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October 06 2009

Grant McCracken on why Dollhouse isn't connecting more broadly. Grant McCracken's (an anthropologist) blog post commenting on the appeal of voluntary vs involuntary transformation.

It's got several glaring factual errors ("Josh" / "ABC"), but the core of the issue - whether people can connect with someone they identify too much with due to involuntary transformations - did get me thinking.

(edited for punctuation)

I don't think I agree with McCracken -- since I think Echo is taking the series of involuntary transformations and assignments to choose to become and take hold of her own transformation and trajectory.
I think I agree with the author. It seems that no matter how voluntarily she signed up for her gig as an active, there was no prior knowledge of what she was getting into.

Its like last weeks episode when Miracle witnesses Echo's freak-out in the chair first hand and she asks something like, "is it always this way? With all that emotion and pain?"

So while the actives (and Jason Bourne) may have volunteered of their free will, they certainly couldn't have a clue what they were really getting into.
Actually, Dollhouse is evolving into an interesting show, much more interesting than last season. The problem isn't that Dollhouse is deficient in some way. The problem is that's it's very good.

Your average television isn't about quality. It's about the cheap. It's about the "football and beer" tastes of the great unwashed masses. Since TV executives are focused on the lowest common denominator in order to maximize eyeballage, I'm not sure how much longer Dollhouse will live.

Dollhouse a very subtle, cerebral show that takes the viewer to an uncomfortable, squishy, amoral place, where circumstances are uncertain. Football doesn't do that. Beer doesn't do that, either (unless you drink too much). Football and beer are all about the pleasure principle, the stroking of the id and all that.
I don't think I agree with McCracken -- since I think Echo is taking the series of involuntary transformations and assignments to choose to become and take hold of her own transformation and trajectory.

Yeah factual errors aside he kind of has an interesting point IMO in that agency/free-will is the "big story" we in the west tell ourselves (it's basically a prejudice that being free is "just better" than not being free) and anything that doesn't seem to be toeing that particular line is uncomfortable and rubs us up the wrong way.

Where I disagree with him is, as you say gus, that to me Echo is all about free-will, she's the hero specifically because she does make her own choices despite the involuntary transformations being applied to her - she's a person when everything says she shouldn't be, the embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit (which is probably the second biggest story we in the west tell ourselves).

One of the bravest episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is, IMO, "Chains of Command Pt 2" wherein we see Picard heroically resist physical torture and his personality and world-view being fundamentally undermined (his captor is trying to get him to admit there are five lights when in fact there are only four). Near the end as rescue approaches but Picard seems broken he defiantly shouts at his captor "There are FOUR lights !" - human spirit triumphant, order restored, right ? Except at the very end Picard admits to Troi that not only was he just about to say "There are five lights" but he actually believed there were five lights. I.e. he was broken, the human spirit wasn't really triumphant. And that's a brave admission for a show like TNG because everybody does break eventually, if you bend them hard enough and the human spirit isn't the strongest thing in the world. That's why we need to tend it.
So while the actives (and Jason Bourne) may have volunteered of their free will, they certainly couldn't have a clue what they were really getting into.


It seems to me that, as long as their bodies are returned in good condition, the Actives get precisely what they signed up for. I mean, they do go through a great deal of stress as their imprinted selves, and sometimes in their wiped state as well, but in a very real way those things all happen to a different person than the one who eventually wakes up and collects on the 5-year contract.

Obviously, as we've seen with Echo, the technology is not perfect, but one of the things I find most interesting about the show is that the real victims, who go through all the suffering, are the blank states: Echo, rather than Caroline; November, not Madeline. And those personalities (people?) are those that have no choice, and are there potentially against their wills. When Echo (as "Omega") asked Wendy (as Caroline) why she had left her body, and consigned Echo to her fate, it was one of the most significant moments that I didn't see anyone comment on.
"It's about a woman (Eliza Dushku, pictured) trapped in an endless series of involuntary transformations." Uh. What? That's not why I watch every episode. That's like calling "Buffy" a show 'about teenagers fighting vampires'.
For me "Dollhouse" is a tale about moral quandaries in capitalism.
If anything, I see the forced and morally-ambiguous transformation of Adelle and Topher more disturbing than any of the actives.

Trying to achieve status and power in the Rossum corporation eats away their souls more than any mind wipe to an active.
That's like calling "Buffy" a show 'about teenagers fighting vampires'.

That's why I didn't watch Buffy for the longest time. I thought that's what it was about.

