Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Dollhouse sucks

Okay, so I haven't seen the most recent episode of Dollhouse yet, but the first three installments of the new season have not exactly lived up to expectations. And I think I've figured out why.

The first season of Dollhouse wasn't exactly the best thing ever, and those first few episodes were really tedious. However, after that was over, the show moved quite rapidly into creating some pretty compelling drama, and asking some heady questions about corporate ethics, individuality, and what it means to be human. Not the first time this stuff has been explored--indeed, these are all sci-fi mainstays--but Dollhouse put a fresh take on them, and since nobody seemed to think that the show would get a second season the season's final episodes closed out the major questions asked by the show, with an unaired finale opening up new areas of exploration and a vastly more interesting post-apocalyptic setup to keep exploring similar themes.

But the show got a second season, and it's been struggling since it doesn't seem like the show is willing to pivot so dramatically and fully embrace the post-apocalyptic hellscape of "Epitaph". Instead, it chose a very conservative route and is trying to convince us that there's more to say on the questions that it answered last season, and it's trying to do this while the premise of the show unravels around them. Okay, how can we possibly believe that the Dollhouse would continue to remain a secret organization after people keep dying and power blackouts are caused? Questions would be asked about these things, and huge conspiracies tend to be hard to conceal for very long. How do clients get referred to the Dollhouse? Why pay so much money for a midwife or a fake bride when you can, you know, pay the appropriate fees for non-doll people to handle these tasks? And you add all this to the fact that the Dollhouse staff seems pretty terrible at their jobs and it just seems like more "engagement of the week" episodes merely show the limitations of the show's premise. It's not as bad as 24 yet, where it seems like every season the show tries to wring drama out of traitors in CTU. And you know what? It is dramatic. It's also not too realistic, and it just makes me think that these bozos can't even handle reference checking, much less protecting a country. Or how Studio 60 kept trying to tell us how brilliant Sarah Paulson was as a comedian, when she was not exactly what you might call funny.

Now, it's entirely possible that Dollhouse will rebound and start breaking new ground. Indeed, it might wind up surprising us all. But it's seeming less and less likely to me that the show will have the strong legacy of some of Joss Whedon's other shows, because of its rather low hit-to-miss ratio. And if we don't get back to the Epitaph storyline, it should be remembered as a show that, for whatever reason, wasn't able to follow through on it's best ideas.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.