Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dollhouse Season 2 Checklist

First off, again, this will be spoilery. Consider this your warning. If you have not yet seen the entire first season of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse starring Eliza Dushku, Miracle Laurie, Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett and oh the list goes on.. stop reading this, go do that, and come back. I'm also speculating about season two here so if you don't like that, go away.

Are they gone? Good. It's just you and me now. Hi! Have a cookie.

Although we're supposed to wait until Monday morning for the formal announcement to come from the Fox Network, we have it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Joss Whedon has confirmed there will be a sophomore season for Dollhouse. The Twitterverse is all a flutter over this news. I must admit I'm a fluttering too.

Still, what does this mean? Now that we're going to see beyond Omega, what are we to expect come this fall? Admittedly, its way too soon for speculation or spoilage, but that's never stopped me before. There are many questions left unanswered and what follows is a humble and meager attempt at listing all the reasons I will be tuning in for the season premiere of Dollhouse on Fox television this fall. Enquiring minds want to know.

  1. First and foremost in my mind, has Miracle Laurie been written out of the series entirely, or will we see Madelaine Costley return? Although Eliza Dushku represents trendy Hollywood beauty, and Dichen Lachman represents a mix of Girl Next Door and Exotic Alien From I'm Not Sure Where, the real beauty on the series for me has been Mellie. Her dazzling blue eyes and creamy mocha latte skin dialate my pupils and cause my heart rate to increase. About halfway through the first season it became evident that Agent Ballard's next door neighbor was really an Active named November. I had already suspected that but that's cuz I'm a spoiler whore. With the season finale we learn that November's birth name is Madelaine Costley and as an agreement between Ballard & DeWitt, Costley was released from her contract and allowed to return to her normal life. That would normally write her out of the series. Or does Whedon have something in store for us that will bring Laurie back into the series as a regular? Because I'll be mildly upset if we never see her again. She's hot. And talented of course and funny and delightful and intelligent but y'know.. hot!
  2. Will we get to see Epitaph One? This is a curious story. I'll try to summarize but it's not easy. Whedon & Dushku were contracted with the FOX studios to make Dollhouse. Fox Studios was contracted with the Fox Network to present them with thirteen episodes of said Dollhouse. The first episode, titled "Echo," was never released in its entirety to the public. After showing it to the execs at the Fox Network, Whedon decided to retool it. Parts of the footage were recycled into later episodes but instead of starting with that one, Whedon decided the first public pilot to be released would be "Ghost." Why? It's not quite clear. There's speculation but Whedon insists this was his decision and not a fight with the network. Whether that's true, or Whedon just doesn't want the fanbase to set Fox Network Offices on fire is anyone's guess. The point is, by the time we get to the end of the season, Whedon thought he still had to make one extra episode because the first pilot was scrapped. Fox Studios agreed with this because for international sales and DVD distribution they needed a full complement of thirteen episodes. However, Fox Network saw things differently: even if they weren't broadcasting the first pilot, they had their full 13, and saw no reason to broadcast a 14th episode, probably cuz as they saw it they'd be required to pay extra for an extra episode. Whedon made this 14th episode anyway, on a shoestring budget and with less time than originally planned. The result is Epitaph One. It exists. There's stills of it. So far I've yet to find a bootlegged copy. Rumor has it the episode will be presented at ComicCon, but since I never go to comic conventions that's not going to do me any good. So come next fall, will the Fox Network broadcast Epitaph One as the season premiere of Dollhouse Season 2, or will it be scrapped? At the very least, it'll probably become available on the DVD set to be released later this year.
