'Dollhouse' premiere: Lies within lies and hot geek-chic sex

dollhouse-wedding_lThat sound you hear outside is a geek nation’s head exploding. Why? Because Apollo and Faith just totally had the sex! Well, okay, not really. But the Dollhouse season premiere did have Battlestar Galactica alum Jamie Bamber playing a super-smooth arms merchant who gets married to Eliza Dushku’s Echo, so there was some inter-nerdverse smooching going on. As for the premiere itself, I’m kinda of two minds about it.

There were moments full of Joss Whedon awesomeness — those beats of quirky hilarity, emotional devastation, happy fightness that we’ve come to know and love over the years. But it also struck me that ”Vows” probably wasn’t the right episode to start a season with. It relied so much on a previous knowledge of Dollhouse continuity — that Echo was kidnapped by Alpha (Alan Tudyk) and imprinted with dozens of personalities at once; that Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker) used to be an Active until she was scarred beyond repair, and her current personality was created by tech-brat Topher (Fran Kranz); that Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) was booted from the FBI and now shares an uneasy alliance with the Dollhouse proprietor, Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) — that a new viewer might find themselves adrift. It’s almost as if Whedon didn’t care about fresh audiences, that he was content to “play to the base.”

But back to that wedding. Echo is on a very literal Engagement: to be the wife of Martin Klar (Bamber), an arms dealer that the FBI has been after for years but couldn’t put away. The twist is, she hasn’t been hired by Klar, nor was she hired to be a blushing bride: Ballard arranged the long-term “encounter” and got Echo implanted to be an undercover operative. Lies within lies, personalities within personalities. It feels like Eliza’s settling into the role — or I’m settling into Eliza in the role — or the show is figuring out how best to utilize her. Her blankness as an off-duty Active was never wholly convincing, and it didn’t draw the appropriate contrast with her personas during Engagements. But now that she’s playing an Active who’s piecing herself together, evolving, it seems like a more organic performance.

An aside: Was it me, or was it weird to hear Bamber use his natural British accent, after years of his Apollo Americanness, and then to hear Alexis Denisof — whom I’d only ever seen as the veddy British Wesley Wyndam-Price on Angel — speak with an American one? (I wonder if Denisof’s Sen. Daniel Perrin will be a good guy or a bad one — or if that sort of thing even matters with a show like this.)

Another aside: Jamie Bamber’s hair might actually be too good for TV. It’s bounciness and sheen were distracting.

All in all, “Vows” was a good episode, one with some very nice touches — Acker and Kranz’s tete a tete, creation versus creator, was particularly well done — and definitely better than the whole middle chunk of the first season. But it didn’t open the second season with the kind of redefining bang I was hoping it would.

What’d you think? Is Dollhouse a keeper, or is it in danger of losing its DVR season-pass status?

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  • mario

    agreed. at first i was a little confused (i hadnt rewatched season 1, big mistake) the summer took its toll of the flow of season 1 to the premiere. it was a little off, but dr. saunders/whiskey was amazing and its too bad she’s leaving for happy town. go Amy Acker!!

  • pai

    I was going to post on the “shows you are going to break up with” thread that I was giving up Dollhouse. Then I decided to give the premiere a chance, because the last few eps of season one were very strong. But I was bored out of my mind. Next week’s trailer looks interesting, so I’ll give it one more shot. But we’re on the outs.

    • allie

      I hear you – we have tried so hard to like this show – I liked Eliza in Buffy and I’m a Whedon fan but this show is soooo bad. I was really hoping this would be better with two of my favorite BG boys but we changed the channel after 20 minutes. That was our last try.

  • rick

    Season 2 of ‘dollhouse’ is a keeper! The premiere definitely felt alot more like a whedon show than did most of season 1. And as a self professed geek; bamber+penikett+dushku+denisof AND acker=one very happy whedon/moore fan! The scenes with acker were exceptional. she should get her own show, or BETTER YET, she should ditch ‘happy town’ and stay on this show full time!!!

    • KEVIN

      Whedon should have made her that offer last year!

  • Ashley

    I don’t think that the episode as a whole kept me really “ooh damn did that just happen?!”, but certain scenes definitely left me at the edge of my seat. It for sure kept me interested enough though. I have never really had a problem with Eliza’s acting, but I do have to say that it felt a little more natural – either because the series is no longer focused on the “engagement of the week” or because the show is starting to find its niche. Either way, I have high hopes that this season will be a lot better than the first half of season one. This really is to be expected from Joss shows, as they usually get better once they find their proper flow. I think that overall though, the episode was executed well enough, and for those that did see Epitaph One, there were some great moments and inclusions that really tied this episode to what could very well be the inevitable fate of the Dollverse.

