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November 04 2009

Anna Pickard on Dollhouse: season two, episode four. Finally more of a review instead of a recap: "Sierra and Victor lead the action in far the best episode this season".

... with Dr Kennard given Sierra on permanent loan. This turned out not to be very permanent, when, after Topher imprinted her with her old personality, she killed him. This was a lot more permanent.

Heh ;). That was a bit more like the season 1 standard, still felt slightly rushed but more than a recap at least.
On the "where was Paul?" question.

I don't see why he would have been there, since he is Echo's handler, and she wasn't the doll going out on an engagement.

We rarely see any of the other handlers, unless their doll is going out on an engagement, so it makes sense to me that he was absent for this episode.
Or they couldn't afford to have Tahmoh in that episode.
That doesn't make sense though (within the show), it's just an explanation.

We rarely see any of the other handlers, unless their doll is going out on an engagement, so it makes sense to me that he was absent for this episode.

Yep, that's what Maurissa said in interview (they had a scene explaining it which was cut). More generally, it's a result of a workplace set drama IMO - if the stories revolved around a group of friends (as in Buffy) then people will often be there to "just hang", if they revolve around a working environment then people have days off and most of us don't go to work on our days off to just hang.
Yep, that's what Maurissa said in interview (they had a scene explaining it which was cut). More generally, it's a result of a workplace set drama IMO - if the stories revolved around a group of friends (as in Buffy) then people will often be there to "just hang", if they revolve around a working environment then people have days off and most of us don't go to work on our days off to just hang.


Well, except Paul did. In "Instinct". :)

(But that aside, I agree with that explanation as much as with the general irrelevance of the "Every main cast member must be in every episode"-principle: A lot.)
He probably came back during 'Instinct' to steal some pens or something ;).
Watched this last night on Sci-Fi and thought it was easily the best episode this season, and possibly the best in the series so far. I'm sure many will claim that this was due to minimal amount of the Dushku, but I found her side story to be intriguing and clearly setting up something bigger.

Obviously, Topher and Sierra/Priya stole the show though. Topher is just getting more interesting as the series goes on, and I hope all those that doubted the character, along with Fran Kranz's acting abilities, are eating humble pie know. This and his Dr. Saunders story have really shown great things with the character and actor, really paying off the arrogant person we are initially introduced to.

Also want to make a special mention of the excellent job Jonathan Frakes did with the direction. Really beautiful work. It took a very different approach from Joss's usual work, which I think is very subtle and subdued, but with many technical nuances making the director disappear. This was very much more in your face, with some very deliberate shots, such as the silhouette of Priya standing up in front of her painting after killing Nolan or the very small Topher looking up at the mothering Adelle bathed in light. In many ways, it felt like cinema direction much more than television and really gave the episode a texture that made it stand out from previous episodes, giving it the special quality that the excellent script deserved.

As for Paul not being around, I certainly think that he could have been included, what with Boyd's growing suspicions surrounding Echo. But, as others have said, he didn't need to be involved and it certainly didn't feel out of place.
I agree on the direction, Vandelay. Watching that episode about an artist was like art.

Something just popped into my head.

That silhouette of Priya in front of her white bird... that's the picture she had been drawing, yes? Darkness surrounding her freedom? I kept thinking it was the guy, but perhaps it is how he makes her that she is afraid of.

He's certainly not alive when she stands up. I'd think she'd be bright, free of this man who's treated her in such a way. But... she's not, because the beautiful free bird was forced to do some horrid things and now she's tainted.

If that's the case (feel free to debate), I totally get why she chose to go back to the Dollhouse. She wasn't free; killing that guy only ruined her. But the Dollhouse... they can take that away. That shade of shame- make you completely forget about it. Four more years and the bird will be clean and free again. I'd be willing to make that commitment myself.
Well, I don't want to get involved in another debate about whether her going back to the Dollhouse made sense. But I'll just say that I don't buy that explanation because: (1) she only brought up the question of having the memory removed just before she was about to be wiped suggesting she made the decision on other grounds and decided as an afterthought that she wanted that memory gone; (2) I think almost everybody would prefer to be free with a horrible memory than lose years of their life to be free of it. At the least it would be a hard decision for a person to make and we don't see any evidence that Priya gave her decision much thought at all. And (3) the Dollhouse could have removed her bad memory without making her go back to being a doll. Could Topher and Boyd have made her remaining a doll a quid pro quo of having the memory removed? I don't think so because of reason (1). Also, I think it would be a pretty huge deal if Topher and Boyd pressured Priya into being a doll again and the show would have shown it if that's what we're expected to think happened. I mean, half of the episode was about Topher being appalled by the fact that Priya is there without her consent. It's hard to imagine that at the end of the episode he then pressured the same girl into becoming a doll and this wasn't even shown in the episode. In any event, Priya didn't even ask whether she could have the memory removed without becoming a doll

Damn, I meant that comment to be very brief
(2) I think almost everybody would prefer to be free with a horrible memory than lose years of their life to be free of it. At the least it would be a hard decision for a person to make and we don't see any evidence that Priya gave her decision much thought at all.