It's hard to communicate to most people the fact that a show's exterior is NOT WHAT IT'S ABOUT.
Saje, thanks for reminding me about the ST:TNG episode. It was always one of my favorites but a really hard one for me to rewatch.

I do think it's an interesting way to think of the show, though, since one of the more common complaints early on was that there was nothing to identify with in the Echo character. One thought I had was that people may be uncomfortable with the idea that your "self" (Caroline's original personality) eventually becomes undone and remade into something that is shaped and formed by all the selves we're forced to present (Active roles) to become someone else(Echo's emerging self). Also, maybe McCracken is right in the sense that as a culture we may identify too closely with the uncomfortable parts of the show, but not so much Echo, but maybe the Dollhouse and the clients? (i.e. the expectations we place on others to fill certain roles/needs, the perfect daughter, son, father, leader, friend, ingenue, etc).
This season is definitely stronger than season one. I thought the season opener was amazing. Unfortunately, the reason I thought it was amazing was Amy Acker. I really do love what Dollhouse is saying- the critiques of sexuality, the blatant underlining of human trafficing; but I just can't connect with Echo. I don't care about her yet. Maybe Joss is taking us to a place where the audience should care, but I'm certainly not there yet. Also, I miss friendships!! Buffy, Angel anf Firefly were all about a group of people/friends that came together for a common cause. Whether that be fighting evil or stealing money, they did it together.
There was a great episode of Mad Men last season in which someone pitches the idea of selling twin bras by using images of Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and basically saying "be one person by day, another person by night." It's just a case of playing to the concept of self-invention that advertisers, filmmakers and showrunners use all the time, to the extent that it's become a gratifying thing in itself.

Dollhouse, to me, is the subterranean (in)version of that. Some of the roles Echo plays are not necessarily idealized versions of everyday roles we are forced to assume, but fantasies we would willingly swap for our real selves because we've been conditioned to accept them as something to strive for.

It's a very ethical show in that respect (it keeps gut-punching the concept instead of glorifying it), but it's also probably why Echo doesn't resonate much with me as a character and why I'd rather see more of Adelle, Boyd and Topher than any of the dolls.

OTOH, Whiskey's "I know who I am," after she finds out she is a doll in 1x12, really hits it out of the park for me because it tackles identity as whatever you *choose* to identify with at any given moment (as opposed to sleepwalk through or be programmed into). I don't know where Joss is going with Echo, but I can't imagine it being as grounded and optimistic as that line he gave Whiskey.

Either way, I hope we find out.
One thought I had was that people may be uncomfortable with the idea that your "self" (Caroline's original personality) eventually becomes undone and remade into something that is shaped and formed by all the selves we're forced to present (Active roles) to become someone else(Echo's emerging self).

Hmm maybe, that's interesting gus. I sort of stopped at people being discomfited by the very idea that we can be broken down and reduced to nothing since we prefer to tell ourselves that something in us is indomitable. But the idea that we're also bothered by what it shows her being rebuilt as takes it a bit further.

Course, so far at least, 'Dollhouse' is kind of having its cake and eating it too since Echo does survive, she (apparently) is indomitable. I hedge there BTW because I think a really brave choice for 'Dollhouse' (what I now think of as "BSG brave" in honour of the show that made the good guys into frikkin' suicide bombers ;) which is still open to them would be to build Echo up as the hero only to undermine her existence in some way. I wouldn't like it in one sense because I like Echo as a person and want to see her survive and not only that but as a character that sort of "build a human" type (of which Echo is one of the purest examples) is one of my favourites (like Spock, Data, the Doctor, Seven of Nine, Dexter etc.). But to me it'd be the equivalent of telling us the hard truth TNG does in "Chains ..." and that'd be an unusually brave step for US network TV.

Also, maybe McCracken is right in the sense that as a culture we may identify too closely with the uncomfortable parts of the show, but not so much Echo, but maybe the Dollhouse and the clients?

I think many viewers probably do identify with the "bad" characters (or at least I certainly think we're meant to) and to me that's a good thing so long as we go the next step and think about our own part in the whole exploiter/exploited cycle in reality and maybe what we can do to change it.
Dollhouse is where the bad guys won.
Nice. Or maybe it's where we all realised we were bad guys too ?

(one thing common to the less interfered with episodes IMO, the engagements more often have a positive aspect)

I don't know where Joss is going with Echo, but I can't imagine it being as grounded and optimistic as that line he gave Whiskey.

