return. She did not have much contact with Tim Riggins yet but I suspect she will create further complications for Riggins, who is currently involved with both a mother and daughter. The mother is played by Alecia Witt. Somehow I have difficulty thinking that Alecia Witt is now playing the other character rather than daughter, and have visions of Zoey, her character on Cybill, mocking the Texas town and the beauty pageant scene the daughter is into.
Scrubs returned with two episodes lat week as they attempt to transition to a new cast. Zach Braff will only be appearing in six episodes and I wonder if they wouldn’t have been better off allowing the show to come to a dignified end last season. At least it wasn’t as bad as the final season of Seventh Heaven after they tried to return the show for an additional year with a reduced cast.