TV Review: Dollhouse – Ghost


Dollhouse, Fox, Airs Friday 9/8c

Episode: “Ghost” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Synopsis: We’re introduced to the “Dollhouse”, a mysterious location whose inhabitants are blank slates, ready to be programmed for their next mission. These missions range from providing the perfect romantic encounter to acting as a trained assassin. Once the mission is complete, the dolls are brought back to the Dollhouse by their “handlers” for their treatment, after which it’s as though they never left. Echo (Eliza Dushku), one of many agents in the institution, is hired to handle a kidnapping when a memory of her new personality botches the transaction. Meanwhile on the outside, FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett, aka Helo from BSG) pursues this fabled place relentlessly, though his superiors disapprove. Is he seeking it to find someone special?

Review: After a confusing start and a slow first half, this show certainly kicked up the interest level to finish on a very interesting note, but will it be a villain of the week or a strong character driven story that we end up with? This being the pilot, it’s hard to tell, but after watching last night’s episode I’m definitely tuning back in next week to find out more.

The show’s current focus deals with the dolls and their missions (more specifically Echo’s life and missions) and seems like a fascinating but possibly tawdry storyline. However, their personae when leaving the Dollhouse are only one aspect of this. The other side of this existence is the strange lives they lead within the house itself. Seeming almost childlike, as that’s what they really are without any life experience, they are treated as such, with their time within the confines of the house made up of keeping fit, showering together and being treated so that they can be ready for the next outing. The characters we spot as we move through the house and the lives of the dolls all have their own quirks, from Doctor Saunders (Amy Acker) whose scarred face may explain the distance she keeps from the dolls to the arrogant tech guy playing with memories as though they were video games. Only Echo’s handler, Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix), appears to have an emotional link to any of the dolls, but it’s already been mentioned that he’s new. Perhaps he doesn’t know the rules of the game.

As the show focused on Echo, it was logical to begin with hints as to how she came to be a doll, but of course provide no real detail. This theme followed through the entire episode, not quite to “Lost”‘s level of teasing but there were a lot of questions raised with no real answers. Fortunately it hasn’t caused frustration yet, but it did leave me wondering whether I’d started the episode a few minutes in. Raising questions is always good, we don’t need yet another passive show devoid of deeper levels. Joss Whedon’s been a master at long term plotting for quite some time now, his outline for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s fifth season was partially in place long before we’d gotten there, so I have faith that “Dollhouse” will be another hit. However, the start of the episode was a tad dull. Perhaps it was that we hadn’t attached to the characters yet (though while in the Dollhouse, it’s hard to attach to any of them, they’re all completely devoid of emotion other than “pleasant”) but until Echo’s personality developed a personality and a human side, the show was somewhat dead. Since it’s well known that Fox demanded that the show be postponed for reshoots and a better cut of the premier, this could be a bad sign. However, have a little faith. I repeat, it’s Joss Whedon.

Unfortunately as proven with “Firefly”, this alone does not protect the show from cancellation and according to the Hollywood Reporter, last night’s premier was “the lowest rated scripted series premier on a major broadcast network this season” (other than the cancelled “Crusoe”, on NBC). Putting it on Friday was always a risky move but this is an unforeseen low. It’s possible that Dollhouse may die before it’s even really had time to make memories, so fight the power, keep tuning in and watch the Whedon magic unfold. It’s always worth it.

Up Next Week: “The Target” – Echo becomes an expert outdoorswoman when she is is hired by a handsome young client named Richard, but is he what he seems? Meanwhile, Agent Ballard ( receives a clue about Echo’s past and we learn about Dr. Saunders’ (Amy Acker) mysterious scars

For more coverage of your favorite shows, check out the TV for Movie Lovers Archive.

Did you watch Dollhouse this week? What’d you think? Should it be kept alive?

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