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Dollhouse

Dollhouse is a drama about a secret company in Los Angeles who can programme the minds of their young 'Actives' with any personality that a client chooses. FOX 2009-2010

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Episode 9 - Stop-Loss

28 March 2012

Synopsis: Victor is released from the Dollhouse and his original personality of ex-army sergeant Anthony Ceccoli is restored. He is recruited by Rossum’s military wing and installed in a new unit who use Dollhouse architecture to create a neural link allowing the unit to think as one. Boyd and Echo track him down and take Sierra to help pull him out of the group think. Echo plugs herself into the group mind and manages to dissolve the unit. She tries to set Victor and Sierra free but Adelle stops them and sends them all to the attic.

The Good: A good episode on many levels.

The major storyline is actually Adelle and her relationship with Rossum. You can see in her reaction to Boyd’s prodding that she knows Rossum need to be stopped but she drowns her sorrows to avoid dealing with such a confrontation. I often talk about drunk acting in sit com reviews but Adelle’s was spot on as she woke in a puddle of her own drool to a phone call warning her of the events unfolding elsewhere. She realises that drastic action is finally needed and lowers herself to showering with the actives. It’s a wonderfully symbolic moment. The episode began with her weeping when Roger (Victor) inadvertently pointed out that she is no different to the pathetic clients who she patronises. So now with her world once more caving in she decides if she is no different to a client then why be any better than a Doll?

Her decision to send the three troublesome Dolls to the attic was a good one. Not just that it moves the plot forward or that it reinforced her ruthless streak. But simply because it felt long overdue! Echo has ruined so many engagements now that it became hard to believe Rossum wouldn’t have ordered her to be sent there anyway.

Victor’s story was actually undeveloped despite the episode essentially being about him. The brief shot of him watching the news of Afghanistan was nice as was the photo of him with a US army buzz cut. What his story did do was continue the development of the question about what makes us people. Obviously his love and memory of Sierra has wormed its way deep into his mind and it can’t be scrubbed away. But perhaps a far subtler and more understandable moment was when he slept in the bathtub in his hotel room. His muscle memory was clearly used to a hard, confined space to sleep in and that couldn’t be erased from his body’s understanding.

I also liked...Echo being able to beat up the soldiers with a blindfold on because she was once blind (105). The initial attack on Victor was clever because as soon as he attacked one of them, they all knew where he was. The reason for which soon became clear. Finally I liked the way Topher was left as the last man standing against Adelle. For now he is following orders but could he end up having to stand up for what’s right for once? I did appreciate Topher’s Futurama style welcome to Anthony explaining that it was now the future.

The Bad: Victor received a lot less attention than Sierra did (204) and as a result his story doesn’t feel convincing. We don’t really discover what caused his post traumatic stress. So when he instantly agrees to become a soldier again it seems like an odd decision. Once he sees Sierra he almost instantly recognises her which again feels convenient. He also then behaves as if he were coerced into his new job but it seemed like he was happy to volunteer.

The convenience piles up when the one soldier who he already knew suddenly develops an independent mind too and aids Victor’s escape. To no one’s surprise Echo plugs herself into the group think and makes them all go home. It’s an anti-climax born from Echo’s overwhelming abilities. There isn’t really any danger that she will ever lose a fight at this point and it makes her action scenes skippable. The group think is of course a similar concept to the Borg from Star Trek. I have no problem with similar ideas being used but the sound of the group think voice was very familiar and the whole concept felt rushed to give the episode action and suspense which it didn’t really deliver.

Why is Victor sent to the attic? Isn’t he a free man? If he were coerced into joining Rossum’s army then surely he should be set free. If he joined voluntarily then isn’t he their employee now? And if he is a threat because he remembers Sierra then is that really his fault? Why should he lose his life because the Dollhouse tech isn’t full proof? I suppose that is just Adelle and Rossum being ruthless but the real reason it receives no comment is because the story is moving too fast to catch all the plot holes.

The same problem applies to Echo heading out with Boyd on a mission. She is an active who has broken so many rules this season that it is difficult to remember what a normal reaction ought to be to this astounding break with protocol. Another problem with Echo is that she sounds an awful lot like Caroline, Faith or just Eliza Dushku in her conversation with Adelle. The cocky, girl-power defiance is all too familiar and doesn’t sound like the earnest Echo who came alive two episodes ago (207).

The Unknown: Where is Boyd being taken? That is kind of a big deal.

Best Moment: Adelle in the shower, no jokes.

Epilogue: Another solid episode but one which suffers from the rush the show is in to tell the whole Dollhouse story before cancellation comes calling. 

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