Happy New Year! Last year was happy-ish, craptastic, and just another year all at the same time. Honestly, I don’t feel like blogging about last year or my hopes for next year. Instead, I want to talk about a show that I recently marathoned on Netflix.
Joss Whedon is my master. I’ve known this ever since my fiancee, Laura, introduced me to Buffy. After watching that whole series, I also watched Angel and Firefly. Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies. The Avengers is a triumph of a great comic book movie. Joss can do no wrong in my eyes… Well, other than Agents of SHIELD, but I’m not even touching that today. Instead, let’s take a look at what people seem to think is his weakest show yet. This is Dollhouse.
Dollhouse revolves around the Rossum Corporation, a medical corporation that has a secret, underground side project: The Dollhouse. Basically, they make people (sometimes volunteers, sometimes criminals with no other options) into blank slates, wiping away any memories or personality. Once these people become Dolls, they can then be imprinted with any personality. One day, they can be a hostage negotiator, another day a dominatrix, another day a weapons expert. Rossum sells people, any people that the rich guys want for a weekend. This series mainly follows the Los Angeles branch, specifically a Doll named Echo, played by Eliza Dushku.
To start with, if you’re already a Joss Whedon fan, I can tell you right now that this show is far darker than any of his other shows. It deals with free will, power, greed, existentialism, the list goes on. I’ll put it this way: The other shows had threats where the world was going to end. This one shows us the aftermath of an apocalypse. It all gets really emotionally heavy.
There would be too much to go over if I talked about every character, but I will talk about 3 that I consider my favorite. WARNING: This section contains a bit of a spoiler regarding the identity of a certain character. If you wish to avoid spoilers, skip ahead to the next paragraph. Eliza Dushku does amazing in this show. She plays every part she’s given as naturally and beautifully as ever. She’s given a hell of a lot of parts to play and she’s believable as every single one. Kinda like Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black. She’s flawless in this. (All the other Doll characters are also damn good.) Fran Krans as Topher Brink is a completely loveable manic nerd character. He is the heart of the show and I never got tired of watching him in action. Favorite character, hands down. Alan Tudyk as Alpha… is P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Dear God, he is menacing, dark, and even scary to watch. He is the best damn villain Joss has ever written. Yes, better than Angelus, better than the Blue Sun Corporation. Alpha is the best. Period.
Now, as the series is only 2 seasons long, I’m going to talk about each series, what I liked, and what I disliked.
Season 1 spent the majority of the time establishing the characters and the normal goings on at the Dollhouse. It was more of a “monster of the week” type set up where we follow Echo through her different missions while also learning more about the Dollhouse. The two main “antagonists” for the season are Paul Ballard, an FBI cop trying to find and bring down the house, and Alpha, a former Doll who’s gone insane and has turned into a serial killer. Ballard’s story line is, honestly, really boring to me. I never found his investigation all that intriguing. I frankly didn’t care if he did find the Dollhouse because I knew the whole thing would prove to be too big for him to take on. The ultimate conclusion of his story line was actually easy to predict. The Alpha story, on the other hand, was a great mystery. He never really appeared until almost the season’s finale, but he always felt like a presence in the background. You could always feel some kind of menacing force yanking at strings to make the Dollhouse shake. His story line was fantastically done and, as I said before, Alpha is the perfect Whedon badguy.
The finale of Season 1, frankly, perplexed me. The whole episode acts as a sort of flash forward into a future where the Rossum Corporation has caused the end of the world. The story line for the episode was a bit confusing and, to be honest, I really hated just the premise of the episode. I thought it was a waste of time to see that the bad guys sort of win in the end. It took away a lot of the mysteries behind the house and felt like, basically, cheating. Have you ever been half way through a really good book and then decided to peak at the last few pages to see how it ends? This is what that felt like.
Season 2 of the show got really confusing really quickly. Instead of the usual “monster of the week” type formula, the whole season revolved around a conspiracy in the corporation and the LA Dollhouse trying to figure it out and stop it. Honestly, this season is the weaker of the two. Most of the plot revolves around twists, and most of the twists feel like they’re unnecessary. They are twists for the sake of shock instead of legitimate ways to continue the story. It felt like the characters didn’t have time to grow as much as the crap kept getting thrown at them. Plus, some of the characters felt like they were acting off simply to move the plot forward. The plot just felt like it was all over the place and only came to a focus toward the last few episodes.
Season 2 does have the superior finale, though. It’s another flash forward episode acting as a sequel to Season 1’s finale. However, this one felt like a better conclusion over all. It felt like a really satisfying way to end the series. It ends on an uncertain but hopeful note, similar to the rest of Joss Whedon’s TV career. I was certainly left with a few questions, but I do think this was a great way to end the story.
Is Dollhouse perfect? No, but it does have aspects of perfection. Great characters, a creative premise, and even some good, dark moments that are refreshing next to Joss’s usual, lighthearted dialogue. I would recommend this show to everyone, but mostly to people who are already Whedon fans. The rest of you, if you have never heard of this guy, I urge you to seek out Buffy first. Because, in the end, Dollhouse, simply IS the weakest Joss Whedon show I’ve seen. But that’s mostly because Joss ROCKS and his other stuff was badass beyond measure. Dollhouse may not be the best, but it’s certainly earned it’s place among Joss’s other triumphs.