Dollhouse: Ghost   Rewatch 
September 22, 2020 1:05 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

A futuristic laboratory has erased the identities of lost young people, and now imprints them with the temporary identities they need to fulfill assignments for clients. A wealthy backer asks the Dollhouse for help when his daughter is kidnapped. They send Echo to negotiate the release. One of the memory imprints used to prepare Echo for the mission causes some complications.

A.V. Club: B-

A streamlined fanedit of the first five episodes.

Poster's Note:
I'm skipping the unaired pilot "Echo" for now since it doesn't appear to be conventionally available.

This one should be pretty quick, it's only 26 episodes. It takes a while to get going (thus the fanedit link), but there are some fun bits in the first season that might deserve more commentary than a whole-show recap. I'm going to try for 2 episodes a week, Tuesday and Friday.
posted by Kyol (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, if anyone else has any good sources of extra information about the show, feel free to let me know and I'll start including them.

Anywho, as a viewer, boy this episode was rocky, I wasn't really sure what I was getting into. I think the complaints about Eliza are a little harsh - she does fine, although I think my general rule about shows produced by their own lead actors isn't too far off.

The relationship between this show and AoS is pretty wild, just the same. Many of the same producers and writers, a whole raft of common actors and actresses, and about 3-4 episodes in you start getting the sense that the show isn't just what it's saying on the surface, and you end up with a lot of proto-Westworld questions of identify and self.

Now streaming on Hulu in the US.
posted by Kyol at 1:14 PM on September 22


Thanks Kyol!

I started watching this as a fan of 'Firefly' despite my grad school friends not being into it (we were neuroscientists in training, so I needed a huge effort to suspend disbelief - the technology is simply not possible - not implausible - physically chemically and biologically impossible). So much incredible casting.

The first episode is indeed a bit rough (starts out with the cliche crotch-rocket-in-Chinatown) but the concepts introduced were intriguing enough.

That the show starts off with the Dollhouse being just a super fancy form of prostitution is icky (although it does explore it further with Patton Oswald's character) but iirc, the applications do get more interesting a few more episodes in. To be fair, the show immediately acknowledges that the concept of a Dollhouse is fucked up, despite self-serving justifications.

(I got the second episode mixed up with the first; that was even more gross.)

Regarding the suspension of disbelief, it's an interesting posit that a personality and expertise could be put together like building blocks - but the amount of information and detail required are staggering.

That memories = identify is a personally interesting topic, and the lack of memory retention would preclude learning and growth (except, it can just be programmed in). As an exploration of slavery, I'm not sure if not knowing that you're a slave is better or worse.

Sierra and Victor's relationship does eventually explore the nuances between memory and classical conditioning.

I know Whiskey's facial scaring is a big plot point, but it seems to contradict the implication that there were medical-fiction level of medical treatment available?

Dropping "Alpha" at the end of the first ep shows some foreplanning - I've read that this was originally intended as a 5 season arc.
posted by porpoise at 5:52 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I skimmed through the unaired pilot just to see if I should start there anyway, and it seems like it was intended to smooth out the story of how Caroline ended up in the Dollhouse instead of putting it in media res. Ultimately I wonder if the network wasn't right - getting it started right away allowed the show to dribble out backstory in a more satisfying way, but it had to hurt initial viewership, too. If it ended up a successful 5 season show, I'm sure we'd have a different perspective.

I think Whiskey offhandedly mentioned something about keeping the scars as a reminder of the risks the Dollhouse was running, but I'd have to scrub through subtitles. I mean, Victor suffers the same attack and comes out of treatment pretty much as handsome as he was to begin with.
posted by Kyol at 6:51 PM on September 22


Given what we got in 2 seasons, with the terminal notice early on, I feel that 3 (and a movie) would have been optimal - with one more of the time-jump episodes. A Season 4 or 5 would probably have devolved into the finale episode being an entire season.

Which might not have been a bad thing, but season 4 would probably have sucked, and 5 a wank fest.

I've not been able to find the unaired pilot ('Echo') but I think that you're right, throwing the viewers into the deep and and then gradually reveal worked out.

Enver Gjokaj (Victor) is an odd one - he seemed to have had a hard time getting jobs after this, when he showcased how well he could do impressions and range. He was gay-buried in Dexter as Ray Stevenson's character's bf after only a cameo. Nice to hear that he was a mostly (?) regular in 'Agent Carter' and then 'Agents of SHIELD' (which, I have not actually watched).

