Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 1x04: "Grey Hour"

Written by Elizabeth Craft And Sarah Fain
Directed by Rod Hardy

Echo: “I’m trying to be my best.”
Thief 1: “You are the best. Remember Bonnie And Clyde.”
Echo: “Are they here too?”

And for this of faithful viewers, Echo’s latest assignment involves a nice heist. I remember while this was airing in America that one reviewer pointed out that this show was like a paranoid sci-fi version of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. We got some conclusive proof of that here.

While a lot of Echo’s engagements have been undoubtedly sexual, we did have her posing as a hooker and gyrating her stuff to a group of horny men before telling the manager that they tried to rape her. Echo made a perceptive that just because of a certain profession, there should be limits to what people can expect of her.

The manager disappointed by putting the reputation of his hotel above a woman’s safety. Offering financial compensation is one thing but when it involves not naming would be attackers, I have to admit that even as a male viewer, I had a bit of a problem with that.

However it seems that hooker Echo was playing along. Instead of the men being would be rapists, there were actually her posse and their job was more of a robbery than sex games gone wrong. Having thief Taffy pretending to be a distressed hooker might rub certain viewers up the wrong way however.

So, what could possibly a hotel have that Taffy and her gang of experts could possibly want so much as to stage a false sexual assault? Well, it’s not an extra pair of bed sheets but more the marbles of Parthenon and in the guise of Taffy, Echo is the best person to nab the marbles for her client without any blood spillage to add to things.

If I wanted to watch a heist, I could’ve just bought any season of Hustle on DVD but at least this episode actually confounds some expectations. The one thing I was expecting was the mission to go wrong because all of Echo’s engagements that we’ve seen onscreen have gone arseways so there’s no way that this one would be different.

Getting caught would’ve been the most obvious thing to have happened. It also would’ve been pretty unsatisfying so what could go possibly go wrong that viewers might not expect? How about Echo being wiped of her imprint of Taffy only seconds after one of her teams betrays her and runs off with the artefact that she was gunning for? I certainly didn’t expect.

When this happened, there was only logical explanation – Alpha. Another would’ve been if Echo’s brain had somehow rejected the imprint and reverted back to Caroline but I don’t think that’s quite possible for Echo. Having Alpha wipe her through the phone as she was calling Boyd for back up made more sense. It was also quite creepy.

Topher mentioned back in “The Target” that a wiped Doll is a pretty vulnerable one and he wasn’t kidding. Criticisms of Eliza Dushku’s acting aside in certain engagements, I think she really nailed the terror and vulnerability that a blank Echo was suffering so well.

The whole repeating of ‘shall I go now?’ showed more a childlike helplessness rather than an annoyance but being a wiped stuck with two eager fellow thieves isn’t exactly the best of things that could’ve happened to the woman either. It’s amazing how quickly people will turn on someone when they’re weakened.

The thief who spent a good chunk of the episode flirting with Echo as Taffy before her wiping suddenly lost all patience with her. When she couldn’t tell him how to open the door, he resorted to hitting. Later when they were trying to escape he repeatedly yelled at her to shoot their way out. Needless to say, the outcome he got in the episode might be have justified in my book.

It’s also funny that the thief who originally mistrusted her was the one who seemed a bit more sympathetic to her plight. Even when things totally went to shit, he insisted that she save her own life and leg it. It wasn’t really surprising that she would then return the favour by trying to get Boyd to help him. I guess there is some honour among thieves then.

Boyd was his excellent self in getting the treacherous old stuff expert to give him directions to Echo’s location but it was imprinting Sierra with Taffy’s personality that essentially saved the day. The more and more Dichen Lachman appears on screen, the more I find myself liking her as an actress. I even think she did Taffy better than Dushku as well.

She certainly played the more sarcastic, street lingo a bit more originally and there was some comic moments mimed when Sierra was trying to instruct Echo on how to drill a hole. Pity the humourless crowd couldn’t pick up on it. Might have made the situation a little less intense.

With engagements going wrong, I’m still trying to rack my brains around the whole Paul/Victor subplot. What was the point of having the latter be Lubov for four episodes? What has it really achieved? If it was to get Paul to withdraw his investigation of the Dollhouse, then Adelle has failed on that one. Dominic was right when he noted Paul’s determination two episodes.

A better plot for Adelle was letting Topher into the fact that Alpha was still alive. She might want to enlighten both Claire, Boyd and presuming that she hasn’t already told him, Dominic into that little secret, unless she wants more casualties on her hands.

I still don’t massively like Topher and he was certainly a patronising git to his assistant Ivy but I did like the fact that he actually seemed genuinely worried for Echo’s safety as well as his own fears of Alpha being alive. Topher better evolve as a character because he’s certainly letting the nerd side of this show down. It’s also nice to see him and Adelle in scenes together.

Also in “Grey Hour”

What was up with Echo posing as a new age midwife at the start of this episode? Wouldn’t hiring an actual midwife have been a smart and less expensive thing to do?

Sierra: “It’s important to exercise. I try to be my best.”
Echo: “Are you?”

Topher noticed that Echo, Victor and Sierra were constantly eating lunch together, interacting socially. He sounded worried by it.

Old Stuff Expert: “I think you’re hurting him.”
Echo: “You’re very astute, professor. Good thing this is a no kill job.”

Topher (to Ivy): “Humility is part of the learning process. I break you down, I build you back up.”

Ivy was played Liza Lapira who also played the irritating Yuki Amado in Dexter’s third season, which I’m also reviewing.

Thief 2 (to Echo): “It’s not about looking right. Art’s about feeling right and you have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Sierra: “I’ll need to see the cash upfront.”
Adelle: “We’re a bit strapped for time of course.”

We saw Echo remembering more stuff. In her blank state she remembered having a different name in the mountains and she drew the Picasso painting on a steamed mirror at the end of the episode.

Boyd (re Echo): “And if the outcome isn’t happy?”
Adelle: “Then you should prepare yourself.”

Sierra (to Echo): “I’m gonna close my eyes and pray to God that when I say stop, you’ll stop.”

This episode was written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain who wrote for the fourth and fifth seasons of Angel.

Boyd: “Are you okay?”
Echo: “He’s broken, can you fix him?”
Boyd: “We’ll try.”
Echo: “I’m not broken.”
Boyd: “No, you’re not.”

Paul: “I don't want you to die, but if you do, there's a lot to learn from a dead body. I know how the Russians kill. I know their favourite weapons. I know where to look for bruises. I know which body parts they like to chop off and what message they want a body to send.”
Victor: “I tried to help you.”
Paul: “If your body turns up and tells a different story, well, that will give me information too.”

There was no Claire or Mellie in this episode, plus the best song in this episode was Sia’s “I Go To Sleep”.

“Grey Hour” was a decent episode, surprising in some parts but this show does need to up the ante if it really wants to make a genuine cultural impact. It might also help if characterisation on Paul was a little better. There’s a part of me that almost doesn’t want him to take down the Dollhouse and there’s no way I should be thinking that.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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