Dollhouse: Episode 2 “The Target”

dollhouse-dushku_lSome spoilers ahead…

Last week, I shared how disturbing I found Joss Whedon’s new series, Dollhouse.  I found it to be a show about victimization.  Just nauseating, really.

The second episode, “The Target,” while certainly an improvement over the first remains awfully creepy.  And not that good kind of creepy like Vincent Price.  No, the bad kind of creepy like the uncle who hugs you too long.  Or Ernest Borgnine.  More after the jump.

Remember that in the last episode, it was established that our hero Echo willingly submitted herself to the Dollhouse to resolve something horrible she had done.  The Dollhouse is a private organization that imprints personalities onto people.  Functioning as an escort service, the Dollhouse can provide you the companion of your dreams.

In “The Target,” Dushku’s Echo is imprinted with a sportswoman’s personality.  She likes her out-of-doors.  White water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, sex in the wild.  She’s the whole package.

The guy who orderd-her-up is a creep who shares in the opening scenes that “all women lie” and that they are inevitably disappointing.  Thus, he checks the menu at McDollhouse and gets a super-sized order of McDushku.  That’s some hot apple pie.

After riding the rapids, climbing the rocks, bow-hunting a deer, and wild-after-deer-killing-sex, Creepy Guy announces that Echo has five minutes to run before he comes after her.   And we enter The Most Dangerous Game territory.

The B-story is important, too.  Another doll in the house, appears to have “gone bad” several months prior.  His name is Alpha (which suggests that all the dolls are named after the phonetic alphabet… e.g. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, etc.  Ooo… you know you want to meet Foxtrot!).  Alpha has retained aspects of personality imprinting after the end-of-mission mind wipes.  And it appears to have brought out his bad side.

In a raid on the Dollhouse, he slaughtered support staff and killed a number of dolls.  He even cut up Dr Saunders, played by Amy Acker.  That just ain’t cool, man.  The point of the massacre is unclear but what cannot be denied is that he killed everyone around Echo, but made a point of not harming her.

Alpha looks to be the first season’s Big Bad.

Speaking of which, the show has all the trademark Whedon tropes.  The Big Bad for instance.  And kickin’ clubhouse.  Buffy had the library.  Angel had his office, the hotel, and finally the law offices of Wolfram & Hart.  Firefly had Serenity.  Dollhouse has the Dollhouse in which we have the big uni-sex gang shower, the scientist’s lab, and the cool bed-boxes in the floor.

There were some things I liked about this episode.  First, Echo solves her own problems.  In the pilot, she’s rescued at the end.  I found that unsatisfying, but wholly in keeping with the theme that this is a show about victims.  Dushku beats ass like nobody else.  It was nice to see her lay the smack down again.

I rather enjoyed the moments with FBI Agent Ballard, played soulfully by Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica’s Helo).  I am thoroughly digging his story arc.

Some of the production values sucked.  In fact, one scene with a character driving across town was shot so poorly it looked more appropriate to daytime television.  And the digital effects were jarringly applied to the fight scenes.

The show is still about rape, victims, and control.  Judging from this episode, though, I’d say that won’t always be the case.

I can’t recommend this show to anyone, but I am still watching.  For now.

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