Dollhouse: Spy in the House of Love (season one, episode nine)


WARNING: Some spoilers


Created by Joss Whedon

Written by Andrew Chambliss

Directed by David Solomon

Starring Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (Adelle DeWitt), Fran Kranz (Topher Brink), Harry J Lennix (Boyd Langton), Reed Diamond (Laurence Dominic), Amy Acker (Dr Claire Saunders), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Miracle Laurie (November), Valerie Cruz (Selena Ramirez) and Liza Lapira (Ivy)

Adelle DeWitt, who heads up the Dollhouse, says she has been called to headquarters and leaves Laurence Dominic, the head of security, in charge in her absence. Victor is programme and dispatched from the Dollhouse on a regular “Lonely Hearts” assignment, even though Dr Claire Saunders has warned about repeatedly programming the Dolls with the same imprints, but the client is not who the Dollhouse think it is. November is reprogrammed as Mellie and returned to Paul Ballard, the former FBI agent on the trail of the Dollhouse. She has been secretly imprinted with a secondary programme and tells Ballard that she is an Active in the Dollhouse. Topher Brink discovers a small micro-chip in his elaborate equipment that could be used to corrupt and change the programming of the Dolls. He is unable to contact DeWitt and reports his findings to Dominic. Sierra is programmed to infiltrate the National Security Agency (NSA) building to obtain evidence of the identity of the spy. Echo once more shows signs of an evolving state by asking Topher to be programmed so that she can help, which allows her to reveal who the spy is.


Having decided that, despite some fairly major reservations, I was going to watch the whole of the first season of ‘Dollhouse’, there has been a gap of thirty days between episodes eight and nine, not because I wasn’t able to spare the time to watch this next episode, but simply because I could not build up any enthusiasm to do so. This isn’t a good thing and is more evidence that, whatever the quality and merits of the show, I am just not enjoying it very much. Episodes seven and eight had suggested definite improvement, but despite a few interesting moments, I found this latest episode extremely annoying and I had originally considered giving it a rating lower than the one I finally went with.

The episode opens with Echo returning from an assignment as a dominatrix. There is some fairly uninspired, unenlightening and unpersuasive talk about love and pain being the same thing and I rather suspect we are intended to read some kind of quasi-feminist subtext in here somewhere. To me, it just played out as nothing more than a lame excuse to have Eliza Dushku dressed up in bondage gear. Things do improve with the events unfolding inside the Dollhouse, but equally they continue to go downhill outside of it. I found the super-spy/espionage sequence when Sierra infiltrates the NSA building utterly awful. It was clichéd and silly and had all the suspense and excitement of being slapped in the face with a wet haddock. Even more tedious than this was the fencing match between Adelle DeWitt and Victor (programmed as “Roger”, some kind of super-smooth lover with a decidedly dodgy English accent – at least, I think it was supposed to be English). My finger was hovering over the off button on the remote. Undoubtedly, the revelation that DeWitt is secretly a client of the Dollhouse was supposed to surprise us and these scenes, in which she displays more emotion and feelings than her usual icily calculating and reserved manner, were intended to add more layers to her character. I guess I don’t care enough, because I didn’t register any surprise and it didn’t interest me.

The silliest moment is kept back until the very end when DeWitt is shot in her lower left side and acts as if she has just received a barely noticeably paper cut. A few stitches later, without an anaesthetic, she is perfectly fine again. If it turns out that she is, in fact, some kind of synthetic cyberbot this will explain it!

The structure of this episode, moving back and forth within the story and slowly revealing the imprints of the various Dolls, each one in turn but not necessarily in sequence, felt more hackneyed than clever to me, although I am sure it was supposed to be the other way around. It is executed with some skill and there is quality here, but nowhere near as much inventiveness as it would like to think – or like us to think.

Review posted 21 July 2009


No comments: