10
Oct
2009
Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 3
Belle Chose
Jordan
In the face of an increasingly likely cancellation, Dollhouse just keeps on trucking. This week's episode opens with the unsettling scene of a prim looking psychopath setting up real women who he's tranquilized as if they were mannequins in his fantasy afternoon. When one of them nobly (or perhaps stupidly) tries to escape, the man beats her dead with a croquet mallet. He then hits the street to stalk out a replacement and is hit by a car. That should be the end of his reign of terror, but unfortunately, Terry, as we come to know him, is connected to a very wealthy, powerful family, whose stock options happen to include the Rossum Corporation (all the psychopaths out there seem to have well connected uncles). Terry's uncle (played by Michael Hogan) has his now comatose body transported to the Dollhouse, in hopes that they can revive him. Before getting to that, however, Adelle decides to find the women he's captured and rescue them.

How better to do that than by imprinting Victor with the mind of a serial killer (nothing could go wrong there, right?) and getting Ballard to interrogate them (Ballard, faced with taking a scantily clad Echo out to sleep with a college professor is all to relieved at the assignment switch, deadpanning, "A serial killer? Thank god!"). Never you mind, young viewers, that Ballard is not really an FBI profiler, and would in fact likely have an entirely different skill set. This is television, where everyone at the FBI is Clarice Starling. I think it is worth pausing at this point in the review to point out, as I am prone to, that Enver Gjokaj is flat out phenomenal as Victor. The man is like a chameleon, slipping into every imprint in a way that almost makes me forget he isn't really a doll. His Victor is timid, child-like, and kind of adorable, but the second he becomes Terry he is a constricted, tightly wound sociopath with a basement full of women. And later in the episode (I'll get to this in a moment) he is as believable playing Kiki as Eliza Dushku has been the whole episode (quite frankly a little more believable).

It was inevitable that serial-killer Victor would escape, but more unexpected is that he is not tagged with GPS, due to a lapse in protocols since Dr. Saunders' departure (I would like to point out here that not only does Boyd now openly refer to her as Claire, I also thoroughly enjoyed his simple "Ah" as a reaction to Topher describing the situation. Stuff like this happens all the time at the Dollhouse, and he takes it with a grain of salt). The only solution, it seems, is to attempt a remote wipe. We know from last season's "Gray Hour" that a cell phone can be used to do a remote wipe (even if only Alpha can pull one off), but Victor isn't carrying a cell phone, so Topher begins work on a wireless wipe (which, for those of you who have seen "Epitaph One," clearly will not end well).

This wipe doesn't go exactly as planned, and in a nicely handled twist, Victor becomes imprinted with Echo's Kiki, and Echo becomes the deranged Terry. After quickly dispatching the professor she was seducing, she heads off to finish the job at her warehouse. There, about to kill one of the women, Echo herself manages to step forward and stop the murder. In spite of her imprint, Echo is still fully there, and able to exert control on the situation. For the first time in the series, Echo is able to truly choose between good and evil and, being that she is a Whedon hero, she decides to sacrifice herself to save the others. She is almost serenely ready to be murdered by the captives to avoid Terry's re-emergence and murder spree (what is in fact more unsettling is just how ready the captives are to kill her. After all, she isn't the man who locked them there, as far as they know). Echo has, for the first time, been allowed to choose for herself, and can now actually be called this series protagonist.

At the end of the day, this episode was basically another stand alone like last week's, with a little master plot thrown in indirectly in the form of the remote wipe improvements. This is not meant as a criticism"”this season's standalones have been very solid hours of television, tight, thrilling, and confident where last season's were often flabby and a bit boring. Yet, with cancellation looming, I can't help but hope for the series to get back to the master plot as quickly as possible.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-Which, based on the preview for the episode in two weeks, is exactly what they plan to do. It looks like we will finally see how Sierra came to the Dollhouse. Last season hinted that she did not volunteer as Dollhouse policy requires, so I wonder how this leap of ethics was tolerated by Adelle.

-Topher still calls erections "man reactions" in a nice callback. Adelle responds, "I choose not to hear that."

-Another excellent Topher and Boyd moment when Topher claims he has serious ethical problems about awakening Terry. "Topher has ethical problems! Topher!" Boyd points out with shock, to which he replies, "Way to land it."

-"Its middle English." "Yeah, like hobbits or whatever."

-"He's got his own private room. We keep him very"¦clean"¦"-Topher trying to soothe Terry's uncle.

-How, with all the budget cuts this show is facing, did they manage to make the tech look so much cooler?

-Echo killed a professor with a knife. Just like Faith did on Buffy. Weird.

- When Victor as Kiki begins to cling to Paul, he totally commits, looking around and asking, "You got a problem?"

-Echo saying "goodness gracious" at the end was deeply unsettling. Have we seen the last of her Terry imprint?
Tags: Dollhouse
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