27 December 2010

Welcome Back To the Dollhouse

By // TV

Last year, right as the TV season was starting up, I embarked down a new journey in my ordinary life. As it turned out, graduating college and getting a full time job required a lot more of my time than I had originally anticipated. My brain was so exhausted by the end of the day that I couldn’t watch anything more complicated than a half hour comedy, and even those were taxing at times. When I watch TV, whatever it may be, I invest myself in it. For some shows, it’s enough to sit back and enjoy them (I’m looking at you, Vampire Diaries), but for shows like Mad Men or Dexter or other such hour-long dramas, I need to fully immerse myself in them mentally.

That goes double for Joss Whedon’s trippy, intellectual, complicated-even-when-I-was-at-full-capacity late, great effort Dollhouse. Despite (or maybe because of) my love for all things Whedon, and the fact that the first season was, although often flawed, some of the most fascinating and intriguing TV ever, I couldn’t turn on the show. I didn’t watch a single episode last season (which, yes, I know makes me part of the evil masses not watching Dollhouse that led to its cancellation).

So when Christmas break arrived this year, and I was faced with a full week without stress and work, I knew what I should do with all that time to de-stress: delve into a series where every episode makes my brain hurt.

I’m currently four episodes into Season Two, and what I’m feeling most is an undeniable sense of loss of possibility. Both for the series itself (thus far, it is continuing its run of being the most fascinating TV show ever, if not always the most entertaining) and for my possibilities as a reviewer. Half the reason I write for this site is an attempt to add something to the conversation, and it feels a little strange coming to the conversation a full year late. None the less, I kind of think it’s impossible to watch Dollhouse without feeling the need to talk about it.

Especially with episodes like “Belonging.” For those of you who either haven’t yet delved into Dollhouse (all episodes of which are now available on Netflix instant watch) or who did it at the right time, “Belonging” follows the travails of Sierra. The Dollhouse is by definition a shady business endeavor, but the people involved with it (as we have seen time and again) justify their participation in their own ways. Specifically, Topher and DeWitt both live by their own very specific moral codes that help to numb the nausea induced by their jobs.
Sierra as it turns out was not brought to the Dollhouse in the ordinary way. She was drugged by a man who was in love with her, brought to a mental institution, and then sold to the Dollhouse under the guise that it was to cure her of her schizophrenia. This chance to “help” someone meant something to Topher, who may come across as an amoral twit but who actually believes in his job from time to time. When he and Dewitt find out just how wrong they were, they’re both horrified. DeWitt, however, after a strong showing confronting the man responsible, ultimately cows to the powers that be (haha).
Topher, however, continues his season long transformation. Topher is quickly going from one of the shows weak links to its strongest player, and his moral transformation is way more interesting than the one-note antics of Ballard.
This review is a little too long already, so I’ll save my deep analysis of this transformation for a later post. Suffice it to say, Dollhouse is more than worth the effort, albeit a full year later, and I’m excited to be giving it the full analytic treatment over the next week.


2 Responses to Welcome Back To the Dollhouse

  1. Kelly says:

    Agreed, Dollhouse is perhaps the most fascinatingly complex show I've ever seen (yeah Lost, I'm including you, you're a lot simpler than they gave you credit for). And season 2 I think is even better than season 1. But the reason I think that is because DeWitt, Topher, Sierra and Viktor (you'll get there- he's unbelievable!) are all developed brilliantly. They are so great that they almost make up for Echo and Ballard- almost. But here's the thing, Dollhouse is about Echo (and somewhat about Ballard). If Buffy had been as weak-linky as Echo, Willow and the others couldn't have saved the show on their own so it's tragic that DeWitt and co have to try (and, predictably, fail). At the end of the day, Dollhouse had the most interesting mythology in a long time and a truly kick-ass cast of supporting players but without a centre of even came close to being able to support those things the show inevitably caved in on itself.

    Let me know how you like Epitaths 1 and 2- I never watched them.

  2. Rachael says:

    Oh I've been in love with Viktor since season one (remember when that disease made him all loopy and high?) and have definitely fallen deeper this season, especially with the Topher-meet-Topher ridiculousness. Expect another update soon in my ongoing quest to give this show the examining it deserves.

    As to Epitaphs 1 and 2, my plan is to watch them in that order after I finish the regularly scheduled episodes. Not sure why, just seemed more fun this way.

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