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February 11 2010

IGN Reviews Dollhouse Season 2. A mixed review for Dollhouse's second and final season.

Good article.

I think Dollhouse overall failed due to some poor writing and a terrible actress playing the main character. The show flourished in episodes where Echo is not the main focus.

Of course this is my opinion. There could be those who think it was not a failure and that Eliza is a great actress. (:/)
Bad article.

I personally very much disagree with IGN's reviews of TV/Film. They tend to be surface level and regurgitate bland complaints of great stories, and praise empty shiny ones.

@geratongs3000
I would definitely challenge you on calling Eliza a poor actress. She doesn't have a great range (which contrary to popular belief, does not make you a poor actor,) and she definitely slipped in some episodes, but when she shines, she shines bright. As for the writing? With the exception of a certain early first season episode and a certain writing duo that face planted on both of their episodes, the writers on this series were truly grade A.

And if you care to post nasty things for no reason, please support your ideas. Kthanks.
I'm choosing not to read it because I don't particularly care for IGN's reviews. I've only read a few, but of those few, I've had to sign up just so I can comment and correct the reviewer because they had gotten what happened wrong, yet reviewed it like they knew what they were talking about. When I'm reading a professional review, and so many of the written points are ass backwards, wrong, and completely presumptuous, it doesn't come across as very credible for me. Because of that, IGN's reviews are very poor for me.

Maybe if there is ever that Dollhouse video game so many fans want, I'll take IGN's point of view in consideration. Then again, I don't even visit IGN for video game news.
I would definitely challenge you on calling Eliza a poor actress. She doesn't have a great range (which contrary to popular belief, does not make you a poor actor[...]


Amen to that last sentiment.

And if you care to post nasty things for no reason, please support your ideas. Kthanks.

And which 'certain writing duo' would that be again?

:)
For what it's worth (nothing, much like IGN's review) I saw range in Eliza during Dollhouse. I saw and felt a completely different person from the doll Echo, to Caroline, to the blind girl, to Crystal, to Kiki, to the dominatrix, to Alice, to the serial killer, to the mother, to the fully formed Echo.

If other people can't see it, whatever. No skin off my back. It worked for me , and getting impressed myself is all I need to like something.
I agree with much of this article. I think the cramming and rush were very apparent in the second season. I felt "The Hollow Men" was aptly named because the episode lacked emotional resonance (and the awful special effects of the explosion were cringeworthy) and that the reveal of Boyd-as-villain would have been better served by Boyd not becoming crazy and creepy, better to have him still be Boyd but with logical calm as he explained everything. I definitely felt like I was being force-fed Echo/Ballard shippiness without the ability to genuinely care about it.

My one main disagreement with the article was about Topher falling flat. I feel Topher had the best character arc and I always delighted in his scenes, both comedic and dramatic.

People can say they saw range in Dushku's acting. And I think there was range. But compare this to Enver and you see that Enver was made to be the actor carrying a show like Dollhouse--there's flawless embodiment of all different characters and then there's admirable attempts with moderate success. Yes, Dushku did a good job, but sadly what was needed was Enver-level work that makes you sit back in amazement. The type of performances that leave you in awe of talent. I don't think Dushku delivered that. YMMV.

Looking back on it, I think Dollhouse is the most inconsistent of all Whedon's shows. It had some of the highest highs I've ever seen (Jonathan Frakes directing Belonging, the acting and story of Belonging, the Attic episode, Epitaph storylines, Topher's character arc) but it also had some of the most glaring flaws of all four TV series he's created. It's alternately the most brilliant (when it worked) and worst (when it lagged until it sank) of his shows. Where I was disappointed that Firefly was cancelled too soon, I'm more disappointed by what I actually got from Dollhouse when it never seemed to realize it's own potential.

