Dollhouse Episode 11 Review
Monday, May 04, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This is it folks - the final 2 episodes of the season (and quite possibly the series, which is looking like a long shot for renewal at this point).

First things first. Alpha is back, and he's Alan Tudyk! Those of you hipsters out there will best remember him as Wash from the dead-too-soon Whedon show Firefly (or the movie version, Serenity). Those of you who are not hipsters may remember him as Steve the Pirate from the movie Dodgeball. I'll talk a little bit more about Alpha's dramatic return in a moment, but first allow me to touch on something else I realized this episode....

Enver Gjokaj (Victor) is a freaking treasure. Whedon has this way of discovering talent (Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker and so on) and giving them the tools to shine. I can only hope that Enver will be a part of the Whedon stable of actors for a long time, because he has just been blowing me away this season. This latest episode allowed him to highlight his gifts as a talented mimic, as the Dollhouse receives a mysterious USB drive addressed to Laurence Dominic, thus forcing them to pull his memory out of storage and insert it into Victor, so they can ask Dominic how to unlock the drive. Enver does a pitch perfect imitation of Reed Diamond's Dominic, to the point where I thought they maybe dubbed Diamond's voice into the scene.

Dominic-in-Victor screams in terror as he realizes that he's been put into a Doll's body, but after a healthy dose of sedatives and truth serum, helps them unlock the USB drive. On it, they find a series of Alpha-related materials, including an article that suggests that Alpha may be running amuck in Tucson (which apparently is the main HQ for whoever runs the Dollhouse). This is alarming enough to Adelle that she immediately sends Sierra, imprinted with an FBI forensics personality, down to Tucson to investigate.

Meanwhile, Paul Ballard finally shows some glimmer of initiative by breaking up with Mellie, who is so distraught that her handler has to intervene before she throws herself off the highway overpass. Mellie gets loaded into the black Dollhouse van, so she can go get a treatment, and we realize that Paul has been tailing her the whole time, anticipating that very occurance. Paul figures out where the Dollhouse is located, and then sets about finding the eco-friendly architect who designed the self-contained system that powers the Dollhouse.

Paul is so pleased with himself that he's gotten the upper hand on the Dollhouse finally, that he fails to realize that he's STILL being played, only this time it's Alpha himself pulling the strings. Alpha is masquerading as the architect, and "reluctantly" agrees to help Ballard break into the Dollhouse. Of course, this is all a smoke screen, and while Ballard is busy making a mess of stuff, getting caught because he has no real plan to speak of other than "rescue girl, be big hero, make out with girl", Alpha takes advantage of the situation to hack the Dollhouse's security and snatch Echo for himself (after popping her in the chair and giving her a new, sexy badgirl brain). He also carves up Victor (at which point I screamed "Nooooo!!! Not his beautiful face!") and terrorizes Dr. Claire for fun.

It's a bit disappointing that we're in the final two hours of the season, and yet Echo remained off the canvas for a good chunk of this episode. It seems like a waste to put her in a random subplot that involves her dealing with a troubled girl in foster care, just to establish the rather hamfisted metaphor between the fable of Briar Rose and the story of the Dollhouse.

In any case, Echo does return to the Dollhouse just in time for her two would-be protectors to tussle over her. It's a fascinating battle, actually, because both men have very different ideas about the best way to protect Echo, and I'm not sure that either one really has it right. The Briar Rose metaphor does set up the idea that the Prince who swoops in at the end gets too much credit for saving Briar Rose, and this neatly parallels Ballard's own tale. Caroline/Echo has done much of the heavy lifting in terms of working towards her own freedom, but Ballard thinks he's the one doing the rescuing here. However, as Echo has flashbacks to her fight with Ballard and the tender moments with Boyd where he's clearly her protector, she rejects Ballard's overtures and instead attempts to aid Boyd in the fight. Boyd, however misguided he might be, has at least earned the right to serve as Echo's protector/savior for the moment.

All in all, a really good episode that leaves us with a ton of forward momentum as we barrel into the finale next week. Is it bad that I'm sort of cheering for Alpha at this point?

Things we learned this week:
  • Dominic-in-Victor has a moment in his drugged out state where he says "Whiskey." I, like Dr. Claire, was confused by this, but after perusing the internet, I realize now that he didn't mean the drink, he meant the letter "W" in the phoenetic alphabet. Since the Dolls all bear names based on that alphabet, and since Dominic's statement was directed at Claire, it seems that the good doctor may herself be a doll (*dun dun dun!*). This would make sense, as it was always odd that Alpha spared a Dollhouse employee the first time around, since he clearly has so much rage for the people that work there. But if Claire was indeed Whiskey the Doll then I can see a scenario where he spared her, much as he spared Echo, and then the Dollhouse quickly imprinted her with the personality of a doctor, in order to help with the carnage. Perhaps they didn't even have a fulltime doctor on staff, and decided to just keep Claire/Whiskey around for future scenarios.
  • Alpha/Echo apparently have some past connection, or were at least imprinted with personalities that were connected. Maybe they were a team sent out on assassin missions together who became lovers, and Alpha retained that memory even after the wipe.
  • Ballard, for all his hemming and hawing about the immorality of the Dollhouse, seems to only be there for Caroline, since it looks like he's working with the Dollhouse next week to rescue her from Alpha.
  • I see that the Dollhouse has learned NOTHING from the Dominic incident, as it was stupidly easy for Paul to break into the Dollhouse. I'm not sure that I buy that this incredibly secret, wealthy and powerful organization wouldn't have laser sensors in the air ducts, locks on all the doors, and so forth.
  • We learned that there's a reason that Alan Tudyk is a beloved member of the Whedon stable of actors. The way he slipped effortlessly from bumbling, pot-smoking weakling to the razor hard, diabolical Alpha was awesome (and terrifying).
Things I still want to know:
  • What is Alpha's end game? At first, I assumed that he wanted to destroy the Dollhouse, but now I'm thinking that maybe his goal all along was just to retrieve his playmate, Echo. Are they headed towards a Natural Born Killers type of rampage, because the previews certainly seem to suggest that?
  • Are they going to brain wipe Paul Ballard? If they try, is Boyd going to attempt to save him (as he clearly objects to unwilling wipes, save for extreme cases like Dominic)? Does Paul really have that much of a brain to wipe, really?
  • Is this the end for Mellie?
  • Is Claire really Whiskey?
  • What about Victor's beautiful face?!?!?
  • Which personality did Alpha implant in Echo? Is it a personality that the Dollhouse already had in the storage banks, or is it a home-brewed version that Alpha put together himself?
  • If the show gets canceled (it's not looking great right now), does next week's finale serve as a satsifying series finale, just in case it's the last one we ever get?

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On 7:39 PM , sin esperanza said...

Okay, so I read this review and agree with pretty much all of it... which is unusual for me!

I'm pretty certain Claire is Whiskey (in ep 11 Alpha asked her if she always wanted to be a doctor and when she said yes, said that was a lie)

Am terribly worried about the doll they're intending to deactivate. It would be boring if it was Alpha ('cause so far, he's clearly smarter than the whole lot of them) and really painful is it's V, M or S.

Sigh, all this tension for a week!