Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dollhouse: where does Joss Whedon belong?

So interestingly, I've never posted about Dollhouse. I'm a big Joss Whedon supporter (Buffy is still my favorite show of all time and I loved Firefly) but Dollhouse was a little different. I think the show got off to a bit of a rough start, with too many Echo's-mission-of-the-week type stories that kind of just showed Eliza Dushku's weaknesses as an actress and that sort of glazed over the whole concept of the dollhouse and imprinting and the moral and ethical kind of "stickiness" that made people uncomfortable. I also didn't find myself all that interested in Paul Ballard and his investigation and I found myself wondering where it was all going.

But because I had faith in Joss and his ability to develop characters and story, I stuck with it. Now that the series is over, I have to say that I'm really glad I did. For those of you who lost interest or fell behind, I highly recommend watching the rest of the series. And definitely, definitely watch the unaired first season finale ("Epitaph One") that's only available on DVD.

In a way, I think the cancellation was a good thing for the show. It was announced early enough that Joss and the writers could end the series in a way that would be satisfying for the audience and allowed them to do basically whatever they wanted (within the allotted number of episodes, that is). Any formula for the show was basically thrown out the window and it took on more of a miniseries type feel as the show started just going into overdrive. It felt a little like the last season of Battlestar Galactica as things just started being revealed left and right and things were getting twisted again and again. The series finale, "Epitaph Two", which aired this past Friday, finally meets up with the future that was revealed in the first season finale, "Epitaph One" and things are more or less resolved. I was satisfied.

What's kind of interesting about Dollhouse, a show about these blank "dolls" that can be imprinted with any personality, is that the characters and relationships among the characters were really the best part of the show. Adele, Boyd, Dr. Saunders, Topher...they were all very well drawn and developed over the course of the show. I was especially impressed with Topher's arc. I'd always liked him, but could see why others initially found him grating but somehow over the course of the series, he kind of became the series' ultimate tragic figure.

And of course the love story with Sierra and Victor (or Priya and Anthony) was so incredibly sweet and was almost the heart of the show. You just really wanted those two to end up together somehow. Also I have to give kudos to both Dichen Lachman (Sierra) and Enver Gjokaj (Victor) who were so incredibly versatile and convincing in the dozens of characters they had to play. (Enver was especially brilliant when Victor was given Topher's personality...he was so perfectly spot-on with the speech and mannerisms.)

So it's kind of hard to recap the entire series, and I don't really want to give too much away for those of you who still plan to watch, but I think this is one I'm going to remember. I am starting to wonder how Joss Whedon's ideas can best succeed though. He tends to come up with the kind of stuff that just can't get the ratings that network TV needs and wants, but that fans can become passionate about. I already kind of despair that TV has become overrun with all the CSIs and Law and Orders and NCIS' and I hate that it's hard for something different like Dollhouse to succeed. Perhaps Joss needs to take his stuff to cable?


burkie said...

i watched "dollhouse" for the first time a few weeks ago. i knew absolutely nothing about the show and was totally lost throughout, i'm afraid. david kelley is another creator that deviates from the norm is often gives us quirky, character-based dramas (i loved Picket Fences and enjoyed the one about the high school, but neither ally mcbeal nor boston legal appealed to me).

Jennifer said...

Yeah Dollhouse was definitely not a show that you could just tune in for one week and understand what was going on.

I've never watched Picket Fences, but for awhile I was actually really into the Practice, which is strange because I'm generally not legal drama person. I think I watched a few episodes of Boston Public but didn't really get into it much. I love Chi McBride though!