Category Archives: Dollhouse

Dollhouse’s sense of an ending

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I haven’t blogged about Dollhouse since way back in February. There I wondered if the series would ever get to its meaty center of philosophical questions about identity, the mind, body and experience. It’s safe to say that season two has delivered on all counts. “Meet Jane Doe” does a decent job of making the engagement of the week episodes of season one relevant to the development of Echo’s composite personality. Still much of what happened in the early episodes wasn’t necessary to demonstrate the full implications of Echo’s new abilities. Dushku has come into her own through the Echo character and Enver Gjokaj continues to amaze us all with his power to become anyone and everyone.

But I started this post not so much to ruminate on the awesomeness of the series (which has, by-the-by, become one I heartily recommend – even if it is with the strong caveate that you must make it through the handfull of painfull first few episodes before getting to the good stuff), but instead I’m wondering how much the pacing this season, the tightness of the storyline, and its singular focus stem from the fact that the series was canceled. Part of me seriously doubts that season 2 would be as good without the constraint of having to end the story. In fact the story has already ended on the DVD episode “Epitaph One” which was partially created as a way to finish off the series if it had not been granted a second season and as a means to fulfill contractual obligation for the DVD’s release (at least so sayeth the wiki entry).

In The Sense of an Ending Frank Kermode wrote that “We project ourselves–a small, humble elect, perhaps–past the End, so as to see the structure whole, a thing we cannot do from our spot of time in the middle.” Prime time serialized television benefits from a clear sense of an ending. In Dollhouse‘s “Epitaph One” we see the aftermath of a technological apocalypse and desire to know how the hell they got there.* Having been forced to project the series past its end allowed a structure and a more clearly defined purpose to emerge. A similar thing happened with Lost; it appeared to have a strong, if convoluted, sense of where it was going, but by season three was floundering around looking for itself. Once the decision to end it after 3 more shorter seasons it reasserted its narrative drive and became a much better series again because of it. It isn’t telescoped in the way Dollhouse was; we don’t actually know yet where Lost is going (this promo might give us some idea). Battlestar Galactica OTOH appeared to suffer from its overdetermined (find earth, have plan, shape of things to come, etc.) sense of an ending that its finale was less than satisfying. Knowing the end helps give structure to where we are now – to find meaning in the middle.My desire to consistently situate myself within whatever narrative world I’m currently living in encourages my preference for spoilers.** The surprise/reveal endings are much less interesting than how they got there and what they mean for the future. Knowing the end helps give structure to where we are now – to find more meaning in the middle. The release of “Epitaph One” as a kind of official spoiler has made this season (and through it the previous season) much more rich and interesting.

The changing nature of television, particularly network television is a perennial discussion, so much that it can get a little boring. But within this discussion, what strikes me as really odd is the sheer amount of resistance the industry has towards playing with the standard “a TV series must go on forever to be profitable and successful” line of thinking. Imagine if Dollhouse was originally only meant to be 10-13 episodes long. There’s no guarantee that it would be great – it could have been terrible- but the anxiety over cancellation, over whether or not the story would be fully told, or if we’d all be left hanging, would not have clouded our experience of it. Now, it is quite possibly the case that successful short-run series might be reliant on  writer-producer show runners with name and style recognition and fan bases, but the mere thought of mixing this type of structure into the prime time line up is unheard of.

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*The Whedonverse is littered with apocalypses; Buffy is constantly thwarting them, Angel and co. go out with a bang fighting against one, and the Firefly kids are finding their place after one.

** Case in point, all the twittering about the surprise, game-changing ending of last night’s Dexter finale lead me to search out what has happened. Once I found out I thought, wow, I cannot wait to see how it got there. I didn’t feel cheated at all, but I’m aware that this is my preference and not shared with everyone.

4 days…

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Four days in (yesterday) and I’m already behind on NaBloPoMo.  This doesn’t make for the most interesting in blog posts, I know. The point is to get into the habit though, yes? And last night as I crawled into bed I realized I hadn’t blogged yet. It wasn’t enough to make me get out of bed and blog with the 20 minutes I had left in the actual day, but it was reassuring that I had remembered it needed to get done.

