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January 28 2010

Amy Acker on post-cancellation Dollhouse. Some insight on Saunders, and the ever-widening world of Whedon alums. Spoilers if you aren't caught up to 2.11.

Guess that's something more definite on the Saunders/Bennett situation.
No need for a spoiler tag if the episode was aired. I would love to know when Whiskey became Clyde.
Ah, cool, wasn't sure.

Right? As great as she was in Clyde-mode, the whole thing is pretty convoluted. Also, are they referencing an Alpha/Whiskey scene that does not exist? Do they mean Boyd, or am I lost?
I think the interviewer got mixed up and she's actually referring to the opening scene in 'Omega'.
Glad to have some clarification that Whiskey was a sleeper. But if she wasn't supposed to be Clyde (or, it wasn't supposed to be an open question whether or not she was Clyde at the point where she shot Bennett), then it makes even less sense to me that the writers used her as Clyde. With only one show left on her 3-appearance guest run, it would have been more satisfying to know what her back story was, I think.
Everytime I watch something I feel that there is a Whedon alum in there somewhere. Just seems...natural.
Ah cool. Sleeper always made more sense to me than hatred for Topher. Saunders seemed messed up but she also seemed like a decent person trying to deal with being messed up and decent people don't murder young women in cold blood because they happen to hate the object of their affections. The number of people that apparently saw the step from hatred to cold-blooded murder as fairly small and believable sort of surprised me.

So I guess the last time we saw the "real" Saunders (so far that is, still one to go after all) was when she said goodbye to wounded Boyd ?
Unless that was Clyde 2.0 and him and Boyd were in love?
It'd be the old story: boy meets boy, boy removes boy's ambition, casts him into a mental dungeon for 15 or 20 years, implants his "improved" consciousness into a very attractive female body, has his own consciousness wiped and is then used as a suicide bomber in a bid to save civilization as we know it.

We've all been there.
God, yeah. Story of my life.

I'm glad she was a Sleeper too, but I still don't entirely get it. Why was she supposed to kill Bennett? What good did that do... anyone?
I thought she was activated to kill Bennett so that Bennett would not finish repairing the Caroline wedge. That seemed reason enough for me. Other theories?
But surely EvilBoyd knew that Topher would be able to do it? Why not shoot both of them?
I'm glad she was a Sleeper too, but I still don't entirely get it. Why was she supposed to kill Bennett? What good did that do... anyone?

We already know the answer to that one... because it was funny! (thank you Tim)
But surely EvilBoyd knew that Topher would be able to do it? Why not shoot both of them?


Boyd <3 Topher. Topher's family, since he won Boyd's (and our) respect.

Boyd's reluctant to shoot family, if he can avoid it. Non-family, they can die violently, even apocalyptically. It's a matter of setting priorities.
Boyd's reluctant to shoot family, if he can avoid it.

Which makes me wonder if Boyd has ever had any actual relatives.

(I kid, I kid ! More or less ;)

We already know the answer to that one... because it was funny! (thank you Tim)

I thought it was because there were too many brunettes on the show ? Which is the canonical reason, the ambiguity is killing me ?!
Being a sleeper just doesn't make sense. We've seen sleepers activated before, they don't have a cosy chat with their victims before killing them. And if the objective was to stop Bennet fixing the Caroline wedge then why not shoot the wedge that was on the table right in front of her? Why shoot Bennett, who has almost finished repairing it, and leave the wedge sitting there? Shooting the wedge, as well as or even instead of Bennett, would have guaranteed Caroline would be gone.
Bennett was easily in Topher's league and was loyal to Rossum, wouldn't Boyd have wanted to keep her around?

And from the viewers point of view if that was the last chance to have Amy in the show I would have wanted to see Saunders and maybe explained or tied up her backstory, not wasted the actor on playing a totally different character.
I assume E2 is either going to have Saunders to show how she got to E1 or at least explain it.
Presumably there are varying levels of sleeper "software" zz9 just as there are varying levels of imprint complexity (i.e. from simple key phrase activation to more involved multi-variable activation scenarios) ? Which would answer your other point in that Boyd might've preferred not to kill Bennett and so only did so when she said she could fix the Caroline backup.

From a character point of view it makes a lot more sense IMO and the Whedon MO is to privilege character/emotional truth over plot truth.

I agree about Claunders though, would much rather have seen more of Saunders proper. Still, as we both say, she may well turn up in "Epitaph Two". That said, wasn't Amy only back for 3 episodes and haven't we had all of those now ? Or have I miscounted/smeared one episode's appearances into two (been moving along pretty fast with a lot of episodes feeling like the plot of several) ?
Claire being a sleeper and Boyd being uncomfortable with Caroline's return ist still a bit iffy for me. He could have prevented that a million times before. His plan made more sense to me while I was assuming that he needed Caroline also in the mix to pursue what will become Safe Haven.

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2010-01-28 14:47 ]
Maybe it was more the timing ? As in, he needed to delay Caroline's return so he could get the gang into Rossum HQ before his big reveal ?

