From its scrapped pilot to its hotly contested portrayal of female characters, controversy has followed DOLLHOUSE from virtually the moment the project was announced. Which is why, on the eve of its series finale, we thought it would be only fitting to throw one last log onto the fire by sharing our theory on where DOLLHOUSE went wrong.
While on paper, a Joss Whedon series revolving around beautiful operatives that can be programmed with unique personas for various missions sounded like a surefire hit, the reality was anything but. For as it would turn out — like the Rossum Corporation’s not-so-well-thought-out plan to transform humans into programmable guinea pigs — the series itself had one fatal flaw: No character. And characters, be they good, bad, or somewhere in between, are the lifeblood of any successful television series.
Characters are what we, as viewers, latch on to. Their trials and tribulations are what get us emotionally involved. And unfortunately in the case of DOLLHOUSE, they were also what was sorely lacking for the first six episodes of the series. After-all, how do you ‘feel’ for the likes of Echo, Sierra, and Victor, when at their core they’re nothing more than empty shells waiting to be jump-started by Topher?
That’s why once Team Whedon allowed the fleshbots to develop the messy, sticky, oh-so-relatable nastiness we humans call emotions, we began to fall in love with the show. Not only did knowing the circumstances surrounding Sierra, Millie and Victor’s entrance into the Dollhouse change everything, the horrific and often heartbreaking nature of their arrival had a profound affect on both the way we watched the show and the way we viewed the characters. Yes, hindsight is 20/20. But the question we’ll never know the answer to is this: Had the writers fleshed out their characters from the beginning as opposed to playing up the sexy-fembot-for-hire-without-consequences angle, might we be anxiously anticipating a season-ending cliffhanger as opposed to sadly awaiting a series-ending finale?