TV Review: Dollhouse – Gray Hour


Dollhouse, Fox, Airs Friday 9/8c

Episode: “Gray Hour” (Season 1, Episode 4)

Synopsis: Echo’s (Eliza Dushku) newest mission as an art thief goes awry when a supposedly impossible event occurs, leaving her confused and defenseless. Meanwhile, Agent Ballard (Tahmoh Pennikett) plays hard ball with Lubov/Victor (Enver Gjokaj) in an effort to get more information on the Dollhouse.

Review: So, this week we see Echo become a safe cracker extraordinaire, right up until the moment when she forgets who she is, where she is and pretty much anything above basic motor functions and speech. If anyone was wondering what a Doll in their wiped state was like, this episode definitely answers a lot of questions. Suggestible, innocent, confused and lost seem to sum it up, and a complete danger to themselves. It’s no wonder that the Dollhouse is set up to function as a giant spa, relaxing the newly “born” back into the real world.

This client of the week approach is starting to wear thin, as it seems that while we make inches of progress with character development involving any of the dolls (which happen to make up a large portion of the cast), it takes far too long to do. Not only that, but whilst Agent Ballard’s story line has a linear progression, it doesn’t really connect with the audience (other than the shock factor of his supposedly innocent source being a doll himself) and seems cut off from anything else we do see. Isolating the only real forward moving plot line like this seems destined to fail, but perhaps integration is on the cards. After all, seeing all the information Adelle deWitt (Olivia Williams) has on Ballard’s work and character means that he is being watched, and she’s definitely eager to keep him off the scent. Could another doll be set to follow Victor into the lion’s den in order to get Ballard onto a new case?

Speaking of the dolls, it was nice to see the grouping behaviour displayed by Echo, Sierra and Victor commented on by someone other than a fan. Topher’s (Fran Kranz) statement about it being instinctual raises some interesting questions. Exactly how blank is the tabula rasa state? From what we saw of Echo in the vault after her remote wipe (which was done remarkably well, from her inability to move from the pre-programmed waking script to the fetal position she tried desperately to stay in, a position she was found in after the Alpha attack), the moral center also remains, based on her unwillingness to hurt people and the concepts of good and bad, right and wrong and broken and whole all still seeming fully formed. Usually seeing a doll in this state doesn’t give that much information, as the environment in which they live is so sanitized, so safe and nurturing that the dolls are never really tested and made to reveal themselves and what they’re made of. Perhaps that was the point the whole time? With Alpha so interested in Echo, he could be testing her in both wiped and programmed states, attempting to force her to access her true self and override the programming instilled by the Dollhouse.

So how broken are all of these experiences and personas making Echo/Caroline? With each new character being imprinted, does a new fracture form within? The use of the artwork was a great way of conveying the exact situation of every doll, but particularly Echo. After all, she is starting to retain aspects of previous imprints and losing even the tabula rasa unity that forms the basis of all the other dolls. Does she really need the prodding and testing of Alpha to cause her to crack apart? So much of this series is still unknown, there are more new questions every week and most of them are about Alpha! With Topher’s upgrade in security, perhaps more information will trickle down to those watching the show.. Perhaps.

So yes, the episode suffered from a client of the week approach, yes the Agent Ballard storyline remains completely uninteresting and removed from the main and yes the Alpha teasing is cruel. However, despite the negative aspects, the 42 minutes spent in the Dollhouse this week were rewarding and informative. It may not be a content-crammed episode, something which viewers of Lost and Battlestar Galactica are currently enjoying vast quantities of, but it did allow us to gain an insight into the dolls. Unfortunately, yet again Dollhouse slipped in the ratings, with TVByTheNumbers reporting 3.5 million viewers and a 1.5/5 rating/share, so keep getting the word out and grabbing new viewers if you want to ever solve the mystery of Alpha and see more of Echo’s real personality, whatever’s left of it.

Up Next Week: “True Believer” – Echo loses her sight in order to see the inner workings of a clandestine cult.

For more coverage of your favorite shows, check out the TV for Movie Lovers Archive. If you missed a Dollhouse episode, catch up here.

Did you watch Dollhouse this week? What’d you think?

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