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Tonight marked the return of Dollhouse with what was technically two episodes, however the back-to-back eps felt more like one big, super-sized episode of awesomeness. Gone was the usual formula of Echo on a mission and in its place, the story focused entirely on Senator Perrin’s public attack on the Rossum corporation. With that came a few twists and turns that kept the momentum flowing nicely.
“The Left Hand” was a great title for the episode because it was not only a remark on Bennett’s busted arm but in the case of the L.A. branch of the dollhouse, it appeared that Rossum was counting on them not knowing what the right hand was doing. When November/Madeline shows up as Perrin’s big witness against the Rossum company, Rossum tries to blame Adelle but the woman’s soft spot for her actives (former and current) causes her to investigate the situation further. What she learns is that Rossum wants L.A. to take the fall for them, after which they can infiltrate the government and make their own laws. Sounds simple enough, right?
At first, we’re made to think that it’s Cindy, Perrin’s wife, that’s the doll but we soon learn that that’s not the case. I would’ve thought that by mid-second-season I’d be tired of the “so-and-so’s really a doll!!!” twist but I have to admit, I was floored and impressed when the reveal came that it was the good senator himself that was programmed. Who saw that coming? The brilliance in this little twist was that Perrin’s actually a doll version of himself. The descendent of a long line of successful politicians, Perrin might’ve been able to create the same kind of life Rossum gave him if not for his bad-boy ways and general lack of ambition. Apparently, the Dollhouse not only has the ability to make up new personalities but they can also improve existing personalities. So Perrin’s still Perrin… he’s just a Perrin that parties less and has bigger aspirations than waking up in a pool of his own vomit.
The revelation that Cindy is the handler reminded me a little of Merryl in The Truman Show. She has the whole perfect-wife thing going on but inside, she loathes her role in Perrin’s life. When Perrin ends up detained at the D.C. Dollhouse, Cindy uses it as an opportunity to get some of the frustration she’s been harboring off her chest and basically tells him that he bores and disgusts her. When has evil-monologuing ever come to any good? Has this woman not watched any super-hero movies or soap operas?
Moving on: Topher! Gloriousness erupted when he programmed his mind and personality into Victor so he (Topher) could go to D.C. to handle the situation that was arising out there. Enver Gjokaj nailed the Topher impersonation. Everything from the weird posture to the jerky hand movements and general gawky behavior of a guy who spends way too much time underground was present in his performance. He even sounded like him as he spouted his genius ramblings and fretted around awkwardly. The true test of who was the better Topher came during the conversations Victor-Topher had with actual-Topher over the phone. More amusing than anything else was Topher’s relief to give Victor a treatment and get the echoing duplicate-Topher put to rest. I had an amusing flashback of the two-Xanders from that one Buffy episode. Funny but yeah, I could see how that could get old.
We’ve seen Glau as the distant and emotionally traumatized River Tam in Firefly and the cold-emotionless Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her character, Bennett, the D.C. branch version of Topher, appears to be a combination of the two in terms of her personality. She’s a cold and fairly creepy woman (I attribute at least part of that to the barrette in her hair), but she’s far from emotionless. In fact, she’s the kind of chick that holds a grudge. Since Caroline is to blame for Bennett’s busted arm, she takes advantage of having Echo in the D.C. branch’s custody and tortures her.
Bennett somehow manages to turn the creepy thing into a dorky, shy, nerdy-hot act when Topher shows up and he falls for it for the most part. After Echo and Perrin escape from the D.C. Dollhouse, Topher and Bennett team up to track them down and Bennett inevitably tricks Topher into helping her remote-program Perrin to kill Echo. Topher figures out what’s going on in time to put a stop to it and Perrin ends up strangling his wife/handler to death. Guess that whole “I can’t stand you” monologue earlier backfired on her. Classic mistake.
In the end, Perrin went in front of the press and claimed that it was competing medical companies that were not only responsible for his wife’s death but also for putting him on a hunt against Rossum. There is no Dollhouse and the whole thing is just an attempt to take down the biggest medical research company in the world. So now Rossum looks like the victim and Perrin’s all lined up to be the puppet while they make the laws.
The down-side for this was that Madeline/November was prepped by Perrin and his wife to testify against the Dollhouse and with Perrin’s big announcement that there is no Dollhouse, she’s now left looking like a crazy person. What’s worse, her actions aren’t going to go unaddressed or unpunished by the dollhouse. She ends up back at the D.C. Dollhouse and strapped in a chair. Is it the attic for her or is November returning?
And finally: Where’s Echo? That’s what everyone wants to know. While Perrin crawled back under Rossum’s thumb, Echo went off on her own and because she and Perrin took their shirts off and cut their GPS trackers out of their necks earlier, no one can find her. What kind of whacky shenanigans will semi-wiped-but-self-aware Echo get up to on her own? We’ll find out during next week’s episodes.