Still, his whole plan is a bit iffy as far as i'm concerned so it's kinda funny i'm the one defending it ;).
I hate reading interviews that contradict the canon I've established in my head. *pouts*

Also, when did the media start catching on to our plan to take over the world by infiltrating it with Whedon sleepers alumni? Come Pinky, we must return to the lab and prepare for tomorrow night...
Could the *timing* of Caroline's return have been the deciding factor? If Caroline returned before Body had implemented his plan, she could thwart him. If Boyd took the (undestroyed) copy of the Caroline wedge, as seems likely, then he could restore her memory and personality after he had implemented his plan. So shooting Bennett would be a way to make sure Caroline's return to her body happened on his timetable, when he was ready for it, and not before.

ETA Or what Saje said. ;-)

[ edited by Pointy on 2010-01-28 15:13 ]
What did Bennett say right before Whiskey shot her? I always wondered if somewhere in that conversation was a trigger phrase...
This part has always been a bit iffy to me too.

I mean, one scene we have Boyd acting for Saunders, saying he's going away, the next she has been activited - somehow, off-screen, presumably by Boyd to kill Bennett because she could recreate the Caroline wedge - presumably because her emergence could muck up Echo's brain, whom he loves like a daughter. That's a whole lot of presuming which still doesn't help any of this make any sense.

For starters, regarding the Saunders activation time-line, I have the following questions:

- When was Saunders activated?
- Why the heck did Boyd act out this entire goodbye scene, if Active!Saunders was a non-Mellie type active, able to hold up appearances? He could've 'activated' her ages ago, and wouldn't have had to act all the time.
- How, when and, most of all, why was active!Saunders swapped for Clyde a very short while after shooting Benett?

And, even if we could answer all those, there's the big question of the "why". Why did Boyd want Benett shot? This doesn't make much sense either. If Boyd had wanted to control the timeline, like Saje and Pointy offer, he'd have had a million other options - like, for instance, having Active!Saunders destroy the wedge, like wiesengrund offered. That'd be much more fail-safe.

What's more, the way the scene is staged does imply that there was a conscious choice there to hurt Topher. But it never made much sense for Saunders to do that. Like Saje states, the step from hate - which was slowly ebbing away anyway, it seemed to me - to bloody murder, was a much too big one. But it also doesn't make sense for Boyd to try to hurt Topher, because he loves the guy like he's family. So did someone else activate Saunders? Or was that just some stray vague personal-vengeancy dialog there?

So summing things up: I have nothing to offer to explain any of it. We now know that Saunders killed Benett as a operative sleeper (ETA rewatched Serenity last night ;)), which is good to know as it at least eliminates the silly Saunders-killing-out-of-hate scenario, which wouldn't mesh with her character arc. However it opens up so many question - which I'm still idly hoping will be cleared up in E2 - that I think we may just have to conclude that this was one of the sloppiest bits of writing in the entire show. It just doesn't ring true whichever way we try to twist or turn it.

[ edited by GVH on 2010-01-28 16:17 ]
The only idea I had that could make sense would be that Alpha programmed the Claire sleeper to prevent Caroline from coming back because he wants Echo, not Caroline. Perhaps he put a trigger in Whiskey to prevent the reappearance of Caroline thinking that dr. saunders would know if Caroline was being restored. Part of this is me wanting Alpha to still have a part in the big picture as he seems to have fallen off the radar.
Some possible explanations:

Saunders' sleeper programming goes like this: If you see anyone on the verge of restoring Caroline's memory to her body, do anything you need to do to stop it, up to and including the use of lethal force.

So Saunders sees Bennett about to finish repairing Caroline's cartridge. If Saunders shoots the cartridge, suited men take her away and Bennett gets back to work on repairing the cartridge. If she shoots Bennett, who was described up to that point as the only person who could get the job done, then: mission accomplished. (Not even Topher realized he could finish the repair job before then.)

While November's sleeper assassin program appears to be an entirely different personality from Mellie (until her death scene), Saunders' program doesn't eliminate her personality, it just drives her to take a certain action. The dialogue between Saunders and Bennett before the shooting can serve more than one function: It allows Saunders to get close enough to Bennett to shoot her, and it allows the Saunders imprint to explain to herself why she's shooting her. (Consciously, all Saunders may realize is that she has a compelling urge to kill Bennett.)

As for Boyd hurting Topher, Boyd hurts every member of his chosen family. And we don't know whether he had any conception that Topher had feelings for Bennett, or that they were anything more than physical attraction. And anyway, if Saunders' programming is just to take any means necessary, up to and including lethal force, to stop Caroline's personality from being restored, killing Bennett was not a specific goal, just a means to an end. Boyd didn't necessarily know Saunders would take that specific step.

These are just possibilities. The story is set up so we ask why and how, but it does not provide specific answers, presumably so we can try on all the possibilities.
Fair enough, Pointy re: Saunders being tugged in one direction by her one extra instruction. It's an elegant solution, as it solves both the question of the 'when' she was imprinted and why that particular bit of dialog was there. It certainly doesn't solve other 'open' questions, but it makes much more sense to me than any other option I've seen.

