by Adela P.
The Dollhouse pilot episode seemed pretty different than the Buffy, Angel, and Firefly pilots. It was very approachable for a viewer who is unfamiliar with Whedon's work. The Dollhouse pilot is only an hour long, is structured in a way that gives the viewer some sort of "permanent" direction to look toward, and ends in a cliffhanger that pushes the plot dramatically forward in anticipation of the next episode. We aren't totally clear what's going to happen, but we're curious enough about the characters' pasts and the Dollhouse itself that it will likely pull most of us back in front of our televisions next week. And it isn't so elusive as to alienate us by making it totally unclear where the series is going.
Things to watch for:
The Human Trafficking Metaphor
Caroline (i.e. Echo): "Actions have consequences."
Adelle: "What if they didn't?"
I've heard some skepticism about the blatant human trafficking metaphor in Dollhouse, but if anyone can pull this off successfully it's Whedon. Because not only does Whedon create awesome television, he's also very involved in Equality Now, and thus there's no one I trust more than to make such a political statement about something so serious. (And here's my cue to plug Whedon's Equality Now speech from 2006, which you'll find lurking at the end of this blog post.) In an AMC interview, Whedon was asked how being a feminist fits in with a show about "women being subjugated." Whedon replies: "It’s terrifying. There’s no way you can avoid the idea that this feels like high-end human trafficking. But what I’m interested in is the idea of a woman who has no identity, who is gradually becoming self-aware and saying, 'I think I know more than they want me to.' It hurts me and intrigues me." There's no doubt that Whedon will be able to find a way to balance these two emotions in such a way that we as viewers are "feeling" the issue in the same way that he is.
It looks like Dollhouse is going to have quite the musical score -- the scenes in which Echo hesitantly eases herself into the chair for personality removal/imprinting are accompanied by some pretty eerie music -- the subtle kind of music with the high octaves and slow rising and falling of pitch... almost childlike, but in that way where you know something's not quite right. It embodies Echo herself -- Echo has been stripped of personality, and she can be manipulated and "raised" much like a child is. Her innocent queries, the way that she touches Dr. Saunder's face and asks "who takes care of you?", not accusingly -- only inquiringly, seeking answers for their own sake rather than to learn about something else through that answer. The music reflects the innocence and danger of Echo herself, and it will be interesting to see whether this becomes a trademark throughout the series.
- Echo -- What did Echo do that made her afraid enough to join the Dollhouse? How did she find out about the Dollhouse, or did they find her?
- Dr. Claire Saunders -- what happened to her face, and why is she all skulky? I'm torn about whether to trust her.
- Paul -- Why is this FBI agent so obsessed with finding the Dollhouse? Seems like more than just a job to me. And what's with all those boxing flashbacks?
- Topher - Why does Topher seem so lacking of morals? I'm hesitant to typecast him as just an amoral, avaricious jerk because nothing is so simple as that in the Whedonverse -- so what's his deal?
- Boyd -- What shady past is this ex-cop-turned-handler hiding? Why would he choose the Dollhouse if he seems so unwilling to trust and/or condone the organization? Did he perhaps do something so unforgivable under his previous employer that he had no choice but to work at the Dollhouse? Or is he there for a more elusive purpose?
Boyd (about Echo's new personality): She's nearsighted...?
Topher: She also has asthma.
Echo (detective persona): Speak out of turn again and I will scold you.
Whedon could potentially give Dushku's personality imprints a funny and unexpected new quirk every week. I, for one, am very excited about the potential in this.
Some Really Great Writing/Directing/Producing/etcetera
Behind the scenes of Dollhouse we have Jed Whedon, who worked on Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with his brother (and also publishes a youtube series called Apartment 4B with his fiancee), and also some great Buffy and/or Angel alumni -- Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain, Kelly A. Manners, Tim Minear, Steven DeKnight, and David Solomon.
The Evolution of Eliza
Eliza Dushku's going to have quite the challenge ahead of her. She must play different people every week, yet do it in such a way that the audience begins to care for her character as much as they care for any other. The pilot episode demonstrates that Eliza is capable of the feat, but I think she can do even better in the future.
In conclusion -- I wholeheartedly endorse this new series (as if you thought I wouldn't!), and am thoroughly looking forward to next week's episode. Wholeheartedly. And thoroughly. So if you're not watching now, START.