Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 1x06: "Man On The Street"

Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by David Straiton

Echo: “The Dollhouse deals in fantasy. That is their business but that is not their purpose.”
Paul: “What is?”
Echo: “We need you to find out. We’ll contact you again, if possible with the same body but you have to let the Dollhouse win. Make them back off. You have to trust me.”

Remember when Joss Whedon said that everything would fall into place around the sixth episode of the first season? Well, I guess he wasn’t kidding as this episode certainly had things falling into place and after five fairly hit and miss episodes, it was about bloody time.

Paul’s frantic search for Echo finally had him meet his desired girl when busting in on suspected Dollhouse client Joel Mynor. He was another in a long line of men having Actives programmed for romantic engagement, except that this was no ordinary engagement as such.

Echo wasn’t being programmed into some random hooker who thought the sun shined out of Joel’s arse but at the same time, there’s something very disturbed about her being programmed as the deceased Rebecca Mynor, all so that Joel can get a reaction from her in regards to a house he purchased.

In some ways, Joel has a very poignant story. He finally became a success, wanted to share that with the woman he loved and she died on him. There’s a part of me that is sympathetic to his plight but not enough for his actions to be condoned. His conversation with Paul is a master class in Whedon writing.

Although Paul was able to piece together Joel’s motives for having Echo imprinted as Rebecca, Joel was able to do the same thing with Paul’s need to rescue Caroline. It’ll shock no viewer that Paul has got something of a saviour complex and the allusions to fairytales are eerily appropriate.

Also on a superficial level, Tahmoh Penikett has the kind of physique that would have him cast as a Prince Charming in any fairytale adaptation. Also, while Paul’s motives aren’t entirely pure (love/lust for Caroline and all), this is the first time since the series started that I actually cared about him and his desire to bring down the Dollhouse. One is going to be tricky Paul but I dare you to try and take down over 20 of them.

Earlier on in the season, I found myself uninterested in his motives and almost siding with the fellow agents who happily took the piss out of him searching for a thing that might not exist. Then this episode reintroduced Agent Tanaka and I found myself wavering towards Paul’s side.

Mark Sheppard might be a good actor (he was certainly enjoyable in Battlestar Galactica) but he’s rather miscast for this role and Tanaka is little more than a wooden oppressor trying to railroad Paul’s research into the Dollhouse. Plus he warranted the injury Paul gave him alone for the sleazy comment he made about Caroline. Seriously dude, shut the frak up already.

I think another reason why I actually found myself liking Paul in this episode is that the writers finally took the stick out of his arse. Paul was actually funny in this episode. Maybe not in the sense that stand up comedy is the vocation he should be really pursuing but funny in the dry sarcastic way that can often make certain characters endearing in their own right.

I loved his banter with Loomis while they were drawing up more links to Joel and the Dollhouse and there was the fun, playful side with him and Mellie (and Paul, you are a fine piece of meat). That leads to another thing – how bloody amazing is Mellie? Seriously, let me count the ways.

First of all, Joss grasped an excellent handle on the character with this episode. No longer the clingy neighbour but more the sympathetic ear that went out of her way not to pressure Paul into a romantic liaison. Of course, Paul did end up sleeping with her but that also might have been as a result of Mynor pointing out his fixation on Caroline.

As for the big thing with Mellie – she’s a doll. Come on, who on Earth didn’t figure that one out? It had been obvious since her first appearance and while this episode did go some way to try and throw viewers off the scent, she certainly revealed herself during a life and death situation with Hearn. Oh Adelle, you really do play a bad hand very well.

I’m not sure how Paul is going to react when he discovers that his nice neighbour is really keeping an eye on him but I was blown away with the reveal. And how convenient was it that a corrupted Echo also gave Paul the big hint to go and check up on Mellie? If he had arrived a few minutes earlier, he would’ve caught Mellie in action and if Adele hadn’t activated Mellie when she did, Hearn would’ve succeeded.

Paul and Echo’s first meeting should’ve been the highlight of the episode but I think in a lot of ways, it just fell into a long line of excellent moments. The fight scene between the two of them in the kitchen and then an alley is up there with some of the best scraps on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Echo also gave Paul enough rope to hang himself with and even with a suspension, it’s nice that Adelle seemed aware that Paul wouldn’t give up searching for the Dollhouse. I wonder will Adelle have Paul killed. She certainly had no problem sending Hearn to his death.

