Dollhouse, Fox, Airs Friday 9/8c
Episode: “Man on the Street” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Synopsis: Agent Ballard’s suspicions of the Dollhouse’s existence are confirmed as he comes face to face with Echo out on an engagement. However, a second encounter leaves him more lost and confused than ever. Meanwhile, Sierra begins exhibiting strange behaviour whilst wiped, to the alarm of those around her.
Review: Woah. Any doubts held about this series should be completely eradicated after viewing this episode. The biggest issue with reviewing this week is most definitely where on Earth to begin, the sheer quantity of content is hard to absorb. To quote Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, shall we?
The one complaint that’s remained constant since the series started was that Agent Ballard’s arc was so very detached from both Echo’s story and that of the Dollhouse. Such a divide meant that every week, some chunk of time was spent on a story which wasn’t exactly interesting and didn’t further the main story. As of this episode, that issue should be a thing of the past as Ballard ended up in the thick of the Dollhouse’s business, in ways he didn’t even realise. It certainly wasn’t an issue here! Give Joss credit where it’s due, peppering the world with dolls is a sneaky move but it makes perfect sense and leaves us really at a loss. Who can be trusted?
Something else which may not have been designed to leave the viewer unsure and confused is Echo’s message to Ballard. The news of multiple Dollhouses isn’t really news, it’s been guessed at before. However someone inside the establishment working against the system is right out of left field. Careful rewatching of the scene reveals no new information, damn their cautious filming. Who sent the mysterious message? Assuming Alpha was the one sending the messages to Ballard initially, what other party would be interested in shutting down the Dollhouse? The use of “we” in Echo’s message indicates that a group is involved here, one that knows Ballard and his ties (whatever they may be) to Caroline. Or is this all part of a larger game, more of DeWitt and the Dollhouse playing tricks and double bluffing, attempting to get Ballard off the scent by convincing him he’s working with an infiltrator from within? Either way, he may not be of much use for the next while, being suspended and all.
Though most of the action focused on Ballard and the twists and turns surrounding his obsession with Caroline/Echo, the story within the Dollhouse is also worth noting. Rather than just being a sidebar and a way to fill time, it dealt with the abuse of the trust between a handler and their doll which, unfortunately, nicely mirrored paedophilia and abuse of innocents. While it’s not exactly what you want on your tv show, it just serves to remind us of exactly how vulnerable these fully grown people are, once their imprints are stripped from them. It also raises another issue regarding the dolls in their wiped state – how much do they recall and how do they do it?
It’s been established that the dolls (at least the ones we follow) retain memories and connections from their wiped state, otherwise names of staff and other dolls would be lost after each engagement. So does there exist a baseline within the doll’s mind which they are wiped back to? Though Sierra’s experiences have supposedly been wiped from her recollection, are they really gone? Ms. DeWitt implied that Topher’s task in removing these memories was much more difficult than a simple wipe, why is that? Am I thinking about this too much? And one final note, if they’re concerned about this sort of issue (a bad memory corrupting a doll’s base personality), why not do a backup before each engagement?
Moving along from the pseudo-science analysis, there was definitely a reason for all the hype around this episode. Joss and many cast members said over and over that episode 6 was where it kicked off, that episode 6 was what to wait for, and boy were they right. Fox may have had their fingers in the pie of episodes 1 to 5, and while I liked them, I loved this. Whedon-esque hallmarks were all over this week’s instalment, with sharp dialogue and genuine comedy muddled together into a fan pleasing combo plate. Not only that but Echo got to get her Faith on as she kicked Ballard’s ass all over that kitchen, and in some great heels too. Throw in the large amount of character development throughout the cast and it adds up to one hell of a tough act to follow. Happily this week’s episode retained most of the audience and lost only .1 of a share in the 18-49 set, so if this doesn’t get them back for next week, nothing will.
Up Next Week: “Echoes” – When a deadly virus runs rampant on a college campus, Echo is sent back to school, where parts of her past start coming back to her.
Did you watch Dollhouse this week? What’d you think?