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"That's why I hired him. He's a eunuch."
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March 11 2009

GeekDad's Silence on Dollhouse is broken. Dollhouse is a "slow warm", but they like the way things are warming up.

Gotta say GeekDad hit the nail on the head for me.

*waves at Whedonesque* Hey everyone :)
You notice there's no Bravo or Charlie? There are lots of opportunities for future plotlines, which I like.
Nix! I was just thinking about you the other day and wondering how you've been?

There's a poster in the comments section who says the second half of the season "is a different show, a better show."
Hey there nixygirl, welcome back. Wait, I remember doing this before ;).

Not much new ground in this review, but I pretty much agree with it, although this: "Each episode has created a storyline that drips in suspense", I agree with not so much. The arciness is mostly very engaging, but the IotW-storylines are a hit-and-miss affair. I liked the ones in episodes 3 and 4, but the hunting engagement in two was padded too much to be engaging and Eliza's part as a hostage negatiator felt "off" somehow, which made me invest less in episode one.

Otherwise:

For me Dollhouse is compelling enough to keep watching. I just feel Iím waiting for Whedon to hit me right between the eyes. Hereís hoping it is coming.


That.

Although having seen episode 4, which was a cut above the rest so far, as far as I'm concerned, I'm now more hopefull that we'll get to that point.
Nix! Long time no read/type :). I do think it's mildly hilarious that people are complaining about the depth of the mythology and too many open questions after three episodes. That's not a direct response to anything GeekDad had to say specifically, aside from connotations of the "slow warm".
Yeah, some folks sure have a better ability to judge arcs after 2-3 episodes than I do. Or indeed, than is possible.

The main issues i've had with eps 1-4 is the plotting, it seems almost like plot-by-numbers sometimes, especially e.g. 'The Target' (which i've even actually wondered is deliberate, such is the faith I have in that Whedon fella) or as if the plot is just something to hang the themes on. Don't get me wrong, I like the themes, I just think early episodes should have pretty amazing plots to grab folk that aren't interested in the themes so much.

... I'm now more hopefull that we'll get to that point.

Or the "point of maximum cancellation" as it should probably be known ;). And yet so very ;(.

And hey nixygirl, long time ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-03-11 15:56 ]
I agree Saje, the plotting has been bothering me too. There are points where it seems too contrived. It's not coming naturally yet. I did enjoy episode four much more than the previous three, but overall so far only the background story about the dollhouse and Echo that's keeping me intrigued, whereas the weekly stories just haven't interested me at all.

I love that Dollhouse is dark (although I do miss the light Joss humour), I love that itís all morally grey and uncomfortable. But while I watch I have a distinct feeling that something is missing, and for me I know exactly what it is: Iím not invested in any of the characters. Until that happens, Iíll keep watching, I may even be interested, but I wonít love the show. I really hope that changes, and Iím worried that if/when it does itíll be too late.
I'm really pleased with the pacing of Dollhouse so far. To me, it feels like a show that I can be intrigued by now, and fall in love with as I watch it repeatedly.

For me, Joss shows (with the exception of Horrible) have never been love affairs the first time through. It's through continued enjoyment during repetition that I have truly fallen in love with his stories and characters, and the depth he's given them. I've gotten nothing but evidence to suggest that Dollhouse will be similar.

I'm glad the reviewer is continuing to watch, because in my experience, better stories build slowly.
The thing of it is, he's known he'd have 13 episodes for quite a long time, there's a part of me that wonders (maybe even secretly hopes) that Joss has crafted an incredible 13 episodes which will, in retrospect, end up being one complete story full of subtle foreshadowing deftly weaving feints and dummies for the audience into the ongoing story with every apparent inconsistency and shortcoming being explained and turning out to be deliberate. Whereupon the show will be cancelled (pretty much as he expected) and Big Purp will leave network TV forever BUT after setting the bar in TV drama for years to come.

I'm talking virtuoso performance here, like a Benton's last surgery on ER sort of thing - something so elegant and intricate that other creators will literally look at it in its totality and grin at the audacity of it.

Or, the show could just be finding its feet, the inconsistencies and plot issues could be ironed out and we'll get a great 13 ep. story but maybe only 7 or 8 truly great episodes. Then it runs for 12 seasons like gossi promised - either way's good for me ;).
Saje, I'll take option number 2, thank you. ;)
[S]eems almost like plot-by-numbers sometimes, especially e.g. 'The Target' (which i've even actually wondered is deliberate, such is the faith I have in that Whedon fella)


This is the part that intrigues me, and not so much about DH, but about art in general. We're able - or sometimes just really really want - to appreciate a work in a much deeper manner with the benefit of the perspective of an artist's life and oeuvre (yeah, I said it). So Picasso can knock out something sparse in his dotage and we place it in context and call it meaningful. Rilo Kiley can issue a 4th album that is utterly different from its predecessors, and I can call it a brash and sexy album that is still identifiably of the band. (Picasso to RK? Easy if you're me . . . ) And we're ever so willing to import meaning into the DH canvas that . . . I'm not yet completely convinced is there? (Said very tentatively, and in light of the 100s of insightful comments about the show made here and elsewhere).

At the least, then, I am intrigued.
Verily SNT, you leap from one artistic hummock to another like some kind of critical gazelle ;).

