Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 1x05: "True Believer"

Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Echo (to Seth): “Seth, the blind girl is looking you in the eye; do you know what that means? It means that God brought me here to give you a message and that message is ‘move your ass’.”

Another week, another clichéd case with a twist or two. We’ve had protecting a singer and a heist that goes wrong. Infiltrating a cult, like Children of the Temple should be a piece of cake.

Technically, it’s like a lot of other cases on this show. Instead of a Doll, you could hire an actual professional but cults do tend to be very selective about their members and when their leaders are as dangerous as Jonah Sparrow, there’s good reason for that.

Joss Whedon had spouted on more than one occasion that he wanted audiences to see as many sides to Eliza Dushku as possible and given that he’s probably realised that some viewers would grow sick and tired of that translating into Dushku wearing skimpy outfits, this episode tried something with a bit of substance.

Having Echo morphed into blind woman Esther Carpenter in order to ingratiate herself into Jonah’s gang was an interesting. Interesting because not only was it a Dollhouse mission but the ATF were also involved as well and that meant big things for Paul too.

I’m gonna praise Dushku for making increasing attempts of giving more nuanced performances in her various because while this show is still hokey at best, I will go on record to say that I am enjoying it more than I did with Firefly and that was something I did eventually grow to like.

With Esther’s condition, you would think that Jonah would take her at face value. His members including the likes of Seth and Elia, seemed to trust her instantly but he had to be repeatedly convinced that Esther was the genuine article. Quizzing her was never going to be enough, was it?

It’s amazing in this episode how many times Echo/Esther was actually smacked around the place. For some reason, it made me uncomfortable and not just because Echo’s engagement required her to be genuinely blind. It was more the madness of a man like Jonah.

It’s amazing how corruptible something like faith can be at the end of the day. There is a thing with extreme fanatical religious cults simply harming others because they’re non believers and Jonah’s influence over his own people is every bit as destructive as the Dollhouse. Seth and company are every bit as victims as are any of the Actives.

Of course, disagreeing with Jonah was never going to play in Echo’s interests either. As soon as she tried to get people to get out of the fire, Jonah smacked her. He did that a lot in this episode and it was due to one of these smacks that Esther apparently regained her sight. Then she was more or less blamed for the ATF trying to take Jonah down.

The episode doesn’t really go a long into explaining what Jonah was exactly up to. Okay, I don’t for a second believe that he and Seth loaded up on a serious arsenal solely to protect themselves but an actual detailed explanation would’ve gone a long way.

Like Paul, I really wanted to side with the ATF agent who was more than determined to bring Jonah down. Maybe he is a good man like Paul is supposed to but there was no strongly defined motive for his intent, though I did get a strong hint throughout the episode that he had a personal grievance with Jonah.

It also didn’t justify him telling his men to dispatch with Boyd and Echo as well. Boyd continues to be the most likeable thing about this show and while his concern for Echo is obvious, it’s more than endearing in a series where people are being stripped off their identity, respect, humanity, etc.

Boyd just about managed to save Echo this time around and he also helped with getting some of the cult members to safety as well. I’m also glad that he seemingly got his own back at the unprofessional agent as well.

As for Paul, I have still yet to care about him but I like the fact that he’s finally getting closer to tracking down Echo. Not because of any romantic possibilities but simply due to the fact that it’s moving the plot forward. I guess he was lucky that Echo appeared on the news and that Alpha is still giving him cryptic clues because Loomis certainly wasn’t able to help him.

Mellie on the other hand also reappeared. Paul did seem a little less dismissive of her than he usually was but I think that it had more to do with her bringing him his pain killers and wasn’t it more than silly to let her be around when him and Loomis were discussing the missing Caroline as well?

I know it has yet to be actually confirmed but I really would be surprised if Mellie turns out to not be a Doll. It seems so blatantly obvious that she is but regardless of anything, I do feel for her. She seems to be in love with a man who barely acknowledges her. It’s hard not to sympathise with her.

In another plot, Dominic really does hate Echo to the extent that he would knock her out in a burning building. I hope we discover soon why he’s got in it for her. Maybe he thinks she’ll turn into another Alpha or maybe he fears that she’s a mole but either way, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Also, does it come as a surprise that Topher would have a problem with Victor’s ‘man reactions’? It’s sort of funny but it’s also sort of immature as well and Victor was very nearly taken out just because he developed an attraction towards Sierra. Just when I think I can’t find more things about this organisation that disgusts me, the show gives me one. Even Torchwood and their Retconning mantra are looking marginally less awful than this.

Also in “True Believer”

Although I could understand why a massive group singing would slightly unnerve some people, I wanted to smack Jesse for the attack he made on Seth.

Dominic (to Adelle, re Echo): “It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that sometimes I’m worried you do.”

Again, there seems to be hints that Adelle has a personal connection to Echo. I wouldn’t rule it out at this point.

Echo (to Boyd): “I’m a girl. Wow, I’ve been blind longer than I thought.”

Claire: “Victor had an erection?”
Topher: “I prefer ‘man reaction’.”

That statement interprets that Topher’s either a virgin, sexually repressed or possibly asexual. Maybe that’s another thing the writers could take a look at.

Mellie (to Paul, re Caroline/Echo): “Wow, the photographs really didn’t do her any justice.”

Claire (to Topher, re Victor): “Of course! If it had been a snake … forget I said that.”

Shouldn’t Claire be a bit more pissed off that no-one reads her reports? I’m surprised she didn’t smack Topher across the head. I think I would it make it a hobby if I had to work with him on a day to day basis.

Jonah: “The truth this time sister.”
Echo: “It’s a miracle. I can see.”

Jonah (to his people): “We have witnessed more than one miracle these last few days. Prepare for the next.”

Standout music: “Moody Liz” by Daxton, which played at the start of the episode.

“True Believer” certainly raises enough stuff about faith that could be attributed to any sci-fi programme who has broached the subject, since ever. Tim Minear wrote a decent script, but parts of it petered out and the lack of motives in certain parts gave the episode a disjointed feel to it as well.

Rating: 7 out of 10.


Chrissy said...

I don't remember much of this episode anymore, but I do remember the "man reaction" thing. I laughed when he said that. I love that Topher prefers to say it that way.

shawnlunn2002 said...

It does seem in character with Topher. We're pretty much at the halfway point of the season now.

Nat said...

I quite enjoyed this episode, I thought the cult made for an interesting story and definitely different from the other more usual sexual stories.

I'm finding the Paul/police thing quite tiresome, he's obviously struggling to find anything on the Dollhouse and he's not that likeable.

The man reaction thing was funny