Dollhouse: A Non-Review

I’m gonna say it straight up (again): Joss Whedon is basically my god.


Because he makes me feel insanely stupid.

Obviously, this is the reason why I haven’t been writing weekly reviews about Dollhouse. I know I am absolutely not capable of gleaning any meaningful amount of understanding or analysis from a given episode until the very end of a story arc concludes, at which point the knowledge falls under the “duh” category. Take for instance, the current Dollhouse elephant in the room: BOYD IS THE BAD GUY.

Until halfway through “Getting Closer,” I had absolutely no idea. And at that point my knowledge was only intuitive. I couldn’t have told you that he was going to be The Big Bad, I just wasn’t surprised when the final reveal took place. (Outraged, scandalized, horrified, and shouting at the television, yes. Even shocked, but not genuinely surprised.) Why? Because Joss Whedon et al are freaking INGENIOUS. This is not a plot twist grabbed out of the air to make the end of the season (read: show) all the more WowAmazing. They have been laying the groundwork since the first episode. It’s only now that I’m realizing it. I mean, really, think about it:

  • at the very beginning of the show, Adelle mentions how Boyd just sort of showed up out of the blue. We note this is suspicious, but then more suspicious things occur and we sort of forget/we get used to the idea that Boyd is just a nice guy drawn into the situation. This thinking is later reinforced by Paul following (what we assume to be) more or less the same pass.
  • Harry Lennix has always been the second individual listed in the credits. Again, this is just confusing/forgotten because we constantly assume Paul is the more important character.
  • Boyd always knows. We have no idea how he always knows, but he always knows. And, while Adelle gets called out for her minor(ish) indiscretions by Rossum folk, Boyd disposes of the body of a client killed by a Doll and he gets away with it.
  • and then there’s the whole shitload of dropped hints in “Getting Closer” and the episodes directly previous, but I’m sure you can figure those out.

And the ingeniousness isn’t just Boyd-related. I mean, Fran Kranz listed third in the credits? Topher? Suddenly makes sense in “The Hollow Men” when Topher’s character (and by that I mean his personality, not necessarily his person) drives the entire episode. Did you notice that? How Topher’s personality allowed for every manipulation/progression in that storyline (contained within the episode AND leading up to it, no less)?

This is the thing that I cannot find the words to describe. The thing that makes Joss Whedon and his teams so very good. They are master storytellers. Master and commanders of The Slow Build. All the inbetween stuff is good too (the humor, the romances, the smaller hidden agendas). But the overarching storylines that always make sense but are never predictable – those are the masterpieces.

They’re also the unfortunate downfall. Because it takes a particular type of appreciation of and patience for that to watch series that work that way. The average network television viewer doesn’t necessarily have those qualities. And that’s part of why networks are so reluctant to pick up shows like Dollhouse. It’s kind of a Catch-22 sort of situation. There really isn’t away to resolve that conflict of interests. Which is just a damn shame for all of us.

(Since this is sort of a review of “Getting Closer” but not really, I’m also gonna throw out some major kudos for Amy Acker. She really does not get enough recognition for the amount of talent that she has.)

“Epitaph Two: Return” is NOT coming next week because FOX is hosting a Telethon for Haiti (see, the networks aren’t ALWAYS evil). But the end is still nigh. Tune in in two weeks, and bring your hanky.

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