The "Is it there or not ?" question is probably the great unanswerable of fiction appreciation. My own feeling is there's a sort of bell curve of justifiable interpretations with most of our takes falling a couple of deviations from the mean and then the two tails at either end (one being "there's basically no subtext", the other "everything has a meaning").

Ultimately, it's "there" if you see it but it's also NOT there for those that don't see it, both can be true at the same time. 'S subjective innit. Messy ;).

(what i'm talking about is more along the lines of faith though - and I should stress it's more a vague hope/speculation than an actual belief, I haven't had so much Kool-aid that I can't accept Joss is a human being that makes mistakes and/or takes a while to build up a head of creative steam - in just the same way that a casual Buffy fan might immediately think Dawn was a total cheat, just being shoe-horned in, whereas many of us would probably have felt in our bones that Joss wouldn't do that, that if we were patient there'd be an explanation forthcoming. And sure enough ...)
I believe the term is, "Watch and learn." Be patient, Joss loves to being his stories to a simmer before whacking us over the head with the grist of the real meaning. I think I can see where he's going with this, but I know he'll pull a trick that will toss that thought to the waste side and leave me speechless.

Have faith in Joss. Now, hopefully, FOX will play him some slack in order to do so.
Maybe it'll be one of those things we're never supposed to know. Like the question of the 8 hotdog buns to 10 hotdogs ratio. Or the Lochness monster. This one will be: what did Joss really intend/show?

And right on, Madhatter (& Saje). In fact, in Ep 2 when Echo takes the drugged water and see herself, she actually sees hersevles: both Caroline & Echo (I checked, it's true). Echo's line in that vision-thing was "I try to do my best", which I didn't take much away from... until Episode 4 where every doll is saying it. Crazy how that works. ;)

Whatever it is, it'll be a tale to tell for future generations. Like Twin Peaks (hold the cheese).
For me, Dollhouse is compelling enough to keep watching, but I'm not waiting for Joss to hit me between the eyes because I'm loving what I'm watching, loving the build up to that point, and I have every faith that Joss will bring it.

I happen to like the way Joss' first seasons are paced, focusing more on the monster/illegal job/engagement of the week while we get to know the characters, and at the same time the seasons's arc slowly begins to unfold. I think that's the best way to introduce a show to an audience.
I think the challenge when it comes to Dollhouse, and likely what's causing some problems for some viewers, is that stand-alone in a more real world is different than stand-alone in a world where there's still demons or space cowboy hijinks. The genre worlds of Joss' prior shows had an almost built-in hook for stories because they didn't quite resemble the world we live in every day.

I suspect it's been a much harder sell finding a way to hook people with "hostage rescue", "hunting trip", or "bank robbery", because in general you can see those basic story premises pretty much anywhere on television. And a lot of people (not me, but I can totally grok this) don't seem to be finding enough unique in the show to "suffer" the more standard-looking trappings of the current stand-alone engagements.
SoddingNancyTribe

Interesting comment, and perhaps something that would make a rather interesting thesis paper :)

I do, however, love this show for (what I think are) its own merits. I don't see this show as teetering on the edge of its own potential, I think (for the most part) it has met it - I just think that the stuff people keep hoping to see more of would be inappropriate, forced, and wouldn't have nearly the impact if it was placed in the early-on eps. (imagine if Willow had become addicted to "magic" in season 2 instead of season 6)

Just to give an example: I think it would be interesting to see Echo become self aware qua Echo - in which case she may see Caroline as a threat to her existence. (Meaning, when Echo is wiped for the last time, it will effectively be her "death".)

What both disturbs and delights me about this show so far is that it's Echo that I am becoming "attached" to, as it were; and if it came down to wiping Echo to return Caroline, or destroying Caroline so Echo can continue to "live" I think, as it stands, I'd say destroy Caroline, or implant her into a different body. (not to mention the greater moral imperative: are the Dollhouse committing murder each time they perform a wipe? Is Taffy "dead"?

Not even Buffy or Firefly challenged my own morality the way this show has.

[ edited by crhobbs42 on 2009-03-11 22:11 ]

[ edited by crhobbs42 on 2009-03-11 22:12 ]
Cheers, crhobbs42 - though as a critical gazelle, I don't write thesis papers, I eat them.

I've drawn back from much of the analysis of DH thus far, partly in an attempt to see if I can just enjoy the show as it unfolds. I am enjoying it, on balance. As I've written elsewhere, one challenge for me is that I don't really like to be presented with a ton of unanswered questions about who, what, why, and so on. And, while there is truth in what b!x points out about the seemingly-mundane nature of the weekly missions, I'm more aligned with those who are having difficulty feeling for any of the characters. Intellectual brilliance is all well and good, but personally I need it served on a bed of identifiable human fun. If you know what I mean.
I think you're on to something, bix.
I don't think Joss much cares about the hunting trip/kidnapping/stalker/robbery plots in and of themselves. That's why we didn't see Echo escape the vault in "Gray Hour."

How she escaped doesn't matter. That she had the *will* to escape *and* carry a wounded man who expected her to go by herself, when she's supposed to be a blank slate, that matters.

Frankly, I didn't care to see it. As much as he's known for killing characters, Joss isn't going to kill Echo now, so there's no tension in seeing her escape. Neither was there in "The Target," but the point of showing that, showing her running, being hunted, was to show the moment of when she realized her self-worth, her desire to live.

