Dollhouse: Season One, a Retrospective Review


As part of the group of people who regularly enjoy entertainment in the form of books, movies, and television often in the realms of “genre,” it doesn’t take long to become… well… blasé. If you are my age (I remember Land of the Lost, that’s all you need to know), you’ve seen too many dragons, spaceships, damsels, and heroes.

It gets hard to find something new and interesting, you know? Enter Dollhouse, created by Joss Whedon.

Hi, my name is Ingrid, and I’ll be invading this part of the space-time continuum on a regular basis, though not always about TV. I do have a soft spot for television however, as it was a decent part of my formative years and, though I didn’t realize it at the time (no one ever does), it would pave the way for me lifelong search for the answer to “what’s out there”, and “why are things like that”?

Those are dangerous questions. The status quo does not appreciate them at all. Nope.

That’s what science fiction, speculative fiction, time travel, and other tasty flavors of fiction do: take an idea, wonder about it, dissect it, toss it across the room, and see if it sticks to the wall like over-cooked spaghetti. But you already know all that if you’re here, so back to the topic at hand: Dollhouse. I’ll be dividing my review into at least two parts, because there is much more to this show than I first thought.

Created by Joss Whedon, who also created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel,  and Firefly/ Serenity, co-wrote Toy Story, and, last but not least, wrote and directed The Avengers, a movie I haven’t seen yet but probably should.

After having finished all nine seasons of the X-Files (yes, all nine!) I was looking for something new to watch on DVD. Someone I know well on Facebook suggested Dollhouse. Okay, I’ll try it… Stolidly avoiding spoilers, because I knew nothing at all about the show except the name Joss Whedon and that someone thought it was similar to Orphan Black (♥), I curled up to watch the first episode.

First impression of season one:

“Did I fall asleep?” Nope, but I found it very difficult to like the first three episodes. The characters were confusing, I didn’t like the main character of Echo (Eliza Dushku) much at all, found the main “geeky science guy” Topher (Fran Kranz) to be annoying, and the three episodes felt very monster-of-the-week variety, which I’m personally not fond of. Disappointed, I carried on because I had purchased the two seasons already.

I’m SO glad to have continued! It is extremely worth it. One of my favorite things about this show so far is that it doesn’t treat the viewers as stupid. Like Fringe, some things are shown, not told. There are, however, scenes that I find just a bit silly, such as bad guys shooting point-blank at people and nobody getting hurt, but well…

My initial dislike of several characters changed through the episodes as the series and actors all settled in. Even Echo began to be more interesting and, by the end of episode 12, I actually liked Topher.


After finishing the first season, I’m not surprised the show was canceled. Hidden under layers of over-used lip gloss are issues of prostitution, child rape, among other things.

The underlying theme of Dollhouse is: What makes us individual? If our personalities were erased, would “we” still be in our bodies? Are we more than programmed brain wires, or is there something else? Not new questions, by any means, but since no one can answer them yet, let’s keep on exploring them, shall we?

The Dollhouse hires individuals who want to forget things they’ve done, or events that have happened to them. At least, that’s what we know so far. The first few episodes explore what a Doll does – each one is hired out, either for sex (though it is never really called that until much later), for espionage (a la Mission Impossible), or to rich people for their amusement. They are imprinted with a personality that Topher creates for them – and this does make watching the actors do their thing quite interesting. Several actors play their characters being many other characters. Yes, it does bring Orphan Black to mind, but I must say, Tatiana Maslany has spoiled me rotten… No one else does it quite like she does. Take that as you will.


At the beginning of the season we mainly follow Echo, and it is “personality of the week”. But it doesn’t take long before we get a look at other Dolls and the show quickly leaves the “episodic” state behind, and it becomes very much serialized, which I personally like very much. The characters of Victor, Sierra, November, and later Alpha, are each explored somewhat as we go through the season. Paul is the one character I have a difficult time liking, he doesn’t have a lot of likable traits, at least not yet.

It is simply impossible to go over everything in this season — there are some truly touching moments and honest surprises — but as I go through season two (and fully expect to be disappointed, because that’s what second seasons are usually for, are they not?), it would be interesting to ponder some of the issues the show brings up.

November and Sierra are two of my favorite characters, and are (so far) the most tragic. Sierra has been used and raped while being a Doll, and November is just badly treated by Paul, even if she’s a Doll while he is distant and cold with her. My opinion, of course. Topher, annoying and arrogant at first, slowly becomes more likable and sympathetic.

As I move on to watching Season 2, with a teensy bit of apprehension, I look forward to how the characters develop, almost more than what happens in the plot. Until then, I will save my comments on the last episode, “Epitaph 1,” which was quite Fringe-like in feel for a future post, as it’s a “future” story. Has everyone been turned into Ken and Barbie? What happened to Alpha (worst get-away ever, by the way)? Will Topher ever get his juice box back?

Stay tuned, because so will I.

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