For what it's worth, I'm still a huge Whedon fan. And I'm not exactly happy to be a downer about Dollhouse because I spent the past two years being excited to have Whedon TV back. But I know I won't be going back and doing marathons of Dollhouse the way I will with Buffy, Angel and Firefly. There'll be moments I'll want to relive (Topher, Adelle), but the entire landscape of the tale leaves me unsatisfied. At some point during Season 2 (after Belonging and the DC two-parter) I got kicked off the Dollhouse train and I wasn't able to get back on-board until Epitaph 2. I loved the finale, but I wasn't heartbroken to see the show go as the show had been leaving me unhappy for the last half of this season. The emotional resonance was lost for me--it became hollow.

(I know many, many people will disagree and argue points with me. I'm just expressing my own disappointment in the series. I'm coming from a place where there hasn't been a single Whedon production I haven't loved until now. I'm disappointed by the flaws and I wish they weren't there and that I didn't see them and that I felt differently--wow, I wish it were different.)
I wish there was a better textual way to express a Cartman yawn. This article made me sleepy. But that's just my opinion.
For what itís worth I vastly preferred Dollhouse to Firefly and thought its high points (the entirety of Belonging, Topher/Whiskeyís scene in Vows, Epitaph 1 & 2, The Attic, A Spy in the House of Love ect) were sometimes higher than Ats and on par with the highs of BtVS. I fell really hard for this complicated, flawed, but incredibly daring and original show.

I can see both POVís on S2. On the one hand I think itís a shame everything became so rushed because we did loose opportunities for slower and more intimate pieces like Belonging. On the other hand I loved the fast pace and Iím sure S2 will be a great ride to re-watch. It still had fantastic moments and, IMO, was greatly superior to S1.

I don't agree with IGN's article though, especially their criticism of Franz/Topher. And why doesnít Olivia Williams get more of a mention? She gave us an absolutely flawless performance in every single scene she was in. She has to be one of the most talented actors Whedon has ever been fortunate enough to work with and I was in awe of her.
I have some issues with the show, and a lot of love for it too. IMO this article doesn't do a very good job of getting to the heart of either. Emmie does though. Go Emmie.
I apologize for not backing my points up. Also, I agree with everyone here so far on Franz and on Olivia Williams. I thought they did a wonderful job. Enver did too, of course.

Okay, obviously this is just a matter of opinion, but every role Eliza played on the show I didn't think was greatly acted. I always eventually saw her "kick-ass girl with attitude" come through at some point. And that's her strength, being a campy butt-kicking character.

As for the writing, it never seemed really genuine. On Buffy, I liked the kind of campy style and dialog on the main characters because it felt more natural and it was basically spoofing those kind of things. And it grew out of the completely camp range mid-Season Two. Now Dollhouse, which seemed like it wanted to be mostly serious had cheese-tastic lines and a few bad episodes (HOLLOW MEN).

I'm not trying to attack Eliza, Joss or any of you, I'm just stating my opinion.
Emmie mentions being "kicked off the Dollhouse train" at some point in Season 2. I never could get on it, and I dutifully watched every episode that aired (didn't see Epitaph 1). Couple of times, I grabbed hold and rode it for a bit before being thrown off once more. Liked Enver, loved Alan Tudyk, enjoyed Boyd. There were a few intriguing surprises -- Adelle being revealed as Miss Lonely Hearts, the decision to dollify Boyd and turn him into an unwitting suicide bomber. But at no point, not even after viewing the best episodes, did I wish to relive the experience again. Once was plenty enough. There was nothing to pull me onboard and keep me there. (And I think my not having seen Epitaph 1 all but destroyed any chance of my appreciating its sequel. The new characters populating the post-apocalyptic universe of Epitaph 2 were unconvincing and cliched. Mad-Max renegades? Butchers? Did Epitaph 1 explain butchers? What weakly conceived Reaver-repeats these baddies were.)
Yes, The Hollow Men was dissapointing. Yes, it made me seriously question the writing chops of Fazekas and Butters. And yes, it was an important episode that seriously needed to be better in more ways than one.

