Saturday, 30 January 2010

Of Dollhouse Season 2

Well here we are, the end of Dollhouse. It also looks like this is the end of Joss Whedon's involvement with network television. Whilst we might get a cable show out of him, it seems more likely that we'll be getting a lot more internet content from him in the future. But before I launch into the review, it must be said that my Top 10 Lost Characters and Episodes will be up over the next two days. I may need to discuss some placements (there are a lot of characters and over 100 episodes to choose from).

But now we must go into mourning of Dollhouse... kind of.

Dollhouse was a show that never truly worked. I will say that a lot of the actors were superb, Enver Gjokaj was a revelation and an actor that needs a long and healthy career after this show. The very definition of a character actor, he just his body stance, accent and mannerism for each different character that he played. Then there were many single episodes of Dollhouse which were great. My personal favourites from Season 2 were 'Belonging', 'The Attic' and 'Getting Closer' and they definitely stand as some of my favourite episodes from last year, and maybe even this year. But ultimately, it never came together as a cohesive whole. All the elements were there for something truly great, I mean it's a Joss Whedon show, so obviously there's something there! But when you compare Dollhouse to something like Firefly there a lot of differences. Whilst Firefly was dicked around by Fox, it had an identity from the pilot and you could tell the cast meshed well together. On Dollhouse, the two leads feel miscast and the show suffers for it, whilst the story and the strength of supporting characters do buoy some of the problems, they sadly don't make up for them.

I'm not saying Dollhouse is a bad show though, I gave Season 1 a 7/10 and Season 2 was better, but sadly it's also incredibly flawed and whilst a string of later episodes, like in Season 1 do help make the show feel better, they sadly don't erase the missteps from existence. Like in Season 1, Season 2 of Dollhouse opened with a string of standalone episodes and whilst the first episode had some great moments between Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker) and Topher (Fran Kranz), the "Assignment of the week" wasn't really engrossing. The same can be said of the following two episodes, 'Instinct' (in which Echo becomes a crazy mother in what was easily the worst episode of the season) and 'Belle Chose' (which had a cool serial killer element but sadly just a shone a massive spotlight on Eliza Dushku's lack of range). But after this the season stepped into high gear.

We got the episode 'Belonging' early in the season (which I've already reviewed) which still stands as one of the best hours the show has put out and the show just keeps going in this fashion. We get a two part episode focusing on different Dollhouse's, featuring Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Alexis Denisof (Angel), which was then fully rounded into a four part story arc. Sadly after a string of strong episodes, I felt episode 9 'Stop-Loss' was the weakest episode in the second half of the season, but then we got the incredible 'Attic' and 'Getting Closer'.

These were the two trippiest and twistiest episodes that Dollhouse has produced, 'The Attic was visually stunning and took us around the insides of various employees of the Dollhouse as well as setting up the final conflict of the season. This was quickly followed by 'Getting Closer' which took all of our safe assumptions and turned them on theirs heads by making probably the friendliest character into an insane Big Bad of the season of the entire show (a move which many believe didn't come to proper fruition in the following episode). Plus the normal Whedonism that whenever someone is truly happy, that has to be ended fairly quickly.

Finally the final two episodes were the wrap up which whilst too many didn't feel overly satisfying, I did feel they did their jobs admirably. Whilst episode 12 seemingly wasted the shows final use of Amy Acker, and the biggest twist was ultimately not so fleshed out but I still enjoyed the pay off that was given to many of the characters over the course of the show. Same can be said of 13, whilst it should have probably been longer due to the amount of plot that needed to be filled in, it still did it admirably.

The shows cancellation was a double edged sword. Whilst it meant that the writers knew it was ending so they could build towards a conclusion. This increase in momentum definitely helped the show as a whole because we got that terrific string of episodes. But sadly we also got too little time to tell the story in, both of the last episodes would have been better if their content had been fleshed out more (especially episode 12 where the first 10 minutes are spent recapping the end to episode 11).

Ultimately Season 2 was a great improvement over Season 1, but sadly it was still a mixed bag of a show. Some terrific episodes, writing and supporting characters don't make up for the miscast lead actors, subpar standalone episodes and a concept which from the beginning was flawed and tampered with. Whilst there are many single episode I loved a lot, they were always balanced out with something that didn't mesh completely. But in the end those great episodes are too good to ignore and luckily the show isn't horrendous, just flawed. I would recommend that people should watch Dollhouse, it did a lot right but a lot wrong. As long as you go in not expecting a perfect show, a lot of fun can be had. In the end however, I will await Joss Whedon's next project with baited breathe, especially if the Dollhouse experience is what leads him to start looking for creative freedom. Because we all want to see what he can come up with given complete control and little input from executives is surely going to help.

However we're here to talk about Dollhouse Season 2. I'm not sure I'll miss it the same I do other shows, partly because it feels like a complete run. Season 2 was good season of television, with enough great episodes to elevate that much higher. The fact that it has an endpoint is a definite plus but ultimately a lot of the show is still frustrating, but that shouldn't put potential watchers off from what is a very cool idea for a show with some superb performances (and some mixed) along with great episodes and writing (for the most part).


No comments: