Apr 18, 2013

[TV] Dollhouse: Season 2

Whenthe news broke that FOX had cancelled Dollhouse, I have to admit that I was rather disappointed. Admittedly it wasn't quite my favorite show at the time, but it certainly showed a lot of potential. The core premise of the show was both disturbing and fascinating at the same time and I certainly wanted to learn more.

Plus it was a Joss Whedon show, and such adventures are nicely character-driven and rewardingly complex, provided you invest enough time in the show. And that may be one of Whedon's opportunities with respect to the small screen - he takes a while to really build up his stories. And that would help explain why the network executives could not wait around for the show to get where it needed to do.

In turn, I admit that I didn't exactly rush into watching this second and final season. After all, once we finished this, there wouldn't be any more episodes left for me and Tobie to enjoy. And so we sort of rationed this out for a few, well, years.



Synopsis: Dollhouse is a science fiction drama series created by Joss Whedon. Since the show was cancelled in 2010, the show has found new life in various limited comic books released over the years.

Season 2 resumes the story about 5 months after the end of Season 1. Echo (Eliza Dushku) is back in the Dollhouse and has been restored to her former state. Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) still has feelings for her and now appears to be working with the Dollhouse - a deal that he had negotiated at the end of the prior season. Everything seems back to normal, for the most part.

But Echo isn't quite the same as she used to be, as is quickly discovered on her first engagement outside the Dollhouse. In the middle of the mission she starts to glitch and recalls her past imprints once more. It is only through Ballard's quick-thinking that they are able to find a way to salvage things using Echo's added ability to essentially cycle through her past personalities and assume new skills as needed.

Giving Echo access to her past memories had certainly been one of the quirks that had made her character unique - and thus giving us an actual story to work with this time around. That was a problem with the first season - it was hard to root for her as a character since she kept changing every week. How does one feel any degree of fan affinity for a character who in theory has no personality or character of her own? Season 2 begins with an answer to that problem - although this Echo is a little harder to appreciate.

The season also had some interesting plot threads to deal with as left over from the first season. We had Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker) dealing with the fact that she now knows she was really an Active named Whiskey with the Dr. Saunders personality imprinted on her. Madelaine Costley, formerly November (Miracle Laurie) is now out in the public as a regular citizen, released from her contract with the Dollhouse. And you now have Senator Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof) launching a formal probe into the activities of the Dollhouse. And those are some pretty heavy plot points to try and resolve over the course of a 13-episode season.

Still, the middle of the season seemed to meander around a bit as we sort of went back to the freak-of-the-week type of storytelling. We had the added quirk of expecting Echo to glitch in the middle of the mission but the fact that it had to happen every time was getting old pretty fast. We still had to wait around a bit before she gained more active control over her new abilities, as was inevitable given the direction of the story.

Not to sound like I'm dropping spoilers, but I'm glad that Alpha made a reappearance in this season. Sure, we all knew this was inevitable given (1) his character is kind of awesome and (2) we always need more Alan Tudyk, I wasn't entirely sure until he was actually on-screen. And his return is quite glorious, and not just a cheap gimmick for the series.

Was I happy with how it ended? Well, it was certainly an interesting way to go. the show made sure to address some of the lingering mysteries like who Echo was originally and what exactly goes on in the Attic. They also found a way to add Summer Glau to the cast. Oh yeah, that was totally cool, too.

I'll miss Dollhouse and it's quirky cast of brainwashed characters. But at the same time, at least they were generally able to tie things up at the end in a manner that generally left us fans in a good place. Thus this final season gets 4 imprint-swapping moments out of a possible 5.


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