But I don't think that necessarily should be the crux of a criticism against a show's whole season.

My issues with Dollhouse season 2 are similar to others - it was extremely rushed, to the point where I'm not even sure if I could hang out sometimes. Slow, melodic episodes like Belle Choose and Belonging were the best of the season IMO. Another season or two of those and I would have been a really happy camper. Sure, we got some amazing episodes like The Left Hand, The Attic, Getting Closer and Epitaph Two, but in the end I'm probably not going to remember the arc-y episodes as much as I will the episodes that really pushed the ideas and feminine critique of the show.
... Butchers? Did Epitaph 1 explain butchers? What weakly conceived Reaver-repeats these baddies were.)

Yeah, E1 explained them 1starbuckstown, can't imagine very much in "Epitaph Two" making sense without seeing "Epitaph One" first, you had an uphill struggle there I reckon ;). As to the idea of them itself, it's a weakness in any self-aware action show that even pays lip service to moral complexity IMO - you need a baddie for your heroes to battle but for them to do so and still be defendable as heroes, the baddies need to be less than human in some way. In less PC days (and different genres) that niche was filled by "Indians" or "Commies", nowadays (for the hopefully obvious reason that "Indians" and "Commies" aren't actually, y'know, less than human) you use vampires/demons/zombies (or "zombies" like butchers/reavers). Or you can go the 'A Team' route and never kill anyone ;).

To me the "Mad Max"/cyberpunk elements were deliberate and deliberately slightly cheesy (or at least larger than life) but it's possible they were yet more evidence of the end of series rush. Thought they were fun personally (but then i'm a bit of a post-catastrophe junky). Mileage varies, as always.

Everything else is pretty much the same old same old IMO. Eliza can't act, check. Characters hard to identify with, check. Blah, blah. Bored now.
Yeah, I would say that this review is pretty stereotypical in its set of criticisms aimed toward the show. It makes you wonder what it is that causes all these critics to construct virtually identical lists of complaints despite the fact that they're supposedly independent agents - It's almost like they're all using a common source to inspire their criticisms...

Oh Yeah - they're all watching the same show!
That doesn't mean they all have to say the same things about the show. I'm not averse to criticisms of 'Dollhouse' but i've become averse to repetition of the same criticisms over and over again. Even on here we apparently can't have a thread in any way related to Eliza Dushku without someone saying she's a bad actor.

Still, if no-one else is bored with it then knock yourselves out, not trying to stop anyone having fun if fun is what you're having, just expressing my own feelings on the matter ;).


edited for clarity

[ edited by Saje on 2010-02-11 21:04 ]
Saje: Agreed. In fact, Dushku is NOT a bad actress. She has an extremely limited range -- she can do a few things very well, and many other things passably to poorly. But not every actor has to disappear into each of a wide variety of roles seamlessly, like (say) Johnny Depp. In fact, most actors get known for playing the same types of characters over and over again.

I think the complaints about Dushku being a bad actress stem from her being a not-so-great choice for the central role. Agreed with Emmie, and everyone else, who has expressed the idea that for the concept of the show to really work initially, we needed one of the seamless actors front-and-center. Enver would have been perfect. In fact, so would Dichen. I never found either of them anything less than believable, at anything they did. But the project was formed around Eliza, who has built-in limitations. I didn't find her a believable hostage negotiator or mother, for example. She was good, however, at everything that called for her to be sexy, sassy, and badass -- probably because in many ways, that's who she is.

Ironically, even as I thought the show was rushing things over the final episodes, I began to be more and more convinced by Echo. I think it had something to do with the personality integrations...instead of having to sustain a particular role for the bulk of an episode, Eliza was able to bring flashes of different attributes and skill sets to the surface momentarily, as needed. The rest of the time, she was able to be Echo, with self-awareness and a recognition that she has competing (and sometimes contradictory) elements inside her. I think this freed her up to play Echo as an alterna-world version of herself, which was more of a pleasure to watch.
I think this freed her up to play Echo as an alterna-world version of herself, which was more of a pleasure to watch.

