Unsatisfying Dolls in the House

Last night I watched the series finale of one of Joss Whedon’s abortive follow-ups to Buffy and Angel.  The series had started off with a great gimmick – technology that gives people different personalities and skills that are imprinted on their minds and then erased for each assignment.  Between jobs and while these people are in a childlike state they live in a sanctuary.

Whedon provided some excellent plot twists.  Rarely do I find myself at all surprised by so-called “reveals”, but the series had me wondering what was next most of the time.  Better yet, the twists were done so well I could never go back to any misdirection and claim an inconsistency in the writing.  I loved it, loved the series, and wish it was still going.

But it didn’t.  The themes were often a little too intellectual for any but the Whedon faithful and unfortunately that particular cult didn’t number enough to warrant a continuation of the series, which in all only numbered 27 episodes.

And so I was left with a rushed conclusion that took place ten years into the future.  As I watched it, I researched the series’ history.  I read that the series was in trouble from the start but that it was actually cancelled only two months before the last episode aired.  That was obviously enough time to produce make a couple episodes that led to an ending, but in no way was it enough to make that ending very satisfying.  Now I know that there were comics written about the missing years between 2010 and 2020 and several viral pieces but I find myself irritated with the t.v. station for shutting down such a culturally important show.  I personally had a few questions for the genius behind it.  The conclusion would have been much more satisfying with them answered.

-How does Alpha go from being the bane of everyone’s existence to one of the central characters in the resistance?  How does Echo manage to care for him at all?  What makes him so sensitive that he gives Echo such a beautiful parting gift?

-I realize you like your female heroes to be strong on their own, but why did Echo have to lose Paul?  She had proven she was strong, the strongest human on the planet.  Would it have been so wrong to allow her to have strength and a little happiness?

-DeWitt made the apocalyptic technology available by handing over a finished product to the bad guys.  Why didn’t she go up and set off the explosion that set things right?  Toffer created it, out of pure curiosity of what the bad guys were doing.  And having done that, his personality development suggests his next step would have been to counteract the technology.  He was not to blame.

-The techie rebellion just before Toffer set off the explosion was kinda under-setup, yah?

-Why the masses of people trying to kill everyone?  The technology effected some people with insanity?  Chaos lovers?  Was it a reaction to Rossum people abducting them?

-The personality of the little girl who played Caroline, where did she get her first personality and what was it?

-Please tell me that in your universe they had cloning vats and there was one with Paul in it.

http://watchingdollhouse.com

http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/dollhouse/

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About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well; https://cianbeirdd.wordpress.com/cian-beirdd/
This entry was posted in Sci Fi/Fantasy, Science Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Unsatisfying Dolls in the House

  1. Loki says:

    I (mildly) disagree, actually. I haven’t rewatched this yet — it’s a bit too standalone episode heavy to lend itself to frequent rewatches, I fear, so I’m waiting a decade or so to forget as much as possible first — but if memory serves, the first episode with the ten year jump (season 1 finale, didn’t air in the US but is on the DVDs) was the best episode the show ever had, and the series finale (which continued the ten year jump’s plotline) was very good as well. The show disappointed me majorly only on two scores. The first and obvious was how the immensely intriguing set-up turned into an undercover action-hero show right away. As it went on it managed to move away from this and become a psychological thriller, but the first half of the first season had a lot of unnecessary clunkers, clearly due to network meddling with the show’s intended themes and premise. But whatever, that was present from the beginning, I quickly adjusted my expectations to match. And the show improved in the back half of season 1, and stayed better throughout season 2. That alone is cause for applause.

    The second issue, though, was the reveal of Boyd as one of the Rossum founders. It had not been sufficiently foreshadowed, and smacked of clear desperation to find a big reveal to end the show on. So while I loved the series finale, I was quite disappointed with the last handful of episodes in the main timeline. Not because they were bad — they were fine episodes — but because they hinged on this one plot point that seemed very forced. Boyd being secretly evil the entire time could have been massively awesome if they’d sprinkled hints in a little sooner, but they didn’t, and it just seemed to ring hollow to me.

    I think some of your issues will be somewhat answered or alleviated in the comics you mentioned. I own them (in a graphic novel collection that handily has all of them), and they were quite a decent read. As for your issues with Alpha, I think we don’t need an explanation. Echo grew a new personality from scratch, the notion with Alpha, I believe, is simply that so did he, but due to his many really ugly personalities, it took him quite some time to find balance and control over them. This, too, is explored further in the comics, though I don’t think they ever explain how he turned good in the first place.

    Your other questions are too specific for me to recall, but most of them don’t ring too familiar, so I don’t think any of this bothered me when I watched it. That might not mean that there were answers — I could of course easily have missed the holes — but I tend to be fairly critical of plot holes, so hopefully it might mean there are ways to explain at least some of it.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I admit that set-up vs. series layout was disappointing, but I loved being surprised. No foreshadowing and yet no storyline contradictions was great. And Boyd, a man with a skewed sense of morals. The only hint of what he was showed up in how he covered up Sierra’s murder. I missed out on a lovely series there. Sure it lost something, probably due to the network, but it was beautiful.

      • Loki says:

        Oh, I agree the show was frequently beautiful. I’ve yet to see a show by Joss Whedon which didn’t at least occasionally dip its toes (and usually legs, torso and head) in greatness by the second season, and “Dollhouse” is certainly no exception. But unlike his other shows, “Dollhouse” didn’t quite deliver what it clearly set out to deliver, which is a shame. It could have been his greatest show, and as it stands, it is his weakest (though not if you count “Agents of SHIELD” as his. And of course, that one is still running, so it could end up getting quite awesome one day, who knows.)

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Ah, now I see where you were going. Agreed, and yes I think the network was so insistent on pigeonholing the show that they missed what it was about.

      • Loki says:

        Glad we’re in sync, then! 😀

        By the way, I stumbled over this on Whedonesque a few days ago, it lists (and links) all of Whedon’s known script work on film and TV. Doesn’t contain his songs and comic work, of course, but still pretty damned extensive. http://writetoreel.com/forum/showthread.php?6877-Joss-Whedon-s-filmography-what-s-been-found-and-what-hasn-t

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