Dollhouse: Man on the Street (season one, episode six)


Rating 2¼

Created by Joss Whedon

Written by Joss Whedon

Directed by David Straiton

Starring Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (Adelle DeWitt), Fran Kranz (Topher Brink), Harry J Lennix (Boyd Langton), Amy Acker (Claire Saunders), Reed Diamond (Laurence Dominic), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Kevin Kilner (Joe Hearn), Miracle Laurie (Mellie), Liza Lapira (Ivy), Mark Sheppard (Tanaka), Aisha Hinds (Loomis) and Patton Oswalt (Joel Mynor)

Paul Ballard suspects that Joel Mynor, a very rich and successful businessman, is a client of the Dollhouse and interrupts an engagement involving Echo. Sierra starts acting strangely and it is discovered that she has had sexual intercourse inside the Dollhouse. Suspicion points to another Active, Victor, although it should be impossible for an Active who has been de-programmed to act in this way. Ballard continues to get closer to his next door neighbour Mellie and confides in her about his investigation.


Many fans have pointed to ‘Man on the Street’ as the moment when ‘Dollhouse’ makes a giant leap forward and begins to genuinely compare to Joss Whedon’s best work. Whedon himself has pinpointed it as an important step up in quality in this first season. It is well done and has many of the hallmarks of a typical Joss Whedon scripted episode, with the action interspersed with soundbites of (actors playing) people on the street, interviewees in a television news exposé, expressing a variety of different opinions about the Dollhouse, whether it exists or not and how they view the service it is alleged to provide to its clients. I didn’t really engage with this, although I guess it is a clever enough conceit.

Paul Ballard gets much closer to the Dollhouse in this episode, actually encountering Echo (or Caroline, as he knows her) and also getting to interrogate, after a fashion, one of the clients, with an excellent performance by the stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt as Joel Mynor. This was all fine, except that it indulged a tedious fight scene early on when Ballard takes on several of Mynor’s bodyguards and security team. However, this paled into insignificance when compared to the truly dreadful fight scene involving Ballard and Echo later in the episode. It was utterly ridiculous and embarrassingly asinine and it went on and on and on for a mind-numbingly interminable length of time. Maybe this would not have bothered me so much if I was not already somewhat less than impressed with the show generally, but it definitely took this episode down several notches for me.

Could it be that this fight scene was supposed to be comic in nature and its setting, in the kitchen of a Chinese takeaway, alerts us that it is a parody of martial arts films? Maybe I am just not in on the joke, although if there is any possibility at all that this is what was intended, which I don’t really believe, it would make it even more awful.

A twist involving one of the regular characters, occurring near to the end of the episode, did not come as a surprise to me. I had already guessed this. Equally, I also knew the identity of the person responsible for having sex with Sierra before it was revealed, although in this case I think perhaps I must have inadvertently read about it at some point previously. The character Topher Brink is starting to become increasingly annoying, without becoming any more interesting.

Once again I found some of the dialogue clunky. In one scene Paul and Mellie have just had sex (he, of course, gives her an orgasm) and he says, jokingly, “So... can I borrow a cup of sugar?”, to which she replies, “I don’t think I’ve got any sugar left.” This is quite a typical Joss Whedon line, but it had me cringing.

I cannot deny that this was a good episode, the fight scenes excepted, and the unfolding story is beginning to throw up some interesting twists and turns, but while I can watch it, I don’t really care, which I would think rather defeats the point of it all.

Review posted 14 June 2009


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