    Hearing Alexis’ non-British accent was just plain freaky. I just cannot imagine him not being British. My fault for watching BTVS and Angel too often. Sigh.

    • Dawn

      Haha, I thought the same thing about Alexis…his normal accent sounds fake to me.

      • Kristin

        No joke. To me, he sounded like a Brit trying to do an American accent. Totally weird.

  • Emm

    Episode was great (compared to the past season). I was expecting a whole lot more after watching epitaph one and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m glad fox is giving Joss more free reign. Its goin to be a great season! *patiently waits for summer glau to show up*

  • Stacy

    My favorite part about the epsiode was Wiskey/Dr. Saunders and now she’s leaving in a few epsiodes? I just hope that if Happy Town bombs she can come back…
    I liked the epsiode in general, I was just a little bored, and a little more confused than anything else but it seems super promising.
    P.S. Anyone know offhand if Epitaph One is online someplace?

    • John

      Not for free, but it’s up on Amazon/iTunes.

  • jeannie

    I liked, but didn’t love, Dollhouse’s season premiere. But with all things Joss Whedon, a little patience is worth it.

  • Sam

    You know I really was interested in the episode. i mean it was a tad confusing but it was really good. Some of the moments that we interesting was Seirra comes in with no HANDLER and then she asks for her treatment and then she is left alone in the room and she is just there!!!! What is going on there!!! and Echo with her memories coming back that is going to be a big jump. I just dont want it to be a week to week problem. This will be a great series we just need to put a little into it and we will be pleased.

  • Horatio

    The biggest problem with the show is Dushku. She is the weakest link, and the show will continue to suffer with her involvement. It is otherwise a solid show, and one Joss should put on par with Angel (but nowhere near Buffy or Firefly).

    • Latrece

      If people don’t like Eliza or think she is the weakest link then watch something else. The show was created for her.It’s her show and without her there wouldn’t even be a show.People should think about that before they are so quick to judge.

    • Wow

      No kidding, Dushku is terrible- her ‘different characters’ are embarrassing (Compare her to Whiskey and Alpha last season- there is no contest)… Would have loved to have seen Amy Acker in her role.

  • JR

    Ouch, this was flat out formulaic and corny (Ballard doing push-ups while listening to Echo consumate her “marriage” cause he’s fixated or something…who knows) I wonder if Penikett misses Grace Park (his best love interest to date)as well as the rest of the cast of BSG.

    • Chappel

      I’d like this show a lot more if Grace Park was Echo. She’s a much better actress than Dushku.

    • Shasta

      Could someone please re-edit that scene so it looks like Helo and Apollo are getting it on? Please? Now THAT would be worth talking about.

      • strickens_girl

        I like your thinking, Shasta. ;)

  • Dowd

    Rhyming “geek” and “chic” is one of the laziest bits of writing in the English language.

  • KEVIN

    Wow! I never realized Dushku was a Love her or hate her kind of actress! This seems to be a common trend among Whedon’s leading ladies. Those who despise them assume Joss does too, pitting them against each other in a false fued that would rival Kanye vs. Taylor! Well I happen to be on the side of the fence that Loves Dushku, I think she does a fantastic job! And since Joss developed the show w/ her, it is safe to say he loves her too! Think about that Whedonites!

    • Chelsea

      I don’t know that you have to be one way or the other. I loved Eliza as Faith and I enjoyed her on Tru Calling but I do think that she’s the weak link in Dollhouse. I don’t think she’s capable of playing so many different characters rolled into one. Its particularly evident when you put her beside Enver and Dichen, who are capable of transforming each week. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an actor or actress who can only play one or two types of roles – several people have made a career out of it and they’re very good in that type of role. The problem for me is that in a show like Dollhouse where Echo needs to transform, Eliza just isn’t capable.

      • brody

        I don’t think she’d seem quite so weak if the rest of the cast weren’t so phenomenal. She’s decent, but everyone else on that show is amazing.

  • Anne

    I thought it was an incredible episode, particularly the Claire/Topher scenes. Brilliant.

    • brody

      The Claire/Topher scenes rocked my socks off. Has Fran Kranz always been so bangably hot, or is this a recent development?

  • Gag

    Apollo, Faith, Echo? Here’s one for the “P” series … Precious.

  • John

    Wesley Wyndam-Price is American and Lee Adama is British on the show all about brain switching … coincidence?

    Seriously though, great ep, and next week’s ep just looks freaky and awesome.

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