In contrast to the Lachmans, Gkojaks, and Glaus out there, there are some actors - like the Dushkus and Fillions - who are just a lot more fun to watch play versions of themselves and there's nothing wrong with that - why on earth would you want them any other way?

Addendum:

The above point has got me thinking on the subject of charisma and how I think it can be seen as the root cause of the difference between an Eliza and an Enver: Some actors - like Nathan Fillion and Eliza Dushku - just have a natural charisma about them which translates well to the screen. There's little subtlty to it - can you imagine either of them successfully blending into a crowd? - but what does it matter given how much fun they are to watch. Conversely, if you don't happen to like one of these particular actor's unique flavor of charisma you're bound to find their performances grating - especially when viewed over a long period of time like the run of a tv show (hence all the Dushku carping.)

In contrast, actors like Enver, Dichen, and Summer also have a sort of charisma about them, but it seems to be something much more open to their manipulations (all three of these actors are capable of looking perfectly natural not standing out in a crowd.) To put it another way - Eliza is an interesting person. Enver isn't, but can be if he puts his mind to it.
Who makes a better actor? It depends on the type of role. For the blank slate / little bit of everything archetype, I don't see the point of squandering a Dushku when there are Envers wandering around.

Edited to promote the Bull Moose Party agenda.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-02-12 04:52 ]
Eliza is an interesting person. Enver isn't

Wait, how is Enver not interesting as a person? I don't think I've seen enough of Enver outside the show to judge that and I kinda doubt anyone else has in comparison to how much we've seen of Dushku.
Wait, how is Enver not interesting as a person?

Able to be un-interesting in terms of natural charisma.
I think what brinderwalt means is something more along the lines of "not obviously interesting." You walk into a coffee shop, turn your head, and see Eliza Dushku smiling and laughing -- even if she weren't a minor television star, you'd stare. She just has that presence.

Walk into the same coffee shop, turn, and see Enver Gjokaj smiling and laughing -- your eye would probably wander over him. No offense to Enver...it's just that he looks more like "ordinary" people. But y'know, if you were to sit down next to him, I bet he'd be a hell of an interesting person to share a cup of coffee with. It's just that the type of interesting he has is not something you can absorb in a glance.

(Please note: the above is not to suggest that actors like Eliza Dushku are necessarily lacking in the "other" type of interest...merely to say that they have a type which is much more immediately obvious.)

And now I have to take issue with brinderwalt. "Squandering a Dushku"? Hmm...respectfully disagree. The way you phrase it here, it sounds like one type is more valuable than the other -- like, why waste Eliza on the part when we can get someone lesser? I do agree, however, that the role simply called out for someone with a different set of gifts. If that's what you were saying, and I hope it was. :::grin:::
I dunno, given that the entire point of Echo is surely that there's always something that persists, I think an "Eliza type" fits pretty well - she always comes through to some extent (even if it's just that wonderful voice of hers) and that's right for Echo (where it wouldn't necessarily be for Victor/Sierra/etc.).

That said, I genuinely believe she did a good job portraying other characters as other people, I believed the snippets of others and she once performed a transition onscreen (before the gimmicky visual effect came in) that looked very much like a change from one person to another*. But I do agree that to some extent she's got an uphill struggle just because she's distinctive in a lot of ways.

This came up before and someone mentioned Robert De Niro (might've been me which would explain why I think it's a good comparison ;) - every part he plays is basically "a De Niro part" (even when he's mocking that sort of part) and yet he always convinces as different facets of that. What we're talking about is basically (to me) the difference between a straight character actor and a star, someone who you want to see play an aspect of themselves because they themselves are just so appealing (Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, De Niro, Pacino etc.). And every now and again, you can subvert that too and end up with something like "The Swimmer" where you take Burt Lancaster's sort of athletic simplicity and openness, relate it to the suburban American dream and then rip it to pieces.


