Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dollhouse: After the "Pilots" Are Over

Now that the “seven pilot” stage of Dollhouse has ended, it’s expected the real story of Echo, the girl who can be anyone but herself, will begin.. It’s no longer be the usual pattern of Echo taking on a mission, something goes wrong, and Boyd, her handler, rescues her and makes sure she has her treatment. It’s already reached that stage with “Man on the Street” where FBI agent Paul Ballard finds he has another mission aside from finding the Dollhouse and closing it down, and “Echoes,” where she returns to the scene of a possible crime that led her to being an Active.

Yet some people admit they have a tough time latching on to this premise, a girl who will always be no one, or less, in between the engagements she has to fulfill. Maybe it’s because it’s a role much different than Joss Whedon’s previous heroes (Buffy, Angel and Mal Reynolds) who face difficult challenges every day. Sure, there are signs that Echo may be reclaiming her true self, but is that enough? It seems they want a reason why they should care about Echo, and whether she’ll be a real live girl again.

Also we know more about her thank anyone else: she was once Caroline Farrell, who got into some trouble, maybe with something called the Rossum Corporation that had helped create the Dollhouse. She was given a chance at a clean slate by being an Active for five years, even though that may not be true.

We know very little about the Dollhouse staff, though. We do get a lot of discussion about whether having a group that can make programmable people is really a bad thing. Some may call it a fantasy, while others call it the destruction of Man.

We do learn a lot from the relationships some of the staff have with each other. Adelle DeWitt, who runs the L-A Dollhouse, may look cool and calm at all times, but she admitted last week that, as she put it, she is not a balloon floating above the muck. She is under pressure from the “Senior Partners”, and from Director of Security Laurence Dominic to get rid of Echo when she seems to be unpredictable…just like a previous Active named Alpha who killed other people before escaping. She’s so concerned she even relies on the help of Topher, the guy who programs the Actives and considers himself as a modern-day Geppetto. She does try to be charming,when she recruits Echo to be an Active, or deals with a client.

Topher seems to be type of guy who used his science projects against the jocks who picked on him after school. He’s so certain how an Active will perform, and why, but starts to sweat when something goes wrong. When Echo blanked out in the middle of an engagement in “Grey Hour,” he keeps saying it’s not his fault but quickly comes up with some conspiracy theories.
Also, it looks like Actives don’t always behave as they should. Victor has a man-reaction to seeing Sierra, which they’re not supposed to have. They are also affected by drugs, such as a memory drug they were recruited to find last week.
Dr. Claire Saunders seems to be a forgotten cog in the machine. While she tries to maintain the health of the Actives, she’s usually an afterthought. She writes reports that, according to Topher, no one reads.
Boyd Langton, Echo’s handler, seems to be the only man in the staff with a conscience. In the first episode, he is concerned about the safety of Echo. Yet he has his doubts about whether the company that employs him actually helps people, or hides some deep dark secrets for the right price.
There is one big mystery that hasn’t been resolved. His name is Paul Ballard, an FBI agent that has lost a lot, including his job, to take down the Dollhouse. Yet, we don’t know why he is so determined to close down the Dollhouse. Who gave him this mission, and why is he obsessed with Caroline. More importantly, what does he expect to get if he succeeds?

As the show heads to its second half, viewers are eager to know Paul’s motivation to defeat the Dollhouse, and whether Echo can overcome the “programming” and be Caroline again. Could Alpha show himself, and take the Dollhouse down? This may be the first part of a long road ahead, and many fans will still be interested where it will go, and how it will end.

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