Dollhouse: Briar Rose (season one, episode eleven)


Rating 1½

Created by Joss Whedon

Written by Jane Espenson

Directed by Dwight Little

Starring Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (Adelle DeWitt), Fran Kranz (Topher Brink), Harry J Lennix (Boyd Langton), Amy Acker (Dr Claire Saunders), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Miracle Laurie (November), Liza Lapira (Ivy), Aisha Hinds (Loomis), Hannah Leigh Dworkin (Susan), Judith Moreland (Renee) and Alan Tudyk (Stephen Kepler)

Echo is imprinted to help a young girl called Susan who is in a foster care programme. Paul Ballard tells Mellie (aka November) that he is leaving and then follows her when she is taken back to the Dollhouse, finally discovering its location. He goes to Stephen Kepler, an environmental architect who worked on the building when it was first being designed for construction, and forces him to help to gain entry into the “invisible” underground portion of it. An encoded memory stick is delivered to the Dollhouse for Laurence Dominic. Victor is imprinted with his memories to obtain the password to open it. Adelle DeWitt had supposed it to be from the NSA, but it is actually from Alpha, the rogue Doll. Sierra is imprinted with the memories of an FBI forensics expert and dispatched to Tuscan to investigate further.


Oh good, another boring fight scene. This one is between Paul Ballard and Boyd Langton and takes place inside the Dollhouse after Ballard has gained entry into the supposedly super top secret establishment, achieving this extraordinary feat with next to no difficulty whatsoever. Perhaps they allowed it to happen, although I can think of no reason for this at the moment. I have to admit that I was paying very little attention during this episode, constantly unable to keep my attention from wandering elsewhere. I found the whole thing decidedly uninvolving.

The episode opens with a metaphor, providing a parallel between the fairytale ‘Briar Rose’ (the Brothers Grimm variant of ‘Sleeping Beauty’) and what we are about to witness. It is delivered in such a heavy-handed and leaden manner that it is tempting to assume it must be joke. In fact, the writers (or writer, if Jane Espenson, who wrote some excellent episodes of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, is responsible alone for this) clearly could not even be bothered to think of a credible reason why Echo would be imprinted to help the girl suffering from traumatic experiences in her short life. So we have the ludicrous and wholly unconvincing conceit that it is the altruistic endeavour of Topher Brink, approved and authorised by Adelle DeWitt. It is never explained what Echo’s qualifications are supposed to be or how she comes to be working / helping out in the young children's care unit.

There is a neat twist towards the end when we discover that Alpha has infiltrated the Dollhouse and we encounter him for the first time. It held my interest for about 20 seconds, but then I lost interest again, perhaps because by this stage I had become increasingly irritated by the performance of Alan Tudyk, who had previously been excellent in Joss Whedon’s short-lived but much loved television series ‘Firefly’. Tudyk is undoubtedly a very talented actor, but I didn’t enjoy his performance here at all, although perhaps it is a reaction to the episode itself rather than his acting.

In one of the early episodes, the third one I think, I had guessed that Claire Saunders, the Dollhouse doctor, would turn out to be a Doll. Although not yet confirmed, I suspect I am right. There is a moment in ‘Briar Rose’ when Victor (imprinted as Laurence Dominic) refers to her as Whiskey, although there is a horribly clumsy piece of writing that attempts to deflect attention away from this, or perhaps direct us to it.

There is now just one episode to go, not counting the unaired and allegedly superior pilot episode and / or the thirteenth episode, one that was not broadcast by the FOX network, but was commissioned, I think, specifically for the DVD box set. I do not have access to these two episodes and, such is my rather negative response to the episodes I have seen, I do not feel that I am missing out on anything.

Review posted 26 July 2009


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