Now that that is out of the way…

I’ve got this season’s Dexter to catch up on, but I’m not going to start on that until I finish drafting chapter 3. I can’t handle any more possible examples than I already have.

I’m finally caught up on Dollhouse and episode 2.04 “Belonging” definitely did not disappoint. I have lots to say about it, but before I delve into it I think I’m going to have to do some re-watching. I’m really enjoying how the plots are starting to be layered together particularly how “Epitaph One” has been gestured towards in these first 4 episodes. As a big fan of spoilers in part because I’m always more interesting in how the story gets where its going, “Epitaph One” works as an official spoiler. No need to worry about where specifically it’s going, please focus on how we get there. Yay for more Mellie/November/Madeline when the series returns in December.

more about “Hulu – Dollhouse: Trailer: the Public…“, posted with vodpod

Dollhouse post over at In Media Res

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I curated a post on Dollhouse this week over at the In Media Res site at Media Commons. I know I’ve severly neglected this blog but I’m hoping to change that soonish. I have some ideas about doing something with clips and video that was inspired by working up my In Media Res post.

So head over here and check it out. Be sure to stay and browse around; there’s a lot of interesting stuff over there.

Dollhouse – “The Ghost”

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I should be working on something that isn’t this blog, but since that seems to end with me staring blankly at the screen I’m going to write about the pilot of Mr. Whedon’s new series Dollhouse. He’s been running about the PR circuit filling us all in on what the series is supposed to be about. Apparently it‘s all very deep, dark, and very philosophical.

I’ve been really hesitant about the series. First, the premise really doesn’t grab me all that much. I mean, it’s interesting as a thought experiment for discussing the mind/body split, but as a TV show it strikes me a little on the “personality of the week” side of the spectrum and not a deeper rumination on the nature of the mind, the body, and the construction of our identities. Don’t get me wrong, I actually prefer my TV and culture to be on the more cerebral side, this concept just doesn’t seem to be tickling my fancy. Second, while I thoroughly enjoyed Eliza Dushku as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m not convinced she has the acting chops to pull off an entirely new and believable characters each week. I look forward to hopefully being pleasantly surprised. Last, is the promotional materials. I just… yeah …they are.. gah.. so do not seem to go with the deep dark thought-provoking thing. You can see a gallery of images here. Joss may want it to be all about “look! exploitation is wrong and aren’t you uncomfortable with what is essentially identity rape” but “hey! Eliza is smokin’ hot in that short white dress – tune in next week when she wears even less!” If they want the audience to be creeped out by all of the serious exploitation and mind/idenity rape – these images are not the way to go. I have high hopes though that these initial impressions will fade away and I will be able to happily enjoy the series and ask everyone, “have you seen Dollhouse yet? If you haven’t you need to because it’s awesome” like I do with Battlestar and Buffy.

Specific issues and observations about the episode.

Too much exposition. I know I just spent a blog post commenting on the info dump that was “No Exit” but in Dollhouse it felt too forced. It was all so heavy handed. Here let me explain everything to you the stupid audience. You know there’s still chalk left on the board after you erase it. I had no idea! See, now we’re going to show you a half naked and sweaty Helo, I mean FBI agent guy, getting a verbal and physical beat down while we use this moment to cleverly explain why the Dollhouse is so bad. OIC what you did there.

Why on earth would you hire a fake hostage negotiator and not a real one is beyond me. I did like how the echo (see even her name is “full of meaning”) of the personality’s past invaded Echo’s amalgamated personality construct. There are ghosts and echoes and they’re all insubstantial but nevertheless material. This is where I hope the show goes. Drawing people into the story through which observations then emerge rather than by hitting me on the head and saying “dude, tabula rasa is so not true!”

I’m intrigued by what happened to Amy Acker’s character. She seemed unnaturally calm about everything. I was also sufficiently disturbed by the initial mind wipe that the the new active was going through. Hated the opening motorcycle chase. And who’s the guy with the knife and the videos of pre-Echo. She seemed so happy then. I look forward to next week’s episode.