Read the First(Spoiler Free) Review of Joss Whedons Dollhouse
So, let's get to business. Is Dollhouse any good? Yes. As a stand alone show, it's a new and thoughtful musing on what being human means. It also features Eliza and Dichen, who are both pretty, pretty people (and I'm clearly very vain). If you don't know the premise of Dollhouse, I'll give you a short overview: 'Dolls'. 'In a house'. 'Puppetmasters send them on missions'. 'They're hired'. It's a bit more complex, but I don't want to spoil anything.
If you're expecting it be just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, or Angel, or Firefly - forget about it. I don't think every Buffy/Angel/Firefly fan will love this, the same way not all Buffy fans liked Firefly. Dollhouse is different to anything Joss Whedon has done before (much like Firefly was different to Buffy - you get the picture). That isn't to say elements of his previous shows aren't present - I gasped towards the end of the episode a few times, for example - but the premise on display here is different, and so is the execution. There's trademarked Whedon wit sprinked along proceedings - but less so than your average episode of Buffy. There's some serious musings going on, although it's reserved for the back half of the episode.
Whilst the core message of Buffy was clearly female (and - yes, to some extent male) empowerment, the message here is somewhat more murky. Yes, the concept makes me squick still slightly. I saw consulting producer Tim Minear ask online recently if people would be less squicked if they knew the dolls can be both male and female, and my answer is this: nope, still a bit squicked. It's not about being male or female - it's about the idea of human trafficking. The show clearly has this undercurrent on purpose, and to it's defense it doesn't appear to be trying to condone what is happening. Also, if you think you're going to feel punched in the face all episode with squick (yes, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, I'm looking at you), you're wrong - being a Doll can actually be a good thing, too. And the show has a river of fun flowing through it, too.
Almost every character (outside of the Dolls) on display had moments which made me think 'Wow, they're dicks', closely followed by '...But I kind of love them'. An interesting example is Topher, who's phrases have prompted me to sit and ponder how often I say certain things online and how I behave, crossed with a streak of my best friend Kirsty's justifications for her actions. Or in other words - he's funny, interesting, selfish and entirely too human. What he's doing, when you think about it - and the episode forces you to do just that - is worrying. Possibly even horrifying - but he sees the world from his point of view, and can even justify that. There's a price for what he's doing, and I can't help think there's a bit of arc setting up for his character in this episode. I wanted to hate his character, as I hate myself and he's the closest thing I've seen to me on TV - but I couldn't. Yep. It's a Whedon show.
Particular point of reference: FBI Agent Paul is a great character (and I can't think of better casting than Tahmoh Penikett). It's also worth keeping an eye on Dollhouse boss Adelle, and 'handler' Boyd, both of whom leap off the page to particular effect.
So, what doesn't work? I'm not sure I understand how it works on a weekly basis particularly well. Episode two is going to be important here. If people are tuning in to not engage their brains at all, I'm not convinced they will follow what's happening, as the opening 10 minutes are all over the place. The first 10 minutes, in fact, pull you through so much material and situations it's difficult to identify exactly who (or what) we're supposed to be watching for - which, in a way, is probably the point. It is well written, though. And that is, ultimately, about as flawed as it gets, I think. It's clear right from the beginning you're not going to be watching Every Other Show on your telebox. Goodbye, Gil Grissom - welcome to the Dollverse.
What follows is an introduction to The Dollhouse locations, followed by a look at how the Dollhouse works on a day to day basis, and the day to day staff running it, along with meeting a few of the Dolls in the house. One point here - we barely see the other regular Dolls in this episode. It's a shame, but it just leaves more characters for later episodes. One thing which hasn't been covered elsewhere yet - there are Dolls in this here house - or more specifically, lots of them. If you don't find a character to love straight away, don't worry about it.
And as for the Dollhouse - it looks beautiful.
When I first heard of Dollhouse, I pictured it being some kind of Matrixesque underground facility. Or ultimate blandness. Not so - I'd love to live in this place. It's also very big. I don't know how much time the producers plan to spend inside the Dollhouse in each episode, but they could quite easily spend an entire episode not leaving the thing. In fact, they could shoot it all as a one shot. The One Where Adelle Breaks A Nail And Has Revenge.
So, spoilers! What are the reveals we hadn't known about, who are the characters we hadn't heard about who inhabit the world, and what are the core locations? What clear mythology elements are set up? I'm not saying. That's the show's job. What I will say is there's more going on that we all knew, and there's other people in this show we're all gonna be meeting.
A fandom aside: I predict Dollhouse will be fanfic central. The premise is so wide yet there's clearly defined parameters going on at the same time (read: it's a rich world to draw from), this is going to generate a huge amount of fic. And probably specs. Seriously. If you want a show where your characters can do anything, this is it.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited am I? 8. It's a solid opener. There's an awful lot of set up to get through in the episode, so I'm keen to see how it works week to week. I get the feeling there's huge potential for fun in this series which people aren't yet aware of -- and heartbreak people aren't expecting. "Echo" really sets up a slow brewing storm, and how these characters react is the thing which interests me. They can be brilliant, or they may be terrible. Or both. When the shit starts to hit the fan in Dollhouse, the situation will be... Fluid.Is it January yet