As for my comment on Boyd 'hurting' Topher: yes, he does hurt them all, but he never consciously traumatizes them. He does actually love them, after all. The question I was inelegantly trying to raise, was why - possibly - Boyd would want to actively hurt Topher. I mused that the dialog spoken by Active!Saunders implied hurting Topher purposefully and was exploring the options of why - dismissing the option that Boyd had programmed Active!Saunders to purposefully hurt Topher on the basis of his love for the guy (which I still think is valid). Your assertion that he possibly didn't even know of the Topher/Benett infatuation strengthens that improbability of Boyd programming it upfront. Which means we're agreeing, I guess ;).

Of course, accidentally killing Benett as a side-effect to Boyd's greater plan is fine - even if I hold that "killing Benett" seems like a strange part of the plan to begin with, for reasons mentioned above :). But, taking the explanation you gave, Pointy, the 'killing with purpose to hurt Topher'-ambiguity would basically not be an issue any longer. So, ehm, agreed ;).

These are just possibilities. The story is set up so we ask why and how, but it does not provide specific answers, presumably so we can try on all the possibilities.


I'm not sure that that's the case, in this - erm - case :). I still think it might just be sloppy writing, given the number and the vagueness of the questions raised. If this had been a sudden cancellation, I'd have assumed that this was something that was going to be cleared up later on, but I'm guessing they could've wrapped this up at any time given the relatively early warning.

To be clear - I don't mind one case of sloppy writing in an otherwise great episode. There's been numerous examples over the course of Joss' shows (and comics), usually those slips were to get to interesting new stories or powerful emotional scenes, and the same was the fact here :). Still think it was probably just handled sloppily, though ;).

[ edited by GVH on 2010-01-28 17:35 ]
Ivy did it.

I don't actually believe that, but (like with Saunders) Ivy's arc never felt fully realized to me. I still think she was meant to have a larger purpose than just "Topher's assistant," but ended up underused as a result of the series' truncation.
Yeah, speaking of Ivy - I still wanna' know what the heck Adelle told Ivy about Topher that freaked her out. It just seems odd to me that they never explained that. Perhaps I missed something?
There's a lot of stuff like that I don't think we'll ever know for sure. And maybe I don't want to know. Whiskey as a sleeper is more confusing than anything else.
These are just possibilities. The story is set up so we ask why and how, but it does not provide specific answers, presumably so we can try on all the possibilities.

The story in general is set up that way Pointy but I suspect in the last few episodes there're a lot of "possibilities" that are a direct result of having to hurry the arc to a conclusion. Forced errors basically.

He could've 'activated' her ages ago, and wouldn't have had to act all the time.

Unless he sees Saunders as part of his family too GVH ? I.e. he's deliberately allowing her to be herself as much as possible because he genuinely feels for her and maybe more importantly, sees her feelings for him as an object of wonder. Except then why get rid of her (possibly forever at this point since we've no reason to believe she's been backed-up since she was first imprinted) to put Clyde in Whiskey's body ?

I don't hate DPatel's Alpha idea though, it is strange that he's seemingly playing no part in the endgame and he also has a clear motive to stop the restoration of Caroline. That'd play better in my mind if it didn't help Boyd so conveniently (but then, he already had the psychotropic drug backup plan, maybe that was his intention all along and Bennett was nothing to do with him ? It's a neater, less "invasive" solution).

It boils down to we don't know yet, the jury's out until we see "Epitaph Two". Either it'll be explained or it'll be left open so that we can fan-wank any problems away or accept the time pressure argument, as we see fit.
Ugh, I really wish Whiskey wasn't a sleeper. It made so much more sense otherwise and I think was more emotionally painful.

It would have been interesting to see where Ivy ended up. I'm sure it would have been something insanely tragic, per usual. Someone needs to ask Joss this stuff in a post-mortem interview.
Another possibility:

If Boyd gave Saunders the single-purpose program I mentioned above, then once she's killed Bennett, he has a new problem. Saunders already has more than a bit of self-loathing; what's she going to do now that she realizes she is a killer?

Will she eventually realize that she was programmed to kill, as she earlier realized that she was programmed to be the Dollhouse doctor? If she does, she will hate whoever programmed her even more than she hates Topher.

What if she realizes, eventually, that it was Boyd? Imagine the moment it dawns on her that the man she thought loved her in all her misbegotten-ness was not only her employer, but basically her owner. Using her for sex, then using her for violence.

I think she'd kill him. She'd at least want to.

So erasing Saunders and dumping built-to-serve Clyde in her brain would be a well-motivated decision for Boyd.

[ edited by Pointy on 2010-01-28 20:59 ]
I felt like Whiskey's sleeper-ness was similar to Perrin's "hardware" that drove him to defend Rossum even after his personality wanted to expose them. He talked with Echo and everything like himself, and then he was just driven to do something else against his personality's control.