I love Echo. She's who I'm with. Not Boyd because he's a "nice guy." From the moment in "Ghost" when she told Boyd he was "good people," as the elevator doors were closing and I knew she was going to lose all that happiness she was feeling, I was with her. Seeing her shell-shocked and almost fetal in "Gray Hour," I wanted to be able to help her.

What'll be really interesting is, what if I don't much love Caroline?

Anyways...

My point is, that's why I'm watching the standard plots. For Echo's journey through them. And the only real issue I had with one, as they've been enjoyable enough, was in "Stage Fright." Like Echo, I just thought Rayna snapped and was a whack-job, and I couldn't feel much sympathy for her.

As heavy-handed as the "bird in a cage" metaphor was, I saw nothing that made me believe she was. I just saw a diva who was whiny and had all the control. I saw a bitca who didn't want to hang with a sweet fan in Audra. By the time Biz struck her, it was too late for me. That should've happened sooner. We should've seen him being more "the jailer" prior to her big speech in the dressing room.

All that said, "True Believer" looks INTENSE.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-03-11 22:43 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-03-11 22:50 ]
Intellectual brilliance is all well and good, but personally I need it served on a bed of identifiable human fun. If you know what I mean.

Yeah, I get that. I guess I just don't need it on that bed immediately or at least, not from this writer/producer/director anyway. As I say, i'm already starting to like Echo (actual Echo, not whoever we see imprinted with various personalities each week) and we're only 4 episodes in. And I liked Boyd from half an hour into the pilot, when he goes to the mat for the wee girl (the mutual "imprinting" scene in 'The Target' just sealed the deal).

Neither was there in "The Target," but the point of showing that, showing her running, being hunted, was to show the moment of when she realized her self-worth, her desire to live.

Well sure but there has to be a balance between "It's the destination that's the point" and enjoying the actual journey surely ? Otherwise why not just have the key moments as Echo develops and fill the bits between with adverts or relaxing musak (I vote "hooked on Bach" ;) ? I mean, I agree that's what counts, I just don't agree that it's all that counts. It's a TV show, not an A' level essay - it also has to be entertaining (and, with a certain amount of leeway, make sense).

(BUT here's probably my furthest out there "it's deliberate" possibility - real life is mundane and dull most of the time, it's not filled with novelty and excitement, it's about the daily grind, about putting one foot in front of the other. But being a person shouldn't get old for any of us, not if/when we stop to think about it. Maybe mundane/clichťd plots are making that point ? Literally saying "it's not about what happens to you, it's about the you it happens to". Yeah, I think it's pretty thin too but you never know ;)

I love Echo. She's who I'm with. Not Boyd because he's a "nice guy." From the moment in "Ghost" when she told Boyd he was "good people," as the elevator doors were closing and I knew she was going to lose all that happiness she was feeling, I was with her.

See, I take issue with that a bit ;). Cos that wasn't Echo. Or at least, whether that was Echo and to what extent is surely the $64,000 question (does inflation apply to adages ? Should it be "a stitch in time saves 12.347" now ? ;) ? Before 'Gray Hour' Echo was: a hand raised to her shoulder, a shake of the head to Sierra, possibly a motivator to rescue Sierra and that's basically it (couple of other bits and bobs maybe but not much).

Echo was pretty hard to like, at least pre-'Gray hour' (typed that "wrong" twice so far ;) just because there wasn't really much there to like. As Boyd gets to know her, so do we (and just like Boyd, we're starting to like her - or I am anyway. She is, after all, "not broken" - to me Eliza delivered that line perfectly, "little girl proud/looking for validation" with just a hint of defiance (almost daring him not to agree) - and you can't dislike someone that understands the value of the sky above her head. What would you "look, up in ..." without that ? ;).
I think the closest character I am to liking is Boyd. At least he seems to care. Oh, and Dr. Saunders. I would watch the Dr. Saunders and how she came to work in the evil Dollhouse show.
I have to disagree with your disagreement. ;-) I didn't say I liked her from that moment, I said I was with her. Meaning, she's my character I'm latching onto. I empathized with the fact that she had this experience that made her so happy, and she was going to forget it. And what cemented that latch was later, when she said she couldn't remember what fell on her, then the way Eliza delivered the line to Topher, and the look on her face.

No, I think I kind of liked then. The like continued from the moment she hit Rayna with the chair. That was Echo there, not Jordan. "Friends help each other out." Bits and bobs is sometimes all it takes, Saje. ;-)

And sure, enjoying the journey is important, and I do. It hasn't felt like an essay to me at all.
That's why we didn't see Echo escape the vault in "Gray Hour."

I don't think we needed to see her escape because we knew which way she'd go (back the way she came). I noticed some people missed this before. They could leave the safe because the "exit hole into the hotel" was on the other side of the safe door. Once the security guys opened the door, all you had to do was go through the "hole" and you'd get to Boyd (who was in the hotel security office). Hard to get to "tunnel hole" with bullets flying at you? Smoke. Done. It didn't need to be seen because we've seen it before. And yeah, I agree- Echo's development was more important than seeing her retracing her steps.

On Stage Fright... It wasn't Biz who "caged" the diva, but the diva herself. That's why she wanted to kill herself- she created a world (stage, fans, soulless music) that she hated and didn't think she could be free. Jordan/Echo sums it up nicely with the whole "if you don't like your world, change it" (not end it). Check out Pointy's view. I think you'll probably appreciate the episode better for it.

