Friday, February 13, 2009

"Dollhouse" - February 13, 2009 episode

Caroline nervously paces the room, as she has to make a very difficult decision that she doesn't want to make. Something has happened, and one of the ways she can get out of it is to volunteer for a program, and after five years, she'll be done and free.

Next, two mopeds are shown racing through the streets, and as the two veer off, one driver ends up crashing the bike to the ground, and it's revealed that Caroline (who we later learn is now called Echo) is that driver. She picks the bike up and catches up to the other driver, racing through Chinatown and into a sort of restaurant/club with a big banner that says "Happy Birthday, Matt". It turns out that the other driver is the birthday boy himself, and the two continue to have fun at the party. Echo is in this very, very short white dress, (yeah it's barely-legal short), but she looks amazing in it, dancing with Matt. He goes to get them a drink, and Echo ends up leaving the party and getting into a black van. She is taken away to a compound where she tells people that she may have found the guy, and she's trying to figure out if she should go back to the party after her treatment.

However, her treatment is actually a mind wipe, as we see a rewind of all the memories they're stripping from her. It turns out that Matt had paid for a weekend of fun with her, and we see how they met and what their weekend entailed. After she left the party, one of Matt's friends asked where she was, and Matt made a Cinderella reference about the clock striking midnight (metaphorically since the friend confusedly pointed out that it was 5am at the time), but Echo's transformation back to her old self is very different than Cinderella's.

After the treatment, Echo has a blank look on her face and doesn't remember anything that's happened. She's taken to see a doctor, who arranges a massage for her, but while she's waiting, her attention is caught by flashing lights, and she goes upstairs to investigate and sees a girl (who is a new recruit being mapped) strapped to a table with gadgets all around her. The tech who wiped her mind notices her and ushers her out, trying to come up with an explanation of what she saw.

We learn that Echo is an "active", someone who has had their own personality and memories completely wiped and who is imprinted with the memories and personality of whatever type of person is needed and requested by the company's clients. But none of them seem to know what's going on or that their memories aren't real, so I wonder why they all think they live in this big house. Really nice set, by the way.

Some kind of big-shot executive is shown talking to his daughter (she's supposed to be 12, but she looked younger than that to me) at home, but as soon as she hangs up, she is subdued by strangers and kidnapped. The man shows up at the Dollhouse offices and says that he just wants someone to facilitate the ransom exchange - he doesn't want the people caught or brought to justice, he just wants to pay the money and get his daughter back. Echo gets this task and arrives at the man's house. He is uncomfortable with the way she is handling the conversations with the kidnappers, to the point that when she says she knows what she's doing because she's been doing this for years, he laughs derisively at her since he knows that she's simply an active. He knows he's not supposed to reveal to her that she's an active, but he makes a cryptic comment about whether or not she was a clown or something else the previous day, which confuses her and which makes her flash on her imprintation process, which disorients her.

A meeting is arranged on the docks, and the money is being taken away by the head kidnapper's men but suddenly, something goes wrong with Echo and she collapses. When the client asks what's wrong, she says not to let them all get on the boat. The deal had been that when the money was on the boat, they would release his daughter. Echo says they have no intention of releasing the girl. When the client tries to stop the last man, the client ends up getting shot, and the kidnappers get away with the money and the girl.

Echo is picked up by the van, and she's talking what sounds like nonsense. But then it's revealed that her imprint personality was a kidnap victim, and one of the men she saw on the docks was one of the who kidnapped her, which is what caused her breakdown. She is determined to track them down to save the little girl, right after her treatment. The word "treatment" seems to be a trigger that works with the actives. Echo's Watcher...ummm...I mean...Handler figures out what's going on and tries to get them not to wipe her memory just yet because Echo is the key to finding the little girl. The tech nerd who's been wiping minds turns out to be one of the people who developed the system, and there's some discussion about the ethics of what they're doing and whether they're simply providing a service or engaged in something more sinister. The imprints come from a composite of multiple personalities, and one of the personalities used for this particular character had been abused as a child and had never gotten over it, having killed herself within the past year. The handler manages to convince them not to wipe Echo's mind yet, so they set out to find the kidnappers. Based on her phone conversations with the kidnappers and what the little girl had said when she was on the phone with her father, Echo figures out that one of the kidnappers knows the little girl and is probably one of her teachers. When a suspect is identified, they head to the suspect's sister's secluded cabin.

