Hello, Christine. How are you feeling?
How am I feeling?! I’ll tell you how I’m feeling. I’m feeling pissed that Dollhouse is over. Shall I go now?
As a permanent attachment to Joss Whedon’s nuts (Exhibit A), I finally got around to watching Dollhouse. I haven’t had cable in at least 5 years so there have been many shows that I’ve missed out on. The man-friend and I watched both Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer this year and it only seemed proper to watch Dollhouse to round out our viewing of shows created by Whedon.*
Dollhouse was cancelled by Fox and ended after 2 seasons. I know I’m tardy for the Dollhouse party but after watching it, I’m pretty passionate about how much I enjoyed it. Why was Dollhouse so good?
The Cast – You would obviously know Eliza Dushku from Buffy, Tru Calling, Bring it On, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or perhaps from that awesome mid-90s Paul Reiser movie Bye Bye Love (along with Amber Benson from Buffy). No shame. I’ve seen that movie several times. When I say several, I mean 20.
You may recognize Tahmoh Penikett, who plays Paul Ballard, from Battlestar Galactica where he played Karl C. Agathon. Harry Lennix is Boyd Langton and is known for roles in Ray, a couple of The Matrix movies and that classic film Stomp the Yard. Olivia Williams is Adelle DeWitt, overseer of the Dollhouse and master of bad guy/good guy. You may recognize Ms. Williams from Rushmore and The Sixth Sense.
The rest of the main cast hadn’t been in much prior to work on Dollhouse. Fran Kranz is Topher Brink, the genius in the lab who creates and imprints personalities to the dolls as well as innovates technologies. Dichen Lachman is doll Sierra as well as her original personality Priya. Enver Gjokaj is Victor/Anthony. Enver Gjokaj is incredible! He is a great impersonator. Victor is frequently imprinted with the characteristics of other characters and he is always spot on.
Whedon employs many actors with whom he has worked on other projects with for Dollhouse such as Amy Acker (Whiskey/Dr. Saunders), Reed Diamond (Laurence Dominic), Alexis Denisof (Senator Daniel Perrin), Summer Glau (Bennett Halverson), Felicia Day (Mag) and Alan Tudyk (Alpha). Alan Tudyk is awesome. Alpha is a completely different character than Wash from Firefly and it was awesome to see Tudyk’s versatility.
The Plot – Echo (Eliza Dushku, duhhhh) was once Caroline but traded her pain and suffering for 5 years of service to the Dollhouse. The Dollhouse stores the “doll’s” original memories and wipes the mind clean. From there, different personalities can be imprinted into the tabula rasa depending on a client’s needs or desires. For example, Echo becomes a kidnapping negotiator, a backup singer trying to save her superstar boss from getting killed by her number 1 fan, a blind member of a religious cult, various love/sex/power related roles and you get the point. At the end of each engagement, the dolls are wiped of the memories/experiences related to their engagement and are blank slates until the next engagement. They have no personalities nor do they function like normal members of society. At the end of the 5 years, the dolls will be reimprinted with their original memories/experiences/personality and are under no further obligation to the Dollhouse. However, Echo is special. Slowly, Echo maintains memories and skills from each engagement even after being wiped and reimprinted. I leave it up to you to watch the show to learn the rest. There are only 26 episodes. You can do it!
One of my favorite things about Dollhouse is the fact that the bad guys become the good guys and the good guys become the bad guys throughout the show. Just when you’re on someone’s side – you’re blindsided by a literal “OH MY GOD” moment. You have no idea how many times a plot twist left me with my mouth wide open or exclaiming “OH MY GOD” or “HOLY SHIT”. This show is so unpredictable and that’s the best part!
Lingering Question #1 – Why did Dollhouse get cancelled?
Times have changed. I’ve been receiving this inexplicable subscription to Entertainment Weekly and each week the list of top 25 shows on broadcast television is littered with reality TV and sports. A good show doesn’t stand a chance anymore next to “reality” shows. It doesn’t help that Fox sucks at recognizing when they have something good on their hands (See: Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Arrested Development and the outrage regarding the cancellations).
I get that Angel (*flashes some side eye*) was on a smaller network than Dollhouse and benefited from that difference but their weekly numbers in terms of ranking and viewership were comparable. Dollhouse had the unusual luxury of being on at the same time on the same day during the entire time that it aired but it was on on Friday nights when its target audience was out binge drinking and trying to get laid.
Lingering Question #2 – What was Joss Whedon’s masterplan for Dollhouse?
IMDb tells me that Joss Whedon had a five year plan for Dollhouse. I’m not sure that matches up with the Dollhouse time line. The show was cancelled on November 11, 2009 but was able to finish out the season. “Belonging”, episode 4 of season 2, aired on October 23 and the next episode “The Public Eye” aired on December 4. I’m not sure if that time was used to re-write or what. Two episodes aired on each of the following dates: December 4, 11 and 18. I don’t create, write, direct or produce television shows but doesn’t that seem like a hell of a lot of work in a short amount of time? Was Dollhouse supposed to follow the imprint wasteland between episode 11 and episode 12 in season 1 for three years before coming back around to the finale? JDubs, help a sister out.
Lingering Question #3 – Where do we go from here?
There is a satisfying end note to the cancellation of Dollhouse and that centers around Joss Whedon’s go-to outlet for creative freedom – comics. We’ve already got Buffy and Firefly comics and now we get Dollhouse comics which appear to fill the void left by my idea of the Dollhouse masterplan.
Dollhouse is an incredible series with an awesome cast and so much potential. I’m glad it gets to live in on in comic form so I can keep up with the characters. I am constantly in awe of how full Whedon’s plate it is and how he consistently does amazing work. Next stop…Avengers!
*You may notice that I excluded Angel from this list. I had and have no desire to watch Angel. Whedon didn’t even want a spin-off – it was the WB that pressed the issue – and Angel was supposed to stay dead at the end of Season 2 of Buffy. I hate Angel. GAHHHHH! That’s another story for another time.