It was a great line but as we've seen, more like bravado than how Saunders actually felt. Which is a pity in one sense (cos it was a wonderful "Yes !" fist clenching moment of defiance in the face of dissolution for Saunders) but good in another because where they (by which I mean Joss and Amy Acker) took her in 'Vows' was much more powerful and interesting IMO.

(but yep, in a previous thread I mentioned how it reminded me of Buffy in 'Normal Again' because she realised that, at the end of the day, reality requires a leap of faith - you make your choice and act as if you're right, otherwise it's just impossible to function)
McCracken's argument is an interesting one. Not sure I agree with it completely, but he provides food for thought.

Sadly, it feels as if some doomy dam has burst and we've now getting a growing deluge of Dollhouse Is Doomed And Here's Why pieces. The latest I just saw is from Marc Bernadin at ew.com.
It's like February all over again.
Bit like November to January for that matter.

Kinda thought the 'post' in post-mortem meant you waited until after death but I guess morgues don't have the same pressure to sell advertising space (yet).
Uhh... no. I think this kind of argument is more an excuse than anything else. Most of the people I've talked to who don't like the show specifically point out how Echo is a blank character for them. They can't identify with her *at all.*

And I'm still not convinced that Caroline didn't know what was going to happen to her. We've just seen that Mellie, done with her assignment, knows perfectly well what they did to her (even though this adds a whole level of silly plot questions to the mix). So how exactly are these transformations involuntary? The show leaves the question a bit open, and for good reason. We know that participation in the Dollhouse is coerced, but we don't specifically know that it is completely involuntary. It seems that Caroline could have chosen her own path, if she wanted. They didn't force her into the Dollhouse at the point of a gun.

So the idea that the show is failing because it is about involuntary transformations seems to completely miss the point of the show, which is uncertainty. It's like Schrodinger's cat: the show only works if we don't know one way or another about the choice she made. If we *know*, then the waveform collapses and the show loses its depth and tension. Kinda like in Hamlet, where we're left up in the air about Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship. If we know the answer, the whole thing becomes rather silly.

I think the simpler answer is better: Caroline is, for most people, completely unsympathetic as a character. Some blank slates can function as mirrors, allowing viewers to project themselves onto them. But Echo is not a mirror: she's a black hole. Part of this is the writing. Part is the acting (people seem to have no problem sympathizing with Sierra and Victor, for instance). Echo is the weak link, which is unfortunate because the show lives and dies for viewers based on their ability to attach to the main character. People hate main characters all the time (for example, House). People don't hate Echo. They don't care *at all* one way or the other.
Interesting points, ern. But one thing: we still do not know yet the full story of how/why Caroline signed on at the Dollhouse. We do not know how truly voluntary her signing on was. It seems that she wasn't coerced in the same blunt, horrible manner as Priya/Sierra was, but coercion has many colors and shadings. We've only had hints and partial scenes so far that point to tantalizing reveals to come in the pre-Dollhouse Caroline story. But sadly, these reveals may never come. Damn it.

ETA: Of course, this point I'm making does not take away from your larger point that neither Caroline (what we know of her) nor Echo provoke caring in many viewers. I'm a viewer who *has* felt something for the character of Echo from early on, but I am fascinated (and dismayed, because I want the show to succeed) by how many people don't feel this.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-10-06 22:31 ]

If anything, I see the forced and morally-ambiguous transformation of Adelle and Topher more disturbing than any of the actives.

Trying to achieve status and power in the Rossum corporation eats away their souls more than any mind wipe to an active.


This, definitely this. The scene from Epitaph One where the Rossum representative is speaking to them in Victor's body and he discusses "the arc" with space reserved for them and how Topher "practically built it", both Adelle and Topher look so uncomfortable with themselves. As characters who believed they were operating in the name of either helping people or scientific curiosity that turned out to be unwitting villains, watching their development is absolutely fascinating.


I don't know where Joss is going with Echo, but I can't imagine it being as grounded and optimistic as that line he gave Whiskey.


I don't see much optimism happening with Whiskey's character at the moment. She's breaking along different lines than Echo and Claire Saunders is definitely a strong personality fighting to come to terms with the nature of her existence, but in "Vows" she seemed quite lost and unsure of how to deal with herself. (Which was amazing to watch. I can't wait until we get to see this character again.)
That's just my point: the story really only maintains its tension if we don't know the precise details of her arrangement. In some way, we can't know for sure. That's the big answer that won't probably come until the end. It is, in fact, precisely the kind of answer that most shows never give, even after long runs. It's likely that even if Dollhouse were given a full run of five or six seasons, we still wouldn't ever be told.