* the paragon of that is still Chris Reeve in "Superman II" for me though - when he's just about to tell Lois who he is he takes his glasses off and then kind of straightens and puffs and, well, you believe a man can fly ;).
I'll keep defending Eliza's acting ability for as long as others keep knocking it, because I believe she's genuinely excellent. I see the perception of her always playing the "same" type as being related to her having so much charisma and such a strong presence (plus being distractingly gorgeous).
A lot of really fine actors have the same problem. Even some of the greatest actors alive have this problem. I could never get past "oh look, it's Ian McKellen", until he became Gandolf. :)

There are two kinds of really good actors, IMO. One is the kind that has so much presence and charisma that they have to be twice as good as anyone else, for you to forget who they are. If this kind of actor is really beautiful in the bargain, they have to work even harder to disappear into a character. Call it the Brad Pitt syndrome. I dare anyone to watch Meet Joe Black and not have a hard time getting past Pitt's mind boggling beauty, to appreciate his marvelously nuanced and eccentric acting. I think this is Eliza's "problem". She's a fine actor but has a huge presence and she's distractingly gorgeous (and I'm a straight woman).

The other type of fine actor has it easier - they have an "everyman/woman" quality that slips easily in and out of different personas with ease, allowing you to forget the actor behind the role. Edward Norton is a good example, also Cate Blanchett.
I think Enver falls into this category, so it's easy to perceive the true depth of his talent.

I didn't like the article much in general. Dollhouse had twenty six episodes. Watch the first twenty six episodes of Angel, and tell me it didn't have a lot more clunkers and fewer genuinely brilliant eps. Even BtS took well into season Two (a 21 ep season) to become really consistent.

I think Dollhouse is brilliant, and so is the acting, from virtually every member of the cast. Sloppy in a lot of places, but the depth and multi-layered subtext was there, almost from the beginning.
I'll take that over safe, responsible shows about lawyers, any day of the week. (Paraphrasing, sorry Joss). :)
BAFfler
By Jove you've got it!

And now I have to take issue with brinderwalt. "Squandering a Dushku"? Hmm...respectfully disagree. The way you phrase it here, it sounds like one type is more valuable than the other -- like, why waste Eliza on the part when we can get someone lesser? I do agree, however, that the role simply called out for someone with a different set of gifts. If that's what you were saying, and I hope it was. :::grin:::

Said writing was a product of stream of consciousness via a Treo while on a two train commute - Exactly.


There are two kinds of really good actors, IMO. One is the kind that has so much presence and charisma that they have to be twice as good as anyone else, for you to forget who they are. If this kind of actor is really beautiful in the bargain, they have to work even harder to disappear into a character. Call it the Brad Pitt syndrome. I dare anyone to watch Meet Joe Black and not have a hard time getting past Pitt's mind boggling beauty, to appreciate his marvelously nuanced and eccentric acting. I think this is Eliza's "problem". She's a fine actor but has a huge presence and she's distractingly gorgeous (and I'm a straight woman).

To cite a parallel in another industry, you find much the same distinction in the world of high fashion with runway/print vs. editorial modeling: If you want to advertise a product you find someone who looks absolutely stunning at first glance and stick it on them in the hope that people casually glancing at your advertisement will associate your product with that person's appearance (and buy it, of course.) - that is the essence of runway/print modeling and also explains why runway models' careers have such short lifespans (as soon as they start to loose any facet of what makes them so eye catching they're no longer useful in the grand scheme of things.)
On the other hand if you're shooting an editorial wherein the goal is to draw the consumer in with more than just a casual glance, you don't want someone with such a striking appearance that they immediately outshine the product; you get someone who looks attractive in a relatively plain way and fashion an image where the attractive qualities of the model and the product complement each other.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-02-12 17:34 ]

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