I never questioned Whiskey's sleeper betrayal. Saunders left the Dollhouse, and I never thought she could've always been a sleeper (too many risks about her unsleeperfying too early and ruining his plan, especially if the trigger was something pertaining to Caroline, who they talked about previously).

So Saunders leaves of her own volition to see the world, find herself. Later on, everyone mentions that Boyd has been spending more time at home. I assumed that somewhere between Saunders' leave and her return, Boyd went out and intercepted her. Maybe brought her to another Dollhouse, Rossum HQ, whatever, and imprinted her with the sleeper *then*. Because we had that one clip of them together at his house right before she returns.

I assumed that was the plot point behind him suddenly being gone from the Dollhouse as everyone mentioned. And his emotional arc with her was just part of his plan, to get her to trust him so later he could maybe even convince her outside the Dollhouse that he just needed to enhance her or do something she needs and she would trust him.

Also, on the "old story" front, it really is a messed up relationship. You also have Boyd and Saunders closeness, and saunders was once an old dude. But it does bring up an interesting notion. Reminds me of Willow: "But his physical presence has a penis!/But he doesn't have to!" With the Dollhouse tech, straight guy could fall in love with a guy and put him into a pretty young thang. Creeptastic.
You're Boyd.

Scenario One: An irreplaceable resource you've devoted years to watching has been taken captive by another branch of your company. You:

a) Get Clyde on the phone and ask for her to be sent back.
b) Fly to Washington and fire Ray Wise.
c) Just let Adelle and Topher handle it... and maybe it'll all work out okay.

Scenario Two: A doll has been captured by “Scytheon”, a military branch of your company and you'd like to get him back. You:

a) Get Clyde on the phone and ask for him to be released.
b) Walk over to Scytheon and fire everybody. (Which in this case, you only need to fire one soldier to fire them all, so that's handy.)
c) Send an irreplaceable resource you've devoted years to watching to shoot her way in, get him, and get back out.

Scenario Three: Bennett, is on the verge of resurrecting a wedge that will make your irreplaceable resource recognize you as the founder of the company. You:

a) Fire Bennett.
b) The sneaking around was ridiculous anyway. Let it happen, fire anyone who doesn't like that you're the founder and take Echo/Caroline into custody.
c) Get Clyde on the phone, imprint him over Saunders who you seemed to have some sort of a connection with, and also install a sleeper protocol to fire AT Bennett.

And my point here... who's to really say why Boyd's done anything over the course of the show. You can either believe he's just a total nut job or... more likely, that the writers made up a ridiculous plot twist at the last minute without thinking through how truly nonsensical it is in the greater context of the show. My opinion.
cookiepartier, I always thought it was odd that the question of gender-switching was never mentioned in the Dollverse (Victor/Kiki gag aside). It seems an obvious application of the tech - I bet that a lot of people (me included) would be interested in being able to temporarily sample what it's like to be the other sex.
I'm doing a post mortem interview on Saturday as the Dollverse golden wrap. So if anybody has any questions, email them over to me.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-01-28 19:40 ]
all of this speculation and confusion over the Saunders/Whiskey/Clyde stuff, as well as plot points is just making me really sad.

Wish ME hadn't dropped the ball like they did with this last episode.
Ditto Cazador. I don't think there's much point trying to make sense of the Whiskey/Clyde/Saunders thing. At this point it just seems like a wasted opportunity.

The Ivy thing is interesting. We didn't see what happened when she went to get the wedge and only have her word that it was missing, she then conveniently got sent away. I hope that that was a set up for a twist. If not, well, I guess I just won't say because it's not very nice.
Yeah, Hollow Man really dropped the ball. But we know for a fact that Boyd as the head of Rossum was planned out before they started writing season 2.

And a lot of this was to test Echo. Remember, he really loves he but doesn't necessarily need him alive. He'd just prefer it that way, but also sort of wants her to get what she wants too.
I feel like Claire as a character really got jipped - as a sleeper and as Clyde, we never really got to see HER again, and what happened to her. We just saw the body of Whiskey again, not Dr. Saunders. Now we'll never know.

Which is a damn shame, because after "Vows" I'd become really interested in her dilemmas and feelings as a character.
Yeah that was a real disappointment. Why bring her back and not really pick up on her development and dilemma? I did like "The Hollow Men" for other reasons, and Whiskey as Clyde is scary as hell. But Dr. Saunders got really shortchanged.
Not only did Saunders get short changed, but whoever Whiskey was originally got sidelined. It was a really interesting aspect of the series.

