Dollhouse Episode 8 Review
Wednesday, April 08, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Boy howdy - this was one sad episode, y'all.

The episode opens with Paul Ballard's wet dream about making out with Echo. Seriously. I mean, yes, it descends into a nightmare scenario where Mellie confronts him about his attraction to Echo, and then it looks like Echo is dead (apparently one of Paul's greatest fears), and then Mellie also starts bleeding from her head as she accuses her him letting "Them" hurt her. Three things to note in this scene: First, Paul has his shirt off again, so yey for that. Second, Paul really does have a romantic interest in Echo, as well as the desire to be "needed" by her, in terms of love and rescue. That... sort of squicks me out, if I'm being honest, but more on that later. Third - this dream does have some purpose, as DreamMellie's words tip off our loveably dense agent to the fact that his apartment is probably bugged. Paul spends the rest of the episode looking for the bug, looking everywhere first save for the most obvious place. Anyhoo, he finds the camera, and goes looking for answers.

In the main plot, the one we really care about, Adele calls a staff meeting to discuss the increasing problem of glitches experienced by Echo, Victor, Sierra and November. Topher suggests changing the gaseous cocktail of hallucinogens and mood suppressors they pump into the Doll sleep chambers. Dr. Claire takes umbrage to that suggestion, and then Dominic decides to make the conversation that much creepier by recommending that the handlers treat their Dolls not like children, but like pets.

Later on, our intrepid foursome, along with one Doll named Mike (a.k.a. RedShirtGuy) wake up fully aware in their pods. After some mild claustrophobic freaking out, they get up, and try to figure out their situation. After they encounter the other Dolls and realize that there's something seriously wrong with the blissed out way the others are acting, they quickly hatch a plan to escape.

Meanwhile, we are aware the Adele is monitoring the whole situation, and that we're meant to look at this as some sort of live exercise to test the facility's security. She and Dominic watch as the Dolls attempt to escape. RedShirtGuy doesn't make it, but the other four get into the garage and steal a car. Did I mention that Victor's real personality seems to be 30% adorable teddy bear, 30% take charge leader, and 40% sheer awesomeness? Because he rocks this episode.

Anyway, at the last minute, Echo stays behind, because she and Paul share more than just their blinding hotness as individuals. They also both suffer from total White Knight syndrome (a.k.a. savior complex). So Echo breaks back into the Dollhouse, with the intent of freeing all the other Dolls from their zombie-like existence. She totally fucks up one of the female handlers (and boy, isn't that lady going to be pissed when she wakes up and finds out that the higher ups let the Dolls escape on purpose).

Meanwhile, Mellie remembers that she's a mother in her real existence, and wanders off to find her daughter. Sierra and Victor decide to go confront the man who made Sierra a victim in the first place. This confrontation is hands down the creepiest, grossest past of the episode, as we realize that Sierra was never given a choice to become a Doll - the client bribed and manipulated enough people to get them to take Sierra in the Dollhouse against her will. And then the client hired her back as a willing sex slave. Victor and Sierra pop the scumbag a couple of times in the face, but then are forced to leave before the job is finished when security shows up.

Then we get to the final act, where the show rips our hearts out, tosses them on the ground, and digs their heel in. It turns out that this whole exercise wasn't about testing security, but rather, giving the Dolls what they needed psychologically. Echo confronts both Topher and Adele (almost wiping Topher's brain out in the process) and sets about freeing all the Dolls, Sierra learns that Victor cares for her and he'll always try to protect her, Victor gets to kiss the girl of his dream (in a very Squeee! worthy moment), and Mellie visits the grave of her dead (!) daughter.

The zap2it.com recap (linked below) brilliantly points out that this episode revolves around desire. Echo desired fulfilling her role as savior of the day. Sierra desired revenge over the man who took her power away. Mellie desired the chance to grieve for her dead child. Victor just wanted to get the girl. And the minute these desires are fulfilled, the Dolls literally shut down, and are carried like limp rag dolls back into the place they thought they had escaped. Echo's face, lit up by the sunlight as she blissfully lead the Dolls to apparent freedom, was just heart breaking, particularly the way she collapsed right after she crossed that invisible line to the outside.

In the final scene we learn that the whole plan was actually the brain child of Dr. Claire. There's a fascinating scene between her and Boyd (I won't recap it - just go watch it and see, because I can't do it justice), where they both debate the nature of their involvement with the Dolls and the moral dilemma between "caring" for them within the Dollhouse, versus caring for them in a larger human sense.

Things we learned this episode:
  • Mellie had a daughter who died. That made me really sad. However, it also illustrated a fascinating point that Adele made (which I hadn't considered before now): the Dollhouse doesn't necessarily have to coerce people into signing up. There are plenty of people who were "broken", as Boyd says, way before the Dollhouse ever got their hooks into them. That changes the whole dilemma when examined from that perspective. Are the Dolls really victims of the Dollhouse? While it's clear Sierra is, previous episodes suggest that Victor might also have a good reason to want to forget his past. Mellie clearly qualifies. If a person chooses to forget, chooses to let their body be used for possibly nefarious purposes, is the Dollhouse the lone villain anymore?
  • All of this assumes that the Dollhouse is straight up with these people about how they'll be used while in Doll state. And since one of the things I learned tonight is that Adele has the honey-tongued skills of the serpent, even under pressure, I seriously doubt that's the case.
    From what little we saw of her interactions with Echo and Sam (from Episode 7), many Dolls seemed to have been talked into signing their lives away under less than ideal circumstances.
  • I said in a previous post that I didn't see a reason why Paul Ballard is even on this show, and this episode frankly just reinforced that idea. What's starting to freak me out a little is that I'm starting to wonder why I should care about Echo either. All the themes they're trying to address with Echo are illustrated far better by the other Dolls, particularly after what we learned about their backstory this week. Victor's romance with Sierra is sweeter and more organic than the weird Echo/Paul thing they're trying to push. Victor seems more like the lead, in terms of stepping up and leading the group to safety. Sierra is a more compelling victim than Echo, partially because she didn't apparently do anything wrong (whereas Echo was a dumbass and got her boyfriend shot). Mellie's issues are deeper and more tragic, since Dead Baby trumps Dead Boyfriend anyday.
  • Since Paul isn't going away, I guess it's a good thing that he located the camera in his apartment, and then got a phone call from Echo tipping him off that the Dollhouse is located in an underground facility somewhere.
  • Sierra has a long term nemesis (who will hopefully die horribly before the show ends).
  • Reason why they need to hire me to be the continuity expert on shows like this: remember that big fuss in Episode 4 where Topher figured out Alpha was alive and he needed to have his clearance bumped up? Well, forget all that, because now apparently everyone knows that Alpha isn't dead, since Boyd mentioned Alpha in the staff meeting in front of everyone and Dominic said "Whereabouts unknown." Hello? Doesn't that just confirm that the guy who's supposed to be dead, is in fact, alive?
Things I still want to know:
  • How old was Mellie's daughter when she died? What were the circumstances of that death?
  • What happened to Victor when he was a soldier?
  • How much does the Dollhouse tell the candidates about what they'll be used for?
  • Does the Dollhouse only have one chair? It looked like Echo really wreaked their setup, so it was surprising to see them all pacified so quickly.

Other people who write great stuff about Dollhouse:
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