Oh. My. God.
Dollhouse was phenomenal last night. Words cannot describe the mind rush I got while viewing the show and I just want to say to all the naysayers: If you still feel that Dollhouse is not going anywhere story wise, then there is something seriously wrong with you in the department of storytelling.
Sierra’s backstory answered a lot of questions, posed more questions in the process, and almost clearly laid part of the foundation for ‘Epitaph One’.
The show starts with a disillusioned vision of a bloody Topher repeating the phrase ‘I was just trying to help her…’a couple of times.
Then we flashback to Sierra in her pre-Dollhouse days, where we knew her as Priya, working at a novelty stand taking pictures and selling her art. A guy walks up to the stand and we recognize him, as the guy who Sierra went to confront during Dr. Saunders/Whiskey’s ‘wish fulfillment’experiment. His name is Nolan Kennard (guest star Vincent Ventresca) and he has a big interest in Priya and her art. He offers to set up an art showing that would showcase a large painting he wants Priya to do for him. The flirting is heavy, blatant, but friendly and she accepts his invitation.
At the art show, Priya realizes that she is out of her element in terms of Nolan’s guests, who are the cream of the crop when it comes to white-collared sleazebags. While looking into a room where there is a lot of heavy petting going on, Priya runs into Echo, who is on assignment as an unnamed girl that we will call Darling.
Darling/Echo tells Priya that she best utilize her skills as an artist and stick close to Nolan, because he can take her places that she could only imagine, but Priya is not looking for any of that. Meanwhile, Nolan talks with Harding (guest star Keith Carradine), who both has ties in the Rossum Company and the Dollhouse. Harding doesn’t understand Nolan’s extravagant spending to woo one girl, which Nolan says was necessary since Priya is a ‘free spirit’and can only be captured through her art. Harding then offers to build a ‘perfect woman’for Nolan, who declines disdainfully.
Harding later introduces Priya to an art dealer named Luca, who is actually Victor on assignment. Luca/Victor wants to know more about Priya’s painting, which consists of a lot of birds. Luca/Victor wonders if the birds have a symbolic meaning to Priya, which in his matches Priya’s freedom and easy-going nature. Priya, easily wooed, snaps Luca/Victor’s photo with her camera and decides to leave with him, but is stopped at the door by an irately, jealous Nolan. Luca/Victor is taken away for his treatment during the debacle and Nolan makes a huge scene about loving Priya, despite her telling him that the feeling was never mutual on the level he wanted it to be. The incident should have sent red flags to everyone in the place that this man is one synapse short of harming someone. But no one does anything and Priya leaves declaring that nothing will ever make her love Nolan
Match cut the doorway and we see Sierra on assignment as a date for Nolan, who snaps her picture (with her old camera, mind you) and sends her own her way. He takes the photo and stashes in a drawer with other photos he took of Sierra from previous arrangements, each photo a different personality.
And the creep factor goes up even another notch…
Back at the Dollhouse, it is painting time and Victor tells Sierra that he likes the bird she is drawing. Sierra responds that she doesn’t like the color black, which she is using to draw a large daunting presence over the bird. When Victor asks why does she still use the color, she says because it’s always there. God, the symbolism was beautiful last night. Echo notices all of this, but doesn’t say anything.
Topher is in the Imprint Room trying to replicate Alpha’s technology when Echo startles him. She presents to him the picture Sierra took and she tells him that Sierra hates ‘the bad man’who repeatedly makes her sad. Topher says that he can’t make much out of the ‘primitive rendition’of the bad man and Echo says that he isn’t looking hard enough and that he never does.
