Alas, the show has arrived — and it’s a good one. There were a few a mixed reviews before the show’s official airing (such as this one) that may or may not have put people off. I think some people forget what a TV pilot’s purpose is. They’re not meant to be the most memorable episodes, they’re meant to set up what the show is and what it is not.
In the pilot episode of Dollhouse, entitled “The Ghost,” we first meet a girl named Caroline who has apparently gotten in with bad business. She’s offered a chance for a clean slate, she just has to work for this company for five years and she’s free. We then cut to Caroline on a date, and a very special one at that. Why? Well, because at the end of the date we learn that it wasn’t a “real” date at all. Maybe it was for the guy, yes, but for Caroline, it was all part of her job. No, she’s not a prostitute, she’s an Active — oh, and her name is no longer Caroline, either; we refer to her now as Echo. So Echo is an Active — someone who has had their memory completely wiped only to have re-imprinted time and again with other personalities — who lives in the Dollhouse, which serves as a kind of storage place/home for Actives when their not on duty. The purpose for the constant memory imprints (and subsequent wipes) is to provide a service — any service you can think of — for a very high price. Want a perfect date? Or maybe an assassin? The Dollhouse is where you go.
And that’s all I will provide for your exposition. The pilot sets all of this up, and so much more. We get a general feel for how the series’ structure will play out — like House we infer that every week we’ll have a new “adventure” (and a “new” Echo to deal with it). But Echo also has a problem now. She’s remembering parts of her past life and it doesn’t make sense to her… but yet it’s there plain as day. This, I believe, will serve to make the show partially serialized as well (it wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon show if it wasn’t) as an internal conflict is sure to arise. The premise is intriguing to say the least.
And after viewing the pilot, I am having a beef with the reviews I’ve read as well. So many have stated that the show lacks any real character development, and I beg to differ. Sure, you will never feel any real connection to who Echo’s current “personality” is, but you will to Echo herself. We see that there’s more and that she understands that there is more and we know that she will pursue it even if she can’t make heads or tails of what’s going on. We connect with that yearning to know what we can’t understand.
But it’s not just Echo, though. All of workers of the Dollhouse seem fairly interesting — most notably Topher, the man in charge of making the imprints and, my personal favorite, Dr. Saunders, the woman in charge of the health of the Actives — and carries several nasty scars across her face as well.
The show definitely has me hooked, though, I’ll admit, not in the way that Buffy and Firefly did… well, at least not yet (as a fan of Buffy, I’ll be the first to admit that the first season took several episodes to find it’s footing).
And as far as the ratings go, they weren’t too shabby — especially for a scripted sci-fi drama on Friday nights. That’s more than I can say for my other Fox favorite, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was sub-par (the ratings, not the show) — TSCC is Dollhouse‘s lead-in.
Hopefully, though (and yes, I actually just crossed my fingers), both shows will manage to stick around after their respective seasons come to an end. And if you’re a sci-fi geek who hasn’t checked the show out yet — ah, hell, it’s Joss Whedon, watch the damn show! And don’t miss TSCC, either!
Dollhouse continues airing Fridays at 9 P.M. EST, with TSCC airing at 8 P.M. (…EST).