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Dollhouse - Episode 2: "Target"

We watched the second episode of Dollhouse last night. Homage to The Most Dangerous Game notwithstanding, David and I both thought it was a significant improvement over the pilot. Eliza Dushku delivered a noticeably better performance here, but that's not surprising. Action roles are familiar territory for her.

Questions and musings:
  • As I said in my previous post about the show, I really like Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton, Echo's handler, and that's even more true after watching this episode. I thought I'd seen him somewhere before, but I didn't realize until a friend pointed it out that he was Commander Lock in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Reloaded.

    Regarding his character, Boyd witnessed Echo recalling past events while imprinted, but does he now believe that everything is back to normal after her wipe? Will he report what happened to Topher and/or Adelle? I'm pretty sure he won't, and that it will come back to bite him.

  • I liked the way they connected the pilot episode to this one by showing Paul Ballard and the other agents investigating the house where the previous client's daughter had been held hostage. More Mark Sheppard, please.

  • Perhaps most interesting is what we learned about Alpha. Why is he sparing Echo?

    My husband thinks he might be Caroline's brother; we might have even gotten a little bit of foreshadowing from Echo's Jenny imprint. Richard says: "You know how much trouble I'd be in if you went splat?" Echo/Jenny responds: "Yeah. My brothers would kill you." I'm probably reading too much into that, but I still think he's got a decent theory. On the other hand, if he was at his parents' house in the pilot watching the videotape, why would he kill them? And if he didn't murder them, who did? If he is her brother, why would the Dollhouse take both of them, possibly leaving their parents childless? Maybe he isn't her brother, but thinks he is -- do Dolls ever get sent out on assignments together? Seems probable. Also, how has Alpha come to power so quickly? Did he kill or blackmail a former wealthy client so that he could orchestrate his revenge or rescue?

    I don't think Alpha is trying to kill Echo. He could have easily done that in the Dollhouse massacre. I think he's trying to push her to remember. Think about it: we know he's put her in two extremely stressful situations where she believed her life was threatened (though, as a Doll, she might not have fully understood enough about what was going on to feel the level of fear he was trying to incite). I think life-or-death situations force the brain to engage at a more primal tier: moving down to the reptilian brain to make fight-or-flight decisions forces us to access the core of who we are, and perhaps accessing other areas of the brain triggers residual memories. If Alpha was sent on an assignment that went badly wrong, it may have been the catalyst for his cumulative recollection. It's a little like breaking out of the Matrix (while probably accidental, casting Lennix is a nice meta connection) - those who have done it before pave the way for others.

    Part of what makes me wonder about this is the emphasis they placed on the Active's heart rate. While I have no idea whether or not the Dollhouse is aware that excessive stress can trigger cognitive flashbacks, it's at least possible that they know. It also gives additional significance to them monitoring that particular statistic: they're protecting their very costly investment from mental damage as well as physical.

  • Another Alpha question: so, let's say he's pushing Echo to remember. To what end? What does he intend for her? What motivates him? Is he a vigilante trying to restore her memory so they can seek revenge on the Dollhouse together, or does he plan to use her for his own ends -- has the Dollhouse inadvertently spawned a new evil?

  • I didn't think we'd find out about Dr. Saunders' scars quite so soon. I'm certain there's more to that character than meets the eye.

  • I think the "Did I fall asleep?" dialogue is a programmed cue letting the imprinter know that the wipe has successfully completed and that the vacant Doll state has been achieved. Well, at least as far as it can track. Speaking of dialogue, some fans have been kvetching about a lack of Joss' signature wit, but it's creeping in. For example, Topher's line to Boyd: "You're in the middle of "Why Would Anyone Wanna Be There." What'd you expect? HBO?" Hee. :)

  • Warning: don't look up Mellie: I was trying to find out if she was the same actress who played Willow in the original Buffy pilot (she isn't), and IMDB kind of spoiled me by accident. :( And for heaven's sake, don't look up who's playing Alpha. I was accidentally spoiled in a fan community, and we're not supposed to find out until the thirteenth episode. You don't want to know. You really want to enjoy the thrill of surprise.

