Dollhouse Episode 2.12

Some newts:

Yo Boyd! Wadup man? You gonna tell us wagwan with the last two seasons of this show? You know, when you were the nice guy, but no really you were the evil genius behind the whole thing? What was that all about, huh? You wanted a family? You wanted to cotch with the people you were planning to exploit? For TWO YEARS? Sounds pretty strange, doesn't it? Sounds like your character suddenly stopped making sense a little bit, no?

Yeah. At least on a first impression. But thinking about it for a spell, I'm starting to see what the show was trying to say with this contrived piece of idiocy. Boyd saw the implications of Rossum's research before anyone, and found Caroline body to be the only possible way out. But he didn't want to just save himself. He wanted a family: someone to care for as the world went to hell.

So he played Topher, DeWitt and Echo -- pushing them, changing them, giving them principles and the will to live (and die) by them. He kinda turns into Ballard squared: freeing loved ones only so that they serve his purposes. He is the ultimate patriarch, encouraging his children to excel whilst expecting complete loyalty from them. And if they don't return it... well then there's always force.

Which is why Boyd's end is so fitting. The tables are turned. He is robbed of all agency, and the people he has deceived and exploited give the orders. The children become the parents, and exact vengeance for their sins.

But all of this clever exegesis doesn't do away with the fact that my initial reaction to this episode is one of distressed bewilderment. Particularly as I had invested quite heavily in the Boyd-Saunders relationship, and to see their whole characters flipped was a bit of a downer. But more generally, as with the previous episode, the emotional and comedy beats were all strained and warped under the overriding pressure of PLOT and TWIST. There's cleverness there, but it gets crushed under breakneck nonsensical storytelling.

Then again, this is Dollhouse. Like, what's new? I guess the balance went too far the other way. I can be incredibly lenient about the show's nuts-and-bolts problems, if there were enough ideas to digest afterwards. With these past two episodes, I'm not feeling the clever so much as the confused.

A word on Ballard and Mellie. I THINK the idea was that Ballard had to become a doll before understanding that dolls can be complete human beings. Except that when he tells this to Mellie, she has been programmed to love him, which would suggest that she is NOT complete. EXCEPT except: she has been told this, fights it, and then gives into it. Is that agency enough? If we had doubts, then her suicide answers them. But again, as with all this Boyd stuff. Very clumsy.

Will the finale make things better? I hope so. Because right now season two does not look like it will surpass season one's achievements.

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