Dollhouse Episode 2

Some notes:

Joss Whedon is working out of his comfort zone in two ways, First, as has been pointed out everywhere, the Dollhouse premise doesn't allow for the creation of family. This is at the heart of Buffy, Angel and Firefly/Serenity. We love those shows because we experience and share in the tight bonds of friendship between the characters. This is what draws us in, and makes the shows special.

Perhaps we could have coped with this lack in Dollhouse, if it contained Whedon's unique brand of wacky humour (of which his Dr. Horrible is the finest example). Thus far, the show has flashes of wit, but no truly sublime moments of hilarity. With these two constraints, it will be difficult for Dollhouse to match Whedon's previous achievements.

There is still plenty of cleverness, however. Episode 2 really opened the premise up, and started to explore the juicy gobbets that we shall be chewing on as we watch the rest of the season.

Topher's character becomes explicitly linked with the process of creating art. He actually hands Boyd a script and 'directs' him in a 'scene' that will brainwash Echo. Boyd is recalcitrant, being uncomfortable with the artificial nature of the Handler relationship. Touchingly, at the end Echo creatively adapts the scrips she has been implanted with, and establishes a connection with Boyd that is genuine. Art is artificial, a foreign imposition. But in the process of engaging with it, we can end up with something that is meaningful to us.

The villain's repeated references to his father's ideology, the competitive nature of his sexual fantasy, and the simple fact that his hired lover has no identity (or subjectivity) of her own, suggests an explicit comment on patriarchy. As per usual in Whedon shows, our heroine kills his ass. That metaphor never gets tired.

In Echo's delirium, the misogynist client is identified with the rogue Doll Alpha. At the end we learn Alpha may have orchestrated the whole engagement. For what? To teach Echo about patriarchy? Or maybe he is the ultimate patriarch? All, I assume, will be revealed...

One final thing. Olivia Williams is cool and everything, but the smirk at the end of every smarmy retort makes her a little insufferable. Tone the delivery down, luv.

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