  3. Will Alan Tudyk return as Alpha? Why Alan Tudyk doesn't have his own comedy variety song and dance sensation tv show where the world can't get enough of this guy is completely beyond me. Tudyk literally explodes with comedic talent, and as I'm often fond of quoting from Joss Whedon on this: "comedy is the hard one." Tudyk can do no wrong in my eyes. I mean lookit: he convincingly played the part of a man with over forty personalities dancing around in his head simultaneously. He did it with conviction and humor and pathos and charm and savagery and grace and cringeworthyness and a thousand other things. This guy's amazing. There's rumors he's already been tapped to be featured on the new V Series which is currently in development. Unfortunately I don't know if I'll be able to follow him there. I HATED the original V series and don't really want to see them revisit the concept. However, it's Alan Tudyk. If he were one of the Fruit of the Loom guys in an apple suit, I'd probably watch. He's also a fellow Texan, so how can I not support him in whatever he does? Still, if for some reason he's too busy, it is easy for the Dollhouse writers to simply say Alpha moved his consciousness into another body, and hire another actor to portray Alpha. Tudyk doesn't have to come back. I hope he does, but I also hope he gets that awesome comedy variety show where he plays a dozen different roles every week and sets the world on fire. Although that's not popular nowadays, I'd watch. Tudyk's talent in both comedy and drama reminds me of Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman. If anyone on this planet could bring back the variety genre to television, it's Tudyk. Though I'd like to see that, hopefully it won't happen, cuz he cuts a mean awesome Alpha.
  4. In Omega we got only a taste of this, but will Ballard & Topher have more theological discussions? The chemistry between these two characters is potentially explosive. They don't like each other and have little if nothing in common. I loved the bit in the season finale where Topher practically laughed in Ballard's face about Ballard's unquestioning faith in the assumption that there is such a thing as a soul. Topher's job is to treat human beings like they were hard drives. He sees no evidence that there's a soul inside anybody. Yet Ballard takes as a given that there is such a thing. I can see where Joss Whedon, a proud and stalwart atheist, might be going with this conflict, and I for one want to see him pull no punches. I also want to see Topher second guessing himself on his own beliefs in this area. The mine is rich between these two guys and the topic as a whole. However, I am well aware that if Whedon ventures too far in this mine, he may find it a mine field. Some fans won't want to follow him down that road. Many are easily offended when their core beliefs are challenged, but that's precisely what I want Whedon to show with Ballard; because he will be offended too, when Topher tells Ballard point blank how there is no god. And Topher doesn't know how to kickbox. One way or the other, sparks will fly.
  5. What the hell is up with Boyd? We were only given hints of this throughout the first season, but while it's obvious something is going on with Boyd Langton, the storyline Whedon was on for season one completely skirts past dwelling on him. Why is he there? We almost haven't a clue. We have enough of a clue to know he's there for more than a paycheck. He seems to have altruistic and noble motivations, but beyond that the water is murky. He's purposefully being written in this series as a deep dark secret. What we see on the surface is majestic like a glacier, and those things go down into the water pretty far, and they just get bigger and colder and more mysterious the farther down you go. We have been led to believe that prior to his affiliation with The Dollhouse, Boyd was a cop. Like Ballard, he could simply have been following leads on a crime and accidentally fell down the rabbit hole into Adele DeWitt's domain. Like Ballard, he may now simply have no choice but to play along, because the alternative is "The Attic." Boyd and Ballard have a great rapport as is evident in the last half of Omega when they just fall in line together and behave as if they've been partners for years, and only hours before they had come to blows. Admittedly, that altercation cemented a sort of mutual respect. It should also be pointed out that the actor Harry Lennix has a keen and rare ability among screen actors of being able to make anyone around him look good. He's not so much interested in hogging the limelight as he is in manipulating it to reflect on others. Very rare and precious talent that I've only seen in a handful over the years. Dan Ackroyd could do it. Pat Morita could do this on occasion. In the tv series Lost it's really fun for me watching Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson on screen together because they do this to each other in a 'oneupmanship' way you'd only see among two seasoned veterans of stage and screen. They try to outdo making the other one look good which is why they both look awesome together. Compare this to how Hoffman & Williams fail to lend focus to one another in the movie Hook and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Nicholas Brendan and Ron Glass both have this unique quality of making people around them look good. It's one thing to stand on stage and say without saying it "Look at me!" It's quite another to be able to lend focus in a way that most don't notice and say "Look at her! Look at him!" From an ex-wannabe actor's standpoint, it's a joy to watch Lennix at work, is what I'm saying. Hopefully in season two, time will be set aside to shine light on Boyd more directly, cuz there's a lot going on there. Whedon's barely scratched that surface, and I'm left itching for more in that department.
