Ah, Dollhouse. You certainly need some sort of help, don’t you? This fourth episode was, in terms of comprehensible drama, certainly head-and-shoulders above the last one…but surely that only means it isn’t drowning yet?
I am running out of ways to believe there’s an end in sight. In some way I don’t fully understand, this show is slipping gradually down into Studio 60 territory. It should not be happening. It ought to be impossible.
But, here’s what we know so far:
We know that no one hires a million-dollar mind-controlled midwife and flies her to the top of a mountain to deliver a baby, without there being a damn good reason for it. Such a reason, at least a sort of Scotch-tape reason (because I have to work with what I’ve been given, and I haven’t yet been given Band-Aids), could have easily been supplied by the simple exigency of giving the father-to-be an accent…in doing this, the dialogue concerning the first kiss between Mommy and Daddy could have been made stiffer, more evocative stuff as well…
But that this wasn’t done, must surely be taken as an indication that no one thought it needed to be done, and so…
Another thing we know is that this Dollhouse operation is both very very big, and very very secure. Because to be this big and also secure, it must be extremely secure to be secure at all. Lots of staff, in lots of different countries. Lots of clients who are all in on what the process is…even, God help us, managers of pop songstress divas. Moles in major law-enforcement agencies. The ability to make people disappear, and also to make legal records of them disappear, while still leaving craploads of evidence of their previous existence lying around. With every indication that the security must be full of holes, there’s a new necessity for some kind of extreme security cordon we can’t see, that is keeping the operation safe from prying eyes even so. And this implies a yet-greater size and scope and scale of resources and influence, that the Dollhouse has available to it. If we know nothing else yet, we know that the damn thing is HUGE, and that it is POWERFUL. It sends helicopter gunships into national parks. It finds recruits and co-opts them effortlessly, both mindwiped and regular versions. It creates templates of personalities from at least hundreds, and probably thousands, of mind-donors before it even has a use for them, and even from ones with enormous tactical competencies. It has backup satellites. And yet it is constrained…but we have no idea by what. Therefore what its purpose is, is utterly obscure…
And therefore I doubt again. What could constrain such an organization? The bigger and more secure it gets, the more the number of candidates for this constraint drops closer to zero.
Another thing we know is that there is an operation out there at least as powerful as the Dollhouse, that wants something from Echo. I presume what they want from her is for her to regain her memory, because I can think of no other reason for the homicidal bowhunting billionaire — whose false identity fooled the Dollhouse’s security apparatus totally — this is a supposed billionaire we’re talking about here, it would be hard to fool me about his bona fides — to drug Echo with what I can only think is a psychoactive chemical designed to undermine her programmability, and chase her through the woods under high stress…
But why her?
And, why doesn’t the Dollhouse know about it?
They aren’t even doing anything about it.
And maybe they will, maybe they’re even about to, but there’s more. We know that not only Echo’s programmability, but also Sierra’s, is breaking down. Of course the fourth episode conveniently forgot this…but then it also (UNFORGIVABLY!) forgot that there was a plot-hole-sized exit to its locked room problem standing right behind it for a good half an hour…
And, is there any way that can be explained away?
So let’s just say it’s kind of stupid, this fourth episode. Though better, it’s even stupider than Episode Three. And, what a world we’ve been invited into, where it can be both at once, eh?
We also know that, in addition to being special to the unnamed rival of the Dollhouse, Echo is also special to its super-scary nemesis. Why? There can only be a few reasons, and I’m sure we’re going to find them out…but more important than that is the question of how the managers of the Dollhouse can be so sure that the one “special interest” isn’t the same as the other…while clearly not knowing why either of them are doing the things they’re doing anyway.
What else do we know?
We know the Dollhouse flat-out lies to at least some of its clientele about not knowing what their requested “scenarios” are. But, why would they do this? Would you do it? It doesn’t really make sense.
Nothing in this show makes sense.
We know that while the Dollhouse occasionally does jobs only it can do, it frequently does jobs that don’t need doing at all…at some very large sum of money a pop. And, say…where does the money come from? How is it accounted for? How much of it is there? Helicopter gunships. Spare satellites. The crispest available lettuce. Multinational operations. Hit squads. Mind-control technology. Like the invisible security cordon, its necessary justifications get bigger and bigger the more the possible candidates for this justification approach zero. In Episode One, all we needed was shady government connections. By the end of Episode Four, we are pretty close to needing the Matrix…or at least Roswell aliens. Or the bruised ego of Aaron Sorkin. I don’t know which of these is worse, honestly. What’s going on, here?
How good is that sixth episode going to have to be, for God’s sake? Is Joss Whedon dead, and the Fox executives writing scripts from the plot summaries he left behind? That’s too harsh of me: Episode Four managed a few very nice moments. But it’s getting so it’s like extraordinarily crafty executions of Time Tunnel scripts, that we’re seeing.
And it’s a mess.
Unless there’s a sufficiently large hidden justification for it all, that is.
I can now think of three, that don’t involve Roswell aliens, the Matrix, or Aaron Sorkin’s therapy sessions. Any of them would be enough, to make me clap my hands and say “my God, what a brilliant trick you’ve pulled off Joss! You had us all fooled!”
And maybe he has a couple more in mind, that I haven’t even thought of suspecting yet. It’s possible.
But here’s the problem: at the end of Episode One, I could think of two dozen possible justifications for the Dollhouse’s existence. Oh, those halcyon days of yesterweek! Such good times we had, then.
Now it’s three.
One episode to go before the fabled Sixth.
I worry that this show is not going to last.
More than that, I worry that I’m not going to want it to.
I don’t mean to get overly cute, here, but seriously…it’s shoulder-to-the-wheel time, for this show. Joss, buddy, you know I love your stuff…
But you’re going to fool me too much, if you let this keep going the way it is.
Okay, I’m all set for that Dark Knight post. Figure there just might be time enough to get it in, before seeing Watchmen.
Wish me luck!