Time to dust off the Random Episode Carusometer to get the measure of the much-fabled “game changing” episode six of Dollhouse.
When last we left Dollhouse, we were thinking it was a bit rubbish. Episode six was supposed to change that. And it did. A bit.
Now, there are still flaws in the show. Great big flaws. It’s still impossible to identify or even like most of the characters, even FBI martial artist Tahmoh Penikett and Echo (Eliza Dushku) the blank-faced drone. It’s hard to say exactly if the show is about anything, or says anything.
But episode six was actually pretty good, since it mostly dispensed with the “undercover op of the week” plot, in favour of full-on Dollhouse politics.
So we had the revelation that one of the handlers was a rapist and abusing an Active, that there were many dollhouses around the world (isn’t there supposed to be only one tech guy that can understand all of the technology?), that there’s a spy inside the Dollhouse that can re-program Actives on behalf of some other shadowy but probably good organisation and there are sleeper Actives. The sleeper Active storyline was well done, but we’d already had the reveal that Victor was an Active so having another Active monitoring Tahmoh seems like overkill and ‘been there, done that’.
We also had some crumby vox pops on a fake news report, and a quite touching piece from a Dollhouse client about why he used the Dollhouse.
But on the whole, far more promising than previous episodes. It’s probably worth sticking with for a little bit longer, just to see if the scripts remain this focused on the Dollhouse arc rather than dwelling too much on the ever-so-tedious undercover stories. Not sure how many episodes – certainly I don’t think Echo/Caroline’s going to get her proper personality back any time soon, maybe not until the last episode, so that’s a problem. And there desperately needs to be some non-plot oriented characterisation for everyone. But if the drip-drip of information continues at this rate, it’ll probably be at least endurable, if not compelling.
PS If you’re into your martial arts, you’ll notice that the final meeting/fight between Eliza and Tahmoh was
a) very well done
b) kind of a tribute to both Buffy and the changing nature of TV martial arts. As choreographed, Eliza was there using most of the same kickboxing-style techniques as she’d been seen using as Faith in Buffy 10 years ago, while Tahmoh was using mixed martial arts techniques – an interesting contrast, showing how times have changed in TV fights over the last decade.
c) a suggestion that every week, just like Buffy, we’re going to have lots of fights. Which is another reason to stick with the show, I guess.