Dollhouse Episode 6: More Like This One, plz K , thx.

Alright, right off the bat, this episode is head and shoulders above the past five in terms of establishing milieu with a framing device of documentary news footage investigating the “urban legend” of the Dollhouse.

Okay, this should have been the pilot.

We find the Dollhouse is rumor, conjecture, accepted urban myth of Los Angeles since the 1980s in this world. Excellent! See, now I understand why they’re able to get away with their glob trotting shenanigans! They’re like the Illuminati or something. It’s too stupid to be real!

“Oh it’s happening, there’s one thing people will always need is slaves.” Says one woman.

Another speculates about not having to remember and says if she didn’t have to remember, she’s sign on the dotted line in a heartbeat.

Helo, meanwhile, has recovered a video tape of Dushku, last episode in fact, but I was too bored to mention it. He then has a confrontation with Romo Lamkin from BSG, who is playing an FBI agent who is lazily solving crime.

Back at the Dollhouse Puzzle Palace, Sierra sits by herself, while Dushku and Troika wonder why she’s sitting alone.

Troika walks over to her and puts his hand on her shoulder and she screams and throws herself out of her chair. It’s a really wrenching scene evoking a confrontation with abuse.

Later on, Dr. Sexy Scars says Sierra has had sex (called it). And creepily, she also says that Troika “Likes to play,” and Sierra’s handler is livid about it. Which makes him a suspect.

Back to Helo. Helo is finally doing what I’ve been saying he should do for five episodes: follow the money.

Hell yeah! All of the sudden this show doesn’t suck! Sweet! Even the way this episode is shot is an improvement. The angles are tighter, the lighting is much more dynamic, and the editing makes a ton more sense.

Also, Helo has a date! With the super cute girl next door! Woooo! The exchange really great dialogue about dating and people and it’s so smooth!

Helo has a plan. Apparently it involves catching Patton Oswald having sex with Eliza Dushku. Helo, being a bad-ass with cherry on top, gets the drop of Oswald’s body guards as Dushku pulls up in a nice car with her happy homemaker/working girl program in full swing. Helo makes his way inside a very nice house and catches up with Oswald in the kitchen, and then he sees Dushku!

And then the super depressing opening credits.

Then we have a more documentary footage. Somebody’s grand father says “If they’d have had it in my day, I would have had Betty Grable every night!” HA!

Another woman says if she should have a doll and there was no consequences, then she would. . . .totally not tell you! HA!

Back to Helo! Great pacing so far, this really should have been the pilot.

He’s confronting Oswald on the whole “You have a Dushku in your kitchen,” thing, and Dushku is freaking out, because she instantly jumped to the conclusion that the reason this FBI agent in their kitchen is because her husband has done porn.

Then one of Oswald’s body guard’s runs in a tasers the crap out of Helo, and Dushku asks “Is this a porn man!?” and Oswald says “There is no porn!”

This is the kind of exchange and context the show was lacking before, and Dushku plays flustered really well.

Then Helo, despite being recently tased, elbows the Porn Man body guard in the face, and kicks Oswald in the solar plexus. Then he drops another body guard with ease; it was like Bruce Lee vs. the captain of the High School swim team. The third guard actually took a year or so of martial arts, and takes more than three seconds to take down. Listen here, folks, this is Helo! He is a man given super-strength, speed, and agility not by science, but by faith in the rightness of his mission.

Harry J. Lennix shows up and yanks Dushku out of there before things get really nuts.

Patton Oswald, does a fine job of being nerdy but sinister here.

Helo asks about the Dollhouse.

“It’s pink, and it opens up and there’s teeny furniture and you put the boy doll on top of the girl doll and we learn about urges.” Says Oswald. Helo throws the table between and does the classic tough-guys sit on chairs backwards thing.

“What’s her name?” Helo asks.

“Rebecca. She told you.” Says Oswald.

“Really, how do you know Rebecca?”

“We’ve been married for seven years.”

