After a shaky but intriguing pilot last week, this week's eppy of Dollhouse, "Target," felt more composed and a step in the right direction.
From what I've read, the first 5 eps of the show are all supposed to be virtually self-contained, and act as mini-pilots, before getting more into the arc-alicious storytelling we all want. "Target" succeeded on that level, and hell, I think it might have served as a much better pilot that the sometimes clunky "Ghost." There were still a few awkward moments, such as Ballard's fellow Feebs taunting him about the "Gingerbread House" (which was funny, but a bit derivative of "Spooky Mulder"), and the fact that they rang the "wheel to the stone gesture" bell a few too many times. (Yes, Echo's "echo" of that in the final scene was a nice payoff, but they hung a lantern on it so prominently and so frequently, that it bugged. Do that once, and give the audience credit that they will catch it later). Still, "Target" was an entertaining mix of "The Most Dangerous Game" via "Wrong Turn," with some interesting morsels of backstory, particularly for the badass new Giles figure, Boyd. This gets an A- from me.
Other thoughts and ruminations:
The Middleman! It was bittersweet seeing Matt Keeslar (who, if you haven't watched one of 2008's best shows, played the Middleman on the eponymous program) as this week's client, knowing that just days earlier, the fucksticks at ABC Family cancelled his beloved show. After his wholesome earnestness there, it was fun to see him let go as a deranged hunter here.
I was worried about there always being a "glitch" in the programming that would provide the tension for the episode. It was almost as if the writers knew this, and subverted our expectations in the beginning as Echo was climbing up the cliff face and had her little slip, only to laugh it off and tease the client. Well played.
We also learned a bit more about Alpha (which in the NATO lingo the show seems to be using, is really Alfa, but we'll roll with it), other than the fact that he likes to sit nude among dead bodies. He was the one responsible for carving up Dr. Saunders' face, and killing quite a few Dollhouse personnel before escaping. He also has some awareness of the Dollhouse's current engagements, as it turns out he was lurking on Echo's assignment, and went behind Boyd to carve up the fake park ranger. (BTW - nice surprise on the ranger not being what he seemed). He also didn't hurt Echo during his initial freak out, which leads me to start positing crazy ass theories. Perhaps Alpha.....is Echo's brother, or fiance, and they got into some type of trouble where they "had" to sign up for the Dollhouse? And part of his real personality bled through to the imprint and he recognized "Caroline?" Or, could Alpha be.....Paul Ballard? And part of the errors in his programming is that he's unaware of this other side of his personality? (I don't think this one will hold up, however, because it seems the DH security team, and DeWitt, would realize who he is. Unless there is some motivation for them to keep that a secret).
Even with only a few lines, Amy Acker rocked.
"Four brothers, none of them Democrats"
There seems to be a lot of hang-wringing and gnashing of teeth in some parts of the audience over the "prostitution" angle of the Dollhouse. Look, we're dealing with dark themes on this show, even if we're doing them in an action-packed, sci-fi kind of way. Is it "rape" if the actives are used for sex on an engagement? Is it "mental rape" if they do something on an engagement that they wouldn't ordinarily do? I don't think we can answer this in a few episodes, and I want to take the time to explore these questions with the show over time. But sooner or later, Whedon and company should probably throw in a scene with Adelle and a new recruit, where they discuss the types of things that might happen during their tenure in the Dollhouse, and show that the recruit is aware of what will happen, and is fine with it.
Reed Diamond's head of security is a douchebag.
Nice to see Mark Sheppard, who is popping up in almost every show I watch these days.
"Then what? Me and special needs become buddy, buddy?"
Eliza handled the imprint of "Jenny" very well, but it wasn't necessarily a stretch of her acting range. However, in one of the flashbacks, which showed her coming back in the van with Boyd, and talking about her affection for the overweight guy who was her current engagement, she had a nice, bubbly enthusiasm and vulnerability that was different from "Jenny" or "Miss Penn," and earnestly and believably acted.
Anyone else think that Ballard's friendly neighbor with "leftovers" is really a surveillance Doll?
I can see where Topher is going to be a love him or hate him character. Thus far, I'm digging him, but I can see the other side of the argument.
Next week, Echo goes all Britney Spears. Should be fun!