>TV Round-Up: Dollhouse

>I was really happy when “Dollhouse” got the renewal nod over “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” last season. I thought down the stretch that “Dollhouse” grew into the better show and once we got past the Fox-mandated early episodes, the show settled in, really got comfortable and felt more like a Joss Whedon show.

I got a little behind on my commenting on each new episode. So, before the new set begins airing tomorrow night, here’s my thought on what we’ve seen so far.

“Vows”
In many ways, the weakest of the first three episodes of season two. Joss Whedon write and directs a story that has the heavy burden of bringing fans back up to speed and (hopefully) luring in some new viewers. And while I loved every last bit about the behind-the-scenes stories taking place within the dollhouse itself, I found the main plotline with Echo marrying an arms dealer a bit too much to take. There’s one big reason for this–I didn’t quite buy the entire timelines of how things unfolded. I’m not sure how much time has passed since the season finale, but the whole timeline of Echo meeting the arms dealer, the two falling in love and building up the trust to get married didn’t ring true. If we’re to believe that this mission was one Ballard wanted to pursue, that constrains the time line even more. It felt like it was more a cool way to have Echo in a wedding episode than an actual plot itself.

But, as I said, the events going on back at the Dollhouse and the fall-out of Alpha’s attack were fascinating. Seeing everyone find their new role within the heirarchy was fascinating and it’s interesting to see that Ballard is still hell-bent on taking down the Dollhouse. This time, he looks like he wants to do it from within and with Echo’s help. Which makes me wonder if the rest of the crew is aware of what he’s up to.

Dr. Saunders leaving was the most fascinating thing in the episode and seeing her stalk Topher was a nice touch. Hopefully Amy Acker’s schedule will allow her to return to menace Topher some more. Maybe a team up with Alpha? Oh, we can only hope…

“Instinct”
Here’s one of those those stories where we have Topher doing something that on the one hand makes him look incredibly brilliant, but on the other hand also makes him look incredibly stupid. Echo is sent out as a replacement for a mother who died because the husband and new father can’t handle the mother being gone and the new responsibilities he has. OK, so far so good. But then Echo stumbles across the actual pictures of hubby and now-gone wife and things go bad quickly. Echo kidnaps the baby, is recaptured and then wiped–only to not get completely wiped and have the maternal instinct still kick in. She escapes and heads back to get said baby.

It’s an interesting idea and isolate moments work for the story. I did wonder if it might not make sense to bring in Boyd to try and get through to Echo when she starts to go hay-wire since the two have a longer-established operative/handler relationship than do Echo and Ballard. If Echo is tripping out, she may reconnect with Boyd more readily than Ballard is my thought. But this is ignored, probably to save on the actor being featured in the episode.

Where the story does work is–again–back at the Dollhouse where Melli comes in for her follow-up treatment. Seeing her run into Ballard and their interaction was the highlight of the story and the implication that one is never truly free of the Dollhouse was an interesting one. Hopefully this won’t be the only time we see Melli this year.

“Belle Chose”
The best installment we’ve had all season and one that clearly shows the series starting to hit its stride again. When a rich backer of the Dollhouse asks the team to scan his nephew’s mind (who was hit by a car and is in coma), little does the team know they’re dealing with one really sick puppy. He’s collecting women and having them pose as his own dolls in his own fantasy world. Apparently, the nephew had some strong women in his life as a young guy and he’s been a bit scarred. In order to find the kidnapped women, his print is imprinted onto Victor and, well, things go really, really wrong. Add to it that Victor can’t be tracked because his GPS monitor was removed for his surgeries following his contact with Alpha and you’ve got an intersting dilemma.

Meanwhile, Echo has been cast as a bouncy co-ed to fulfill an older professor’s fantasy of having a a fling with a student. Here is the first of many parallels between plots as we see the professor using the dolls for a wish fulfillment in the same way as the nephew does. Both are creepy in their own way. And it also leaves you wondering how a college professor on tenure affords the Dollhouse’s services….

But anyway…Topher hatches a plan to remote wipe all the dolls to shut down Victor and does…except it goes wrong and we switch Victor and Echo’s personalities.

All of the pieces of the puzzle are working here and the show is the most solid we’ve seen it all year. It’s too bad we had to take a week off for baseball, but at least we left on a high note…

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