By Miles Baker
Special Correspondent for theTVaddict.com and self-proclaimed Browncoat.
A note from the author: I’ve tried to make this review as spoiler-free as possible. However, there are minor spoilers for DOLLHOUSE’s pilot episode. Also note, this review is written by a Whedon fanboy.
I think it’s fair to say that Joss Whedon fans are worried about his new series DOLLHOUSE. There have been rumors, production stoppages, a couple of pilots, delays and a few eye brow-raising interviews. But fear not, viewers, DOLLHOUSE’s first episode is mostly good and it’s something to be excited about.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not perfect. There are a few missteps — and some even glaring mistakes — made in the first episode, but there is a lot of potential in the concept, in the characters and in the story.
Dollhouse, the place, is a secret organization where wealthy clients engage them to provide a human being. That human being has had their memories and personality removed so that a new personality or skill set can be imposed on them. The mad scientists of Dollhouse use personalities based on composites of real people so the active can be whatever the client wants or needs: a lover, a fighter, a tutor, chef, who knows what else.
This is actually the second episode filmed for DOLLHOUSE, the initial pilot was rejected by Fox, which is probably why this episode feels like there’s a lot handed to you in terms of exposition. Clunky lines like, “Let’s have no ex-cop heroics, huh?” hinder the flow of the show and make me think, “Come on, Whedon, you’re a better writer than that. There must have been a more elegant way to introduce that.”
There are also moments that make he think, “Whedon, you’re a better director than that.” In a couple scenes it seems that Whedon can’t get the actors to the emotional place he needs them to, especially during the opening scene which really hurts this episode.
However, the show picks up by the mid-point as Echo, under the guise of a expert hostage negotiator, tries to return a kidnapped young girl to her rich father. By this point, you start to see how the typical episode will probably function in the case-by-case sense, and that’s where I think the show starts to show its potential.
The show can be anything it wants to every week: crime, espionage, screw ball comedy, whatever. However, that might also be the show’s weakness in the long run if audiences don’t really know what to expect. It also will be hard to emotionally invested in Echo or any of the other actives if all they do is constantly reset.
This series is dark, it’s even all-caps DARK. Actives seem to spend most of their time as whores and killers, and between jobs they are completely innocent and child-like, and there’s an implication is that a lot of them are sold into the business. And that’s just the tip of the dark-berg, things get even darker as Echo takes on the kidnapping case.
As far as this episode goes, it’s not the total success that fans were hoping for. It’s a show that still needs to find its feet and that puts this show in more than a bit of jeopardy with cancel-happy Fox. But from what I’ve seen, I’m convinced that there is a good series following this pilot even if it isn’t here yet.
DOLLHOUSE premieres on February 13th on Fox.