(BUT here's probably my furthest out there "it's deliberate" possibility - real life is mundane and dull most of the time, it's not filled with novelty and excitement, it's about the daily grind, about putting one foot in front of the other. But being a person shouldn't get old for any of us, not if/when we stop to think about it. Maybe mundane/clichťd plots are making that point ? Literally saying "it's not about what happens to you, it's about the you it happens to". Yeah, I think it's pretty thin too but you never know ;)

I don't think it's out there at all. We get bogged down with "life is mundane" all the time but does that mean we become "boring people"? Do "exciting" people have more of a right to life than "boring" people?

Or, take a look at Rayna. She hated her life. Does that mean she should end hers? Or, as mentioned before and on the episode, why not just change that life instead of ending it?

See, I take issue with that a bit ;). Cos that wasn't Echo.

(The collective) we have talked about this before. We see more of Echo than you give us credit for. We see Echo in the eyes of those around us (just like we see ourselves reflected in those around us). When Echo talks to Topher & Dr. Saunders about something falling on her, and "should it" bother her that she doesn't remember what that is, we see the worried/confused faces of her caretakers. An anxiety over something unknown... which just happened to be Echo.

In Ep 2 we see the development of Boyd & Echo's relationship. Not just with the imprinting, but with all of it. When Boyd first comes to the Dollhose, he view Echo as an "empty hat", a thing, nothing more. He even gives the feeling that it's below him to watch over someone else's toys. Being imprinted with a "toy" that entrusts their life to him is clearly unsettling. And now that Boyd has gotten to "know" her, has seen her, he's convinced that she's more human than just a doll... he maybe even assigning too much humanity to her current state. She doesn't fit into his "thing" box anymore so he wants to call her "human", but she's not that either (yet).

We also get to view Echo as a fly on the wall of the Dollhouse. Her curiosity for the blue flashing light (Sierra's imprinting) drew her up there... when it drew no other doll. That says something.

Topher's view of them has changed as well. They're no longer "hats with bunnies & magic" but bison. They've upgraded from non-living to living beings.

...

We also get feedback from their views. Echo does too. By becoming more aware of her surroundings and caretakers, she's noticed that asking questions and worrying the caretakers might not be a good thing (it presents hostile tones from Tophers "good for you!" and Dominic's "we'll put you in the attic") and corrects herself (& Sierra) by giving the headshake. There was a reason behind that gesture, and we have seen it evolve.
You know, I read Pointy's thoughts before, but somehow completely missed the "she made her own cage" part. But in my defense, there were a lot of thoughts. :-)

Suddenly, the episode clicks. Huzzah. Still don't have much sympathy for Rayna, but yay.
And I didn't even use my magic word. Yeah, there are a lot of thoughts (not all of them I agree with), but I did like his take on the "cage".

I don't have much sympathy for Rayna either. But I kind of wonder if we're supposed to. (Jordan/Echo doesn't seem as concerned with her as she was programmed to be. In the end (literally) it's Sierra she stands by/worries about.)
I don't write thesis papers, I eat them.

Hee hee God I've missed you guys! Real life is so intrusive...damnit. I'm well and I'm on exchange for a semester in Ireland, yay!

Now back on topic *grins*
I have to say I'm actually beginning to feel it for Echo. I have just now watched ep 4 and the end, the song, her in the pool, not broken and yet so very much so. Yes, it is a slow burn, but it's burning.

I just hope a slow burn can win enough of an audience in a world of instant gratification. And that my friends, is what scares me.
I still can't really connect with the characters... but we shall see what happens
When Echo talks to Topher & Dr. Saunders about something falling on her, and "should it" bother her that she doesn't remember what that is, we see the worried/confused faces of her caretakers. An anxiety over something unknown... which just happened to be Echo.

Right, so why does that make Echo likeable or even someone to latch onto ? It tells us Echo is different to the other actives, it doesn't say anything about her character, what sort of person she's going to become. It's a comment on Echo, it's not a comment by Echo (because at that point, there's no Echo there to comment - or hellish little of one anyway).

Meaning, she's my character I'm latching onto. I empathized with the fact that she had this experience that made her so happy, and she was going to forget it. And what cemented that latch was later, when she said she couldn't remember what fell on her, then the way Eliza delivered the line to Topher, and the look on her face.

My point is, the first character you empathised with wasn't Echo (or at least, how much of her was Echo is the crux of the show - deciding she's Echo or mainly Echo is answering the $64,000 question after less than one episode. Which seems a bit premature to me ;).

The second "character" was though, fair enough (i'm not saying the hints aren't meant to make us like her/empathise with her or begin to at least, just that a lot of times where people see Echo they're not actually seeing Echo IMO. Echo's "not broken", likes sky, saved some guy she didn't really need to and is "friends" with Sierra but she's not a motorcycle riding, sexual adventuress or head over heels in love with some chunky dude, that was another woman entirely. Or maybe/probably not entirely but that's still up for grabs is my point).

(I do empathise with those women too though - that moment in 'The Target' with the unnamed young woman in love was especially poignant as she rattled on happily about a future we knew she just didn't have because in 15 minutes she'd be dead)

The like continued from the moment she hit Rayna with the chair. That was Echo there, not Jordan.