Topher goes to Boyd to ask about Kennard’s repeat arrangements with Sierra and from the outskirts of things, Boyd’s files turn up nothing out of the ordinary. Topher reveals that he helped Sierra, who was a paranoid schizophrenic when she came into the Dollhouse. He also reveals that Echo brought the issue to his attention, which interests Boyd. Topher decides he needs to find a pattern between Nolan and Sierra, but despite Boyd saying that Saunders/Whiskey was Topher’s best help on that subject, Topher finds out himself that Nolan is not the model customer. He tells Boyd that since Nolan is an expert in neuroleptics, he doped her up to the point that she became psychotic. Plus, Topher reveals that Sierra went to confront Nolan during the ‘wish fulfillment’exercise. Adelle gets all of this and confronts Nolan, telling him that the services of the Dollhouse are no longer granted to him and that Nolan can pretty much go to hell. But Nolan demands that they give Sierra a permanent imprint and release her to him at once or Adelle will be out of a job.
Meanwhile, Boyd follows up on Echo’s newfound ‘awareness’as he monitors her actions. He spies Echo and Victor picking up all of the black watercolor paints, where Echo tells Victor that he has to take charge and hide the paints. Boyd later catches Echo reading a book with no pictures in it and plucking a leaf from a bonsai tree in a suspicious way.
Harding lays the gauntlet down on Adelle by ordering her to do as Nolan asked, because Rossum doesn’t want to lose Nolan as a valuable asset to the company. When Adelle puts her foot down saying that she doesn’t run a slave factory and was hired to take care and protect the people in the building, Harding reminds Adelle of her alter ego, ‘Miss Lonely Hearts’. Adelle’s moral code goes out the window with that slap of a comeback. Harding then adds that Victor’s services are the least of her moral implications and that Adelle better do her job the way they tell her or she will not have one and that ‘early retirement plan’is not kosher.
Victor dumps the paints in the shower and Sierra walks in on him while he does it. After he says she doesn’t have to use the paints no more, the two start smearing the colors on each other’s faces. While doing so, Victor has a flashback of him being in the army and a soldier asking him what to do. Victor collapses and repeats that he doesn’t want to be in charge, while Sierra cradles him.
Back in Adelle’s office, Topher is outraged that he has to permanently imprint Sierra for Nolan, but Adelle has her hands tied. Gone is the Good of the North and in her place is the Wicked of the West as Adelle shoots down Topher’s questions about moral ethics and his claim that Dr. Saunders would never have let it happen. She then takes her mean into overdrive by saying that while everyone working in the Dollhouse was chosen for employment due to ‘his or her morals being compromised’, Topher, on the other hand, was different.
He was chosen, because he didn’t have any morals.
Ouch, ouch, ouch!
Sierra and Victor sit looking at a picture book holding hands. Topher, on the verge of a breakdown, approaches the two and somberly tells Sierra it’s time for a treatment. Sierra asks Victor to join her and Topher has to tear their hands apart and tell Victor that he cannot go. Victor offers to sit and wait at the base of the steps for Sierra’s return. Hearts are breaking all over America at this scene. If not, then you’re cruel, man, cruel…
After Boyd finds the book Echo was reading and the leaf she took as it’s bookmark, he gets a call from Adelle asking him to make sure that Topher does his job. As Boyd leaves, we see that the glass cover to Echo’s pod has scribbling etched on the bottom of it to help Echo remember everything. WHOA!!!!!!
Pre-Season One Flashback
Topher sends Echo out on an assignment and Adelle tells him about a potential replacement for Sierra. She sends him to the psychiatric hospital where Priya is going bat-crap crazy. She screams that the men have been drugging her with poison, torturing her and are liars. When Topher offers help, she accepts through hysterical tears.
We then see people bringing Sierra into the Imprint Room, where she is wiped for the first time.
Present Day Part Deux
Topher completes the mission and sends the newly imprinted Sierra on her way, while Adelle drinks herself into a stupor and Victor still sits in wait. Adelle comes to see if the job is done and after saying that Topher didn’t have a choice, he says to himself that he didn’t while holding Priya’s original cartridge in his hand.