So far, we know she was coerced in some way, but that she could have chosen to *not* go into the Dollhouse. We've been given the impression that joining the Dollhouse was preferable in some way to the alternative. So coerced? Yes. Forced? No.

Edit: It's perfectly conceivable that Echo was devised as a character that would deliberately generate indifference. Certainly some people are going to find ways of sympathizing (it's the nature of things that everyone will respond differently). Still, if that's the case, then I think Dollhouse has provided a very good lesson for writers: don't create shows with deliberately indifferent characters! It's like authors who write in the second-person perspective. Just because you *can* do such a thing does not mean you should. And if you do it anyway, don't be surprised when a lot of people find it grating and close the book.

[ edited by ern on 2009-10-06 22:41 ]
ern, I actually read the McCracken post a little differently. I understood the "involuntary transformations" to not address how/why Echo is in the dollhouse but rather to refer to the active engagements specifically. I.E. The involuntary nature of the transformation is related to identity and how identity is changed each week not by Echo, but by the Dollhouse. And now that I think about it, the involuntary transformation could also be interpreted as Caroline imposing that upon Echo ... though that just leads to a messy meta discussion I don't think really helps anyone.

All this to say, I don't think McCracken knows too much about dollhouse the show's content (Caroline, the echo development, he couldn't even get the network right) but is expressing thoughts based on the advertised premise (dolls are imprinted each week)and what that implies.

I did hesitate in posting this since (a) I didn't want to think about more doom and gloom when we're only two episodes into this season, (b) silly errors, and (c) I disagree with his ultimate analysis. BUT, it did make me think about the issues a little differently and it's generated some interesting comments so in the end, I'm glad I posted it. (I think)
At least it was a new take rather than yet another critic talking about how hard it is to identify with the characters.

People hate main characters all the time (for example, House).

Nope, don't agree with this. People don't hate House, people love him and his misanthropic ways, even envy him. Any other examples (genuine question, i'm trying to think of some myself) ?

IMO it's not at all common to have genuinely unsympathetic main characters on US network TV.
Some people hated Buffy.
On the involuntary versus forced nature of the Dollhouse contract: I agree that it would seem as if Caroline wasn't forced into signing the contract. But did she know the full extent of what she was signing? I very much doubt that she would. To me, it is the evolving nature of the bargain made between Caroline and Adelle that contains much of the tension of this story of the Dollhouse. Not even the Dollhouse's midlevel management seem to know where the thing is heading -- but we as viewers know it is headed nowhere good. Right now Topher is crowing with delight over his genius at introducing "glandular changes." Did Caroline sign up for that? Also, did she know of the very real danger that if something went wrong with the imprinting technology or with her own conduct as an Active, that she might be sent forevermore to an attic? Yikes. Do we think that Adelle spelled that out in the contract discussion? To me, the evolving Dollhouse technology and the psychodynamics of the staff are far more interesting and central to the themes of the story than any reveal as to why Caroline actually joined up (although I'd love to know why).

As for Mellie/Madeline, I may be wrong but I smell a rat there. The person she presents as now, post-Dollhouse, with her rather matter of fact attitude towards her whole Dollhouse experience, strikes me as as not the person who signed the contract way back when. And not just because some deep essence of her has lived through all the experiences as an Active. I think she's been tinkered with upon her release, courtesy of Topher. So anything Madeline says now I take to be suspect, or at least up for further exploration or discussion. Just my take on Madeline, of course.

I think she's been tinkered with upon her release, courtesy of Topher. So anything Madeline says now I take to be suspect, or at least up for further exploration or discussion. Just my take on Madeline, of course.


I suspect this as well.

It's possible she also might be acting matter-of-fact about the whole ordeal because she's hiding something, i.e. is in fact the one leaking information about the Dollhouse to Perrin now. But that feels like it would be too obvious, so tinkering might indeed be the case. Topher didn't give her ventriloquism, but maybe her did take her sadness away.
I agree with the author to a point. For me it's the same reason Spike was more popular than Angel. Angel was "cursed" with a soul while Spike went out and sought reunion with his higher self. I do disagree that Dollhouse is about involuntary transformations. Though it starts out that way, in the end Echo will choose her--- self. That is she will create it with the experience she gains since she started running from whatever it is she is trying to escape inside her. The bad guys may look like they won on the outside, but inside, we will all be happy. The best outcome for any of us, I think.
We've just seen that Mellie, done with her assignment, knows perfectly well what they did to her

Madeleine may have an intellectual understanding of what an Active is, but she has no real knowledge of what she experienced. She doesn't remember Paul, she doesn't remember the strong emotions Mellie felt.

