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October 03 2009

What the papers say about last night's episode of Dollhouse. The A.V. Club couldn't make up its mind whether to give Instinct a 'B' or a 'B+' saying "it's like those hit-or-miss early episodes, but mostly much better". TV Squad described the episode as "simply brilliant". The recap (warning - there is a spoilerish video on that page) praised Eliza saying she "give her best performance yet" but thought one aspect of the episode was "kind of inexcusable" . And the CinemaBlend recap raises some interesting questions regarding Echo and another character.

If you found any reviews out there, please do mention them in a comment.

That 'on set' video beneath the EW review is kinda spoilery...
That 'on set' video beneath the EW review is kinda spoilery...

and kinda... pathetic.
That EW interview pegged what made me so dislike the episode.
Yes, I was just coming over here to warn people about the video.Can we put a spoiler notice on it?
I've flagged it and I'll create a new thread spefically for that video.
I don't get it. Neither Echo nor her imprinted personality were crazy, they reacted naturally. Fake-Mother was naturally curious about her husband's secrets, then of the black van (can't Topher program the personalities to simply not be paranoid about lingering black vans, or would that mess with the imprints' abilities to function like real people?), and then of the phone call. Who wouldn't freak if their baby was taken away like that, especially after feeling safe at a police station ? And nothing with Echo's situation screamed women=crazy, because Echo is a complex case to begin with and she was reacting naturally anyway.

The episode was not saying chicks = crazy (or more prone to fits of hysteria). The writers didn't even accidentally send that message. Overly sensitive people and EW columnists are reading into it that way, but there's nothing in the episode to support that.
Uh, Echo waved a knife around a baby. And her 'husband' had done nothing wrong. It was pretty crazy.
Yeah, but within the context of the show, nothing about the episode said women = crazy. Echo, having been wiped but still feeling a connection to the kid, didn't know who the child's father was anymore and went into protective mode. Nothing about her behaviour was hard to understand, knowing what we do about Actives.

The situation was crazy, the two women (Echo + imprint) weren't, at least as far as I saw it.
Echo took the knife for her and hers baby own protection, because she thought that the husband wants to hurt them. After all, he did say on the phone that he'll get rid of the baby and the other people are supposed to get rid of her. So even though he's done nothing wrong, Echo thought that he did... or at least that he wants to.

It's true that Echo had a very crazy look on her face, but that was just (as well as the thunderstorm) for the atmosphere...

ETA: Yeah, it's true that she was wiped and because of that probably didn't remember the phone call or who the father was, but she still perceived him as a potential threat for her and her baby (because she thought that he had taken it away) and thus took the knife to protect them both.

[ edited by Anuris on 2009-10-03 15:04 ]
But when she had the knife Echo wasn't in maternal instincts mode, she was in multiple personality mode. She wasn't even aware of what she was doing. She was running on this false notion of having a job to do berating the back of head. This isn't exactly sane mother behavior.

If I were to place it in context and try to derive some sort of meaning to these actions then I'd have to say that the Dollhouse is something of a media output forcing people what to believe. This is a theme that's been running through the show for a while now. Through a constant barrage of news stories, self help remedies, and all around falsities a person can lose their sense of self. This would be Echo, she doesn't know who she is except for what she feels and what she feels is what she's been told to. Now imagine a mother in the same sort of scenario, too much Oprah and Lifetime movies. Being told that these are what she should watch and what she should believe. Tell me that if you drowned yourself in and believed these sorts of things a little paranoia wouldn't be warranted. So now if I said that this episode wasn't about "crazy hormones" but instead keeping a sense of self amidst a world of false imagery would you not call that woman empowerment?
Echo behaved crazy. As far as I saw it. She almost stabbed her 'husband'. I'm not saying I support EW's view, but I am saying it's not without any basis.
But she didn't know it was her husband. She thought that it was some stranger who took away her baby and might hurt him.
I would say that she was more confused and worried about the baby than crazy. Ok, all the confusion and fear might make her a little crazy, but not in a "chicks are crazy hysterical people" way as the EW article tries to put it.
Sorry, I don't think you can have it both ways. She can't not know who the guy is because she is 'wiped' and still have her manage to find the house without trouble (although at first she appears to think you drive a car by speaking to it) and manage to locate both the baby and a rather wicked looking knife (hope THAT wasn't parked near the crib) whilst having a strong conviction that the guy-she-can't recognize must somehow be involved in keeping her from her baby. A few too many contradictions for my willing suspension of disbelief.

And I really felt for the poor hungry kid - dad dropped the formula and he sure didn't get much from breastfeeding as he was nowhere near a nipple!
Anuris, even before she's wiped she accuses her husband of trying to kill her to the police. He didn't.
No, gossi, he didn't actually try to kill her, but she overheard him on the phone saying "get rid of her" and "I'll get rid of the baby". His previous behavior was suspicious -- he has a new baby at home but he's gone all the time, his locked home office is full of pictures of another woman. Then strange men come into her house and try to take her baby. Seen through her eyes, that adds up to a death threat. Just because we know it isn't doesn't make her behavior crazy.

