Friday, February 27, 2009

TV REVIEW: Dollhouse Ep. 2 - - The Target - -


So, I NEVER really watch all that much television. However, over the past couple of months, I've really gotten behind a few shows. Fringe being the biggest of them, and is my favorite show going today, I also have gotten into, and in the case of Trust Me, out of, a few others. Lie to Me is solid, not great, but the one that really surprised me has been Dollhouse. Sure, we are only two episodes in, but this last one, "The Target", has gotten me excited for what is set to come.

Whenever I bring this show up to people in conversation, the first thing that is asked is, "wtf mate? What is that?". Well, easily put, Dollhouse is about a laboratory that assigns different tasks to its various residents, who then have their memories erased upon the completion of their assignments. One of them is Echo, our main character, played by Eliza Dushku, who is slowly starting to become aware of herself and what's going on - all the while somebody on the outside is trying to bring the Dollhouse down while getting closer to Echo - possibly not aware that she is one of the Dolls he is after. It's the newest show from Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel/Dr. Horribles Sing Along Blog/Firefly creator Joss Whedon, and while the pilot was just alright, the second episode is definitely picking up the slack.

Here is the first episode's plot, and thanks to Wikipedia for the quick cover of it...

Echo is introduced as one of the "Actives" in the Dollhouse. The Dollhouse scientist Topher Brink wipes her mind and reprograms her as a ruthlessly efficient kidnapping negotiator. Echo's new personality incorporates memories from another woman who was molested as a child, and it turns out the molester is one of the kidnappers she must now negotiate with. She crumbles in fear during the ransom exchange, nearly getting their client killed. But she is allowed to confront the kidnappers, turning them against each other and rescuing the kidnapped girl. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Paul Ballard struggles with his assignment to uncover information on the Dollhouse, which has destroyed his marriage and is wrecking his career

After a rather lackluster pilot, Dollhouse's second episode, The Target, takes the action up a notch. Echo's newest imprint has her as the perfect date for Richard, an outdoorsman, who takes her on a "romantic" wilderness outing. However, the experience takes a turn for the worse when Richard indicates he will conclude the "date" by hunting her for sport, Rainesford style. Although Echo is imprinted with absolute trust in Boyd Langton, her handler, he is unable to do more than deliver a weapon to her, and she must kill Richard on her own. Afterward the Dollhouse team discovers the handiwork of Alpha, a rogue doll, on the corpse of an unknown assassin. It was Alpha who had maimed a past doctor, Dr. Saunders and butchered the handler Boyd was hired to replace. Then, an FBI agent, Agent Ballard receives an anonymous package concerning Echo's previous identity as a woman named Caroline, and continues his search.

The biggest thing about this second episode is that it felt like the series' proper pilot. The first episode went through a lot of turmoil with rewrites and re-shoots, and really took a hit in quality. There wasn't much of a back story into exactly what Dollhouse is, and it felt like a filler episode more than a pilot. However, this newest episode sets up most of the back story, at least into what looks to be the biggest part of the plot, including our main villain, Alpha, as well as the relationship between Echo and her handler, Boyd Langton, played by Harry Lennix. It's an interesting relationship, that doesn't go for the stereotypical love interest style plot, at least it's not setting up to be like that.

Also, the visuals to this show are rather top notch for a tv show. There is a lot of movement within the frame, as well as with the camera, that adds a lot of drama to this sci-fi series. Where as the first episode felt sort of hap-hazard in it's filmmaking, and watered down in a way, this episode was really well shot and directed. The main villain of this episode was interesting, and the idea of this series will have you intrigued from the very start.

Another improvement has come in the script. As I stated above, the pilot went through various re-writes, and this second script just seemed to be vastly improved over the last episode. It's a really interesting concept, with a great set of characters, and along with the sci-fi aspect, Joss Whedon knows how to do humor alongside the action. Best line of the episode - "Do you know how to shoot a gun", Echo: "I have four brothers, none of them Democrats". There is just a lot of great dialogue like that in this script, and it has my hopes high for the following series.

However, and this is just a small thing, to me, the real star of the show is Fran Kranz, who plays Topher. He's just really funny, and yet, his relationship with Echo and the rest of the Dolls is one that I think could be mined for some deep ideas.

Sure, it can be quite confusing, but if you don't mind doing a bit of heavy lifting, and a lot of paying attention, please, give Dollhouse a chance. It's available 24/7 on Hulu for crying out loud. Give it a shot.

Dollhouse is available online here, or can be seen on Fox, Friday nights at 9 pm.

Are these TV reviews something you would like me to continue? If so, I may do this for Castle, and Fringe, when it returns in roughly 5 weeks.

Go see something good!

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