Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dollhouse Wants to Stay Awake

It's only 2 episodes into the season, and already blogs are announcing Dollhouse's potential cancellation. As depressing as that prospect is, it does address something we all knew going into season 2: Dollhouse is lucky to have a second season, and we should enjoy it while it's on. Since Joss Whedon knows that as well as anyone, it makes it all the more curious why this season's first 2 episodes feel so much more like early season 1 than late season 1. To paraphrase Tony Soprano, every episode is a gift, but does it have to be a pair of socks?

That's being a bit overdramatic, since Dollhouse continues to be enjoyable week to week. I'm more referring to the decision to go back to the case-of-the-week format, and more specifically the lackluster nature of the first 2 cases. In the season premiere, Echo married BSG's Apollo, an arms dealer, to take him down. As fun as it is to see Apollo again, I spent the whole episode wondering how long this engagement lasted to get him to marry her, and why it was worth all the effort.

Still, if the procedural element wasn't up to Whedon standards, much of the rest of the episode was. Whiskey/Saunders, one of the show's best characters, had a great storyline as she dealt with the season 1 finale revelation that she's actually an Active. It makes you realize what season 2 will be lacking when Amy Acker has to go off and make Happy Town, which sight-unseen I still expect to last shorter than Dollhouse. So if the premiere wasn't finale-quality, it had enough good stuff to set up the season right.

But this past week's episode was all about the case of the week, and what a weak case it was. Echo's made into a mom, and goes baby crazy? Even by case-of-the-week standards, that's not very fun. No ass-kicking Echo, no out-smarting Echo, just sad Echo. Worst of all, Boyd, Saunders, and Victor were all completely MIA. If Ballard as Echo's handler means less Boyd, then I wish he was still at the FBI.

With hints about Echo's growing consciousness and Wesley/Sandy Rivers/Mr. Alyson Hannigan's quest to take down the Dollhouse, both episodes built a solid foundation for the season. Which would work out great if we knew there was going to be a rest of the season. With its future in jeopardy, Dollhouse needs to bring back the quality of the end of last season if it wants to stay on the air. The promo for next week showed a much more action-packed and interesting episode, so I'm encouraged. But as someone rooting strongly for the show to succeed, I'm still a bit disappointed.

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