Joss Whedon is my hero. Because, in addition to being brilliant, multi-talented, and hilarious, he is insansely fearless. He will write things into a script that I don’t think anyone else writing for television right now would dare to – assuming they could think of them.

Consider the Season 2 premiere of Dollhouse. It’s been hours since I watched and I think my eyes are still bulging a little bit. Because that was freaking ridiculous.

I will be the first person to admit that the first season of this show was far from stellar. It was clever, and the story was highly intriguing, but the sad fact of it is that the show just didn’t get exciting until the last few episodes. There’s only so much patience for “Now Echo’s a sexy librarian. Now Echo’s a blind prophet. Now Echo’s a dominatrix. Now Echo’s a master thief. Now Echo’s somebody’s dead wife.” The doll schtick over-stayed its welcome as the central issue. The Paul Ballard angle of the story was far more fascinating, but it was sidelined for the majority of the season and, if you ask me, that was not the strongest choice that could have been made. Another thing that the first half of Dollhouse suffered from more often than not was a shortage of that quirky, reliable Whedon humor. The argument could be made that it doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the show. I would counter that argument with every other Joss Whedon show. Things get very dark, but there’s always a moment for a good wisecrack.

It’s a bit depressing to think back about that. And I sort of feel like I’m betraying my religiuos faith or something. Thankfully, there is an enormous BUT at the end of that whole argument. There were some things wrong with a lot of the first season BUT

The final five episodes or so of Dollhouse really helped the show come into its own (brilliant guest work from Alan Tudyk helped, obviously). But most of the improvement came from faster-moving action, more attention to the longer term plotlines, and a good dose of peculiarity. Dollhouse finally showed what it was really about in those episodes, and even more in the thirteenth unaired episode. (If you haven’t seen that, I recommend you do so. It is masterful.) And now we have the Season 2 premiere, and the Dollhouse team really delivered.

Because I am a mad fangirl for this corner of the media universe, and also for Battlestar Galactica, I enjoyed the premiere probably more than the average individual. (Jamie Bamber and Alexis Denisof guest starring plus what looks like a temporary break from Amy Acker coming up? Yessssss!) But there were some other things that made this episode really solid that don’t come from the chickbatty part of my brain.

Season 2 is already an improvement on Season 1 because Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) and the Dollhouse are no longer separated. The cloak-and-dagger relationship has been replaced with a direct confrontation of values manifested in dialogue between Ballard and Adele DeWitt (Olivia Williams). They are both phenomenal actors, btw (incase you hadn’t noticed). Another improvement: There is actually a reason to care about Echo besides the fact that Paul Ballard has a stalkercrush on her and the fact that Eliza Dushku is hot (…and talented). She actually is special. These two paradigm shifts in the universe of Dollhouse will, I believe, make for more compelling viewing even during those filler episodes where no real plot progress is made.

Some other things for the plus column include the lack of Mellie/November. I was delighted to see someone Miracle Laurie‘s shape on television, but her character, though ultimately revealed as tragic, was really pretty boring when you get right down to it. Not boring but never really developed into a person until recently, Topher. I’ve been a fan of the character since the beginning of the show, mostly because he provided some comic relief and a gray-area point of view. But he was pretty two-dimensional for a long time, so it’s good to see Fran Kranz do something other than wear layered shirts and spew semi-psychotic, self-aggrandizing monologues.

In some ways, a season premiere is not the best measure of a show, because the writing team will pull out all the stops to reattract excitement after a break. And this premiere was no exception. It was definitely above and beyond the call of duty for a standard Dollhouse episode, and it threw a lot of new story eggs into an already full basket. So it will probably take a more lowkey episode like what I anticipate in the coming weeks to really pin down how this season will go, but there were roots of good things in Dollhouse’s season premiere and it would be a shame if this show was cancelled before even airing the only thirteen episodes it has been cleared for so far. Not just because I don’t want Dollhouse to become the sad sequel to Firefly, but because I really do believe it is just going to keep getting better all the way through its planned five season run.

FOX has a major new success this season in Glee. They can totally afford to keep Dollhouse. I hope.

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  • Lena  On September 27, 2009 at 12:55 PM


    Do approve of Jamie Barber’s proper accent. “Paul Ballarh”

    I think Whiskey/Saunders and I had the exact same reaction when Boyd asked her to dinner…

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