Dollhouse season one premiere
"I am doll parts. Bad skin. Doll heart." – Some fat groupie
You likely already know that Aerial Telly regards Joss Whedon as a genius, a visionary and one of the most important TV writers in history. So, you know that thepremiere of his new project Dollhouse has been marked in the AT diary for months. Our hero is Echo (Eliza Dushku) – a member of a collective of "Actives" or "Dolls", people who agree to have their personalities wiped so they can be imprinted with new identities, memories, languages, tricks and skills and so on. The Dolls live in the Dollhouse, a high-tech and hugely illegal operation where they are are hired out to commit crimes, fulfil fantasies or just kick some ass on some deliriously risky James Bond shit. What kind of girl submits herself to such foul abuse? That’s what we’re going to find out.
Some immediate Whedonverse parallels are apparent. The Dollhouse brings to mind Wolfram and Hart, the daemonic interdimensional law firm from Angel. Topher Brink (Fran Kranz), the brilliant but amoral young scientist who handles the imprinting process, is Andrew from Buffy or possibly Knox from Angel. Echo has a male father figure handler Boyd Langton (Harry J. Lennix), just like Giles on Buffy.
Though at the moment it is not coming across as a Joss Whedon show. He has spoken about a conscious decision to omit much of his signature quirky dialogue and humour from Dollhouse. He does this for all the right reasons – the integrity and balance of the show though I miss it hugely.
“A beautiful girl with a mysterious past who will be anything you need her to be? Be still our hearts.”
But hey, we have a walking reminder of the golden age with Eliza Dushku (previously Faith, the evil slayer from Buffy) starring. She plays Echo and her various personalities well and I don’t recall her ever looking so pie (and if you’ve followed Dushku’s career you’ll know that this is a bold statement). We don’t know much about Echo other than she’s always wanted to "do everything" and there are some dark murmurings about actions from her past having consequences. A beautiful girl with a mysterious past who will be anything you need her to be? Be still our hearts.
"In a crazy random happenstance, her abuser turns out to be one of the kidnappers. This really doesn’t help the negotiations go smoothly."
To kick off the series, Echo is imprinted with Eleanor Penn, a world-class hostage negotiator playing hardball with a gang of criminals who have kidnapped the child of a Mexican businessman. In addition to her incredible negotiation skills, Eleanor has asthma nearsightedness and memories of being sexually abused by a kidnapper as a child. Because the personas imprinted onto the Dolls are not written from scratch – they are an amalgam of several different real-life personalities and that inevitably leads to some flaws. In a crazy random happenstance, her abuser turns out to be one of the kidnappers. This really doesn’t help the negotiations go smoothly.
“The Doll hoes just prevented a baby rapist putting his cock in a 10-year-old girl which most would see as a positive outcome.”
So the Dollhouse project is twisted, immoral, illegal and no one outside the organisation has heard a thing about it. No one except Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett taking a break from toaster frakking on Battlestar Galactica) an FBI agent who picked up on a whisper about the place, and believes it to be a human trafficking operation. If only he knew the truth.
But what is the truth? Is the Dollhouse really that evil? Ice cold house honcho Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) believes not, seeing it as a win-win-win situation for the client, the active and the company. The Doll hoes just prevented a baby rapist putting his cock in a 10-year-old girl which most would see as a positive outcome. But when you’ve erased someone’s personality doesn’t the concept of informed consent become meaningless? If she remembers nothing after her mission how can she hold her handlers accountable? Slutbag, negotiator, assassin – you don’t know where you’ve been, baby.
"Doesn’t the concept of informed consent become meaningless? If she remembers nothing after her mission how can she hold her handlers accountable? Slutbag, negotiator assassin, – you don’t know where you’ve been, baby."
It was a good opener even if there wasn’t quite enough to make it really feel like a Joss Whedon production. He has mapped out a five-year plan for the shows and its characters to ensure they develop and don’t stay stuck in some TV Groundhog Day doing the same dumb shit we saw them do in the first episode. This is good to know. Sometimes you just know you’re in good hands. I don’t think Dollhouse will disappoint.
The best thing about it: The return of Joss and Mutant Enemy.
The worst thing about it: The lack of certain Whedon touches.
The verdict on Dollhouse series premiere:Promising.
Marks out of 10: 7.5