Dollhouse: Haunted (season one, episode ten)


Rating 1½

Created by Joss Whedon

Written by Jane Espenson, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon

Directed by Elodie Keene

Starring Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (Adelle DeWitt), Fran Kranz (Topher Brink), Harry J Lennix (Boyd Langton), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Miracle Laurie (November), Ian Anthony Dale (Jack Dunston), Gregg Henry (William Bashford), Jordan Bridges (Nicolas Bashford), Aisha Hinds (Loomis) and Rhea Seehorn (Jocelyn Bashford)

When Margaret Bashford, a close friend of Adelle DeWitt, dies, apparently in a tragic riding accident, her memories are imprinted into Echo to allow her to visit her own funeral and, so it turns out, investigate her murder. Back in the Dollhouse, Topher Brink is allowed to imprint memories into Sierra, supposedly for an important test of the system, but actually to create a friend he can share his birthday with. Paul Ballard attempts to find out the real identity of November/Mellie, getting an old friend and colleague to run her fingerprints on the FBI database, but the record is wiped the moment it is accessed.


I was, there is no doubt, biased coming into this series, but I did try to keep an open mind. I suspect I am more biased now, simply because I don’t like it very much and perhaps because I think that, despite some unenthusiastic reviews early on, it has been critically over-rated, something of a trend with Joss Whedon’s post-Buffy work.

The story of Margaret Bashford returning to her palatial home and stables and discovering some unpleasant home truths about the way her two adult children think of her is so clichéd that it would be tempting to assume the writers had their tongues firmly in their cheeks if the whole thing were not so determinedly flat-footed. The murder mystery is taken straight out of an episode of ‘Murder, She Wrote’ or the ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’, without the silly but not dislikeable verve of those shows. I have come to the conclusion that the writers must have an ongoing bet to see which one of them can include the most boring and unrealistic fight scene in their episode(s).

I am fast losing interest in Paul Ballard, who is going through all kinds of two-dimensional angst because, now that he knows that Mellie is actually an Active of the Dollhouse, something that she doesn’t know, he is turning into a client of the Dollhouse by proxy. As for the storyline in this episode revolving around Topher, it wasn’t interesting and I wasn’t interested.

There have been episodes in this first season that I think are worse than ‘Haunted’ and there have been episodes that I found a whole lot more objectionable, but this was such a mediocre and uninspiring 45 minutes or so. I got nothing out of it at all – I couldn’t even build up the energy to dislike it. However, it was the first time I came away thinking that Eliza Dushku’s performance was detrimentally below-par, having previously thought that the criticism of her acting in ‘Dollhouse’ by some critics has been a little unfair.

Review posted 24 July 2009


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