5
Dec
2009
Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 5 and 6
The Public Eye/ The Left Hand
Jordan
After going far too long without my regular dose of Dollhouse the show returns and not only is it not disappointing, its so morally complex, twisty, and pulse-poundingly exciting that it makes me mourn the show's cancellation anew. Thank god these two episodes were shown back to back though, because they complemented each other in a perfect Dollhouse one-two punch. I watched them as one block, and so will review tham as if they were just one long episode. Needless to say, with the clock winding down on the show, everything got a lot bigger and a lot more insidious tonight.

That devolvement into pure evil began with Senator Perrin, who quickly became a twist that I should have seen coming (I blame my awesome blockers for shielding me from too much cool). In my heart of hearts I always wanted the incredibly capable Alexis Denisof to be a doll, but the red herring of Cindy Perrin actually had me going perhaps because I didn't want to believe things had already gotten as bad as this episode reveals. The Rossum higher-ups, represented again by the terrifyingly malevolent Harding (played brilliantly by Keith Carradine, who has been dearly missed on Dexter of late) have actually implanted qualities into the real life Daniel Perrin to give him ethics and ambitions for political glory. The idea that they would sick one of their own on the Dollhouse seemed patently absurd to me until it was revealed that Perrin would be used to exonerate Rossum of any wrongdoing while putting himself in a better position to run for President. The Rossum Corporation now has a powerful politico under their thumb, but what got him there is what really resonates with me.

Sent to make Perrin back off by her own Dollhouse (which seems to be about two steps behind everyone else tonight), Echo and Perrin end up on the run from any, cutting out their GPS tags and escaping their tails. The idea of the two of them on the lamb from the most powerful and profoundly evil medical researchers around sounded like a good time to me, but after being turned into a killing machine by Bennett Halverson (who I'll get to in a moment), Perrin dispatches the handler he thought was his wife and, unable to live with the memory of murdering her, he goes back into the arms of the Dollhouse, content to play their unknowing puppet rather than accept responsibility for his actions.

After Echo's apprehension, Adelle and Topher head to the DC Dollhouse to get her back, but in actuality to steal Senator Perrin's brain scan so they can discern the plot he's in the middle of. This leads to an excellent moment between DC Head of operations Howard Lipman (the always superb Ray Wise) and Adelle as she shows him just how good she is at bluffing and theoretically gains Echo's freedom. Much more interesting, however, is Topher's interaction with his DC counterpart, Summer Glau's Bennett Halverson, a cold, calculating, deeply fucked up genius who also seems to have a bit of a schoolgirl crush on Topher. I still have no idea what connection Bennett has to Caroline, but Glau played her perfectly and created a new character of deep ambiguity. Bennett may be ambiguous, but Echo is clearly right when she tells Perrin, "I think her bad guys are badder than my bad guys." We are at a whole new level of evil at this point, leaving behind the vague gray area that our main cast operates in for a more cooly calculating sort of immorality. The DC Dollhouse is clearly run on fear, as evidenced by Bennet's secretary (or perhaps Ivy-equivalent) and her terror at the idea of upsetting the higher ups.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Enver Gjokaj, who continues to defy all expectations of awesome as Victor gets imprinted as Topher to run things while Topher is away. Gjokaj could amaze enough with his dead on impersonation of Fran Kranz, but he goes steps further, actually creating a Topher that feels lived in within his few mintues on screen. I could not help but be reminded of "The Replacement" the Buffy episode where Xander faces off with Xander, except at the end of this episode, Victor is wiped, not reassimilated.

I am sure I am missing much in this analysis, simply because there was so much to miss. For one thing Madeline's heartbreaking fate, used to exonerate Rossum by making her look insane, she was then placed in Bennett's nefarious hand only to become a Doll again, or worse, be sent to the attic. But the pieces are being put in place for the scism that divides the L.A. Dollhouse from Rossum at large and puts them in a war for the very fate of humanity. It's a shame we already know they largely lose that fight, but it will probably be a blast to watch their world fall apart as they strive to make good on their many transgressions.

Grade: A

Notes:

-"You said you freed me. When someone is free they get to make mistakes. Am I free?" Dollhouse is excellent at sparsing out thought provoking bon mots throughout each episode.

-"We have urges and we are in the business of urges, so why not indulge?" Summer Glau was more terrifying than I expected.

-"We have the privilege of living inside the human heart, for which we give up everything."

-"Its my mind!" "Not for some time now."

-I loved Topher messing with the sun roof in the limo. He and Adelle continue to have an excellent repartee.

-"I'm concerned that you may have just tried to taze me."

-"Even if I could I'm not sure I want to be the man I was before." What an existential quandary. Too bad he abdicated his chance to freely choose.

-"You were so close to perfect."-Topher, after punching Bennett out.
Tags: Dollhouse
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