Echo is dropped off and knocks on the door, and they eventually let her in. She tells the other men that they're not going to get anything out of this because the one man is going to kill them all, and that he wants something more than money, namely, the little girls. She explains exactly what the man is going to do and what he has done, killing his partners, taking the little girls, abusing them and then dumping them for dead, and she confronts him and tells him to his face that she's not afraid of him anymore. As the men engage in a firefight, she goes to rescue the little girl. The man who had been the abuser is killed, and the others are letting her leave, but then the door explodes in, and a team from Dollhouse, including the new recruit she'd seen earlier, take out the rest of the men and recover all the money and will remove all evidence. The client is still alive and will be happy to get his daughter back.

This time, Echo's mind is thoroughly wiped, and the girls lay down in recessed beds that are about the size and shape of a coffin with a glass cover overhead. Weird sleeping setup.

Meanwhile, an FBI agent has been trying to track down the Dollhouse, something that seems more like a rumour and myth than reality, but he's convinced it's real. He takes measures to get more information about the location of the Dollhouse. At the end, someone is sending a picture presumably to the FBI agent, and it's a picture of Echo. The person is also watching a video of Echo when she was Caroline while two people lay dead behind him. I don't really understand this part, but based on the previews for the next episode, the husband is speculating that the man watching the video is Alpha, a rogue active (since all the actives seem to be named after the phonetic alphabet), and the dead people are Caroline's parents.

There were parts of the story that I found to be a bit confusing, but overall, I really enjoyed the show. I liked the marked difference in Caroline and Echo - whereas Caroline was frazzled and nervous and jumpy and looking worried and concerned, Echo is cool and polished and calm, almost to the extent where she would probably fit right in if she decided to move to the town of Stepford. The imprinting idea also has a bit of the Stepford Wives feel to it, although in that case, they didn't just replace the personalities, but rather, the entire being. However, the FBI guy did say that getting rid of the personalities is a kind of murder in and of itself.

They've set up the question of Echo's past, what happened that led her there. And that also makes you wonder what the backstory is for all the other people there. And why do they all think they're there, living there, sleeping in weird quarters and not even questioning how weird that is, and what exactly do they think they're getting treatment for?

Much of the advertising that I've seen has focussed on Eliza Dushku with mannequins, which I think is a good representation. Mannequins are a clean slate (and Caroline doesn't think a clean slate can be possible), and you can dress them up to be and look like whatever you want, to suit whatever you need. That's the same for the actives - they're clean to start with each time and then they're dressed up through imprintation.

Echo and the mannequins, instead of the bunnymen

Echo in the mind-wipe chamber with her handler and tech.

I really liked Eliza Dushku, who played all the different aspects of her character, or multiple characters. I know her a little from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", but I got into Buffy late in the game, so I've only seen some of Eliza's appearances on that show. I can see why she'd be interested in this role since she will be mostly playing a different character every week because of the imprints and yet still be building the character of Echo as time goes by. The variety of challenges will be like it was for Scott Bakula on "Quantum Leap", but in this case, she will actually be playing different characters every week, not one character pretending to be different people every week.

Because the debut of "Dollhouse" was right after the return of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on its new night, they had little vignettes of Eliza Dushku and Summer Glau talking about the two shows and each of their characters. It's funny that they're packaging the two together. Even one of Eliza's publicity shots as Echo resembles a publicity shot of Summer as Cameron.

Eliza Dushku as Echo

Summer Glau as Cameron

Another publicity shot of Summer Glau as Cameron, showing Cameron's terminator roots.

Summer Glau, in a picture that better shows how pretty she is.

So, yeah, I know Summer is pretty, and she's pretty hot too, but in the vignettes with the two of them, Eliza looked so much prettier. Sorry, Summer, you're pretty, and you're hot, but Eliza is just smokin'. Yeah, I'm jealous.

I was surprised to see another familiar face - Amy Acker, whose name the husband recognized, but I didn't until I saw her on screen as the doctor attending to Echo - she played Fred in "Angel". I'd only really watched the last season of that show. She's not included in the cast pictures I've seen online, so I'm not sure how big her role is, but they've certainly set her up as an intriguing character because of the scars on her face.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the show, and Hot Chicks Night on FOX looks like it's gonna be terrific.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

I enjoyed the show as well, and I hope that Eliza is up to the task of all of the different personalities she's going to be playing. I knew that the doctor looked familiar, and couldn't figure it out! Oh, Amy! OK. I was also really happy to see Grr! Aarrgh! at the end. Yay!