Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 2x01: "Vows"

Written And Directed by Joss Whedon

Echo (to Paul): “I remember everything. Sometimes I’m someone else and then I come back but I feel them, all of them.”

Blimey, this show might not be longer for the world but it’s reassuring that Sci-Fi didn’t waste time in deciding to air the second season. Their treatment of the series is easily better than Fox’s when you think about it.

Season One had some great episodes, especially towards the second half of the season but it was marred with many problems. One of the biggest was Paul’s obsession with Echo. It lacked emotional content and was clearly superficial. If this premiere episode is anything to go by, a degree of substance was thankfully injected into his fixation with her.

He did the slightly uncouth thing in becoming a client. I know being inside the belly of the beast means you’re more than susceptible of being infected by it but even I thought that Paul would show a little more restraint. Luckily for us, Paul didn’t hire Echo out as personal slave for himself.

Instead he used her talents in a desperate bid to snare Martin Clar. Played by Jamie Bamber, Clar was our opening villain and in the hands of a lesser actor, he’d be a one note adversary. Not that the characterisation for him is particularly extraordinary but Bamber does do a good job with him.

Having Echo actually marry Clar was certainly a new one in terms of what we’ve seen clients try and get away with an Active. Paul certainly had a hard time witnessing Echo and Clar consummate their marriage from afar as well. Sometimes, it’s nice not to have the audio.

A part of the episode did confuse me when Paul and Echo were talking about being partners for so many years. Paul even tried to contain his latent jealousy with Echo. Not that he was really that convincing though.

The unfortunate part of Paul’s general little plan was the lack of foresight. In all of these double agent scenarios, there was going to be someone who would figure out that Echo was more than a blushing bride. Needless to say, Clar actually found out halfway through the episode thanks to a nameless lackey.

The original part was that Echo nearly convinced him that she was nothing more than a dutiful wife. Of course the jig was up when she started glitching at the most inappropriate of times. Glitching that Paul also took some hearty advantage of as well.

Getting Echo back into the fight mode she was in during their face off in “Man On The Street” was definitely one of Paul’s stronger ideas. Much as Paul annoys me, this episode nearly went over the top in people slating his abilities. Both Adelle and Martin had some zingers at his expense in a good few moments.

However because of Paul’s bright idea, Echo was able to go into fighting mode and do away with all of Martin’s cronies. Hell, even her apprehension of Martin (after blowing up his car) was something that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an episode of Alias.

Of course the meat of the Echo/Paul dynamic in this one was Paul making the transfer from unwilling helper to handler. There was no way he wasn’t going to cave in the end, thanks to what we’ve seen in “Epitaph One” and the scenes between him and Echo when she talked of her emotions had the emotional punch that lacked between them last season.

However it wasn’t just Echo getting all the meaty storylines this season. The cat and mouse antics with Paul and Adelle are a joy to watch. Paul might have noble intentions to take down the Dollhouse but Adelle has more than stressed that he’s out of his league. Perhaps Senator Daniel Perrin can succeed where Paul has failed.

Another cast member from the Whedonverse, Alexis Denisof is a nice choice for Perrin. I actually do hope that the nobility we see with Perrin is something that is maintained throughout the season. I know he poses a threat to the Dollhouse but come on, only a serious nutter would want him to fail. Hopefully he’s also less annoying than Paul was during most of the first season.

Speaking of annoying, I might have felt sorry for Topher in the unaired episode but I got something of a kick in Claire screwing with him in this one. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? The question’s rhetorical.

Amy Acker is such a great actress that it’s such a shame that she has to go to Happy Town instead of staying here. Claire’s breakdown is Whedon writing at its strongest and most insightful. All that anger, self-loathing and confusion certainly made for some powerful and potentially dangerous moments.

Topher deservedly bore most of the brunt of Claire’s anger. Old footage, rats and a creepy sexual pass were certainly Claire’s means of getting her own back on the man who created. Claire talked about not being human and wanting to die. Personally I’m glad that she’s alive, even if she had made the right decision in legging it from the Dollhouse.