After the wipe, as she told Ballard, she remembered everything she felt -- love for "her" baby, fear of "her" husband, and desperation to keep the baby safe. [ETA: At that point, she likely didn't have any context for those feelings.] None of that strikes me as crazy.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-10-03 16:16 ]
Her actions seemed perfectly reasonable to me, based on what she knew and saw. Even seeing her "Best friend" come over but being intercepted and taken away on the same black van she was paranoid about would have driven most people to desperate measures. That one incident totally confirmed her paranoid suspicions.
Yeah, I think EW managed to totally miss the context in which her actions were taking place (granted, in EW's defense I think ED could have done a better job at connecting - for the sake of the viewer - the different perceptions of her situation her character's actions were in response to.)
But her conversations with Paul indicate that she is also aware of the machinations of the DH and her previous engagements to the extent that she wants to help 'take it down'. How is it that she is unable to employ that knowledge to understand (if not appreciate) her 'feelings' vis a vis the completed engagement but instead leaps to the conclusion that 'her' baby needs to be rescued? A case of emotion (or those 'hormones' Topher is so proud of releasing) overriding cognition and common sense?
Yeah, what ActualSize said.

And as for what baxter said, for me, the main point of the argument isn't whether she did or didn't know the father after the wipe, because in both cases she had a reason to feel threatened by him and because of that she acted the way she acted, which wasn't that much crazy, if you put yourself into her position.

There may well be some contradictions and illogicalities in the episode but that's for another discussion and not the one that we are having right now, which is whether Echoes actions were crazy or not.
Sorry to have appeared to colour outside the lines of your discussion thread. To me, attribution of her actions as 'crazy' or not requires as complete an understanding of information that may be available to Echo - not just what the 'personality' knows.

[ edited by baxter on 2009-10-03 16:29 ]
It depends on your definition of reasonable or crazy. EchoyEmma didn't know what was going on with her husband; he hadn't actually done anything wrong; she herself said she was acting "crazy" and "mental" to Kelly; yet she went to the police and said he had threatened to kill her (he hadn't).

The rational person, and the person who saves the situation, is the husband. To me. Which is fine. Paul's too busy being his old creepy self and Adelle's seemingly clueless as ever.

EW's tried to spin that as an argument for it being Joss against women. Which, you know, is where it falls down.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-10-03 16:27 ]
I really hate it when stupid people who have no comprehension of any science at all decide to weigh in on things they don't understand. I'm speaking of the reviewer. The "glandular change" is not caused by mere manipulation of muscle memory or anything. By changing Echo's brain to one of a new mother, Topher had to make it so that her brain secretes the appropriate hormones to actually trigger milk letdown, and thus enable breastfeeding. So it wasn't her "girl parts" that drove her to do anything. The girl parts are merely responding to the brain (that's an oversimplification, since feedback loops exist too). Even when wiped, the body hasn't completely returned to normal, since the feedback takes time. Meaning that "instinctually", Echo is still in new mommy mode, regardless of whether she was wiped or not. Personality wipes cannot negate physiology entirely.

As for how she got back to the house... this is Echo we're talking about. She glitches about as frequently as a Valley Girl says "OMG". So while she was in the Doll state, her hormones were still driving her to find her child.
Echo's behavior wasn't crazy. In the context of everything, and given her sleep-deprived state, she wasn't thinking entirely straight. But given the bits and pieces she had to go by, she was just acting out of maternal instinct, to protect her child at any cost. Calling that crazy just shows lack of empathy for what most women endure at early motherhood.

[ edited by wenxina on 2009-10-03 16:38 ]
So apparently, MTV reviews Dollhouse now:
baxter: I was referring to your first post in this thread, which seemed to me like a direct reaction to what I said beforehand. I didn't mean to say that you can't enrich the discussion by a new angle of view and/or spin it into another direction. You're of course perfectly free to do that. I just wanted to say (because I thought you were referring directly to me), that what you wrote doesn't really change anything on my position in regard to the discussed topic, but, even though I'm not interested to talk about them, I do acknowledge that you may well be right in that there are some contradictions in the episode.
Anuris - no worries. The post really was in relation to a few of the comments. We all bring our own lenses to DH and to life, which makes it all the richer for discussion :)
Baxter, I think it's clear that Echo in Doll state remembers everything, but Echo imprinted with a personality only knows that. So while she was New Mommy that's all she knew, and she had no inkling that she was a doll.
Only when she is prompted, very strongly (Paul slapping her last week, Hubby telling her she's a doll this week) does she then become aware of he "falseness".

Presumably as time goes on she will become more self aware even when imprinted and have to consciously "pretend" to be 100% who she's meant to be and able to switch it on and off at will, as we saw in Epitaph in the elevator scene.
zz9: I agree, and everything I was 'carping' about in the episode had to do with what she knew/did after her seemingly incomplete 'wipe' rather than what she knew/did etc (other than the apparently ineffective breastfeeding) during her imprinted state.
Question - why did the father say "I'll get rid of the child?" It sounds like a line written for her to overhear, not something he'd actually say, even if he resents the baby for the loss of his wife.

