Sunday, 25 October 2009

Of Dollhouse - "Belonging"

This will hopefully be the start of something a lot more frequent where I take an individual episode of a show and rave (or rant) about it. I will probably still be avoiding comedies just because of the difficulty I find in ranking individual episodes (other than very occasionally where the results are amazing, see 30 Rock "Season 4"). So it'll mostly be drama series, such as Dollhouse, Mad Men and Lost. So here we go why I absolutely adored the latest episode of Dollhouse.

So if you read this blog a lot you might know that Dollhouse is very a flawed show. It fluctuates between absolutely brilliance and absolute awfulness. Luckily this season has had a lot more good episodes but also stuff that just doesn't work (the episode where Echo is a mother is a good example) but luckily we haven't hit the absolute shite that we had hit in Season 1 by this point (pick pretty much any episode from 2-5). Luckily the show does have those occasional moments of sheer brilliance, episode 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13 from Season 1 spring to mind and now episode 4 from Season 2.

This episode did pretty much everything right. It advanced the plot more towards what we saw in last season's equally sublime "Epitaph One" and managed to minimize the effect that Eliza Dushku's lack of overall acting does to the show. Sadly she just can't handle being the lead character of Dollhouse due to the fact that it just feels like she's playing the same character more often than not. This shows in that most episodes which are brilliant definitely have her in a more subdued presence. This is what happens in this episode. This episode mostly follows around Sierra (played to stunning perfection by Dichen Lachman) as we find more about the circumstance that led to her becoming a Doll. Dichen Lachman just exudes a chemistry and natural talent that Eliza Dushku just doesn't and it's episodes like this that make me wish that she wasn't the lead or at the very least the show was far more of an ensemble with Dushku taking far more frequent trips to the back of the group

This is some of the most compelling stuff that the show has pulled off and at first I wasn't too interested in what we were going to find out but when the quality of what we saw was this brilliant I have no complaints. We get introduced to quite possibly the most evil man ever (and he's not supervillain evil or just messed in the head evil, he's just so in love with this person*) and we tell a tale of drugs, rape, brainwashing and true love. At times touching and at others genuinely pretty heavy for a network television. We follow through a series of flashbacks interspersed with various different parts of the present day, advancement of the overarching and Dichen Lachman playing not one but THREE different versions of the same character, all of whom are played astonishingly well. Of course the circumstances of her becoming a Doll are exceedingly shocking, all played behind the seedy backdrop of the Dollhouse, and whilst some might think that they've got the best interests of the Doll's in mind, you can't help but feel these people have seriously compromised morals.

The hour is just packed with twists and just some of the most disturbing stuff to come from television in a while, Dollhouse is very dark and it's subject matter is very touchy, luckily episodes like this just make it work. Anything that deals with slavery and rape is obviously going to have to be done in a certain way and this episode plays it to perfection, luckily buoyed by the brilliant Dichen Lachman (honestly I don't think I'll be able to stop raving about how great she was in this episode)

Of course we get other great performances this episode, Topher (Fran Kranz) moves more and more towards what we saw him like in "Epitaph One" adding far more layers to his character beyond the computer geek without morals (his story this season has definitely been the most compelling, especially his scenes with Amy Acker in the premiere). Harry Lenix gets to go all badass as Boyd in something I've only really seen done on Breaking Bad and Enver Gjokaj buts on an ever amazing performance as Victor. However if you know Joss Whedon something bad is coming because of the sweet nativity that exists in him, seriously Joss Whedon is a complete dick when it comes to happiness (see pretty much everything he's ever done)

Then we have the behind the scenes personnel. This episode was written by Maurissa Tncharoen and Jed Whedon who also last seasons "Epitaph One"(and also "Stage Fright" so it's not all gold) and was directed by Jonathan Frakes who played Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation (he also directed Thunderbirds, so again it's not all gold). The combination of this director, writer and these actors make the show just flow so well that it comes off without a hitch.

Whilst Dollhouse might still be in for bumpy ride (particularly with being taken off the air till December and cancellation looming) as long as they can continue to put out great episodes like this, I'll be more than happy (although the double dose of Summer Glau we'll get on December 4th will have a similar effect). If you haven't watched Dollhouse just know that after a bumpy first few episodes it gets very good, occasionally brilliant. If you've fallen off the band wagon, just know that this show is a brilliant sign of things to come and if you've already seen "Belonging" then you know just brilliant and awe inspiring this episode was.


*if I can I'm so using this in my English. Guy continually rents the same empty husk of a human being to have sex with who hates every second of the time she spends with him? Sounds like Love Through the Ages to Me

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