Thursday, July 09, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 1x08: "Needs"

Written by Tracy Bellomo
Directed by Felix Enrique Alcala

November: “We lost Mike.”
Sierra: “We save ourselves and we do it now.”
Victor: “I’m with her.”

With that line, I have to think, ‘in more ways than one’. Last week saw the Dollhouse and other raided by a drug while this week, a certain amount of Actives sort of become half themselves in something that had to have been deliberate to begin with.

It could’ve been a coincidence having five of them just glitch all together. It might have been even easier just to let it be Caroline who knows she’s herself but devoid of her memories but would that have been as fun to watch? Highly doubtful.

The opening moment is great with Caroline in her glass bed shrieking mad. There’s no way on Earth that you could complain about a response as natural as this but ensuring that Mellie, Victor, Sierra and Mike were also in a similar predicament to Caroline as well made for an interesting episode.

Every reaction was sort of established very easily. Mike, the new Doll we meet here was paranoid, Sierra knew immediately that she was blameless; Victor made heavy allusion to prison while Caroline thought the place was corrupt. It was only Mellie/November who considered the idea of maybe the place not being so nefarious.

In some ways, this episode is quite “Tabula Rasa” (which might justify my enjoyment for it) in places. Mike’s over the top reactions definitely fused a right amount of comedy but if you’re going to try and blend in with your surroundings to get a proper feel for the place, isn’t it best to act normal?

While Tango started dithering on about her breakfast, Mike went overboard to the extent that I’m surprised Caroline didn’t give him a gentle kick under the table. By overreacting the way he did, he wounded up getting his treatment earlier than expected.

It’s kind of a shame that Mike got taken out of the mix early in the episode but in retrospect this probably worked better with Caroline/Echo, Victor, Sierra and Mellie/November all by themselves. We were gonna have to get an episode with the four of them working together and this didn’t disappoint on that level.

All four of them knocking out handlers, sneaking around to change clothes was fun and all but it felt too easy, even to the extent that I’m kind of surprised that neither Victor nor Sierra cottoned on to it given their powers of perception in this whole charade.

Adelle showed a lot of insight into knowing how Caroline was going to react to the situation. It didn’t faze her that Caroline would turn around and go back into the Dollhouse and try and free everyone else. It also probably didn’t faze her that November, Victor and Sierra had their own missions to carry out with.

Unlike some viewers, I do actually sympathise with Caroline’s plight a little and I do think her heart’s in the right place. However this episode did prove that despite her good intention, she’s like Paul in some respects – she simply doesn’t think things through.

She could’ve contacted the police or even tried to do some digging on the Dollhouse before trying to free the Actives. She might have even taken heed to Topher and Adelle trying to warn her about overwhelming the Actives in their blank states by bringing them out to the real world.

Her confrontations with both Topher and Adelle had their moments. Anyone scaring the heck out of Topher and questioning his motives is fine with me. Topher really does believe that he’s actually doing the right thing, that the Actives benefit from all this. Adelle believes it too and even stated it here more viscerally to Caroline.

Eight episodes in and we’ve had very little to support their belief of the Dollhouse being good. We’ve seen no signs that actually becoming a Doll is advantageous within the slightest. All we’ve seen are the disadvantages over and over again. This episode was no different in that respect.

Sierra in particular was definitely someone who benefits the least from the Dollhouse. Being sold into the organisation all because she wouldn’t sleep with a rich jerk? My friend won’t watch this show because he can’t get past the premise of the series. It’s moments like this where I have to agree with him.

Nolan was certainly a loathsome creature. The way he spitefully told Sierra that he would occasionally rent out as a Doll and sleep with her to get back at her for refusing sex with him beforehand creeped me out (in a way that seeing a flayed Jack Harkness couldn’t).

I’m surprised that neither Victor nor Sierra snapped the guy’s neck there and then. I certainly wouldn’t have blamed them. Then again, Sierra did vow to make him pay and here’s hoping that she gets to do so.

Sierra in her blank state seemed very in charge during the course of this episode though we did seem moments of vulnerability. I guess it would make sense that Victor’s mission would be watch her back. His attraction to her could draw parallels to Paul’s fixation/attraction on Caroline but Victor’s motives seem … purer.

I know that in the world of Joss Whedon that happy couples are doomed multiple times over (after all the only stable couple in the Buffy verse is Willow/Kennedy and they don’t generate many supporters) but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to ship Victor and Sierra.

Excellent chemistry with the actors aside, I just love how they had each other’s back within the whole episode. It would’ve been nice if we had gotten some insight into Victor’s past but now that the show is coming back for seconds, I can wait a little longer.

Also, should I be shocked that Mellie/November would have a tragic backstory? No, but maybe it’s fitting for her. Learning that her daughter, Katie was dead and coping with her grief made for a powerful moment. Isn’t it interesting that both Sierra and November (and Victor presumably) have far more engaging pasts than Caroline/Echo? Maybe that’s deliberate too.

The reveal of Claire being the one to stage the whole closure was a bit of a shocker. I guess it made sense given that her concern for the Actives is more genuine than Topher or Adelle’s or even Dominic’s. That didn’t stop Boyd however questioning her actions either.

Paul on the other hand went out of his way to try and trace a bug in his house when he wasn’t fantasising about Caroline and Mellie all at once. The end scene where Caroline left him a message should help with trying to trace the Dollhouse in the next couple of weeks.

Also in “Needs”

We saw a lot of new faces in the opening scenes, including some female handlers.

Dominic: “It's easy to become attached to your assigned active. In fact, it's necessary. But don't think of them as children. Think of them as pets.”
Claire: “Is that supposed to be funny?”

Paul’s fantasy sequences with Mellie and Caroline did end up with both of them harmed. Is his actions gonna cause Mellie’s death?

Victor: “Who the hell are you?”
Echo: “Hey, I woke up in a five star floor coffin just like you, pal.”

Woman: “Good morning! We're having banana pancakes for breakfast today.”
Tango: “I like pancakes.”
Victor: “We're all gonna die.”

New Dolls in this episode had Mike and Tango and I’m pretty sure there was one named Quebec as well.

Female Handler (to Boyd): “Like Mr Dominic said, they’re pets. Every good dog needs to be put down sometime.”

November: “I remember my life.”
Sierra: “You sure?”
November: “Yes.”

We didn’t learn November real name or surname, even when seeing Katie’s grave. Sierra’s real name is Priya.

Sierra: "What you did to me, putting me in that hell. What did I ever do to you?"
Nolan: “You said no. And nobody ever says no to me.”

Caroline (to Adelle): “Your unbearable truth lady is you’re not as important as you think you are.”

Standout music: O + S’s “Lonely Ghosts”, for its utter poignancy.

“Needs” is certainly a high point for the season but with the closure our four main Dolls received, does that automatically mean that they’ll stop glitching from now on? Probably not!

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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