Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gather, Dollhouse Fans!

Caught myself up on Dollhouse, finally. It's been said elsewhere, but it's a shame the show's getting cancelled (and not without justification; the ratings really were dismal) just as it's hitting a real hot streak.

Immediately after finishing the episode, I hopped onto an email chat with my pal Jason over at My New Plaid Pants. In lieu of an episode review, I'm pasting the (SPOILER-riddled, obvs) conversation here, which I kicked off with a sober and measured statement:


JA: Amy. Fucking. Acker. BANG. You got some lady on yo face, Topher.

Joe: I will say, I don't think I was as shattered as maybe I was expected to be at that moment because I never fully bought Summer Glau's Bennett as genuinely into Topher. I was forever anticipating her turning on him. And, honestly, Whiskey had her arms behind her back for that WHOLE scene AND was acting all nicey-nice? Clearly someone was about to die.

The Boyd thing blew me away and totally throws "Epitaph One" into a whole new light (but how does she lose her scars???).

You could definitely tell this episode was made after the hammer came down. The compression was really apparent (November's journey from D.C. dollhouse to L.A. to Mellie to Ballard's ladyfriend probs would have happened over at least a couple episodes, as would Bennett's integration into the Dollhouse/her romance with Topher).

Joss always does a bang-up job with the side characters, though. Why do I care so much about Ivy?? It seems this whole episode I was either happy that Ivy was being included in the Go Team, or worried Ivy was a saboteur, or being incredibly moved at Topher's pushing Ivy out while the getting's good.

Um, also, again, BOYD! What the what??

Click below for the full, begoggled conversation...

JA: Oh as soon as Saunders (it takes me real effort not to just call her Amy Acker) walked into the room, I saw that shit coming. But that look she threw Topher after was what got me! Ahh! Why isn't Amy Acker the star of this entire show??? Or even better, a show that isn't canceled.

Epitaph One is clearer in your mind then it is mine; you just watched it a couple weeks ago but I haven't seen it since the DVDs came out. And I do believe I was a little bit intoxicated while watching it (shocking, I know). So it's somewhat fuzzy. Remind me about the scars. She doesn't have scars in the future? I really should just watch that episode again this week I guess. Do we know that the "future" seen in that episode couldn't be a vision, someone's nightmare, inside the Attic? Because I wonder. Or would that be too much rug-pulling?

Anyway. Boyd! I've honestly never warmed to his character, something never seemed quite right about him. Tim Minear says they decided at the start of this season he'd end up being who he's ended up being, but he was just a weird question mark for me last season as well. I never really got why he stayed around. I know time is short so this might be a bit much to ask but I feel like it might be time for one of Whedon's patented character-centric episodes where we get this dude's story.

Joe: My E1 memory isn't pristine, but I do recall Saunders having no facial scars, BUT her and Boyd's scene was also remarkably similar to the scene we got this past episode, so much so I want to go back and rewatch and see if it's not exactly the same just with scars/no scars as the difference. Which would go a ways towards your "not the definite future" theory. And yes, Acker's look at Topher made your blood run cold. Really wish she could have been more a part of this season.

Also, it was so nice to see Adele back with her old, good hairdo. This season has been a slowly unfolding tragedy in that regard.

As for Boyd, with two episodes left I doubt we'll get a whole episode of backstory, but I'm sure next week brings us something at least. My brain starts to hurt when I try to think of the whys of Boyd's presence at the Dollhouse for the last two seasons. Keep tabs on Caroline, I suppose, but to what end? And how long has Whiskey been in on it? Did he imprint Whiskey to be his gf or did he genuinely fall for the Dr. Saunders persona? Gah, too much.

The more I think on this show, while I continue to lament how brutally slow Season 1 started, I also definitely think this was the direction it was always meant to go. You just couldn't jump right into a show about these people trying to take down the Dollhouse from within; you really did have to establish that house of cards first. Not saying that first half of s1 couldn't have been better, but some of the issues (the moral repugnance of someone like Topher, say; or why so many episodes had to focus on throwaway Active engagements) really couldn't have been taken out of the design.

JA: I've been hearing all this Adelle haircut hate this week, and I was shocked. Shocked! I like her short hair. Am I nuts? I think it looks cute on her. When she showed back up with that giant hair again, it pushed her too far into Alexis Carrington territory, I thought. But she treads the line there, of course, always. Bless her. "I loathe Arizona."