See, to me that was 100% Echordan ;). Maybe she hit her for exactly the reason Adelle believed (to protect Rayna from herself) or maybe she hit her for exactly the reason you believe pat32082 (to protect Sierra from Rayna/Rayna's crazy "accomplice"). It's surely meant to be ambiguous (even if we're pre-disposed to believe it was an echo of Echo cos "friends help each other") possibly even meant to be a mixture (i.e. not ambiguous but definitely both, just like real life).

The other ambiguity I liked there was when they've had a fight and Biz asks if it makes a difference - Jordan says something like "No. I don't know why but I still want to protect her" (very rough paraphrase BTW, i'm at work so can't check the episode) - it's surely no accident that that could apply equally to both Rayna and Sierra.


edited to accord more closely with reality. Overrated IMO but some are keen on it ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-03-12 11:46 ]
I totally agree about the ambiguity of that. I am particularly amazed by how the show questions my own reading of the show. I do keep finding myself in situations going "Awwww!" when I discover an "arc-moment" or something that lends itself to the "bigger puzzle" of Echo's growing self-awareness, and then reading it completely different (that means: non-arcy, very personality-of-the-week-y) on rewatch. Now, that's a crazy show. I can't even say whether it's "morally gray" or "unlikeable" or "hard to latch onto" when every time I see it my own reading goes haywire.
I think you're overthinking it, Saje.

Haven't you ever met someone, and only after spending just a little bit with them, think to yourself, "I like this person"? You don't know their whole history, or what parts of them may be not so swell, or what they'll act like a day or a week later, you just like them. I know I have.

It's one of those weird happenings between people that can't be quantified or explained. For instance, I decided I didn't like Topher before he said much of anything. There was just...something about him. No real reason for it, just the way it was. Then he kept talking, and I felt justified in my dislike.

Yet I enjoy his character. Watchable and entertaining, and slowly starting to deepen.

Boyd is the "good guy," but I can't say I liked him. The first time he really speaks he's questioning the Dollhouse and what it's doing, yet he's working there. He chose to work there. Why the hell? Money? If he was such a moral guy...

And as we found out, it wasn't to watch over some "helpless" human being. If you look down on the active you're supposed to protect, if you don't even see a person when you first started (and that's not a very good guy attitude), why did you continue to work there?

But let's take all that out. Strictly by impression, he comes off stiff and less-than-personable to me. But he's entertaining and watchable.

Echo's the only character I *like* as a person. It doesn't matter that I know not very much about her. What I do know, what I've seen, what I believe is her, I like.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-03-12 13:57 ]
Yes, me too. Now, after 'Gray Hour'. I couldn't possibly have said that during 'Ghost' though because I didn't know anything about her, there was no "her" to like so any feelings I did have would have been for Caroline or for the imprint or for anyone in that situation or possibly even for Eliza herself but not for Echo.

Haven't you ever met someone, and only after spending just a little bit with them, think to yourself, "I like this person"?

Sure, but i've never met a person that was an entirely separate consciousness from one day to the next. If I did (and knew that was the case) I wouldn't assume I liked them just because I liked whatever consciousness I happened to meet that day. See ?

And respectfully, I think you're underthinking it ;).

The issue (for me) isn't whether you like Echo (that's down to yourself and i'd never try to argue you don't feel what you feel or that I know what you feel better than you do), the issue is when is Echo Echo and when is she either someone else or at the very least a possibly un-pick-apartable amalgam of Caroline/Echo/past imprints/current imprint. That seems to be right at the heart of the show, in fact for me, if I had to go with one single thing i'd probably say that's the heart of the show i.e. watching Echo go from non-person to person, what makes her a person and what separates her from other persons (even if they happen to be occupying the same body) ? How much is innate and how much is learned (imprinted) ?

If the separation between the imprints and Echo herself isn't important then that whole aspect is lost IMO so (even if I have to consciously remind myself - "overthink it" if you like ;) I think it's important to try to bear in mind that there is a difference. And that teasing apart those differences (or maybe eventually accepting that we can't) is part of the show's challenge.
I'm not saying I like Echo when she's someone else. I like Echo when she's Echo. In between engagements, or when remotely wiped in a vault. Also, I don't see her as a non-person. That's the Dollhouse's problem.

But I believe, that there's some instances when she's imprinted, that I am seeing Echo come through, and so that adds to my like of her.

I agree though with the whole "heart of the show" thing. :-)

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-03-12 14:19 ]
I like Echo when she's Echo. In between engagements, or when remotely wiped in a vault. Also, I don't see her as a non-person. That's the Dollhouse's problem.

Well, we're agreeing at cross-purposes I think but you did say originally:

I love Echo. She's who I'm with. Not Boyd because he's a "nice guy." From the moment in "Ghost" when she told Boyd he was "good people," as the elevator doors were closing and I knew she was going to lose all that happiness she was feeling, I was with her.

At that moment in 'Ghost' she's not Echo-between-engagements, she's the imprint. Which was what I took issue with, which taking issue with you took issue with pat32082 (in the nicest way of course, as is almost always the case on here ;).

And, again, at that moment we don't know she's going to miss it (we don't find out she even can miss it until she talks about the mountains in 'Gray Hour'). Your heart went out to her at that point and I get that (so did mine), I guess i'm just more of a head person ;) and so remembered that the person my heart was going out to wasn't Echo and not only that but as far as I knew, when she was Echo she wouldn't even remember/understand/care why i'd felt sad for her.

