And there, folks, was the first truly great episode of “Dollhouse.” No doubt about it. The kind of episode we’ve wanted all along, often in ways we couldn’t have possibly predicted. More than anything, above the dense mythology, overt active abuse, and new revelations, the episode set to ask a very simple question: what if there was a Dollhouse in our own reality? Or rather, what if our own reality in fact created a Dollhouse?
Interspersed throughout “Man on the Street” were interviews conducted by a syndicated entertainment show concerning the “myth” of the Dollhouse. Their responses ran the gamut, from horror to horny, but many people managed to talk themselves into the concept the more they thought about it. In other words, what was at first shocking gradually turned dull and, in many cases, a form of beneficial service. In other words, the Dollhouse doesn’t exist outside societal norms, but in the fringe space that occupies the hidden corners of everyone’s mind.
Near episode’s end, a semi-hacked Echo tells Ballard, “The Dollhouse deals in fantasy; that is their business, but that is not their purpose.” Using Mynor as an example, the sex itself is often a benefit, not goal, of an encounter. That doesn’t mean said sexual act is in any way justifiable, but it does show that what the Dollhouse deals in primarily is wish fulfillment, in whatever form that may entail. The man who hunted Echo in the woods a few episodes didn’t want a sex partner: he wanted a person equal to his hunting/tracking skills.
But at the end of the day, he still wanted said person to look pretty good naked in his tent beforehand, and therein lies the feminist bent of the show, exemplified/amplified by Hearn’s habitual rape of his active, Sierra. The dolls do not look like a group tailgaiting at a football game on a Sunday morning; they are individuals selected as much for their bodies as much as their willingness to initially cede control of said body for the purposes of the Dollhouse. Their physical presentation is half of the selling point, which makes a harsh critique on our society: if given the choice between two equally skilled people, we’ll always choose the hottie.
Adele doesn’t consider hiring Sierra out for sexual encounters under a false persona rape, but considers Hearn’s actions as such. To that effect, Adele punishes Hearn’s actions in the most lethal way possible: by activating her sleeper active, Mellie. Kudos to those of you who saw that one coming. I personally didn’t, figuring that was just one too many dolls in and around Ballard’s life. But hey, that’s why I recap, not write, this show. Too bad, as I was actually really starting to like Mellie. Her post-coital chat? File under “adorable.” So here I am, having fallen for a doll. Which might be the meta point, but doesn’t reduce my desire to take a shower. Maybe a few.
Since Adele had Ballard’s apartment wired, she knew the precise moment at which to call and speak the correct trigger phase to launch Mellie from “neighborly” to “assassin-y.” There are three flowers in the vase, and the third one turns you into Sydney Bristow. You could, as Ballard does, persuasively argue that both are essentially the same thing. Adele, however, doesn’t quite see it the same way. By underestimating Adele’s intelligence and ruthlessness, Hearn had no idea he was walking right into a trap, one that both rendered him killed and pushed Ballard even closer to Mellie than ever. Dominic congratulated her manipulation, but at the risk of her own reputation, she then ordered him to tell the other Dollhouses of Hearn’s transgression.
Yup, I said Dollhouses. In plural. Just like Wolfram and Hart, the Dollhouse can’t be contained in just one building. They’re everywhere, tied into pretty much every facet of global power. They are like Halliburton, but with babes. Echo tells Ballard this juicy bit of information after someone corrupted her mission file as Topher talked with Langdon earlier in the day. I’d love to hear who you think corrupted the file: my money’s on Topher’s assistant, Ivy; my wife thinks it’s Claire. Then, of course, there’s the mysterious Alpha, who managed to wipe Echo during the art heist, so could definitely have hacked Topher’s server as well.
Adele’s actions might seem like self-preservation, but they are in fact fully in line with what she sees as the Dollhouse’s purpose. Hearn’s violation of Sierra is a violation of said purpose. Remember: fantasy is its business, not its purpose. And that purpose? Well, that’s for the show to reveal. But ponder this: what if someone wanted to use a Dollhouse for a purpose beyond a mere date, beyond a motorcycle ride, beyond a piece of art? What if the Dollhouse is a testing ground for something much, much bigger? Imagine someone in a position of power who decided it would be much more efficient to run government if people weren’t so darn opposed to his/her plans. Just sayin’.
A few more tidbits from tonight:
- Loved, loved Patton Oswalt as the lonely bazillionaire. It’s a pretty stock role, but he filled it with humor and enough melancholy that I almost started feeling bad for a guy who pays a service to have a brainwashed girl pretend to be his dead wife, Rebecca. Almost.
- Speaking of Rebecca, I could have heard “Rebecca” say “p0rn” about 100 more times and I still would have laughed out loud each time. I’m easy like that.
- Looks clear that Agent Tanaka managed to plant the leading evidence for Ballard to follow well in advance. Too bad Tanaka didn’t have a moustache to twirl as Ballard left the FBI in disgrace.
- Could not believe how badly edited the in-kitchen portion of the Echo/Ballard fight was. It was the worst episode of “Iron Chef” evah. However, the alley stuff? Brutal and original. Loved every second of it.
- The Mellie-as-Mole (Mollie?) brings up something that feels very “Battlestar: Galactica” to me: can we really trust ANYONE not to be an active at this point? If you’re under thirty, you’re on watch, so far as I’m concerned. Not sure I like such paranoia thrown into the mix, but there’s not much I can do about it, I suppose.
- Fave line of the night might have been Victor’s one word response to how Sierra makes him feel: “Better.” Just heartbreaking.
- Boyd using his detective skills to figure out the one place in the Dollhouse without cameras? Totally and utterly awesome. Much like Maverick, he can be my wing man anytime.
All in all, this was the type of episode I’ve wanted from the start. Chock full of mythology, an expansion of the Dollhouse’s true meaning, and subtle but important character progression from the three main dolls. Throw in Adele’s ruthlessness, Boyd’s heroics, and the mystery of the corrupted imprint, and you had a helluva reason to stay in on a Friday night.
Was tonight’s episode an improvement, or more of the same to you? Is Mellie-as-doll a great surprise or just overkill? And who corrupted Echo’s imprint? Leave your thoughts below!