In “Stage Fright” Hearn came across as a massive jerk and while he had a point to attack the ethics of the Dollhouse, he had no right whatsoever to rape Sierra and have Victor nearly sent to the Attic for it. I loved that Claire pointed out the difference between being attracted to someone (like Victor is with Sierra) and hurting someone (Hearn/Sierra). Boyd piecing things together and setting Hearn up to reveal himself as the rapist was exquisite. Just when I think that character can’t get any better and protocol or not, even Adelle looked impressed with him.

Also in “Man On The Street”

The vox pops weighing the pros and cons from local people on an organisation like the Dollhouse was interesting. It’s not the kind of thing that could’ve been avoided I guess either. That being said, why didn’t Adelle try and kill the story?

Echo: “I like to be alone sometimes.”
Victor: “It’s peaceful.”

Who was the person that corrupted Echo’s programming because it wasn’t Alpha for sure? I actually want it to be Claire but that could be too obvious.

Paul (re Joel): “I’ve liked this guy for a while.”
Loomis: “Ever thought of asking him out?”

Mellie: “I get that I’m not the gold standard in LA.”
Paul: “Please, you’re gorgeous.”

While it’s nice that Paul is no longer treating Mellie like she were a nuisance, was it wise for him to be sharing the information he had about his investigating?

Echo (to Joel): “You did porn. My husband has porn.”

Joel: “I think your fantasy is sadder than mine.”
Paul: “Won’t know until I hear it.”

Eliza Dushku’s squealing of porn was hilarious. Now, that is good acting if you can make one word hysterical.

Claire: “How does Sierra make you feel?”
Victor: “Better.”

Paul (to Joel): “You might not be punished and I might not be alive but this house will fall.”

During the fight scene with Paul, didn’t Echo look a little Buffy-esque in her attire? I also read recently that Tahmoh Penikett is a dab hand with Muay Thai.

Sierra (re Hearn being thrown through a window): “That wasn’t quiet.”
Boyd: “It wasn’t meant to be.”

Adelle (to Hearn): “We are in the business of using people but the problem is, what is the best use for you?”

Which apartment was Mellie in when Hearn attacked her? If it was Paul’s, wouldn’t Adelle’s little voice message to activate Mellie been risky to have done?

Paul (to Mellie): “I’m not a piece of meat you know. I have a heart.”

Paul: “Whoever you are, I swear I don’t want to hurt you.”
Echo: “I know. I’m counting on it.”

Echo showed more traces of remembering assignments when she painted Joel’s house in her blank state. Adelle really should be worried. And Dominic was somewhat decent in this episode.

Echo: “The Dollhouse is real. They know you’re after them. They are going to have you taken off the case. That’s why they sent me.”
Paul: “Why are you telling me this?”
Echo: “We have a person on the inside. This person corrupted the imprint while the programmer wasn’t looking. Added the parameter.”

Dominic: “You played a good hand, ma’am.”
Adelle: “I played a bad hand very well. There is a distinction.”
Dominic: “Of course.”

Standout music: “Sweet Dream” by Greg Laswell. As a side note, I enjoyed the song he had in the Grey’s Anatomy season finale.

Okay this might not be the best piece of television I’ve ever seen in my whole life but “Man On The Street” is incentive enough to see this show through. Finally the ante seems to be upped and hopefully the payoff will be worth it.

Rating: 9 out of 10.


Nat said...

When Echo was telling Paul that someone had corrupted the programme, I thought it was all part of the plan to get get Paul of their backs for a little while. However thinking back Topher did leave the room whilst programming and they way they did that scene did make me think someone could tamper with the programme. I think it might be the helper scientist (don't know her name) she definitely has the smarts to do it as shown in the beginning of the scene.

Good episode, easily the best one so far, I like that we're getting some answers.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I think that was the idea but Paul has been like a dog with a bone.

Did you know we're getting the unaired episode on Sci-Fi as well?

FOX still haven't aired but US viewers saw it at Comic Con the other week.

Thanks for the comments. Can''t wait to see what you make of later episodes.