Dollhouse: Needs- sweet, confusing, and deeply disturbing

There was a lot about last night’s episode of Dollhouse I liked.

Victor, for example, who just might be my favorite now.  He is sweet, compassionate, and smart, and when he started naming the 1989 Mets to stay, um, “focused” during the shower scene, I knew it was true love.  His relationship with Sierra was incredibly sweet to watch, and I thought his explanation about being trapped inside “blank slate” Victor was really interesting.

His relationship with Sierra, his seemingly instinctual desire to help and protect her, was sweet to watch play out, and made him one of the few characters that I feel completely rational about liking.  Also, Enver Gjokaj has done a great job with the part.  (As a side note on that, was “peculiar name” a requirement for being cast in this show?)

I liked that the twists felt, generally, believable.  I was surprised by the Dr. Claire stuff but, like Boyd said, we don’t know her very well, so it didn’t feel implausible.   After the pilot, I wondered if she was being coerced somehow into helping the Dollhouse, and I still sort of wonder that.  She seems to have convinced herself she’s doing the Dolls a favor, but there is just a WHOLE lot of self-loathing going on there.

The November/Mellie twist, while given little screen time, also felt realistic, but surprising.

The whole “reset” thing at the end actually made sense, even if it was heartbreaking after watching these four characters go on journeys that now feel fruitless, maybe even counter-productive, if it means that they are less likely to rebel against their programming.

As for Paul Ballard… Tahmoh Penniket, I love you, but that opening scene was creepy as hell, and did not do much to endear our intrepid agent to me.  I REALLY liked that CarolinEcho called him, though.  I think the show will be best served when Ballard’s investigation is intersecting with  Dollhouse business.  I feel like I’m going to have trouble watching the show if I don’t feel like the actual Dollhouse is at least in some danger, because, well…

You know, I liked big parts of this story, as I said.  But reflecting on the episode, all I can think about is Sierra.  Her story is really sticking with me, because if it plays out the way it looks like it will, then I’m not sure how I can get past it with some of these characters.

The show has always walked a very fine line when it comes to dealing with, essentially, human trafficking.  It means we’re always dealing with the question, Which characters are likable and why?  Do we forgive Boyd’s involvement with the Dollhouse because he seems to care about Caroline on some level, even though his involvement also makes him complicit in her abuse?  Do we like Adelle because she’s so very British and can’t say haaaawd aaaawwrs? Do we like Topher because he’s funny and geeky?

But if Sierra is, essentially, pimped out to a man she previously rejected so she can be abused time after time after time… Jesus Christ, how do you get past that with the characters at the Dollhouse?

And what did that piece of crap mean when he was talking about pulling strings to get it all worked out?  From this VERY interest exchange on Alan Sepinwall’s blog, it seems like Nolan did, essentially, kidnap Sierra and force her into slavery.

Adelle’s explanation, that she’s helping them by keeping their memories from them?  I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit.  If I didn’t think so before, sending Sierra to be raped over and over again just proved it.  Maybe Adelle has convinced herself it’s true, but that doesn’t excuse her actions in the slightest.

Anyway, I guess it’s good that the episode gave me a lot to think about.  I hope the Sierra story plays out a little differently than I’m anticipating.

Some lingering questions/thoughts:

  • Why do they “store” the Dolls in groups of five?  That seems like an especially strange number if we’re supposed to believe there are, ideally, 26 actives (though, obviously there would be 25 now, with Alfa gone)
  • Why did Dr. Claire feel the need to warn Echo that they were being watched?  What was she trying to accomplish with that?
  • Agent Ballard, I suggest you watch some Veronica Mars– first season.  ALWAYS check the air vents.
  • Are we back to square one here, or will the Dolls continue to glitch?
  • WHO IS THE MOLE?  (I know we’re not supposed to know the answer to that one yet, but I REALLY want to know)

Edited to add some other thoughts from the blogosphere (and I’ll add more as, I’m sure, they go up later today):

— carmhelga

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4 Comments

Filed under Joss Whedon, television

4 responses to “Dollhouse: Needs- sweet, confusing, and deeply disturbing

  1. YoSaffBridge

    So, here’s what I’m thinking about Sierra’s situation. I bet Adelle doesn’t know–that she was told something different, and that the higher-ups are the ones who allowed that to happen. Partly because I don’t think we’re supposed to see her as completely unsympathetic, and partly because…I love her…but seriously. On Angel, you had the evil law firm, but you had the even more mysterious Senior Partners who pulled the strings. Or, like, the Alliance and Blue Sun on Firefly. There’s always a more villainous organization working behind the scenes.

  2. carmhelga

    Well, I think that’s part of my problem, though. At what point does that STOP being an acceptable excuse? Adelle knows something’s up with that particular client. Boyd said something at the end about “confronting the man who took away her power.” And if we keep going back to the “Well, she knew, but she didn’t know EVERYTHING” excuse, I’m not sure how long I’m going to be able to buy that.

  3. YoSaffBridge

    Stop pointing out errors in my logic. 😛

    I love her too much, dammit.

  4. Janetheflounder

    Aaagh! I have to start watching this! Once the madness of papers and things is over, I can finally start watching everything.

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