Back at Nolen’s, Sierra arrives and Nolan is like a sick punk opening his Christmas gifts that all feature snuff porn. But his happy stance is drained when he realizes that the woman sitting on top of him is not some imprint, but Priya herself.
And she’s beyond pissed.
Back at the Dollhouse, Boyd confronts Echo who feigns ignorance until Boyd reads right through her. He explains to Echo thatshe is starting trouble and that people are not going to take lightly to that. She tells him simply that she doesn’t car and that there is something bad heading their way, a storm of sorts, she ‘wants everyone to survive it.’Boyd tells her to watch herself, before she brings trouble upon herself.
While Priya gives Nolan the third degree on how she knows everything he did before she entered the Dollhouse and while she was a Doll, Nolan still thinks that he achieved getting Priya to love him by changing her. She tells him that was far from the case and that she met someone else who she really loves and she is crazy about him and it sure as hell isn’t Nolan. He gets pissed and starts slapping her around and beating her, something that a loving man wouldn’t do. He then picks up a knife and tries to stab Priya with it, but she kicks his ass then kills the guy by stabbing him repeatedly in the chest. Back at the Dollhouse, Topher gets a call from Priya and he runs to help her. When Topher reaches the place, he finds Priya a bloody mess. Boyd shows up a few seconds later and takes care of the body in a way that would make Winston Wolf proud. While cleaning up the mess, Topher repeats the line from the beginning of the episode and Boyd explains that Topher had his first moral dilemma and it went wrong. When Topher declares that Priya doesn’t belong in the Dollhouse, Boyd counters that she does and that it’s time for the lies to start. After calling someone named The Goose to help him make someone disappear, Boyd lies to Adelle that Nolan skipped the country and left ‘Sierra’at the house, which means that Sierra is back in the Dollhouse. When asked if he will look into the matter any further, Boyd declares it would time-worthy. Boy, if that secret is ever exposed, heads are going to roll like a batch of Critters on a food march.
Priya wonders why Topher woke her up and explained all of the things that happened to during her Doll status only for her to kill a man. Basically, she ‘woke up from one nightmare into another one’. Topher says that he didn’t know and that he was tricked. She sees Victor (who is still sitting in the same spot, waiting) and she realizes that he was the one she loves and asks Topher if that is real. He says yes, and that Victor loves her back.
Priya makes one request: when Topher ‘wakes’her up again, she doesn’t want to remember anything that happened and wants to be reset to the way she was a year ago. She then asks Topher if he can keep their secret. He says that he can, but he doesn’t know if he could live with it. She says she wouldn’t be able to live with it either, but now she doesn’t have to.
Topher escorts the newly wiped Sierra back to Victor and he takes her hand and they walk off. In the Dollhouse sleeping area, Echo sits down to read and in place of her leaf bookmark is a note that says ‘For the Storm’wrapped around a key card. Echo continues reading, watching over Sierra and Victor as they sleep in a pod together.
Now we have to wait a frakking month to see what happens next…
What We Now Know…
– So Echo is planning for what’s to come, i.e. the events of ‘Epitaph One’. I think it’s safe to say that Echo is slightly ‘playing’her Doll role and is aware of everything going on, but is doing her damnedest to not draw attention to herself. Plus, does this mean that Victor is starting to remember bits and pieces like Echo was at the beginning of Season One? It would make sense that Sierra is not remembering on her own yet since she is a fresh Doll, but how long has Echo and Victor been in the Dollhouse and have anyone really successfully completed their entire contract without a hitch?
– The argument about morals and ethics SCREAMED at us last night, but it did it in a way that was exciting, engaging, and entertaining, while keeping the preaching at a minimum. Maurissa Tanchareon and Jed Whedon delivered a great script that should win over naysayers and people who have bowed out of Dollhouse too early in it’s run. The series’ongoing themes of morals, the human condition, and redemption, all which are also ongoing theme’s of Joss Whedon, was at top form tonight and I applaud and thank them for bestowing their offering to the public.
So see you guys in December! I hope…