Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 2x04: "Belonging"

Written by Jed Whedon And Maurissa Tanchereon
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Nolan: “I have offered you everything. What else do you want?”
Priya: “I wanna walk out the damn door.”

If this show doesn’t make it to a third season, then this is without a doubt going to be one of the most discussed episodes this show has pulled since “Epitaph One” to be honest. Last season we got hints of Sierra’s back story. This episode went one better by detailing the entire thing.

So, Sierra prior to her life in the Dollhouse was a nice girl named Priya who tried to resist the advances of wealthy Nolan. You can see why. Nolan might be a good looking man and loaded but he’s also a deeply horrible man and this story highlighted beyond doubt that some people really do deserve to have their ass handed to them.

Nolan realised quickly that he couldn’t buy Priya and he tried his best on that one. Even getting her to paint something for an art show wasn’t helping. Heck, not even Echo and Victor could try and get Priya into fancying Nolan. Actually putting Victor in proximity of Priya was a big mistake for Nolan.

It sucks fancying someone who doesn’t feel the same way but to completely destroy that person’s life because they refused your advances is unbelievable. Viewers hated Nolan when he debuted in “Needs”. Now that hate just tripled and intensified all the more.

Priya made it clear that nothing would get her into bed with Nolan. Of course this episode would have to open with Sierra in Nolan’s arms, believing that he was the perfect man for her. Another reminder of how horrific the Dollhouse is.

I did wonder how Nolan exactly got the right to be able to sign Priya up for the Dollhouse. It turned out that all he had to do was drug her up so badly that she was institutionalised and the likes of Topher would believe that he was giving a mentally unbalanced woman a better life. Yeah, Topher not the brightest button, is he?

Funnily enough, we have Echo to thank for a lot of this episode. In spite of the fact that she’s underused in the story, she did show Topher one of Sierra’s pictures that alluded to the bad man. In some ways, there were two bad men to speak of. Nolan doesn’t have to be explained but Topher was bad for not looking at everything properly.

It was only when he went through Sierra/Priya’s scans again that he realised that she was drugged. In a lot of the ways, this episode was to be proof that in spite of viewing the Actives as toys, there’s a part of Topher that actually gives a shit about them as people. It’s good to know. Better was his intent to try and remedy the situation.

Alerting Boyd to it was one thing, involving Adelle was another. Granted she overheard the exchange but even Adelle was disgusted by the lengths that Nolan went to keep Priya as his love slave. Was Nolan right to lambast Adelle as a hypocrite? Was Matthew Harding, the Rossum guy? Yes and no!

Working in the Dollhouse is a degrading business because we’ve seen that the majority of the Actives were often coerced or plain forced into signing up, so on that level, Adelle might not have a lot of moral high ground. However, the fact that Harding elected to do nothing but force Adelle to hand over Priya to Nolan forever was cold.

Seeing Topher and Adelle argue over the decision made for some of the best TV from the series. Both of them raised points about protocol and each other but the idea of Priya being trapped with Nolan forever was an unbearable idea in of itself.

Because of that it wasn’t surprising that Topher did some tampering of his own. Making Priya remember everything about her last year was supposed to be his way to help her and atone himself. Sadly, like some of the well intentioned plans, something had to do horribly wrong.

In a realistic world, I wouldn’t waste a second grieving over someone like Nolan. Even when Priya stabbed him, it was in self-defence and it horrified her. This was after seeing him knocking her into next week when she was finally able to stand up to him. Goodbye Nolan, you won’t be missed.

As for Boyd and Topher, it was their job to help cover the mess. Something tells me that burning the body aside in sulphuric acid won’t be enough. There will be some long term consequences to what just happened with Nolan. Even Adelle herself didn’t seem convinced when Boyd told her that Nolan skipped the country.

As for the final scenes with Priya and Topher, choosing to forget might be the best thing for her now. Until Echo’s plan goes into motion, she’s still stuck in the Dollhouse but at least one joyful thing came out of this story – her and Victor.

We know that they love each other and the writers and actors have made it hard for viewers not to love them as a couple and this episode proved why. Victor’s devotion to her (he tried to get rid of the black paint) and Sierra realising how he felt for her (after Priya taunted Nolan about her love for Victor) was just delightful.

Echo on the other hand, if Boyd can catch up with you trying to stir things in the Dollhouse, then soon enough someone else will to. Luckily for us, Boyd is actually on her side and even gave her an All Access card. He also might have a valid point about Echo causing a storm also.

Also in “Belonging”

We had a Season 2 episode of Angel, which was also called “Belonging”. This was obviously better.

Sierra (re black): “I don’t like this colour though.”
Victor: “Why do you use it?”
Sierra: “It’s always here.”

Matthew Harding, the Rossum guy was played by Keith Carradine. I have a feeling we’ll see him again this season.

Victor (re black paint): “Is this wrong?”
Echo: “No, it’s good. You’re taking charge. You’re taking matters into your own hands.”
Victor: “They’re in my shirt.”

Matthew: “What are we already?”
Adelle: “We’re not slave merchants.”

Because of this episode, we got to hear Dichen Lachman more in her native tongue, with the writers acknowledges that Priya is Australian.

Adelle (to Topher, re Sierra): “You have always thought of people as playthings. This is not a judgement, you’ve always taken care of your toys but you’re going to have to let this one go.”

Topher: “Do you know where you are?”
Priya: “I’m in hell.”
Topher: “You’re in Los Angeles but I can understand the mix up.”

In the UK, Sci-Fi will air the remaining episodes of Season 2 in January.

Echo (to Boyd): “I don’t care. Something bad is coming, like a storm and I want everyone to wake up.”

Priya (to Nolan, re Victor): “I love him so much more than I hate you.”

This is the first episode not to feature Paul and to be fair, it works perfectly well without him.

Topher (re Priya): “I was just trying to help her and now she’s ruined.”
Boyd: “You had a moral dilemma. Your first and it didn’t go well.”
Topher: “Priya does not belong in the Dollhouse.”
Boyd: “She does now.”

Priya (re Victor): “I love him, is that real?”
Topher: “Yes, it’s real. He loves you back.”

Chronology: A year since “Ghost”, according to the flashbacks we saw in this episode.

Without a doubt the best episode from the series. “Belonging” is just wonderful storytelling, brimmed with shocking and discussion worthy moments and sublime performances from Dichen Lachman, Vincent Ventressa and Fran Kanz.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


Nat said...

Good review.

An excellent episode, there was a lot of good stuff in the episode. I thought it made for a really interesting backstory, much more compelling than Echo's.

Victor and Sierra are adorable together, its a very sweet aspect of the show.

Its a shame they didn't produce more episodes like this in season 1. Maybe then the show wouldn't be cancelled.

shawnlunn2002 said...

That's true but the cancellation wasn't a shock. It was a miracle that it made it to a second season, it was never going to get a third.

That being said, I hope Joss Whedon can give it a satisfying conclusion.