Ben Affleck didn't even say that in Jersey Girl.
redeem, he said it so that Echo - as well as the most feeble-minded viewer - could realize that it was time to ratchet up the tension and paranoia. I agree with one of the up-thread posts, that the writing was so clunky in places they might as well have put 'silent-movie type' titles to ensure that we knew what to think/feel/expect.
And her 'husband' had done nothing wrong.

He was going to give the baby formula made with unsterilised water.
And her 'husband' had done nothing wrong.

As far as she knew, he

a) Hired some men to kidnap and/or kill her

b) Had those same men take away her best friend, Sierra (as far as Echo knows, Sierra has just been "disappeared"-- she was brought into a black van and never seen by Echo again).

c) Denied that she was his wife, or the child's mother, in the police station. (Remember, as far as she knew, she had just given birth to the kid and they were married). The child was then taken away forcibly, and so was she.

d) Had her carted off to the Dollhouse, where she was sedated and restrained by a bunch of guards when she tried to get away. And where they then tried to do something to her brain.

So as far as Echo knows, he stole her identity, life, best friend, and her baby. If it was a movie, it'd make a pretty good thriller. It's hard to say that she overreacted.

Edit to add: Then again, after she was wiped, it did seem to be all about the baby, so maybe that above stuff doesn't apply. It's not clear how much she remembers. She does remember how to get back to the house, so she does remember some of it, clearly.

[ edited by dispatch on 2009-10-04 01:31 ]
He was going to give the baby formula made with unsterilised water.

Dear Lord - That's the other thing that turns babies into sociopaths! This man does everything wrong.
I thought this episode was completely amazing.
I talked about the episode with my son. He enjoyed it and identified with the father. My daughter-in-law and I did not, though I didn't have a chance to ask her why.

I think that's part of my problem with it - it seems like a man's viewpoint of how a woman reacts. Which is again odd, because the creative team on the episode were all women.
I liked this episode a lot better than vows.. I thought the A plotline was much more interesting and well played out.
Question - why did the father say "I'll get rid of the child?" It sounds like a line written for her to overhear, not something he'd actually say, even if he resents the baby for the loss of his wife.

It was my interpretation that he meant he would give it up for adoption. I think Adelle confirms this in a later scene.
I don't think the question was what it meant. The question is why say it in that way instead of, say, "I'll call the adoption agency".
Erm... agitation? He was pissed off at the Dollhouse at that point. It's kinda like "Screw your false concerns. I'll deal with the baby!"
I don't understand why the ratings are so low after the first episode, which was brilliant. And this one was very good. Why aren't people watching this series?
Uh, Echo waved a knife around a baby. And her 'husband' had done nothing wrong. It was pretty crazy.

Well, let's face it. All dolls are kinda "crazy" in their doll state. And Echo experiencing multiple identities is the most on-the-nose "crazy" state you can get. It's not that women parts made Echo act crazy, it was her doll state.

The EW review falls prey to a false attribution.
Hi, my name is Mercenary, and it has been 5 minutes since I last fed a troll, over at the EW site.

But I couldn't help it... Someone was wrong on the Internet!

[Hands over 1-day pin.]
Doll parts or girl parts this episode did seem to have signed up to the idea that maternal feelings are different from normal human feelings (which can be wiped). It represents them as some kind of irresistible hormonal force that a woman in the throes of has to be talked down from by a nice sensible man.
He was going to give the baby formula made with unsterilised water.

There's a deleted scene where we find out he had Britta filters built into his taps (cos he's rich). True fact.
I thought this episode was a) bang on and b) amazing. Dushku's acting was riveting, for once. Her emotional reactions were exactly what I would expect of a mother trying to protect her child.

She isn't behaving "crazy" from anything I saw. She was behaving perfectly sanely on the basis of all the information she had (I won't recap, it's all above in dispatch's post.)

The only way that the 'glandular changes' affected her were in relation to the Dollhouse. She no longer reacts to Paul with instant trust; the treatment doesn't work; she doesn't go docilely when asked if she'd like a treatment. The attachment to her son, in other words, overrides her attachment to the Dollhouse. None of this is crazy.

Her behaviour is all rationally based on her strong attachment to the child. Her attempts to save the child from a man she has reason to think is planning to kill him are what any mother would do.

The only reason anyone thinks her behaviour was crazy was because she actually ISN'T the mother. But it's not craziness that makes her think she is. So I thought it was a really nice twist on the crazed-nanny-kidnapper sort of movies I religiously avoid seeing.

I also very much liked the parallel they set up with Madeleine, who cannot cope with the pain of losing her baby daughter, and chooses the Dollhouse instead. Echo accepts that pain is the price of existence, and chooses to feel the pain even though she now knows that the baby wasn't 'really' hers.

Yes, the show was a meditation on motherhood; but it did not strike me as a "man's view" of motherhood at all. Her reactions were all utterly believable to me.

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