My expectations, they were low. You can't read so many gloomy reviews without having your expectations punched down pretty hard. So given that, Dave and I were surprised--it cut to the first commercial break, and we were all "this is totally watchable!" I give it a B+, and that's rated on the scale of all television. If I were to rate it on the scale of Joss Whedon Television, it would for sure be lower than that.
However, it must be pointed out that early episodes of Buffy and Angel were not what you'd call particularly good--I just asked a friend who'd expressed an interest in Buffy to hold out for the third season, which is kind of a lot to ask (not that I don't like the first two seasons, but she wouldn't). While that makes you question just how good Firefly could have been, I think last night's episode was on par, perhaps even better than, early Angel.
Topher Brink is hilarious, a probably just as evil but certainly more appealing Warren, and I liked the protectiveness of Boyd Langdon (although wha? I read some snippets of something about maybe him being a love interest for Echo at some point, and no, just no. The vibe, it is fatherly.) Amy Acker's Dr. Saunders is probably the most intriguing of the bunch--mystery! scars! shyness!--and Paul Ballard seems (to me) like much more likely candidate for love interest, but whatever.
And as for Echo--Brian Lowry of Variety said "Dushku does wonderful things to a tank top, but her grasp of this vague, personality-changing character is a bit of a muddle," which I found pretty damn offensive before even seeing the show, and having seen it, find it more so, if possible. I just love it when people lead off their reviews of someone's acting ability with a comment about their breasts. Now, I don't disagree with either half of his statement, but I think it being a muddle is pretty much the point. Echo is supposedly personality-free, and gets uploaded with them, but obviously that doesn't work, or there would be no show. So we get muddle, and then we get self-awareness, and we go from there.
And while I'm on the subject of being pissed off at reviews, how on earth did so many people think the asthma-attack thing was a flaw in the Dollhouse system? The memories they gave her, and the asthma that accompanied them, are what saved the little girl--another negotiator would have let her get on the boat, the Ghost guy would have killed the other kidnappers, and little girl would have ended her life in a refrigerator.
One more thing about the validity of this show--RockNoodle had a weeping attack about ten minutes in (they were strictly instructed, and warned months in advance, to go to bed at 8:58, but falling asleep RockNoodle had one those ooops, I thought about my father dying, and now maybe he will kid-fantasies, so there was copious weeping) and Dave had to go comfort her, and so missed a lot. Luckily, my obsession had me taping it (isn't it great when your obsessions come in so handy?) and after the episode ended, we immediately sat down and watched it again so Dave could see what he missed. There is no greater test for a show's ability to hold up than watching, rewinding, and watching again.