  6. I'm not sure if I get it. How does the Dollhouse work, exactly? What is the hierarchy? Sometimes it appears that DeWitt is the goto person for making the Dollhouse work, but it's also plainly clear she is but a small cog in a bigger wheel. Every now and then she gets a mysterious call from someone for whom she must be held accountable. And yet a lot of crap has happened in The Dollhouse and she didn't get called in to a red carpet over it. There should be scenes where DeWitt goes up to some head person in a lofty office with a big desk who tells her how stupid she is that she let Lawrence do what he did, and how close she has come to letting the whole world know The Dollhouse exists and oh by the way we know about what you were doing with Victor and we have pictures and if you ever do anything we don't tell you to do we'll cut out all your internal organs and sell them on the black market. That never happens, which leads one to wonder if DeWitt really has anyone above her or if she just pretends there's people she reports to for some reason. Or maybe the people she reports to are expecting all this crazy shit to happen and don't care, because the Dollhouse is so big it doesn't care if the government or the media or the man on the street finds out it exists. I wanna see the Dollhouses in other parts of the world. Do they all operate the way the one in California does, or are some of them more clandestine and underhanded? Are some of them more altruistic and above-board? Is DeWitt's operation about average, or is her approach causing her superiors to get a little uncomfortable and queasy? I'd like to see the fire that DeWitt's feet are obviously standing in. Perhaps then a lot of what's going on would make a little more sense.
  7. I may have mentioned this before, but what's the big deal about face scarring? Okay so Alpha's a little slicey-happy. They're in California. You can't throw a rock in California without hitting a plastic surgeon. Why can't Whiskey and Victor just get fixed? Do an episode where DeWitt makes a deal with a plastic surgeon, gives him the time of his life, and in return he promises to fix our scarred Actives pro bono. Problem solved. This is so not outside the realm of possibility, that frankly it's a little hard to believe it hasn't already happened.
  8. Who is Topher's friend? In the episode "Haunted" we learn that once a year during his birthday, Topher quietly injects a wedge into one of the Actives and has a platonic social escapade with it. Who the person is, is never made clear. Obviously said personality has many similar interests to Topher himself. They have an immediate rapport, and the personality doesn't seem to have to be told of his/her situation. In fact it referred to the other Actives as "sleepies" and tried to talk Topher into pulling playful pranks with them. I have found myself since that episode trying to figure out who this person might be. Perhaps a friend Topher lost long ago, or a sibling? Perhaps a manufactured identity that Topher invented just for purposes of not feeling so isolated and lonely. Recently I reviewed information about an ARG called "Dollplay" that ran back in February. Although not canonical, it does apocryphally indicate that Topher Brink was instrumental in the design of the technology used to make Dollhouse possible. He assisted the doctor who invented the hardware, and his own mind was used often to create wedges for purposes of experimentation. As I wrote this very paragraph, I feel I may have answered my own question on this one: Topher's friend in "Haunted" is an old version of himself. Hopefully in season two I'll get confirmation on that score.
  9. Is DeWitt just gonna get away with this? Adele Dewitt had a handler murdered by November for raping an Active named Sierra when she was in her docile state. The following episode we learned that DeWitt had, for some time, been posing secretly as "Miss Lonelyhearts" and sequestered herself with Victor, having her sexual way with him many times. This caused Victor to become 'awakened' shall we say in his docile state, and he started showing signs of sexual interest in Sierra, who had around that time been getting raped by her handler. Victor is now 'marked' by Alpha and has scars all over his face. Before that, Adele had promised herself she would stop using Victor for fear of getting caught, so it's probable that now she's not overtly torn over the fact Victor has stopped being 'his best' but I'm surprised we've seen absolutely no response from her on this issue. So far as we know, no one knows this transpired. Adele DeWitt hasn't confided in anyone, and the only person who would know this is mindwiped after it happened. Furthermore, it would have been impossible for her to pull this off without Topher's assistance, because someone had to program Victor to know about the rendevous. She couldn't have done this without someone knowing about it. When one looks at all the evidence from an audience's standpoint, it appears that without realizing it, Adele may have had some small hand in Victor's 'awakening' in his docile state, and therefore indirectly she put many events into motion. Dr. Saunders (whom we now know to be Whiskey) cautions that an Active should not be used repeatedly for the same kind of personality. Repeated doses of the same personality, especially under stressful conditions, might reinforce that personality to a degree where it will linger in future incarnations, and a sense of 'closure' is required in order for that personality to rest. This is of course not something that Topher remotely believes is possible, but the evidence is there, most notably during the episode "Needs." One could also surmise, if Victor's recent troubles lead him to some kind of pychotic break, that Alpha may have similar ..experiences with Adele DeWitt, and that might explain his own variant "awakening" in his docile state. Without realizing it, DeWitt might have made Alpha. That all depends on just how many times she's been "Miss Lonelyhearts" in the past, and whether or not she's still doing that. Admittedly what she was doing was not quite like the rape from Sierra's handler. However, there's still a very murky immoral taint to it, and I believe this issue needs to be addressed in some form in a later episode of the series. It's a big open-ended gaping hole of a loose end that needs tying up.
