For someone who baby-sits John and Sarah Connor every Friday, I have given very little attention to the kids living in the Dollhouse. I wasn’t not watching for any specific reason except that I usually watch Friday Night Lights in that time slot and have such an overflowing social calendar that I cannot take on any new shows. Which part of that last sentence do you think is a lie? Also, what person that writes consistently about television is exceeding social expectations?
Some complaints I have heard about Dollhouse so far revolve around the lack of fluidity from episode to episode, a somewhat disjointed storyline, Eliza Dushku’s acting troubles. (I wonder at what point she is really trying her best to act; when she is on an engagement or when she is wiped clean in the Dollhouse. I am leaning toward the former.)
With the wife away for the weekend and the NCAA basketball tournament offering blowout after blowout I decided to hit up Hulu to give Dollhouse a try. The pilot wasn’t there so I had to skip right to episode two relying on the “previously on...” to give any background information I may have missed. I also wiki’ed the show to get some character names and histories down.
After watching five consecutive episodes I came away with two feelings. One was that if I had started watching this show from the beginning on a week to week basis I almost assuredly would not be watching anymore. I got a sense of the frustration many viewers must have had with the lack of depth given to the main players as well as the disjointed movement between episodes. I found very little to attach to until the sixth episode. The only reason I even made it that far on Hulu was that I heard the latest episode had the show turning a corner into relevance. It did, kind of.
Maybe my feelings change if I had seen the pilot, but I think the hallmark of a good/great show is the ability to grab you almost no matter when you start watching. I picked up The Shield halfway through season 4 and never looked back. I still haven’t seen the first half of the first season of Lost but that doesn’t stop me from waiting with bated breath each week.
Dollhouse is so similar to Alias that I could probably write a whole article about their likeness, but I am not blazing any new trails with that comparison so I won’t bother. The similarities are so rampant that it is a little embarrassing. Instead, I wonder about the long term chances for a show that hadn’t really posed any big questions in about six and a half hours of broadcast (the last half hour started to whet the whistle, but man did it take forever to get there). That makes me think there could be very little to delve into. Of course we are wondering what the Dollhouse’s big plans are. But is that enough? I already don’t care too much about Echo’s past and Agent Ballard going rogue isn’t necessarily a good thing. What actually will make me stick around the longest is figuring out who Alpha is and what his endgame entails. That little nugget is enough for at least 5 more episodes for me.
Alpha’s character has been potentially revealed and others on Blend Television have posted about it. They even included pictures for you verbally challenged folks out there. Alpha could have a Sylar-like build up that made Heroes so great in its first season. Creating a hero/ anti-hero is critical for a show like this. Right now, who are we rooting against? I am not really rooting for anyone, but not against anyone either. Bad sign. I hope they choose a side with Alpha and stick to it.
I also have faith in Joss Whedon as a writer/creator that “gets it” and doesn’t feel the urge to rush into plotlines early and often. There is a certain patience involved in creating an epic story and he is one guy with those chops. From what I have heard, this last episode was the first with him playing a major, creative role. The storyline effect was dramatic. Episode seven had more plot twists and “Whaaaa?!!” moments that the first six combined. Creating that balance between viewer hook and story buildup is critical. I think this Friday’s episode is tantamount in carrying over the reveals from last week. I would love to see Dollhouse start rolling downhill and building some momentum because it is really a show that could have long term viability. But if it keeps on chugging along with independent storylines and neutral characters, the show is in trouble.