You know, that's not a moan at the writers because, at the end of the day, they were very cancelled. It's almost impossible to service every character in the time they had left.
Well, interview with Miracle Laurie here, where she says they expected to get the back 9 episodes ordered off Hulu views and the like. So I can only assume that they planned to give Saunders a better finish but couldn't, because they had to wrap 9 episodes up in 1. I would have have liked a better end to Saunder's arc, however I still give 'em props, 'cause I found many aspects of The Hollow Men enjoyable. I don't think I like the idea that she was a sleeper though, and I think I may just pretend like I never read that, to keep my own theories in place.
I'm pretty sure that the languid retrival on Ivy's part was probably just meant to be a red herring. For the most part we have this well assembled band of boned and broken heroes we've come to know, and then Ivy was relatively on the outside and has already shown many signs of intellectual independence. So of course the betrayal comes from even more within.
(I do wonder though now, was she supposed to be a member of Boyd's family? Will she maybe come back after the psychepocolypse happens? Is she possibly a contributing cause?) Plus I imagine that maybe the thing Adelle told her may have been that the fact he covered up a murder? (Or creating the remote imprint?)

As for clarifying the shooty thing, one thing I'm thrown by is how we mean to use the phrase "sleeper" in this case. Sci-fi sense ala Mellie or just the idea that she's infiltrated them with a different motive? (I like to think some sort of combination of the two like everyone else thought.)

I actually think it's sort of a conceptually appropriate touch that they appropriate a familiar face for this otherwise unknown opponent, but I do wish they'd finally explained who proto-Whiskey was. I was always under the impression that they meant there were three Acker eps in addition to the premiere, not inclusive. It's a little bleak that she had a character arc seemingly set up but then for certain details beyond her agency she ends up being a doll-custodian. (Plus I'd have liked to see why they imprint her back as Saunders instead of setting her free.)
It was 3 episodes including the premiere. When they were starting up [for this season] somebody told me the plan was to bring Amy back for Vows, write her out, write her back in, write her back out, then bring her back should they have got season three. "Vows", back then, opened and closed in 2020 looking for Save Haven -- they actually shot that bit in July -- and the intention (as I understood it) was for the two stories to run in parallel, meeting up at the end (of season two), then continuing in 2020 for season three.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-01-28 22:19 ]
That would have been so interesting. I would have loved to know what the overall plan for the show was. Like, where was Ivy going? Who was Whiskey, really? Was there going to be "another" November? What role would Perrin have played in the future? What were other standalone episodes that wanted to do but couldn't? What other characters (or plotlines) were going to be introduced but couldn't because of time?

There are a ton more, too. There was so much material, it really is a shame...

And it sounds like the plan would have had Felicia Day, Zack Ward and Adair Tishler becoming regulars (or at least extremely recurring characters). That would have been great.

[ edited by nuccbko on 2010-01-28 22:23 ]

[ edited by nuccbko on 2010-01-28 22:28 ]
Man, I would have given anything to get Felicia in a week to week post-apocalypse sci-fi horror series. Thanks, Fox :P
I can picture Saunders/Whiskey driving away, trying to deal with the reality that she will always be an Active. I think her character tries to do this more than any other doll, including Echo- refusing a treatment. Think of what Priya does after she kills Nolan, or Mellie in this past episode... The notion that she might have been making a life for herself, but that Rossum (or Boyd) swoops in and drags her away again to serve their evil purposes is kind of heartbreaking.

In E1, when Caroline tells the gang that post-thoughtpocalypse Saunders decided to stay behind rather than make a break for Safe Haven with everybody else because "she decided it would be better this way", it makes sense to me that Saunders was so petrified of being overwritten by another personality after the events in Season 2 that she wouldn't ever leave the Dollhouse again. It also could be that her imprint didn't fade with time (after all, she could have manually refreshed her Saunders imprint periodically via the chair), and that "Whiskey" in E1 was our Saunders, just...broken by the isolation and setting and stuff.

So sad...
Saunders already has more than a bit of self-loathing; what's she going to do now that she realizes she is a killer?

[snip]

Imagine the moment it dawns on her that the man she thought loved her in all her misbegotten-ness was not only her employer, but basically her owner. Using her for sex, then using her for violence.

I think she'd kill him. She'd at least want to.


Now that would have made an amazing conclusion to The Hollow Men. Imagine Amy acting all of that as Saunders, and eventually being the one that kills Boyd! That conclusion would both service the characters (especially Saunders, who really got shafted that episode) and also advance the plot in a believable way, plus it would have far more emotional resonance. A scene where Whiskey/Saunders ends up confronting and killing Boyd would rival the Saunders/Topher confrontation from 201. If only we could have gotten that.

[ edited by AnotherFireflyfan on 2010-01-28 23:20 ]
So wait a minute, since some scenes for Epitaph 2 were originally filmed for Vows, and because Amy Acker was in Vows, that means we may have not actually seen the last of Whiskey after all!