Boyd earned some respective points for asking out in light of knowing about her Whiskey origins. I guess he really does like her. I also know that in spite of this series fate that Claire will resurface again this season, so that’s something to be happy about.

Also in “Vows”

The credits contained more shots of Eliza Dushku. I like Eliza but come on, even Whedon’s other shows had everyone in the opening credits.

Victor: “You’re touching my face.”
Adelle: “Moving along.”

Nice to see that Adelle didn’t wait too long to get Victor’s scars removed but why didn’t she extend a similar courtesy to Whiskey after Alpha attacked her?

Sierra: “I’m not comfortable with Orientals.”
Ivy: “This’ll only take a minute.”

Claire (to Boyd): “I like my scars. They bring out my eyes.”

What the heck kind of persona was Sierra supposed to be this week? Both she and Victor were disappointingly underused in this episode.

Echo (re Martin): “Is this about the sex?”
Paul: “I think you’re a demon.”

Claire: “Alpha cut up my face, do you remember that?”
Echo: “Why?”
Claire: “So you could be number one.”
Echo: “Am I?”
Claire: “Yes.”

There was a scene with Echo and Whiskey in flashbacks that will undoubtedly inspire a lot of femslash fanfiction.

Paul: “You’re a sick lady.”
Adelle: “I’m not asking you to handle me.”

Claire (re programming): “Why didn’t you stop there?”
Topher: “Because I was designing a person, not a robot. I needed you to be whole.”

Given the way Topher talked about caring more than he appears to, does that mean we’ll get something of a backstory or more information on him prior to joining the Dollhouse?

Topher: “So you were never gonna sleep with me?”
Claire: “I can’t stand the smell of you.”

Claire: “I’m not better than you. I’m just a series of excuses.”
Topher: “You’re human.”
Claire: “Don’t flatter yourself.”

For UK viewers, Sci-Fi aired both this and next episode, “Instinct” as a double bill. Review for that episode coming soon. Echo was also Roma in this episode.

Topher: “Do you have a better plan?”
Paul: “No but I have a worse one.”

Paul: “You’re making a mistake.”
Martin: “I think you’re the expert in that field.”

Chronology: It’s been a while since “Omega”, hasn’t it?

“Vows” made for a good opening episode and definitely showed improvement but with the lacklustre ratings in America, it feels like this show is on the way out. A shame about that.

Rating: 8 out of 10.


Nat said...

I didn't really enjoy this episode. It was definitely better than early season 1 but it wasn't as good as it needed to be. Maybe its because I know the show will be over after these 13 episodes that I'm not trying too hard to like it.

The Echo/Ballard storyline was pretty dull and formulaic, didn't really warm to it. Jamie Bamber was okay but I've never seen Battlestar so I didn't warm to him either. Apparently though that was his real British accent which was just weird- maybe its one of those American British accents (you know overly posh!!)

I did like seeing Alexis as the Senator (weird seeing him with his own accent though!) Not really sure what his character was about, he became more interesting in the second episode I thought.

I liked the Whiskey/Claire stuff though. Her scenes with Boyd were sweet, though its a little weird him asking her out, even if its just as friends. Her breakdown with Topher was brilliant to watch, really shows of Amy Acker's acting skills. There is definitely a back story there and I hope we get to find out what it is before the show ends.

Wasn't a fan of the new credits. It basically just highlights one of the shows major problems, it should be an ensemble show rather than just all about Dushku. Even a few other shots of the other Dolls and characters would've helped.

I ended up watching the episodes back to back and the second episode was a little more interesting than the first, I thought which is somewhat of a good sign creatively at least.

I feel a bit bad for Sci-Fi now. They made the effort of bringing the show back quickly and now the shows is going off for November and then airing doubles it will be quite the scheduling nightmare for them.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Thanks for the comments, Nat. It's looking less and less good for this show's effective future, huh?

I caught the second episode as well so I'll review it pretty soon. More computer problems I'm afraid.