Dollhouse: Season One
Fox Home Entertainment
Reason for the Rating: Adult situations, some sensuality, violence, and language.
Plot Summary: Echo is a living doll...That is, she's a mind-wiped employee/prisoner of the super-secret Dollhouse--a place that can imprint any personality and skill directly into the brains of specially prepared people like Echo. The result? Rich and powerful people hire out dolls like Echo to fulfill fantasies, to tackle dangerous assignments, to be whatever they want them to be.
The first time I sat down to watch Dollhouse, I had no idea what to expect. I’d heard good things about it, but it didn’t seem to make sense. I quickly found out it’s a show that has to be seen to be completely understood.
The overall idea of this TV series is that a company called the Dollhouse hires “actives” to become - literally - anyone for anyone. These people surrender five years of their lives for the company. Some sign up voluntarily. Others sign up under intense pressure or to avoid punishment for crimes. These agents get their memories wiped (and supposedly saved) so that they become blank slates upon which any personality, knowledge, or skill can be imprinted. During their five years as agents, wealthy clients can hire out the dolls to do whatever they desire. The dolls are then imprinted with special skills concerning the jobs that they are hired for. Afterward, they are wiped clean and have no memory of the job.
At least that's the way it's supposed to work. Fortunately for us, things don’t usually go as planned.
The main character in the show is an agent named Echo (played by Eliza Dushku). As the PR for this show proclaims, "she can be anyone...except herself." Echo is the top doll in the Dollhouse, but she does seem to attract trouble quite often. And it seems as though she might be starting to remember some of her past--and some of her top secret past assignments. The owner of the Dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt (a beautifully sinister Olivia Williams), does almost everything she can to keep the company under wraps. Unfortunately, there are constant threats.
FBI agent Paul Ballard is onto the mystery of the Dollhouse, and he leads an ongoing investigation to try and track down this elusive organization. He regularly sacrifices his time and personal life to try and track down Echo and the rest of the employees at the Dollhouse. Still, the greatest threat to the Dollhouse isn't the FBI. It's the ex doll Alpha. He's the only doll to have broken out. Ever. So in the episode “Omega,” when he shows up and kidnaps Echo, tensions start to rise all over the place...
Just a couple episodes into this TV series, I was completely hooked. I was glad I was watching on DVD so I could just keep going from one episode to the next! One of the best things about this show is that there are several different character types that open opportunities for great suspense to some comedic breaks.
Eliza Dushku is the heart of this show--and she's well worth watching in it. Capturing some of the appeal that Jennifer Garner showed in Alias, Dushku shimmers in every new personality, displaying both beauty and toughness that's rare in female action heroes. Dushku pulls off a no-nonsense hostage negotiator (glasses and all) in the series pilot, "Ghost." Then, in "The Target," she jumps right into the role of hunted-turning-to-hunter in the outdoorsy thrill-seeker tribute to the classic short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." She also shines as a blind woman infiltrating a dangerous cult ("True Believer"), and as the imprint of a deceased woman set out to solve her own murder.
Although not perfect, and prone to an occasional misstep early in the series (Echo as bodyguard to a pop singer with a deathwish comes to mind), Dollhouse gets steadily better and more confident as it moves toward its season one finale. Created by Dushku alongside TV powerhouse Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this show is terribly addictive--so watch at your own risk. You've been warned.
And, one note for parents. Although I enjoyed Dollhouse quite a bit, it’s definitely not appropriate for all ages. There are frequent scenes of violence, some swearing, and persistent sexual themes. So I wouldn’t recommend this to younger crowds, but if those watching are mature enough to make the distinction between art and everyday life, it’s definitely worth watching.
After seeing season one of Dollhouse, I’m totally hooked. I can’t wait for season two!
Bonus--Dollhouse Season One on DVD includes two extra episodes not aired on TV: "Echo" (original unaired pilot) and "Epitaph One" (a story that bridges the gap between the end of season one and the beginning of season two).
An intense, exciting TV show, best watched on DVD. Dollhouse has everything a sci-fi thriller should have: great cast, unexpected storylines, mysteries and suspense, and just enough danger to make the whole thing exciting. While not appropriate for children or younger teens, young adults and their parents should enjoy this series.
AFTER THE SHOW
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• What do you think of the idea of a Dollhouse? What would you have an agent do?
• A Doll has his or her personality defined by someone else. What defines your personality? What influences the way you act and think?
• Why do you supposed God gave us all distinct, unique personalities? What do you think you are best suited to do in life?
Note: All movie-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective movie studios.