Also, gossi, their original plans (especially for a season 3) sound like something I really wish we had gotten to see. :-( Curse this ratings game!
No, Amy's not in those scenes.
Ah well, that's too bad. I guess the lack of resolution on the Whiskey/Saunders character will just be one of the few disappointments of the Dollhouse cancellation. It's just too bad she had to return once they already were cancelled and couldn't focus on her character more because they had to tie up more major plot threads. I still would have loved to have seen her as Saunders more and not just another Clyde imprint. (Which means that Saunders is dead, precisely what she was trying to avoid back in Vows, and likely killed by Boyd, which brings tremendous implications... but it all happened off-screen, which is a major let down).
BringItOn5x5: Yes and no, re: nonsensical. Notice that the first two scenarios you mention are key moments in Echo's development as a) a person, and b) as resistant to all manner of Rossum technology. It's when she goes missing from the L.A. Dollhouse as a result of the runaround that she really can handle all the multiple personalities. I don't pretend that Boyd planned the whole thing exactly, but it certainly worked out for him in the end--he probably thought that the whole thing, and especially the confrontation with Bennet, would probably help force Echo's burgeoning selfhood to the surface. It's when she faces against the Army that Echo can block other types of imprints; more to the point, it's this that shows Adelle that Echo has the ability to break out of the Attic, one other layer of development. (Putting Echo in is clearly a much higher priority than getting Victor out, anyway.) Echo is a valuable resource, but how much more valuable is she after each of these moments where Boyd didn't intervene? Let's imagine for a moment that Echo's ability to block imprints needed to reach the dizzy highs of going into and breaking out of the Attic in order for her spinal fluid to be harvestable, and not before.

My honest take is that most if not all of Boyd's motivations could have made sense if given a little more explanation. "The Hollow Men" didn't do this. What's kind of remarkable is that it didn't even particularly try. There's the sense that the writers threw up their hands when faced with the cancellation and decided that explaining Boyd's actions throughout the series beyond the vaguest of generalities was a low priority for the ep. Maybe not the best decision; I'm pretty unhappy about it. But I'm not convinced there is no method to Boyd's madness.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2010-01-29 01:31 ]
It certainly doesn't seem like Clyde waiting in the Dollhouse in the 2019 scenes in "Epitaph One," so some other identity (who doesn't know that Boyd is dead) is apparently in Claire/Whiskey's body at that point.

I thought that, if Claire had been a sleeper, her triggering takes place in the instant before she pulls the gun -- prior to that, she seems to be expressing sentiments consistent with what we know of her opinion of Topher.
I'm pretty sure that it was Whiskey greeting anyone who came across the dollhouse. However, there were those other scenes with Dr. Saunders, with scars ala Boyd running away, and without when Echo and Ballard returned. (I do still wonder if she was always sending people to safe-haven and gassing the quasi-reavers in an endless cycle or if she also died from that gassing attempt shown at the end.)

If Saunders was a sci-fi sleeper that last time we see her in terms of airdate, then there was no trigger. I do wonder if she was conscious of Boyd having her kill Bennett though since she was somehow lucid enough to have the discussion or that was some sort of subconscious programming into her.

As for the disappointing Boyd rationalization-- I think they did have the kernels of something that made sense. I could totally see him wanting to galvanize his "loved" ones. Yada yada strength through adversity and perseverance, keep your chin up yada yada, be ready for the oncoming storm...

I also could have seen him rationalizing his actions as a bit more benevolent rather than outright crazy and just saving this small "ark" of unimprintable folk.

I mean I can sort of understand the idea that he believes now that this technology is out in the collective subconsciousness someone else besides Topher could come along and develop/modify/weaponize it. In that case I could see him either wanting to harvest an Echo vaccine to market it, or for the sake of patriotism, or to create a legion of people to try and maintain order. Or hell, they could even have a corporate coup underway and then Boyd was willing to do whatever it was necessary to nip it in the bud even if it was wildly circuitous.

Instead the way it sort of worked out suggested he wanted to develop Echo's genetics into a vaccine in the event of a global upheaval that he also planned on causing in the first place.

For that matter I also don't get the point of blowing up the mainframe since I was under the impression it was like how SETI and/or Bittorrent work or something and the work was distributed across all the Atticked brains.
Unless the mainframe was supposed to be the main hub that kept all the Attics up and networked, and by taking it out they thought they were going to kill the network (thus killing gosh knows how many people).
WilliamTheB: I just don't see it. At best, Boyd was willing to passively go along for the ride into random dangerous situations where he clearly was in a position to take control and still get the same effect on Echo with far less risk. If the grand plan is to get Echo out in the world, you arrange for that to happen. You don't wait until she's captured by another house and the tech fakes an assault and lets her escape with security hot on her heels. If you want her plugged into Scytheon, you do that. You don't send her in shooting against a regiment of hive-mind soldiers.

I've been a fan of the show, but with the direction they've gone, I just feel there's too much fanwank required now just to justify the basic storyline. I really don't think Dollhouse will hold together well at all on a rewatch. Instead of seeing foreshadowing we missed, I think it'll be an exercise in trying to miss what clearly doesn't fit with what we know. There were so many other choices that could have been made. Echo doesn't need to be genetically special. Boyd doesn't need to be the founder. I'm actually very much hoping we get some sort of "it was all just a dream" ending.
Echo doesn't need to be genetically special.