“That’s your fantasy?” Helo asks. They have a great conversation about fantasy, and Oswald is a godsend in this episode as a not-quite-villain with a degree of depth and understanding and an intensity about him that lends a lot weight to what he’s saying.

“There’s no room for a real girl when you can feel Caroline (Dushku) beckoning, is there?”

And back at the Puzzle Palace, Lennix is talking with Troika’s handler about all kinds of things, and it seeps into the realm of victim blaming and situation blaming, and it’s another improvement to anything Lennix has said to Topher.

Meanwhile, Topher the Tech and Dr. Sexy Scars are trying to figure out if Troika actually had sex with Sierra, or what she actually meant by “He likes to pretend we’re married.” Which sounds really creepy.

A brief aside here: this entire subplot is welcomed creepiness. It gives me all the things I’d been hoping for; addressing the weirdness and unpleasantness of the memory erasure while at the same time acknowledging the basic humanity of the characters and in addition, addressing issues of violence against, well, children. As we know, the Dolls are like children when they are tabula rasa. Creepy!

Back to Patton Oswald, who is describing why he hires a doll, to pretend that she is his wife. His wife died trying to make it to the house he had just bought. She was killed in a car accident on the way there. It’s very affecting, and establishes further that moral gray area we needed for this show’s characters.

The police sirens are in the distance and Oswald let’s Helo know that he’s got nothing. The doll is gone, Oswald owns the house, and Helo is trespassing, after he committed assault on several employees from Rent-A-Goon.com.

“First hurdle in my business is the people who will not accept the change when it’s already happened.” And “Go ahead, go and live in your real world! If you ever did!” Oswald spouts.

Then, quietly, bitterly, Oswald says “Happy anniversary.” and sips his champagne.

More man on the street! What a great device this is! It certainly makes the show seem far less braindead.

One young lady suggests that it could be a potentially beautiful thing to be with a doll and another woman with a baby carriage says it’s human trafficking, plane and simple. This really could have been the pilot with a little tinkering.

Then Lennix is looking around the puzzle palace for . . . something. I guarantee he’s going to find evidence that Sierra’s handler is a rapist or something. He calls his bosses, and says to take Victor off the floor and his handler.

Security comes and gets Victor and his handler. There is something sinister about the whole thing.

Really, this is misdirection. The person who engages in victim blaming, Victor’s handler, doesn’t want to accept the fact that abuses can happen, but that doesn’t make them an abuser per se. Just an enabler.

Helo has a date, and he tries to be nice even though he’s just beat the hell out of half a platoon of body guards and such. His sweet girl-next-door neighbor is trying to be comforting, but it mostly just turns awkward.

Then back to the Puzzle Palace. Spoiler: Sierra’s handler clearing intends to bone her, (called that!) because of course, he’s a bad bad man. And then Lennix knocks his ass through a window! Things that will never get old for $200: If Dollhouse does more of this it may last it’s entire run before cancellation. What is watching rapists get punched in the face so hard they fly through plate glass?

Lennix set up Troika’s handler to take the fall so Sierra’s handler would feel like he was safe, because as you know, Lennix’s character used to be cop, and knows how to get scumbags to act like scumbags.

In Olivia Williams office a little later (What’s up girl?! Where you been at?) Lennix is reprimanded for taking action on his own, and then given a bonus.

LENNIX: I don’t need a bonus

WILLIAMS: Well I need to give it to you. That’s all.

LENNIX: Ms. Dewitt.

Once again, this episode actually gives the characters reactions and skills that make sense within their background, when they’re background isn’t changing ever episode. Then again, if the dolls were written as well as the regular non-erasable characters this show would be great. I blame Topher, as I do for everything.

Olivia Williams talks with the head of security about this that and other thing, including the fact that they have a camera in Helo’s apartment. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to feel like they’re evil; but instead I tsk Helo for not sweeping his place for bugs on a regular basis.

