Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Examining The Body: Arturo v. Dollhouse 1.12!


I can only imagine "Omega" was difficult to write, because it certainly became difficult to watch at times. And not for the right reasons.

As much as "Briar Rose" seemed to propel the series further into the deeper, darker themes Dollhouse delivered on at its' best, the season (series?) finale seemed to mostly backtrack.

The worst offender, unfortunately, was Alpha. While the idea of 48 different personalities getting dumped into -- and apparently mixed with -- that of a "born" killer, it was off-putting to see that his spokes-personality seemed, at times, to be a one-off Buffy villain. And that's not exactly a bad thing; that type of character, striking the cartoonish "HUZZAH!" pose as Wendy is being turned "into" Caroline, is just out of place in this world.

The scenes between Wendy/Caroline and the multi-booted Echo herself played out well, even if Echo's "ascension" into the more fully-realized version of her heroic "authentic" self was, unfortunately, telegraphed the moment Alpha dubbed her Omega. For a genius, he should've known that naming her something like Olivia might have had better implications for his plan to work. And the "climactic" chase and escape scene in the power plant just fell flat and felt rushed; the wedge just falls into Ballard's hands and Alpha walks off-stage without even a "Until next time!"? Ugh.

As has tended to be the case, though, the "B" plot in this episode outshone the main event. This time, the reveal behind Whiskey/Dr. Saunders wasn't just handled efficiently -- seriously, less than 5 lines before confirmation -- but the character's journey from No. 1 Doll (and Alpha's first target) to her bitter reprisal of a defenseless Victor to her apparent self-acceptance was packed with emotional shrapnel. And there's still the question: why would Topher program her to hate him?

The rest of the ensemble was handled inconsistently, perhaps due to time constraints. Toph and DeWitt were on point, but the budding bromance between Boyd and HeloBallard was undercut by Ballard apparently taking the lead thanks to Super-Detective-Fu Skills. There didn't seem to be any questions or conclusions coming from him that Boyd, a former cop himself, wouldn't have arrived to, based on his actions earlier in the series. And Ballard's deal to offer himself as a 'House "contractor," though based on a nice gesture, has one major hole: what leverage could he possibly have on DeWitt to make her accept his terms? Dude outright told Agent Badger the truth and got blown off. Unless Badger is revealed as another "sleeper" Doll, there was nothing stopping Paul from taking the scoop to somebody more sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Sierra and November ... did nothing. They got prepped for Super Hot Girl Bounty Hunter Action! - and then we never saw them again. Well, at least we didn't see them again; thanks to Ballard, November is allowed to return to her civilian self, Madeline. Still, as underwhelming as the pursuit of Alpha turned out, you'd think that having a couple more shooters on the ground couldn't have made things any worse.

Even if the series weren't seemingly on the chopping block, grabbing a season-low share of viewers for its' finale can't help Dollhouse's chances at getting a second season. You can thank Star Trek for those ratings, methinks. So unless the super-duper DVD set (which will reportedly contain both the unaired pilot and the much-discussed "Epitaph One" epilogue) sells like crazy at SDCC this year, this might have been Joss' last stand on traditional television: certainly flawed, occasionally brilliant, but always reaching for some greater meaning. Joss' own Doll -- built for us.

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