This. Surely the exploration of identity and "personhood" is more meaningful if it is seen as universal. I would have rather there been no explanation for the emergence of Echo.
I have to rewatch the episodes. I guess ultimately I'm not 100% convinced that Echo was in all that much danger from either the Washington dollhouse or from the army group, especially the latter who could very easily have a baseline program not to be able to harm Echo. Boyd placing Echo in the Scytheon isn't the same as Echo choosing to do so to save her friend; I figure Victor's recruitment was Boyd's choice, both to play with Adelle/Miss Lonelyhearts and more importantly to push Echo into action. Echo using imprints? Taking on a hive mind and conquering their orders to aim at, fight, and almost shoot but not quite at her? And Echo not fighting it one bit but using every bit of her in the process? YES.

(This happens shortly after Topher gives Harding the tech. Time frame = accelerated, both for Whedon outside the show-frame and for Boyd in the show-frame.)

But you know, the reason I accept this is because on the whole I buy the Boyd reveal--not entirely, not without huge caveats, but somehow I do. I can't quite explain it yet--so yes, if you don't see it, I absolutely can't blame you, and yet.... It might honestly just be me finding a way to be zen about something that left me with such an alarming mixture of emotions that I can't quite see straight, and after finding myself gravely disappointed by the play of "The Hollow Men," as I've suggested. So yes, I certainly agree that explaining Boyd's actions throughout the season, and his decision not to take the path of least resistance, requires tremendous amounts of fanwanking. Unprecedented levels, maybe. And no, the writers didn't have to do this, and certainly if they were going to they should have done it *better*. But...I don't think I'm sad they did. Something similar to the way the tech exists within the world of the show: once it's out there, I deal with it.

Re: Echo's chemistry, I was skeptical until I'd read others talking about how the physical manifestation of her specialness ties in with the show's complicated take on exploitation, particularly of attractive women. (She's strapped to the bed, half-naked like Eliza in all those promotional campaigns. Giving life with her womb, I mean spine.) Echo/Eliza may be an everywoman to us in the audience, but to Rossum/Fox, she is the "It" girl, an asset to nurture and help to discover her own identity so that it can be used for personal gain. And hell, they can even grow fond of her, admire her for her strength and perseverence and personality, and of course Echo has all of those things and these are the things that let her become a person as well as just an imprint-blocker. But she's still a body to Rossum, to Boyd, to Fox, and there's something cynical and ironic and kind of darkly beautiful that Caroline's body is the only thing that can save the world.
Oh, just to be clear, I think "there is way too much fanwanking required to accept even the basic plotline" is a completely justified take here.
Echo doesn't need to be genetically special.


This. Surely the exploration of identity and "personhood" is more meaningful if it is seen as universal. I would have rather there been no explanation for the emergence of Echo.


It's not a bad idea, but I'd see a narrative problem in why an organization exists if every single active they have is glitching constantly. And that's pretty much how you'd have to write it if you never gave an explanation for Echo. People complained about the fact that the Dollhouse had so many glitches as it was. If everyone was doing it, the question would shift from "are they incompetent" to "how can they even operate?"

[ edited by azzers on 2010-01-29 09:24 ]
And also if everyone can do it, if it's somehow inevitable that a soul can survive wiping, then Echo wouldn't deserve "hero credit". She has to be special. Must admit I was slightly disappointed that once again we're back to a "chosen" girl born with a destiny BUT I do like that the show didn't just ignore the "genetic accident" aspect of what it is to be human. And I also like that when she isn't just cruising by on her natural talent, Echo turns out to be a murderer of innocents (because the obvious choice would be for her to transcend the way she was "raised" by Boyd's manipulations, that'd be more heroic and they went down a darker suitably more ambiguous road).

I thought that, if Claire had been a sleeper, her triggering takes place in the instant before she pulls the gun -- prior to that, she seems to be expressing sentiments consistent with what we know of her opinion of Topher.

That would make sense Shapenew (Saunders certainly seems to hold off until Bennett says she's confident she can fix Caroline) except then why did she (a doctor) walk into the office with a gun in the first place ? I don't buy "She took the gun 'just in case' because she really hates Topher". So i'd say there's an initial trigger off-screen and then the final kill trigger is Bennett saying she can fix the backup.

There're holes at the moment basically and (since it now looks like there won't be much Saunders/Whiskey resolution in "Epitaph Two") they're going to stay holey - it comes down to what WilliamTheB says IMO, either it worked for you on a visceral level and so no amount of fan-wanking is too much OR it didn't and no amount is enough (e.g. since the sleeper idea makes much more character sense to me i'm willing to fan-wank around its implausibilities, those for which it doesn't aren't. Likewise but flipped for the Boyd "explanation" - not the reveal BTW, which I like well enough but the follow-up which, y'know, not so much). It's a pity and it's totally understandable given the time pressure etc. but there it is.
I think it works much better if Echo is an unintended consequence for several reasons. There actually were signs of other dolls glitching – namely, Victor and Sierra – and we learn that grouping is not uncommon. Perhaps Echo is just an extreme case of what was happening to some percentage of dolls. She can still be special without it being a known genetic condition. The handling of Echo in general throughout the show is much more consistent with it being a phenomenon that unexpectedly evolved rather than something Rossum was aware of and controlling from the start. And... I simply like the story better if it's not just Echo's Midichlorian count that makes her special. I like it a little unexplained because maybe Rossum doesn't understand it yet either. I think that's a valuable point to make in a story of technology gone amuck.
Rossum not understanding it either would, for me, just be more pandering to the "We're all unique snowflakes, the human spirit/soul is indomitable" idea that crops up all the time in fiction and increasingly feels to me like a symptom of us protesting too much about what makes us special (i.e. that we're special because there's something in us that "mere" science can't explain when in fact to me explaining us doesn't make us any less special). The wonder of humanity doesn't come from ignorance or mysterious "qualities", quite the reverse (though for now we are ignorant about ourselves and many of our qualities are mysterious).