The head of security asks Williams is she has an exit strategy and points out that a) a handler was abusing one of the actives (but I don’t know, I think that if the consequence of that is going to be a old fashioned Chicago beat-down by H.J. Lennix, the other handlers will think twice) and b) Helo is actually not a retarded federal money waster and will get to the bottom of this thing unless stopped.

Williams higher-ups are again mentioned. Williams wants Sierra’s handler brought to her; which sounds really sinister. And then she icily mentions a second date between Dushku and Helo.

We have another documentary interview in which a guy, with his girlfriend standing right there, goes on about how some guys might like to check it out and by it, of course I mean a one night stand with another dude. But he specifies “nothing queeny.” Which is hysterical.

Then it’s to Topher the Tech, who appears to actually be doing some work for once, rather than shamming like the King Bullshitter he is, and he’s trying to engineer a “gorgeous but deadly” sort of personality type. Control freaks apparently don’t make great fighters. Lennix pops in to say hi and Topher whines that he’s in his “process,” boo-hoo, douche bag. You talk to Harry J. Lennix.

Dushku’s going on a date, and Lennix is on lock down for 48 hours (“min”), and the have a nice little chat about Lennix’s skills at police work, and Lennix rolls out to chill.

Topher implants Dushku with the lovely/lethal thing he was cooking up (almost literally, as he uses a ton of cooking metaphors). Then we cut to Williams’ dealing with Sierra’s handler.

It’s a fairly well acted and executed scene, and Sierra’s handler uses just about every classic evil man line in the book from vague homophobic invective to “she was asking for it” clothing criticism.

“You put her under some fat old Emir, (and just a dash of Xenophobia!) it makes it better because she thinks she’s in love for all of a day? We’re in the business of using people!”

Williams says, “What’s the best use for someone like you?” And then she tasks him with killing Helo’s neighbor (You guys called that).

Then we cut to Helo’s neighbor in the throws of coitus, and then there’s yet another well done conversation about not being clingy in which Helo adorably faux-sulks about not being a piece of meat.

“Is this the part when you dress me up and use me as bait, because those movies never end well. . .” she asks. Oh god! No! Don’t kill the adorable Neighbor Chef!

Helo goes down to the local Chinese food shop, and thinks he sees Dushku in kitchen. He wanders in there and since she’s been been programmed with Topher’s La Femme Nikita Neopolitan, she completely owns a guy who can lay the smack down on nearly everyone else he crosses.

Then another man on the street tells us we’re being brainwashed. Wait for them to tell you what to buy.

And then a fight scene! Woo! Helo realizes he can’t really hold back against a female who had been created by Joss Whedon, other wise he’d be killed. So this set piece is a brawl and a half with frying pans and cooking pots and suplexes onto automobiles.

After that Dushku let’s Helo know 1. There over 20 Dollhouses in cities around the world 2. Someone, a “man on the inside” haX0red Duskhu’s personality to let Helo know the entire score, which means Topher is either an idiot or actually as good he wants to people to think he is 3. He will be contacted again.

Then she gets Helo to shoot a cop who responding to a noise disturbance. Dude, like damn! “Noise disturbance” this officer thinks. Turns the corner and gets a bullet in the shoulder. That’s gotta be a WTF moment.

And now we have a classical music-over violence scene in which The Cute Neighbor Chef girl gets thrown around like a rag doll as Helo runs slower than we know he is capable of for dramatic purposes.

The Chef is prone and Sierra’s handler is on top her. Then Williams calls and over the answering machine says “There are three flowers in the vase, the third flower is green.” And the chef lays a smackdown on Sierra’s handler that would make Lennix proud. Williams then says “There are three flowers in the vase, the third flower is yellow.” And the chef turns into a normal girl who is terrified of scary men dressed all in black. I had been hoping that The Chef wasn’t a doll, but the reveal was good enough to make me happy. Helo gives her just killed-a-man with her bare hands snuggles and the audience gets kind bummed that all of her adorableness and cooking skills are part of a program. Very sad.