  • I look forward to finding out who Adelle's boss is.

  • The reference the head of Dollhouse security made to the attic -- he seemed rather vicious when he was addressing Echo ... unnecessarily cruel. I understand the "You're just a Doll so I can pick on you," but it certainly highlighted a bullying streak. These are definitely not nice folks. However, that comment about the attic seemed meaningful in some way -- are there Dolls in storage? Is it some sort of punishment area? Did Alpha escape from it? Or ... is this perhaps some sort of cryogenic facility where they keep earlier prototypes and experimental Dolls? Surely there were failures before their current inventory. They didn't get it right on the first try.

  • Also, where are they getting all of these memory archives to use when compositing an imprint?

One thing I particularly like about the series so far is that we start on the bad side. We're in the Dollhouse, in the gilded cage, with occasional glimpses at those who are outside trying to shine the light of day on it. We get to see things from the villain's perspective.

I hope I can find time to watch this episode again. They picked up the pace considerably, and I might have missed something subtle.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
I am glad that someone else is wondering where the memory archives are coming from... are these people who died or volunteered or were coerced?

What happened to the original people? On a side note, where did the doll's original personality go? Is it gone forever or on some disc in the computer lab?

I have many, many questions and definitely preferred the second epi to the first. Thanks for writing this up!
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
You raise two good questions ... actually, the second one may relate to the first. They do seem to have a personality bank from which they're drawing ... the Dolls' real personalities may be stored in that bank, or they might be on disc in a vault somewhere so that they aren't accidentally accessed. Or ... do they sign up for five years and then get gypped by the company keeping them for as long as they remain useful? What if Sierra or Echo becomes a favorite of a certain client who is willing to keep paying?

If they do keep their part of the bargain, does the Dollhouse offer transition therapy for reintegrating restored Dolls back into society?

Thank you so much for reading it and commenting! I've been dying to discuss it with people!
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
I too thought this was a stronger episode.

My theory is that Alpha doesn't remember who he was before coming to the Dollhouse, but developed a composite personality from the little bits that remained after each engagement. Eventually those little bits formed enough of a whole that it created... something. A destructive monsterous something. And I suspect that he spared Echo, and is manipulating the Dollhouse to try to create a partner, someone like him, a jigsaw man of the psyche.

I suspect that, based on the "shoulder to the wheel" thing at the end, Echo will composite, though probably not in the way Alpha hopes(?).

I agree with you on Dr. Saunders, there's definately more to her character then just being the staff doctor.

I also agree that I really like Boyd the Handler and I think in someways it's his show as much as Echo's. Echo is a blank slate most of the time, and pretty much the rest of the regular characters are morally ambigious at best. Topher seems more concerned with the science then the morals behind it, Special Agent Helo has good intentions but seems a bit too unafraid to back down and I suspect his zeal will have him possibly crossing lines, Adelle was swayed by Boyd's speech in the first episode to save the girl but I suspect she's more concerned with profit and/or making her bosses happy (I'm curious about them too) and the security agent is clearly a bully (to put it mildly). Boyd seems to be the one guy who seems to be a genuinely nice person... and that just makes me wonder even more why a ex-cop with a heart of gold is doing in a place that practices human trafficing (even if they are volunteers). I suspect there's more to his story as well.

Oh and thanks for identifying him as Commander Lock, I knew I knew him from something but never managed to figure out what.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)

Yes, I think you've hit upon it exactly. Thank you. I think Alpha is a mental composite monster just as Adam was a physical one. That doesn't necessarily explain his interest in Echo, but I think I now know where they're going with his character concept.

Yes, I'd definitely like to know why Boyd is with the Dollhouse. At first, I wondered if he might be a covert operative, but then they wouldn't really need Paul Ballard as a character.

As for identifying him, now I'm wondering if they somehow got introduced through Gina Torres, given her small part in the last movie!

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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