  10. That so wasn't the last we hear of Susan is it? In "Briar Rose" we learn about a young girl who's been traumatized, and Echo promised to return to her and help her further. This episode was written superbly by Jane Espenson, as a lead in to the season finale. I felt the bit about Susan and the girl was purposefully left open-ended. There simply wasn't enough time to invest in it because the story moved elsewhere, but I'm hoping that this is revisited because the foundation laid there was moving and thought-provoking. The idea of taking a wedge of a young person, reprogramming it so that its mature and well-adjusted, then having that same mind visit the child to help guide her to that state of well-adjusted maturity, well it's a noble thought that has a thousand ways it could excitingly go wrong and fail miserably, which is ideal cannonfodder for good television.
  11. Is that all you got? So far we've seen Echo as a prostitute, a dominatrix, a safecracker, a hostage negotiator, a midwife, a blind spy of cultists, a streetfighter, a detective, a dead woman investigating her own murder, and a grown up little kid. However, she has not yet been a ninja, a pirate, or a ninja pirate, or a pirate ninja. She has also not yet been an astronaut, or a sanitation worker, or a race car driver, or a mythbuster, or a lolcat, or a superhero, or a drug pusher, or a knife thrower, or a lumberjack, or a telephone operator, or a folk song singer/songwriter, or a lesbian truck driver, or a cafeteria lady with her hair in a net, or a motivational speaker, or a bartender, or comic book artist, or a standup comedienne, or a cowboy, or a grocery store clerk, or a pyromaniac, or a newspaper editor, or a librarian, or a brain surgeon, or a vietnam veteran, or a dragon hunter, or a leprechan, or someone who actually does windows, or a tightrope walker or a door to door dildo salesperson or a migrant farm worker or a politician with questionable moral integrity or a bellhop at a strange hotel... I could keep going. You want me to keep going? Needless to say there's a little more meat on this bone. I doubt they're ever going to run out of things Echo can actually become. That's just one small part of the fun of this show.
It's good that we're getting a season two, cuz even though less than three million people watched most of the series, those of us among that three million people? We're fucking confused as shit right now. Between now and this fall, those of us who are enamored by this series, and happy to see it's inevitable return, we need to somehow infect the rest of the world with our contagion. We need to somehow become Active, and we need to rinse and spit. A lot of people who have watched it say that the show wasn't good at first but got better about halfway through. I don't buy that. The only episode of the series I really didn't like was Stage Fright. I mean really. Why did they need backup singers? The song they used didn't have any. It was fake pop music. Anyway. Aside from that a great series from start to finish. They stumbled a bit here and there but the show never fell, and we need to convince the rest of the world to give the show a try this fall, because I want them to literally run out of new roles for Echo to play. I want this show to last forever. I want Joss Whedon to wake up many many many years from now as a very old man, look himself in the mirror and go, "damn. I can't think of anything new to make Echo be. They have wrung out every last ounce of creativity from my withered frame. I just wanna die now." When that day has come, we the fans of Joss Whedon will have finally defeated him! And we will on that day rejoice, and drink the blood of Nathan Fillion! Mua-hahahahaha!

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