I read something yesterday - I did a lot of back-reading on Dollhouse yesterday - about how the original pilot (which I still haven't gotten around to watching) skipped way ahead in S1 past all the build-up of the first few episodes to the meat of the story, of Tahmoh getting to the Dollhouse right away, and the momentum flying right outta the gate. But of course FOX nixed that because they think only morons watch their network (they get their general audience confused with their News audience, I guess).

Anyway it's always this slow-burn way with Whedon's shows; Buffy didn't get really great until Angel went evil in S2 as far as I'm concerned (although I do of course love bunches of the first season, I'm not crazy); it's just we don't live in a world - or Joss refuses to operate in a world (cough SyFy cough) - where he's allowed that much time to build a world before the axe has fallen.

Anyway, anyway! I got off point there, and I have said all of those things before. I just hope they're able to connect a lot of the Boyd dots before the curtain falls, is all. That's all!

Joe: I guess that puts me on the side of the Fox suits, then? Granted, I haven't seen the original pilot, but I do wonder how much of a handle we'd have on the Dollhouse universe if we jumped right into Ballard infiltrating the Dollhouse.

[BTW, Adele's best line on Friday was after Boyd shot up those Rossum folk in her office. "I guess we can agree this carpet's done for." The show tends to lean a smidge too heavily on Adele's British calm for those kinds of zingers (they basically repeated the joke later on, swapping in that pane of glass she'd just gotten replaced), but that carpet one was a total winner.]

Not that it matters much with two episodes to go, but I'm somewhat sad to see Victor and Sierra kind of adrift now that they're their original personalities. I mean, the episode was so overstuffed already, they couldn't have gotten a storyline if they wanted to. But while Sierra is actually more interesting as Priya, Victor is far less so as Anthony. I desperately hope Enver gets one more chance to show off his chameleon skills before it's all said and done. He's kind of wasted on Anthony, you know?

JA: There is no such thing as too much reliance on Olivia Williams' ability to suss out the zingers. None! (In related news, "suss out the zingers" = good album name?) And yes, I hope Enver gets to shine once more at least with his magic role-playing abilities. Apparently we almost got to see him get Caroline's personality booted into him but the story took them in a different direction. Sad. I woulda loved another shot at Enver playing Dushku after how hilarious that turned out the first time.

Joe: If by "hilarious" you mean "khaki-panted hottie dorkness" then you know I agree with you.

JA: And that is always what I mean by hilarious, so that worked out well.


The Bloody Munchkin said...

OMG! My favorite topic in my head right now and I have nobody to talk to about it until now! I heart you guys for this opportunity.

Important things first. Re: Adelle's hair. I prefer the shorter hair. Matches her personality better. Also, I much prefer Topher's zinger over her own. Must be the geek fan girl in me, but "Darth Vader kills Generals, not storm troopers." and especially the part where Topher has a conversation with himself in the form of Victor Topher (Toctor?) was AWESOME! "Glasses?" "On a Chain!" "For the Win!" Love! all sort of glorious love.

O.k., I went off the reservation for a second. I'm coming back though. I totally did not see Boyd coming. Like seriously. I guess, like Echo, I'd instilled a lot of trust in him, which made his treachery that more jaw dropping to me.

I'm also lost on the whole Whisky, scars, no scars thing. Because I thought she had scars the entire time. It could be that I made my brain think that. And I guess I should've seen the whole whisky kills Bennet thing coming, what with her hinted at past with Topher, (which if they don't give that just a little bit of back story before this is all over, I am going to FREAK! ) she'd have some reason for doing so, or if she was planted by Boyd, he'd have some reason for doing so, but I'm lost. It doesn't compute.

Re: Victor/Anthony - Enver is so much better dropping in and out of all these different characters, that Anothony is a bit boring, I agree, but somehow Pria makes him shine and I'm willing to forgive it, at least for a little bit. But I have watched both the hilarious Victor as Echo and Victor as Topher scenes almost ad nauseum that I'd love seeing more of the same.

Also, I'm also pretty protective of Ivy, for strange reasons "Can I go back to getting you juice boxes now?" Awe. Also became particularly attached to the guy who came out of the attic just to warn them (whatever his name is). I hope he makes it out o.k. (or I'll at least rewrite the show so he does....)