Dichen Lachman (Sierra) seemed to have had an ok, if lower-key, career - before landing in 'Agent of SHIELD.' She doesn't seemed to have aged between this (2009) and 'Altered Carbon' (2018). I swear I saw a teaser trailers of 'Knights of Badassdom' with Lachman, but she was replaced with Summer Glau? She was decent in 'Animal Kingdom.'

I actually really appreciated Fran Kranz cast as Topher Brink, mixing up the "tech genius" archetype up a little bit. I adore a future scene he shared with Williams ("You haven't seen my drawer of inappropriate starches?") and him talking about how hard he tries to (successfully) bodybuild. Him and Gjokaj playing each other was brilliant.

Olivia Williams.

Good Gods, I'd spend my life to sooth a woman like her, no matter how evil she is, so long as she's willing to be absolutely and transparently truthful with me and willing to hear how and why she's a monster. Stopping her from being a monster is (only) a bonus (and not required).

Alpha.

mentioned something about keeping the scars

That rings a bell, now that you mention it. Will have to keep some attention up for it.

Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton - another reveal for having an arc planned out. If this was already planned out, a really great performance. Similar with Reed Diamond as Dominic. No idea if the actors were given the characters' backgrounds at the time.
posted by porpoise at 8:36 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I like to imagine if Tatiana Maslany was the main actor.
posted by Marticus at 1:46 AM on September 24 [10 favorites]


I've never watched this, but I'm pretty sure I'll like it.
posted by georgehanson at 1:50 AM on September 24


despite my grad school friends not being into it (we were neuroscientists in training, so I needed a huge effort to suspend disbelief - the technology is simply not possible - not implausible - physically chemically and biologically impossible).

I was also a neuroscientist in training both times watching this, and yeah - impossible on so many levels. But within the literary space of mind transfer/upload, Dollhouse is the story I have the least trouble suspending disbelief for. Where others (Star Trek episodes, Chappie, what I've seen of Kaiba, etc.) often treat the process as an immutable black box - clean, no copies, no edits, apple UI, one mind to one body, bring on the standard philosophy questions - Dollhouse will take the stance that this impossible technology has to be based on others, and will lead to further developments, all of which can be just as important to the narrative.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 3:30 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


I remember watching this despite finding the premise uninspiring, and desperately wanting to like it (because I found the premise of Firefly uninspiring, and I really liked that!) and just... not liking it. The unaired pilot was supposed to "fix" a lot of the pacing criticisms -- and I didn't like that either, which was the point where I made peace with this just not being for me and calling it a day.

IIRC my observation at the time was that Joss Whedon's strength was writing characters and his weakness was writing coherent epic storylines, so embarking on a show with an elaborate metaplot in which half the characters were rebooted after every episode was perhaps not the greatest life decision.
Sometimes I like to imagine if Tatiana Maslany was the main actor.
OMG, yes. If anyone is intrigued by the premise of seeing one person portray a variety of completely distinct personalities, but is disappointed by the execution, watch Orphan Black instead.

Conversely, when I watched Orphan Black I desperately wished that they'd cast Enver Gjokaj as the Castor clones. He would have been fantastic.
posted by confluency at 6:24 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


What made Dollhouse interesting for me -- and I think I have said this before on this website -- is the unrealized promise that it would explore the moral complications of producing television. The premise is a metaphor for show business, but it never takes that metaphor anywhere interesting.
posted by gauche at 9:09 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


Enver Gjokaj (Victor) is an odd one - he seemed to have had a hard time getting jobs after this, when he showcased how well he could do impressions and range. He was gay-buried in Dexter as Ray Stevenson's character's bf after only a cameo. Nice to hear that he was a mostly (?) regular in 'Agent Carter' and then 'Agents of SHIELD' (which, I have not actually watched).

He's the main thing I remember about this show, which I watched with my family when it aired. We were all agreed that he was the breakout star.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:45 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I think the unaired pilot is a lot better. It's a DVD extra, so probably isn't easily available, but I'm happy to post my recap/analysis here if folks want. It's probably slightly spoilery since the order of information given is a little different than the aired episodes, although only a couple episodes' worth.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:57 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]


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