I always thought that was the premise of the show. That, while most of us cannot imagine it, some people will actually choose that way. That some people write letters to mice-experimenting memory drug-developing doctors, begging them to get rid of that one thing. That, for me, is the genre-element of this show (even more so than the chair).
It's true that some viewers' objections to what we see are apparently based on the idea that no-one would ever choose that to happen to them (or even "just" their body, since "they" aren't there at the time) which, depending on how you look at it, is either not accepting the premise of the show (that some people actually would) or is assuming that what we ourselves find profoundly disturbing/abhorrent is the same for everyone (and the extension of that thinking, that they're somehow just wrong because they'd make different choices, as if our way is the One True Way™).

Still, as Let Down says, surely it'd be a big decision even for someone that would eventually decide to go back ? And so i'd rather we saw some of that decision making process instead of just having to accept that she went through it (or accept the - far less plausible IMO - idea that she didn't even have to think about it).
I don't think I'm rejecting the premise of the show or assuming that because I wouldn't make that choice noone would. I absolutely accept that some people might make the decision to become a doll. For example,it might make sense for a person to become a doll because they are, say, being chased by the police or, I dunno, the mafia. Others might be enticed by the money. And then apart from those practical reasons there are people who want to escape their past. Madeline is the perfect example. My problem is not that I don't think that anyone would ever sign up for this but that Priya wouldn't in these circumstances.

None of the reasons I just mentioned are applicable in her situation. There's no good reason to think she's going to be in any trouble with the police. The crime was hidden as she, Topher and Boyd well know. The police don't know the guy is dead let alone that Priya was there.

And the idea that she wants to mentally escape her killing of Nolan is implausible to me. Let's compare the case of Madeline. I think we can assume that in exchange for having the pain of her dead child removed she had to become a doll. She couldn't have just rocked up at the Dollhouse, had her emotional pain removed and been let go. But wouldn't she have done that if she could? Priya's case is very different from Madeline's. She might well have had that possiblity. Maybe Topher and Boyd wouldn't have let her leave (and wouldn't that have been a fascinating story) but we don't know. More importantly, she didn't even ask. She didn't go 'oh, by the way, since you can remove this awful memory from me is there any chance I could, you know, go free?' That makes no sense to me and by saying that I'm not rejecting the premise of the show
She didn't go 'oh, by the way, since you can remove this awful memory from me is there any chance I could, you know, go free?' That makes no sense to me and by saying that I'm not rejecting the premise of the show


Well, to be fair, one could ask that same question in the first encounter with the Dollhouse: People can ask Adelle "Hey, you got that awesome chair! Could I get that trauma-removing treatment for free, and you know... just leave?" But neither Madeline nor Caroline did that on screen, and we accept that for whatever reasons. Maybe we think it makes sense that they know they would not get that prize for free, and that you actually have to pay them service in order to get what you want. And that they commit to it nevertheless. None of those possible reasoning were shown onscreen, yet it somehow is okay that Madeline doens't contemplate them, but weird if Priya doesn't do it. That's what I find hard to understand. (The second) Priya is imo in effect the prototypical case of how people might choose to submit themselves to the Dollhouse. The episode is called "Belonging" and that deep understanding that you as a person now belong there and won't get a treatment for free ('cause the system just doesn't work that way) is - for me - the core of the show. In my world and in my understanding of the human condition, it's improbable, yes. That's why there's this fictional show about it, that I love to watch. ;)
I don't think I'm rejecting the premise of the show or assuming that because I wouldn't make that choice noone would.

Nor do I. 'Some' is still a subset of 'all', right ? ;)

Ultimately, I think we can come up with some fairly reasonable fanwanks (e.g. they told her that Rossum would kill her - or worse - if they let her go, she stayed because of Victor, she stayed because of the trauma etc. or any combination of all of them) but the fact is, we don't see it onscreen so it's up in the air and down to individual suspension of disbelief (in this case from wiesengrund who's fine as is, through me who can deal but would rather not have to - i.e. would rather it was shown - to Let Down who's struggling to accept it. It's horses for courses in other words).
Sorry, I know this is way way WAY late - just needed to say - I know the reviews on the guardian seem rushed; I'm working to a silly word count. I would write forever on these if I could.

x
Anna posts on whedonesque, my life is complete.
Hey Anna, fancy seeing you here. :-)

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