Sunday, January 31, 2010

Broken Dolls & Empty Chairs

The run of Dollhouse has concluded. Props and costumes are being auctioned off and the imprinting chair will never be used again. I stayed spoiler-free, but I've since read some of the reactions from critics and fans alike and I have to say that I fall firmly on the side of the "meh" crowd. I wasn't impressed, and that hurts to write. I've been so pro-Whedon for so long now that it's an onerous chore to be one of the ones saying that this one didn't work, it never felt like a labor of love, and no, it's not Fox's fault. Yes, it was a terrible time slot, but something has to go there. (And it's worth pointing out that The X-Files did just dandy in that slot way back when.)

I don't want to nitpick over minutiae and there's no need to. There were major problems here. The dialogue was clunky, the plot line felt rushed, and there were holes in the plot you could have driven that truck-taken-from-Mad Max through. (I actually have a theory that most of "Epitaph Two" had its origin in one too many late-night writing sessions fueled by cheap red wine and post-apocalypse movies.) Tech has ruined the world, unleashed Reaver-style madness upon the earth, yet the roads are clear? And ex-Dolls have volunteered to have yet more tech implanted into their very skin? Sure. I'll buy Adelle as the Earth Mother growing strawberries first. Oh, wait - that was in there.

Really, this just wasn't very good. I say it's Whedon abandoning his tried-and-true approach of "don't give them what they want, give them what they need." I didn't want this (nor for that matter, did I need this.) Further, I may be alone in thinking the Echo/Paul mindmeld was just beyond Hallmark schmaltz; plenty of other viewers put it as the Best. Ending. Ever., right up there with Angel's "Not Fade Away."

I, on the other hand, do not.

The problem, I think, started back with "Epitaph One," which I had problems with at the get-go. Once that existed, it either had to be regarded as canon, or it was off the cliff into "it was just a dream" land. So how do we get there? Well . . . not too well. Gamma radiation? A shiny-clean Dollhouse run by nice-guy Alpha? Character traits on thumb drives?


All that said, I'll still be at the front of the line to watch whatever comes next. Even the shiniest of brilliant minds misfire from time to time and I won't be a fair-weather fan.

But I'll remember this. Unlike a Doll, my mind can't be wiped.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One to Go!

Dollhouse airs its final episode next week. This is a one-week delay, as the episode was pushed back a week due to the charity concert to raise desperately-needed funds for the Haitian earthquake relief effort, which aired last night. Far be it from me to complain about a television show being re-scheduled due to such a worthy cause, but I find it terribly interesting that the concert, which is a nigh-unprecedented coming together of people and technology, should so scramble the plans to broadcast the final episode of a show which takes as one of its main themes the potential for technology to wreck human lives.

I'm caught up on my viewing and note-taking and I have to say: Hmmm. Plenty of good going on and twists and flips worthy of an Olympic platform-diving competition, but I'm still not totally sold. Which is a shame, since I wanted to buy.

The show's connection to the play R.U.R. has been acknowledged in a quick little meta-nod and I'm glad I found that connection beforehand (see earlier posts from the fall of 2009). Further, I'm looking forward to writing in more detail about the connections and inverses (inverci?) between the original source material and what Whedon has done with it.


I very much enjoyed playing detective with some of the literary references - Melville's adage of the horrible body count of "From hell's dark heart, I stab at thee" is evident in "Getting Closer" (then again, Star Trek 2 as well as The Simpsons have referenced that one) and Whedon twists Eliot around so Rossum certainly ends with a bang, not a whimper in "Hollow Man" - but I still think it's just too little, too late. The show wanted to wrestle with some of the Big Questions such as the role of memory in creating identity, human trafficking (I so wanted an episode in which a Doll rescued modern-day slaves and then toddled back to the House for a "treatment," which I think would have pointed up that particular theme, but maybe it would have been heavy-handed. Now I'll probably never know.), the use and misuse of technology, pure science vs. weaponized ideas (Topher as Robert Oppenheimer, the mastermind scientist behind the Manhattan Project who upon seeing the results of the Trinity test, referenced himself as Vishnu in a very blood-chilling way), and many more besides. I suspect the problem lies in Whedon not really knowing how to create a balanced meal from such a buffet. Too many refined carbs and too much chicken-fried steak; not enough veggie medley. And don't get me started on the dessert section! "Epitaph One" lingers over the final episodes; something I warned about way back when as it seems to box in where you can go.

Let's see what the final episode brings us and yes, I'll miss Dollhouse when it's gone. But I think it's time to move on to another project. And some breakout stars have been added to the Whedon family, Enver Gjokaj (Victor/Anthony/occasionally Topher) chief among them.