Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dollhouse: Man on the Street

I think this episode might have been a leeetle bit overhyped for me--my expectations were so very high, and unfortunately they were in directions that the episode did not take; I wanted Echo to wake up more, I wanted to understand more about what the Dollhouse was (not just people's theories about it).

However, it was still a great episode, and it did accomplish many things: Millie has a purpose (thank God for that), and we had some movement on Paul Ballard's plot, which was sorely needed. It was also made clear that there are all kinds of forces at work, though what these forces are, we're not sure.

We open with Ballard having a confrontation with a fellow FBI agent who looked crazily familiar, and I was trying to remember when we'd encountered him before (we hadn't. It's Badger. Duh). Ballard is characteristically diplomatic, and tries to break the guy's arm.

Echo and Victor are having breakfast, and Sierra does not come to sit with them. Victor is very disturbed by this, and goes to invite her over. He touches her on the shoulder, and she screams. Dr. Claire examines her, and says that she has had intercourse--since her last engagement. Victor with his crush is the obvious suspect, though nobody can quite comprehend how that would have happened. Echo tells them that Sierra has been crying in her pod when she goes to sleep at night (how nobody else would have noticed this, highly scrutinized as the Actives are, is a mystery).

Paul figures out something with money laundering that I don't quite understand, but it means he knows where to go to see an Active perform an engagement. He shows up at a house surrounded by bodyguards, takes them out, and lays in wait as the client escorts his doll into the house. Ballard comes to arrest them, but is stymied when he realizes it's Caroline/Echo, and is distracted enough to allow Boyd to get her out of there. Joel, said client, sits down for a little chat with Ballard, though of course he doesn't have to--Ballard has no warrant, and there's no longer any evidence of any wrongdoing, as Echo is long gone. Joel forces Paul to confront his little crush on Caroline, and points out that Paul's fantasy (of saving her) is no worse than Joel's. It helps, of course, that Joel's fantasy is unusually touching; he bought this house seven years ago, as a gift for his wife. She was killed in a car accident on her way there. And so he hires an Active to help him live the moment he never got a chance to have.

Having taken this conversation to heart, Paul kisses Millie. Millie wryly tells him that she'd prefer he kiss her, not Caroline. He assures her that he isn't thinking about Caroline, not anymore. And then he sleeps with her. Sigh.

Boyd uses his cop skills to go on the hunt for Sierra's rapist. He figures out where it must have happened, where the cameras don't cover. He accuses Victor, and lays in wait for the real attacker. Sierra's handler pulls her aside, and tells her to lift up her dress. (It's a perfectly chosen line; it really plays on the pedophilia of attacking someone like an Active). Boyd smacks him through a glass window.

With Sierra's handler in Adele's custody (wouldn't want to be him, since Adele is already pissed about Paul's attack on her client), Boyd goes to talk to Topher. Topher is clearly very busy putting together a new identity for Echo (needs a good dose of violence--she's getting set to take out Paul), and Boyd's reason for interrupting is irritatingly minor.

Sierra's handler defends himself to Adele, saying she was stupid--a bunch of naked beauties with no memory running around, did she think this would never happen? It's a fair point, but doesn't seem to mollify Adele much at all. She gives him an opportunity to defend himself: she sends him after Millie, whom Paul has put in danger by telling her everything he knows.

Paul runs out to get Millie some post-sex Chinese, and is attacked by Echo. Ballard doesn't hold back this time, and they really go at it, knives, giant frying pans, the works, and it's stomach-clenching fight scene because unlike other Joss Whedon shows, neither of them are superheroes. They may be badasses, for sure, but they can get hurt.

He's all set for the knockout punch, when he hesitates. She pushes him off her, and jumps up. "The Dollhouse is real," she tells him. She informs him that she was imprinted with this protocol (the tell him what's going on as opposed to killing him protocol) by an inside man, who is working to bring down the Dollhouse--which, by the way, is much bigger than Ballard thought. It's global, and its purpose is much more nefarious than simple prostitution and thievery. Ballard asks if the inside man is the one who told him about Caroline--Echo says no. And she shoots a cop, and tells him to run--that the Dollhouse may not want Paul dead, but that doesn't extend to anybody Paul may have told.

Sierra's handler is beating the crap out of Millie--until her phone rings. Adele's voice plays on the answering machine. She says the trigger phrase "the flower in the vase is blue," and Millie handily takes Sierra's handler out, and kills him. Adele says the safe word "the flower is the vase is yellow," and Millie blinks, and is Millie again. (I knew she was an Active. There was no excuse for the manicotti otherwise.)

Ballard hands in his badge (he got blamed for the cop-shooting). Millie remains in place, and Sierra and Victor are friends again. Adele goes to check on Echo, who is painting a house. "It isn't finished," she says. Adele asks if she'd like it to be. We cut to Echo pulling up at Joel's house, and finishing that story.

I thought that was interesting, albeit slightly inconsistent--you wouldn't think Adele would be pleased to discover the lingering effects of an engagement. I think I'm finally having the issues that all the critics had much earlier on; I can't follow Echo. While she is indeed gaining a personality, it is such a slow process that it's hard to hang on to, and when you have an episode like this that isn't really about her, though she is in almost every scene, it's very difficult to care about her. Every time Echo shows up, she's someone else, and the common thread that I've been struggling to see was completely missing here. So the enjoyment of the show is almost an analytical one; what does he want, who is the man inside (Boyd, but he was talking to Topher. Dr. Claire?), what's Adele's deal, etc. I'm not sure that's quite enough for me.

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