And she was a non-person to begin with IMO (at least in a certain - admittedly narrow - sense) since she wasn't able to make moral choices for herself. Now she is (she didn't need to rescue the nice[r]-thief-dude but she still did - she's "not broken").

But I believe, that there's some instances when she's imprinted, that I am seeing Echo come through, and so that adds to my like of her.

Absolutely. Or at least I agree that that's a perfectly reasonable interpretation of what we see (hitting Rayna with the chair probably being the most overt instance). Again though, for the first couple of episodes at least (maybe until the "shoulder to the wheel" gesture at the end of 'The Target') I think those were few and far between or even non-existent. When she saw "herself" while drugged earlier in that episode for instance, that was surely more Caroline coming through and motivating her ? The Echo she saw (assuming it was Echo) just kind of stood there IIRC. And not only that but it wasn't Echo being motivated to beat "Richard" it was Jenny.
I like Echo. I feel for her unfeeliness. I root for her rootlessness. The portrayal of the Dolls in their tabula rasa state speaks to something in me. Iím not sure what exactly. So pretty, so vacant and yet not entirely. They flock. After their fashion, they strive. They begin to remember. Itís hard to erase a person, the wipe may look clean but then patterns begin to reassemble themselves. Like stories but it goes deeper than words. Muscle memories, fractured images. I like that this process is so achingly slow.

In Scott McClould's book "Understanding Comics" he makes the point that the more abstractly and cartoonishly a character is drawn the easier it is for the viewer to project themselves into that character and identify with them. Echo is a cartoon.
That's very nicely put hayes62 but ...

They flock.

Now.

They begin to remember.

Now.

etc. etc.

Clearly the idea has always been that we should see them start to develop into people, actual and whole, that we should start to root for them, like them, eventually admire them. And now that there's something there to root for/like/admire, that's exactly how i'm starting to feel.

I like that this process is so achingly slow.

Hah, i'm actually (pleasantly) surprised that it's happening so quickly. Could be where this show's concerned i'm fated just to disagree with everyone in the world ever ;).

I'm not sure about that comment by McCloud either BTW (though it makes some sense in the context of comics and in general it's a brilliant book) because doesn't it then follow that the more Echo is "filled in" the harder it'll be to identify with her ? Whereas the opposite seems to be true.
Hah, i'm actually (pleasantly) surprised that it's happening so quickly. Could be where this show's concerned i'm fated just to disagree with everyone in the world ever ;).


I agree, I feel like it's happening far more quickly than I expected.
I thought you were agreeing about my fate for a second there ;).
It seems slow to me (and that's a very good thing compared with say Rayna's apparent complete change of heart from simply being dangled from the rafters) because as I read it there's still no there, there to Echo. Nothing that she can articulate. She's remembering gestures and Picasso paintings whole and applying them in context instead of simply echoing them mindlessly but that's as far as it's gone. There's an awareness that something is not right, that some people are threats and some are friends (and you help friends) but she's nothing like her own script yet. More like a collage.

As for the Scott McCloud thing I'm not sure if it's relevant to this (but I thought it was interesting all the same). If it is (relevant) the way it might work would be that initially you (I) might identify with Echo but gradually she would becomes a real (other ) person who you empathised with not were. Which is probably a good deal more healthy. In developmental psychology aren't children supposed to acquire self -awareness before Theory of Mind?
I think so but I don't know too much about it to be honest (self-awareness might be a stage of theory of mind, rather than a separate thing ?). I know that 3-4 is usually when they understand "other minds" (i.e. can understand that others may not know the same things they know, that our minds are distinct entities). Interestingly, Echo seems to be there already since she fairly explicitly warns Sierra off at the end of 'Stage Fright' and at least arguably (I think she does) "fakes" the wake-up challenge/response with Topher (she knows she has knowledge she shouldn't have and also that others don't know she has this knowledge).

And yeah, it's occurred to me that a very brave choice might be to show us Echo develop but by the end have her be, basically, kind of a bitch. I.e. once we really know her we decide we don't like her but realise that doesn't matter - she still "deserves" to be. We can look at her from the outside after having seen her "insides".

...because as I read it there's still no there, there to Echo. Nothing that she can articulate. She's remembering gestures and Picasso paintings whole and applying them in context instead of simply echoing them mindlessly but that's as far as it's gone.

Yeah, I agree with that. I don't think her world-view's particularly sophisticated but she seems to have volition now, where before she apparently had to be told to do most things (certainly most things that weren't just simple pleasures). And she made what we'd call a moral choice if anyone else made it.

But I personally thought that by episode 4 we'd maybe just be reaching the unconscious gesture stage as per the end of 'The Target'. I really thought we'd see Echo as totally blank slate for 3-4 episodes and then the tiniest things would start to bleed in. Whereas after 'Gray Hour' I think it makes a lot of sense to say I like her - she might be a bit simple but she's definitely someone now (to me). Which feels quicker than I was expecting.
I wonder if Echo is becoming more self-aware because she's been a doll the longest. All the other ones (unless some were on assignment) were killed by Alpha.
Saje, can you find agreement in saying that Echo is the blank canvas and the imprints are the paint that's applied to it? (Or a slate, whatever. I feel more comfortable using a canvas.)

So, if Echo is a canvas in the Dollhouse, then becomes a pretty picture (canvas with paint on it) during assignments, it could be argued that one could see the canvas even while they're looking at the picture (mostly paint).