Then we have a college professor type who says if this technology exists, it’s world wide and as a species humanity no longer matters.

Then Helo turns in his gun and badge after being suspended. Very sad.

Williams and the Head of Security discuss their seemingly air-tight plan. Sierra’s handler turned up as a floater carved up by the Russian mob, Helo no longer has government backing. Well done.

The head of security says it was a well played hand. Williams, who I’m positive can make anything sound sexy at this point says “I played a very bad hand very well, there’s a distinction.”

Sierra’s had the abuse wiped from her memory, which is probably for the best.

Williams talks to Dushku about a drawing she’s making. Dushku says it isn’t finished. Williams is visibly taken aback, and sends Dushku back to Oswald to complete the house fantasy.


1.Someone’s either been reading my blog, or I’m just awesome because is what I’ve been saying this show should have been all along.

2.So I guess I will watch it regularly, now that BSG is over.

3.I’m going to take this as the Empire Strikes back after the crappy New Hope fluff that was the previous five episodes. We’ve established all the characters at this point, so I guess it’s really time to rock and roll. I feel sort of bad that the show was really just atrocious for five episodes, and that may be it’s downfall, but we’ve gone from The Six Million Dollar Man to Blade Runner meets the X-Files.

4.Joss Whedon his own self wrote this episode. It either speaks to his talent or every one else’s hackery. Next weeks episode is written by Elizabeth Craft, who apparently wrote for The Shield and Angel however her other episode of this show, Grey Hour (Episode 4) was painfully dull. I mean, when a show has multiple writers, generally, someone needs to smooth out the scripts and quality control them so the mesh better. Right now the show has been wildly un-even in terms of quality. IE this episode was great, while the rest were terrible, and actually look worse by comparison to this one.

5.Seriously, whoa. Everything about this episode was head and shoulders above anything we’ve seen so far. Tighter editing, crisper characterization, and grand-scheme overarching plot moves forward at a break neck pace.

6.“F Bitch I” is a great put down.

7.“The judge will throw the Kindle at you.” We’re living in modern times baby!


John Armstrong said...

Reports on io9 have been to the effect of "the first six episodes are establishing and audience-friendly". Maybe the change you're noticing has something to do with the transition into the longer-term phase.

Structurally, one thing that I noticed is we get a Big Unresolved Question this time, and we haven't been getting much of that yet. Sure, there are a few drips of "we don't know that", but there's nothing we can focus around.

In the long-arc shows, these questions are the outgrowth of old prime-soap cliffhangers like "Who shot J.R.?", and they're essential to maintaining an audience. "LOST" got people to come back and put up with tons of weirdness long enough to get into the groove because they wanted to see WTF was up with that polar bear. And the smoke monster.

So here's the question: who programmed Echo? Some guesses, in rough order of obviousness:
1) Alpha did. This is part of his plan to bring down the Dollhouse.
2) DeWitt did. Trying to throw Ballard off the track.
3) Topher did. He's got plans of his own beyond self-aggrandizement.
4) Nobody did. Echo is starting to "wake up" the same way that Alpha did.

Side note: yes, the reveal that there are other Dollhouses is an open end, but it's still not a Big Unresolved Question in the same tight way that can be built on in later episodes before being resolved.

John Armstrong said...

Actually.. shouldn't the rogue doll be spelled "Alfa"?

Sgt. Brightside said...

1. Alpha is capable of doing a hack-job, and it makes sense that would use Echo to further bringing down the Dollhouse

2.Dewitt is the only person who sees the big picture in this particular chain of command, and even as she knows that giving Ballard a solid lead will, given his drives and motivations, get him killed sooner than anything else.

3. I feel Topher is barely competent, and able to speculate what happened after the fact, but he lacks the artistry to anticipate anything.

4. The concept of Echo reverse hacking herself would be in keeping with her established iron-will power, and would be pretty sweet.