What's the over under that we get a bit more info on Harding and his relation to all this, because I'm at least intrigued by Kieth Carradine's involvement, as I was with Ray Wise's.

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Also, "You got some lady on Yo' Face" needs to be on a T-shirt, pronto!

Tom said...

Victor as Topher was my favorite moment in this series, hands down. Nothing else is even close.

I've been waiting for them to explain why they had the technology to "fix" Victor's facial scars but they never had the tech to fix Whiskey's. It seemed like a detail Joss wouldn't just ignore so it was the first thing that set my "something else is going on there" sense off.

I'm also pretty sure there's never been such a rich study of the concept of "self" on television. And I'm glad they did show where Topher's line was... that is, imprinting people who don't volunteer.

Joe Reid said...

Tom, I believe they addressed the Victor/Whiskey scars thing in the season premiere. Basically, the scar-removal process was super advanced and very expensive; Adele paid for Victor's surgery, nominally because he's an Active that needs to go out in the field (while Saunders was in-house), but obviously the barely-concealed undertone was that Adele favors Victor, Miss Lonelyhearts, et cetera. Saunders told Boyd something about preferring to remain scarred (i think?) because she was all fucked up in the head.

Totally agree with you re: the Victor/Topher episode. Have I mentioned on this blog my total 180 on Topher? Kind of seriously love him now.

Tracy said...

I'm glad to hear you've changed your mind about Topher, because I adore him. And Victopher could have stayed around for the whole rest of the season, as far as I'm concerned.

JA said...

I've fallen for Topher too, but I dare not speak such things at home, because D still rants against him every time he's on-screen. I live in fear, and Topher is my hidden shame.

Also, I too was gonna mention that Saunders had mentioned wanting to keep her scars because, basically, KA-RAZY.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Oh, hooray!
I agree
to the power of Oh Em Gee.

I've been loving just about everything about the second half of this season. Tom, I'm with you as well - Enver channeling Topher was probably my favorite thing I've ever seen on Dollhouse. It just killed me, and was probably the most straight-up fun the show has ever had.

I believe that "Suss Out the Zingers" was the name of MC5's less-successful sophomore album.

Ryan T. said...

Great topic! Dollhouse is sooo good lately. I will be very sad to see it go, but I'm ultimately glad that FOX did give it a second season, because what an epic season it's been!

It's so hard to say anything else because I pretty much agree with all of you. Amy Acker IS awesome and she was sorely missed this whole season. Enver/Victor is TO.DIE.FOR. If the actor doesn't parlay this into another role quick, it will be a huge injustice. I need more Victor/Sierra these last two episodes! And Joss... THEY BETTER NOT DIE. As much as I'm sure you want to do it, DO NOT DO THAT!

Speaking off... I was heartbroken for Topher. Just absolutely heartbroken. And it's crazy because I actually didn't really like him in S1 and suddenly S2 I, too, have fallen for him. And of course it was just in time for Joss to fuck with him. OF COURSE.

Boyd! I can't even wrap my head around this one. I will wait until next episode because the more I think about it the more my head hurts.

And finally... not a fan of Adelle's hair for both season. She did need a trim, but S2 hair was TOO short for me. Does it matter though? She's still plenty fierce.

Stephie said...

Oh, Ryan T. good call... they are so dead. Not that I want that.

I'm hoping Echo will meet "little Echo" in Epitaph 2! How many existensial questions will that raise?

And Victor as Topher will go down as a legendary TV moment, guaranteed. My site gets at least 100 Google refers a day because I wrote about "Victor as Topher". He struck such a chord with the audience.

Every actor should study Enver's work on Dollhouse as a whole. He is astonishing.

Tom said...

@Joe: Have I mentioned on this blog my total 180 on Topher? Kind of seriously love him now.

I'm glad. I spent about five pages in Word defending him before the season started which rose out of the comment I made on your last Dollhouse post. I was really happy to see that I didn't end up writing a defense of the guy who turned out to intentionally be the big bad. Even though I'm becoming more certain that Joss is going to end this show with the bad guys winning as some kind of statement against Fox and evil corporations.

And I agree that Victor is the best actor on the show. I hope this gets him something big in the future and, if it doesn't, it will be a huge injustice.