Which is also one of the things that Joss argues for. He says all the time that there's a piece of Echo that shines through during the assignment. Boyd, Saunders, Topher, & Adelle have all recognized that Echo has taken the paint (imprints) and made them shine even better (must be one special canvas).

At that moment in 'Ghost' she's not Echo-between-engagements, she's the imprint. Which was what I took issue with, which taking issue with you took issue with pat32082 (in the nicest way of course, as is almost always the case on here ;).

I would say that's where your argument finds fault. You say we haven't "seen" Echo really until episodes 3 & 4 (the same time the caretakers take some notice). That doesn't mean, however, that it hasn't always been there, right on your screen (and under their noses).

Any time the picture cracks under stress (and we seen the canvas beneath), we do see Echo. The imprint would not have flashbacks to a chair where they've been imprinted, but Echo would (which we see in Ep 1). [And I still argue that it was Echo, not Ms. Penn, that faced her "ghost". When she first breaks down, Echo starts talking in 3rd person about Ms. Penn. She carries this all the way to the final confrontation with the rapist. The only time she refers in 1st person again (referring to Ms. Penn) is when she says "You can't hurt me anymore." BUT, she quickly adds "You can't hurt a ghost." Ghost being Ms. Penn at this point, not the rapist.]

In Ep 2, before the final shoulder to the wheel salute, after Jenny drinks the water, I would say that the direct challenges with the hunter are ones that Echo makes. Boyd even goes further to drive this in with "you don't have the right imp...". She doesn't have the right imprint to take this guy on, but Echo's survival instincts (like a Bison) kick in.

Or, one could simply argue that any time an imprint recognizes Boyd (or their handler), that's the Doll underneath that recognizes them, not the imprint itself. The Handler/Active imprinting happened to the Doll in their blank state (so they would always remember and trust them). Not to mention (but I am) flip of "trust" that Echo delivers to Boyd. She denies the acceptance of his serenity, and gives the same conversation link to Boyd to calm/take care of him. Not proper for a doll to do.

And, if you need differences in how Echo handles her "treatment" versus other Dolls, look to Sierra. When Sierra's Handler tells her it's time for her treatment, she goes without question or pause. When Boyd asks Echo if she's ready for her treatment, she acknowledges it but pauses to consider kicking the other Handlers ass first. It doesn't seem to be the trend that actives (while imprinted) talk to their handlers (that they trust but don't know who they are). Echo seems to differ there.

Interestingly, Echo seems to be there already since she fairly explicitly warns Sierra off at the end of 'Stage Fright' and at least arguably (I think she does) "fakes" the wake-up challenge/response with Topher (she knows she has knowledge she shouldn't have and also that others don't know she has this knowledge).

I agree with you her "faking" it on the wipe between the mid-wife and Taffy. When she talks to Topher here, her eyes aren't asking a question but expecting a response. In her "shall I go now"... it's NOT said as a question. Check her tone, the inflection for a question is not present. In fact, it drops in expectancy on what his answer is.

However, after the bank-Echo wipe, her "shall I go now" has returned to a question. When she sees Sierra in the showers, she doesn't give a real recognition to her (the smile we had seen in episode 1). In fact when I saw the ending of this I was really worried that the Dollhouse had robbed Echo of her progress... until she got to the mirror. The somber music really had me going. Maybe she did lose some of that, but replaced it with other memories.

And yeah, they're going faster than I had expected. Which is great for me, and great for them. Every time I re-watch the episodes, I find more stuff (that had always been there) that I hadn't recognized before.
Sure canvas, paint etc. It's not the worst analogy i've heard (though I guess blank canvas showing through a painting is fairly rare - even "unpainted" areas are usually actually painted in a base colour - so in that sense maybe not too useful).

I would say that's where your argument finds fault. You say we haven't "seen" Echo really until episodes 3 & 4 (the same time the caretakers take some notice).

I guess you mean "is at fault" (i'm not "finding fault" with anyone else's response, that's theirs free and clear) but no, i'm saying we haven't seen enough of her to decide whether we like her - i.e. we don't know her, there's no her to know - until episodes 3 or 4 (or maybe the very end of episode 2 - of the shoulder gesture I said at the time roughly "I like that the first true sign of Echo we see is a gesture of defiance, when she arrives I think I might like her" and that still seems true to me).

That doesn't mean, however, that it hasn't always been there, right on your screen (and under their noses).

Umm, so it might be there but we just haven't been given any reason to think so ? Sure, possibly. I'm trying to stick to what we see rather than assume something's there when we don't have any evidence for it though. I mean, infinite possibilities might be the case (but we just haven't seen any evidence of it). Echo could be a Terminator (but we just haven't seen any evidence of it), she could be Faith the Vampire Slayer (but we just haven't seen any evidence of it) etc. etc. etc. Best to let the text dictate the course of our thinking I reckon.

(or if you mean they're there but I personally have just missed them then sure, quite possibly. But to me none of the examples of "Echo" in eps 1&2 that have been given so far have seemed to be unambiguously Echo - shoulder thing apart - rather than someone else, i'd be really interested in seeing justifications for any of them)

Which is also one of the things that Joss argues for. He says all the time that there's a piece of Echo that shines through during the assignment.