I think she's been tinkered with upon her release, courtesy of Topher.

I thought that was pretty explicit. She tells Paul that the Dollhouse took away her grief. Topher asks her if she's interested in additional enhancements. And just the fact that Adelle wanted her to come in for a diagnostic -- why would she need one so desperately if she were not still imprinted?

She acts like someone on too high a dose of anti-depressants. No affect. I wonder if Topher messed with her serotonin levels.
"She acts like someone on too high a dose of anti-depressants. No affect."

Exactly, ActualSize. Exactly. There was something very strange about Madeleine to me, too, and I also thought that the fact that she had been tinkered with by Topher was made fairly explicit. And why not? How easy it would be, really. In one sense, the new Madeleine we saw was inevitably another downloaded imprint into that body, wasn't she? When the original Madeleine first entered the dollhouse, she had "herself" sucked up into one of those cartridge thingies. To reconstitute Madeleine upon her release from her contract (or IS she really released?), Topher had to wipe November as thoroughly clean as he could of all the imprints (and bits of imprints) that might have been lurking in that body and put cartridge-Madeleine back in. Shudder. The idea that we can be reduced to a cartridge of downloadable information is pretty shuddery. As were some aspects of Madeleine's behavior to me, even as I enjoyed her ballsy comebacks to Adelle and all her brimming self-confidence. Man, I find the whole Madeleine/November/Mellie storyline to be extraordinarily fascinating. Ditto Whiskey's. And ditto Echo's, more and more.

RazorBlade, I think you're right about where the show is going -- towards a kind of unfolding, voluntary empowerment among people (Echo, and also Whiskey, and maybe Sierra and Victor, and maybe, eventually Madeleine?) and in a place where such a thing would seem a miracle. How gorgeous that would be to see.
Some people hated Buffy.

I suspect you may realise that's not quite what I meant Simon ;-).

(except for a lot of season 7 where Buffy's unlikeableness was surely deliberate)
Not really, there was a small minority in the fandom who actively despised the character either for her so-called sexual promiscuity or how she treated other characters. It was disturbing stuff.
Oh I believe you but in that sense someone is going to hate any character, that doesn't make them a deliberately unsympathetic or morally grey character. I bet there were even people that disliked Willow or Giles.

Dexter, for instance, is morally grey but he's very likable, that's sort of the point (that we as viewers like and root for a serial killer). House is superficially nasty but he's likable in his nastiness because he's so charming and funny (not to mention saving people's lives) - in a lot of ways he's the ultimate wish fulfillment character, the guy we all secretly sometimes want to be (because he says what he likes, social niceties be damned).
I guess that's what I mean by "hating" House. It's TV, so we don't "hate" him the way we'd hate someone doing the same things in real life. We love to hate him, so-to-speak. I don't know anyone who "hates" Echo even in this made-for-TV way. Most people I know who don't like the show usually say something like, "meh" when I ask about Echo. They all like Victor and Sierra and even Claire Saunders. Most respond to Topher in the way they'd respond to House. They despise him, but he's interesting and likable. Most have no strong opinion about Echo. They just have no idea who or what she is. Again, I think this is deliberate and a mistake, given that she's the main character.

As for Mellie, I agree that more is going on there than we currently know. But if they could take away her pain, why would they also not take away her knowledge of what she did for the Dollhouse? It leaves some untidiness that you'd think the Dollhouse would not like. I'm sure Topher messed with her. I'm just not sure why the tampering wasn't more ... extensive. I can think of reasons myself, but I'd like to know what their own reasons are. In any case, it suggests that everyone knows going in what the Dollhouse is going to use them for. Which raises some very useful questions about how coerced these people really are.

Dexter: Is he really morally gray? I don't quite see it that way. He's obviously a good guy, and doing good things. He kills people, but then law enforcement kills people, too, on occasion. While his actions may be legally gray, I'm not quite sure how morally gray they are. He's mentally unstable, of course, and not the kind of person that we'd choose under the best of circumstances to do what he does, but then we don't live in the best of circumstances, do we? And yes, I know I'm being provocative here. The whole premise of the show, in my mind, is that he's calling into question the limitations we put on ourselves in fighting evil. We can choose justice or law, but not both. If we choose one, we give up the other. The show (like Dollhouse) only asks the questions. It doesn't answer them. It lets us do that for ourselves.
Provocative indeed ern... I think it's important to note that Dexter is not just killing people because they're evil.. he's killing them because he enjoys killing, and gets off doing it.

