Saturday, February 21, 2009

The most dangerous, er, passtime? Hobby?

Normally "most dangerous game" episodes leave a bad taste in my mouth. They remind me of Bloodlust, which was made into an MST3K episode, or about bad episodes of bad syndicated action shows. Usually there are Rube Goldberg man-traps in the woods that are improbably fashioned out of half a dozen coconuts and some conveniently-placed vines. They're just silly.

So after the initial rush of last night's tautly paced Dollhouse ep was over, I thought to myself, did I really like this? Could I like a plot that's essentially been a cliché since 1937?

The answer is yes. I mostly liked the pilot ep of Dollhouse, but I found the main kidnapping plot to be a little stale. I didn't figure Joss would try to sell his fourth TV show by having a 12-year-old girl murdered by a pedophile, so she was pretty safe. It was just a matter of how they would get from A to B, and what little character moments would crop up along the way. Focusing most of those moments on the father of the girl, who I suspect we'll never see again, dissipated some of their force. It was good (compare it to any episode of any cop procedural with a similar plot) but it wasn't great.

This week's episode had constant turnabout. I really didn't see the manhunt thing coming, which may or may not be mostly because I'm a little slow to see plot twists, especially when I'm enjoying a show. We got some damn good dialogue, which suggested that this was not the first time the hunter has done this, not by a long shot. That he's a serial killer who found the Dollhouse perfect for his needs adds another layer of creepy to the show.

This week's episode also focused its character moments on our core cast. Echo is waking up, thanks to the hallucinogenic drink, likely supplied for that purpose by Alpha. Her handler, Boyd, moves from cynical indifference to seeing Echo as a person. Topher and the doctor are traumatized by Alpha's attack. And Alpha is... well, what is he?

My current speculation, utterly free of spoilers, is that he knows Echo/Caroline - or one of the pieces of his mind does. Just as Echo's composite kidnapping negotiator personality was shocked when it ran into someone it remembered, Alpha knows her. Now he wants to wake her up, too. How does he know her? From her early, cheerful college days or her later desperate stage? From her childhood? Were those her parents he killed at the end of the pilot? All questions that will be answered later.

Much like this question: how many people in the Dollhouse are permanent actives? Seriously, is Boyd really a cop, or is he an active with one set of programming instructions? He's pretty tough, skilled and knowledgeable. When you have that level of technology, why not use it to create your personnel? 

How about Topher? Dr. Saunders? Adelle DeWitt? Lawrence Dominic? That girl across the hall from Agent Ballard?

Well, she's definitely an active. They might as well have written it above her head in big flashing letters. Not so subtle, Stephen DeKnight.

Man, I'm going to look stupid if that's a red herring.

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