I'm not sure if he means that to apply to every engagement (especially the early ones) since I also seem to recall him saying he intends for Echo to actually develop rather than "just" be revealed to us. But the thing is, since we don't know who Echo is early on, how are we supposed to know when these "pieces" shine through, except when we see her do something as [unimprinted] Echo (or something to which Echo's previously alluded, as with "friends help each other") ? You say you see Echo "shine through" in 'Ghost' and 'The Target', well, please list for me Echo's character attributes in 'Ghost' (as distinct from Caroline or the imprint) so that I can look for the places they appear ? Cos to me she plainly didn't have any, she was still pretty close to the "blank slate" state and we'd been given very little reason to think otherwise.

She doesn't have the right imprint to take this guy on, but Echo's survival instincts (like a Bison) kick in.

Or Jenny's do. Or Caroline's do (it's Caroline's body after all, her adrenaline in a sense). Or why not Ellie Penn's ?

When Boyd asks Echo if she's ready for her treatment, she acknowledges it but pauses to consider kicking the other Handlers ass first.

Echo is imprinted with a kick-ass "southie" who takes no shit from anyone and beats up professional security guards. Sierra is imprinted with a shy, geeky, shrinking violet superfan. In other words her response is entirely consistent with her imprint (and, in fact, since we've only ever seen Echo as a placid, non-violent, non-aggressive "person" that's actually more consistent with that being Jordan's natural inclination rather than Echo's IMO).

But yeah, I agree that she seems to lose stuff between wipes (or maybe she gets better at faking the expected responses and hiding her natural fondness for Sierra), that "two steps forward, one back" idea is quite a nice source of suspense IMO since we might see her have a character attribute one week (and like her for it) which she then loses the next week.
Ever seen a slate? No matter how much you clean it, you can still see what's there.
Unless you use water ;).
Echo does like to sit at the bottom of the pool.
Or buy a new slate.
So a new slate in a swimming pool is probably the cleanest possible slate. If I ever have a slate shop i'm going to locate it underwater and just watch the money float in.
(or if you mean they're there but I personally have just missed them then sure, quite possibly. But to me none of the examples of "Echo" in eps 1&2 that have been given so far have seemed to be unambiguously Echo - shoulder thing apart - rather than someone else, i'd be really interested in seeing justifications for any of them)

That's what I'm saying. And I listed some. The point I'm trying to make is that no, we didn't catch (all of) them at first pass (especially eps 1 & 2). But after re-watching those episodes, with the knowledge that we/I have now, I see it.

An example of something I missed before (but caught in later episodes, re-watched, and realized it was also in previous episodes) was that Jenny sees both Caroline & Echo in her hallucinations. Echo, in pajamas and says "I try to do my best". It's one of the first times (or the first time) we hear Echo say it, but it doesn't mean anything in this context. In later eps, like ep 4, we see that this is a true characteristic of Echo and not the imprints.

And I'm not going to make a list (because I already did in the post you responded to. See Ms. Penn, Boyd, etc...)

That's exactly what I'm trying to say, BrownCoat_Tabz. Thanks.

(And Saje, if I had the energy I would get into detail about how even if Caroline was *really* the human who underwent this procedure and became Echo, I would argue that Echo was there all along in Caroline. Kind of like a slate of Caroline (which is Echo) before she ventures out into the world and lets it imprint itself onto her. But, since we can't seem to clearly communicate on anything today (or ever), I'll pass.) ;)
That's probably wise, none of the examples you've given have had anything like a justification as I understand it so I guess we're on a hiding to nothing (certainly don't want to keep pursuing a discussion if one party's not enjoying it ;).
While playing catch-up on these comments, I've realised that Dollhouse is the perfect show for Joss. Every time Echo is wiped, he is essentially killing off his lead character for that episode.

The man is evil.
Yeah but we don't quite have time to really love them before he kills them so it's not quite perfect. In the school of "school reporting criticism" (it's a young approach but so far not growing) he'd get a "While displaying great natural aptitude, Joss is not as evil as he could be. Must try harder." ;).
Joss may be an underachieving evildoer, but it's interesting to me that the show came closest to making me really feel for the imprint before she was killed off in the pilot episode. In fact, after the pilot I made a comment very similar to AlanD's, but I haven't felt that attachment to the imprint since then (though I've gotten more attached to Echo.) Everyone keeps saying the show is getting better and better, and I agree in the sense that I like the development of the Dollhouse story, seeing more of the other characters & the way the A story was interwoven with the B story in "Gray Hour," but so far the Ellie Penn story has been my favorite engagement.
I agree CJS. Ellie was the most compelling imprint for me too.

I wonder if we'll see imprints return in future episodes? It makes sense that they might re-use them when appropriate. Or certain aspects of imprints used in other imprints. Or mashups of imprints to make new ones.

Man, Joss wasn't kidding when he talked about how much fertile ground there is in this concept! Show me another show where we could even have discussions like this.
I wonder if we'll see imprints return in future episodes?

I really love that possibility. Imagine a set of recurring characters that are all played by the same actor ? Or usually the same actor but every now and again appear in another body (like Sierra-Taffy) ? With the mash-up idea, they could have, say, a few key phrases that certain characters use (or even stuff like facial expressions or body posture if the actors can swing it) which act as sort of signals that we're now seeing e.g. the grit of Jenny or the deductive skills of Ellie Penn (or the right hook of Jordan ;).

Just one of the reasons why I hope the show gets to run for a few years, all the cool stuff they're probably just not going to have time for in 13 episodes.

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