Surely you must think his reasons for performing an act are important too?... unless you're a Utilitarian.

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-10-07 12:11 ]
I think the reason Dex kills is one of the things that redeems him the most. He has an urge that he finds absolutely impossible to ignore and he's found one of the least damaging outlets (for society) to give in to that urge.
I don't think there's anything grey about Dexter, morally or legally. He may be one of the most engaging characters out there, but he is a sociopath who likes to think of himself as a vigilante. Just because he gets the best voiceovers ever doesn't mean he doesn't belong in prison.
Exactly mortimer. Dexter would be killing people anyway but thanks to a "nurturing environment" (ahem ;) he only kills bad people. And if for no other reason then he's surely morally grey because whether we should kill bad people at all (even legally) is debatable ?

I guess that's what I mean by "hating" House. It's TV, so we don't "hate" him the way we'd hate someone doing the same things in real life. We love to hate him, so-to-speak.

OK, I didn't put that particularly well in my last comment. What I mean is, I don't dislike House or "love to hate" him, I actually like him, acerbic as he often is, and I think most fans do too (I like and - largely - agree with his world-view, I find him funny, he's clever etc.). I agree, I probably wouldn't like him in real life because in real life there wouldn't be the step back that lets me abstract it away from my own hurt feelings as he talks to me the same way he talks to everyone else that doesn't meet his standards (but then people like him don't exist in real life anyway).

Same with Dexter. I like him because he's funny and written to be likable and because he's trying to be a "real boy" (though in real life i'd obviously avoid him if I knew what he was, if I didn't he'd be the sort of guy i'd have a beer with after work and get along with just fine). He could perform exactly the same actions and be much less likeable if written differently (simply removing his dead-pan wit would do it - funny plays a huge part in likeability for most people).

Until recently I didn't like Topher even a little bit (though I enjoyed the character) and though he was "the funny one" and apparently clever, I wouldn't want to spend time with him. I don't particularly like Ballard either. Or Caroline. I like Adelle but probably shouldn't (based on what she's done). Boyd I like but not without reservation (because why's he there, right ? Surely he can't be that perfect ?). So many unlikeable or questionable main characters in one show is unusual on US network TV IMO.

(and i've liked - or at least found sympathetic - Echo since the first clear sign of her existence in "Gray Hour" so I think it's safe to say we like/dislike different things ern ;)
Course, so far at least, 'Dollhouse' is kind of having its cake and eating it too since Echo does survive, she (apparently) is indomitable. I hedge there BTW because I think a really brave choice for 'Dollhouse' (what I now think of as "BSG brave" in honour of the show that made the good guys into frikkin' suicide bombers ;) which is still open to them would be to build Echo up as the hero only to undermine her existence in some way. I wouldn't like it in one sense because I like Echo as a person and want to see her survive and not only that but as a character that sort of "build a human" type (of which Echo is one of the purest examples) is one of my favourites (like Spock, Data, the Doctor, Seven of Nine, Dexter etc.). But to me it'd be the equivalent of telling us the hard truth TNG does in "Chains ..." and that'd be an unusually brave step for US network TV.


I think the show is doing this already. Echo for me is defined by being undermined. I don't see any way the show could actually ever make her be a coherent person, it's far too fractured for that. The season they start saying that everything that has happened and the whole premise of the show had lead to Echo being a complete human being/hero I'll start not believing them., :)

Re:text, in a way McCracken's take does line up nicely with what Joss has said about the show: It's a documentary.
It may never get there (deliberately I mean rather than just because the show gets cancelled) but Echo is already a more coherent person than she was 14 episodes ago (since she's a person at all now and then she wasn't) and the direction of the show (so far) has been to develop her more fully. To me they're not undermining her at all because (so far) we haven't seen her go backwards in her development and though a few characters (including Echo herself) are telling us that she's not a "real girl" the evidence increasingly disagrees.

What I mean by undermining her existence is concrete proof that she's not real, something incontrovertible in the same way that Picard's admission is. But yeah, I understand the perspective that Echo becoming a complete person is a bit like House getting over his unhappiness - it's the/an endpoint of the series rather than another step along the way. In that sense concrete proof she's real and concrete proof she isn't are both endpoints (because they're concrete, the "big question" is answered, one way or another).

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