Nothing is what it appears to be

Dollhouse: “Ghost” (Joss Whedon)

This was better than an average episode of Angel but since I think Angel is the biggest let down ever then maybe I’m not sounding too positive. However, I did like most of it and I hope what I didn’t like won’t be a major problem for future episodes. I mean, I didn’t like Adelle’s hair and make-up and I didn’t like the reams of exposition but I’m going to get used to Adelle’s hair and the exposition is no longer necessary.

Joss Whedon completely swiped the idea of a kidnapped and sexually abused child growing up to be an expert in the field from his clearly highly generous pal Tim Minear who dealt with a whole series on the subject called The Inside. I was surprised to see in the first scene how Echo/Caroline became a doll and I think, studio interference or not, that was an error. Too much, too soon.

I think all the characters were interesting and intriguing with the exception of Paul Ballard and Laurence Dominic. I haven’t much to say about Laurence except the role seemed a standard clichéd henchman type. I have reams to say about Paul Ballard. I want to like Tahmoh Penikett because he seems like such a nice bloke but his performance as Helo and now Paul show that he is rather limited as an actor. It doesn’t help that two of the scenes he was in were by far the worst in the episode. They were terrible. Really terrible. The kickboxing intercut with Paul talking to his superiors was as bad as Buffy and Riley having sex intercut with Buffy and Riley fighting the Polgara demon. Oh, the subtlety. Look at Paul! He’s tough, he’s manly, he can even keep those shorts up. Look, he’s down and out! Oh no, look at that comeback! He’s so hard! Apparently a bare-chested Tahmoh is supposed to appeal to the laydees in the same way as a micro-skirted Eliza is supposed to appeal to the chaps but I just think it’s cheesy, tacky and childish.

Paul’s second terrible scene had horrible dialogue and the lamest last line “wash your hands…and your shoes”. Please do better by Tahmoh, Joss, because he may end up like Apollo on BSG in that I glaze over whenever he is on screen.

Despite my reservations about Eliza’s range I thought she was fine, not great, but good enough. Actually, thinking of The Inside I am reminded of Rachel Nichols who was fine, not great, but good enough.

I am bothered by my own lack of discomfort about the concept of mind-wiping and using these people as objects for other people’s desires and needs. I’m not sure if this episode managed to get across the skeeviness of it all. There is the scene with Sierra being erased for the first time but I was distracted by the ease in which Echo got up the stairs and into that area of the Dollhouse and by Dr Saunders lurking in the shadows (to what end?) so its impact was actually lost on me. However, my reaction to the first job we saw Echo on was to ask but what about venereal disease?

I can think of things that bother me at the moment but may prove to be suppositious. I will say that one thing that saddened me was the dropping of the character of the active called November to be played by Miracle Laurie, in favour of a new character who will be “playing against (and pining for) Tahmoh’s character, Paul Ballard“. That doesn’t sound boring, does it?

My favourite bit was the transition from successful hostage negotiator to brainwashed doll:

dollhouse-ghost-activedollhouse-ghost-doll

PS: to every person who says that pilots generally suck (and just why would that ever be true? pilots are supposed to hook you in), I say Dead Like Me.

5 thoughts on “Nothing is what it appears to be

  1. I was bummed that the first scene was included too. The scene by no means explained everything, but it was too much too soon.

    I’m also concerned about the Ballard storyline, but we’ll see.

    And who says that all pilots suck? I tend to think they are ultimately an average episode of the series, unless the series sucks in which case the pilot probably sucks too. I’m not a huge fan of the Dead Like Me pilot. I think the reap of the little girl on the train was too maudlin. I do really like the Wonderfalls pilot though. And Veronica Mars.

    • That pilots are generally not that great is a common theme across the Web often accompanied by some excuse about exposition.

      At the end of Dead Like Me pilot, I said to Andy that even if the rest of the series is rubbish then at least we have a great TV movie. I wasn’t that taken with the Veronica Mars pilot – I certainly never watched another episode and I don’t have that sinking feeling that I missed out. The Lost pilot was awesome and what a let down the rest of it was. On the other hand, I liked the Gilmore Girls pilot in a way that was reminiscent of my reaction to the BtVS pilot, I just knew I was going to enjoy these programmes and I was rather sold on Ugly Betty from its pilot on too.

  2. I thought it was alright. I’m still not sold on the idea and I’m not sure the premise can sustain itself for all that long (or that she’ll be able to hold together all the different roles). But we’ll see. I could imagine a relatively strong arc of two seasons…but I can’t really imagine how it could last beyond that.

    Then again, it may get canceled after one season so it won’t matter.

    Also, agreed on the terrible, terrible scenes with Penikett. The kickboxing one makes my soul hurt just thinking about it.

  3. Veronica Mars‘ pilot stands out for me because I remember there being a definite moment when I fell in love with Veronica. (When Vice Principal Clemmons asks Veronica to open her locker for a “surprise” inspection and it’s completely empty except for a picture of Clemmons shaped like a heart.) And I still fall in love with her every time I watch that moment. Surprisingly, very few pilots offer those moments.

    I also remembering falling in love with Jaye in the Wonderfalls pilot when she pushes the Texas house frau into her hotel room after she punches her. (What can I say? I like women with chutzpah.) I don’t think I fell in love with Buffy until the beginning of “The Witch” when she’s standing in the library with her pompoms and asks Giles, “You don’t like the color?”
    But anyway, I’ve gone completely off-topic.

    And I think Veronica Mars was a very good show… Well, the first two seasons were. Every bit as good as Buffy at its best. But if it’s not your thing, that’s cool too.

    • On-topic sh-mopic.

      Not all pilots have that moment when you think I’m going to like this a lot but Dead Like Me does as George says “Aww shit” as a toilet seat plummets towards her.

      The pre-credit sequence sold Gilmore Girls to me. I can’t see how the show is going to appeal to you, if you don’t like the first five minutes.

      PS I love that moment in “The Witch”, SMG was so cute.

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