And I don't see it as Rossum controlling her from the start, it seemed more like just Boyd to me rather than a company wide thing (apart from anything else, his plan isn't the sort of thing I see a corporation board approving - too risky, no arse covering).

That said, i'm not exactly in love with the "midichlorian" explanation either (though as I say, if I squint a bit I do like the "accident of birth" element, the idea that Caroline/Echo did nothing to deserve her "ability" is quite anti hero story).
I wasn't trying to be as high minded as human snowflakes... I just seemed to end up there. I'm actually thinking more along the lines of product validation. There are some that pass, and some that fail in certain known ways and then there are the... “what the heck happened here?” I dunno, we'll look at it later (never). Echo doesn't have to be a snowflake – just an unexplained oddity. Which maybe amounts to the same thing, just less poetic.

I think a solid explanation for why Boyd wasn't actively controlling Rossum would have gone a long way towards helping me with a number of the issues I have with the show. It seems like he was able to take charge of things when he wanted to.
Yeah, he seemed to have clout when he needed it and if so why not use it more directly ? We're left with Echo needed to experience many imprints in order to self-actualise i.e. to prove that she could, that her ability really worked (which makes a lot of sense) and that Boyd genuinely wanted to spend time with his "family" and watch them triumph over adversity, even if he caused that adversity and even if it lead to Echo (company asset, "family" member and future saviour of the chosen few) being in extreme danger numerous times (which makes, well, let's just say less sense to me ;).

Re: unexplained oddity, yep fair enough but the issue with that is it doesn't work well as motivation for the plan (if Boyd/Rossum didn't know what caused her resistance they'd certainly study her but why subject her to multiple imprints or even put her in the dollhouse to begin with ? They kind of had to know how it worked and that it was transferable otherwise none of what they do makes any sense).
I liked the spinal fluid explanation fine. Caroline's genetic roll of the dice turns into Echo's self-discovery--that works for me. I like the idea that all of her "specialness" originated with something so mundane, that Boyd's attachment to her was based on a physical attribute (but not the usual). All good. (Though not pretty.) For me, the problems are all about Boyd's arc. Psycho!Boyd just doesn't work for me & Evil!Boyd needed a much better set-up.
I got some more info on the sleeper thing from Tim. Gonna find out if I can publish it.
Gossi, if you can put the info on Dollverse please. I'll link that to Whedonesque so you won't be self publishing. When is Dollverse coming back? At least for me it's still on the haitian thing. I donated to Doctors Without Borders, sorry I didn't help at your site.
Echo being genetically chosen and Boyd knowing that makes total sense to me. It's a fitting conclusion to the constant questioning of hero stories (and social control mechanismis attached to hero stories) the show's been doing from day one.
Dollverse should be back, I hope!
I'm getting it now. Probably just my computer being weird.
Really glad Amy confirmed she was a sleeper in that scene with Bennett. It looked way too much like an execution than a passion murder. In my experience of reading crime novels and seeing a lot of crime shows, murders committed in the heat of passion involve overkill; i.e. Saunders not only shooting Bennett but then jumping up and down on her or shooting her multiple times to really get her hate on. Also, if that were the case, she would have killed Topher, not Bennett, whom she didn't even know.
Well, to play devil's advocate, she can only kill Topher once but kill Bennett and he dies a little bit every time he thinks of her (I mean, if you really want to hurt someone you make them suffer right ?).

But I agree, the cold-bloodedness was what made it ring false to me, nothing we'd seen of Saunders up to then indicated she had that in her (an angry, heat of the moment murder I think we all have in us, given the right provocation).

It's a fitting conclusion to the constant questioning of hero stories (and social control mechanismis attached to hero stories) the show's been doing from day one.

Eh, maybe. Just feels a bit out of the air to me, a bit pat (which may well be our old "friend", lack of time, rearing its ugly head yet again). Be interesting to know if that was always what made Caroline special or if they came up with it later (i've become a bit leery of things fitting "from day one" since it became apparent that the creators themselves don't necessarily have much time for the "day one" episodes or therefore, presumably, their subtexts). Some dialogue acknowledging that makes Echo a genetic accident, a miracle only in the statistical sense, would've helped (and undercut the hero idea still further).

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