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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Dollhouse Season 2

My complaints about the first season of dollhouse was due to how slow the plot was, and how nobody had ever seemed to have heard of off-site backups. One thing about Joss Whedon, at least he's consistent in his plot holes.

The second season starts out far more promising. The story accelerates, and we get development of the main character, Echo, as well as an understanding of where Rossum's technology is leading. After all, if you did invent a machine that could wipe people clean and then reprogram them to be whatever you wanted to be, the natural thought wouldn't be to start a high class prostitution ring: you'd go after bigger targets.

Unfortunately, after that story point was resolved, we get deep inside Rossum's past, and the entire plot at that point develops holes you can drive an armored 18-wheeler through. The villains were smart enough to discover the neuroscience behind the dollhouse, but stupid enough to come up with a complex series of schemes that required that they put themselves in harm's way to get what they wanted, rather than pursue their goals directly. The net result of this was a plot that required characters to do incredibly unreasonable things. The penultimate episode was really dumb, in the "Oh, we'll blow up entire buildings to remove this dangerous technology" fashion. At least we know that doesn't work (thanks to the ending of Season One). However, we have to suspend our disbelief that the smart, intelligent characters in this show did believe that this would work! The post-apocalyptic section of the story doesn't make sense as well. Wouldn't the masters of the universe rather keep a high tech world intact so they could live in luxury?

The last episode was even more inane. One of the smart characters designed a device to restore the world, but isn't smart enough to put together a timed trigger. Even worse, the "leader" character in the story doesn't think to herself, "If anything goes wrong we need this guy to fix it, we can't let him blow himself up!"

Ok, good things about the series: it's got the best depiction of nerd love I've seen, very sweet and almost believable. Some of the exploitation of the technology seen in the last episode stems directly from the premise. It would be fun to explore that aspect of the world. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I cannot recommend this series to anyone, even fans of Joss Whedon. I'm afraid my opinion of his work dropped dramatically after watching this series. I'm starting to think
that Buffy was a fluke, and he's been coasting on his reputation since. Not Recommended.


Tom Galloway said...

I think Whedon's much stronger at characterization and dialogue than plot. In particular, I think for someone who keeps doing fantasy/sf he's very weak at worldbuilding and seeing the implications of the tech/magic introduced into those worlds.

For example, magic was strong enough in the Buffyverse that slayers should've been wiped out as soon as each new one became known. Even minorly powered mages such as Tara were able to accidently give Buffy a hard time, and someone devoting thought to the matter could've easily taken her out (this is actually a problem with most magic universes. I was once in a LARP as a minor player with "very minor magical powers". I cleared everything I did with the gamemaster, but within an hour he had me killed by a [natural] bolt of lightning since I'd managed to completely take over the game. Never give vaguely described minor powers to someone who's read comics for decades and knows how to fully exploit such!).

Piaw Na said...

Well, in the case of dollhouse, the characterization didn't work for me either! The big reveal made no sense given what we knew about the nefarious villains.

With fantasy, plot holes are less noticeable. With SF, I'm afraid they can break the whole thing.

Shane Liu said...

I don't think these are plot holes. What are you describing are not illogical or inconsistent character behavior or events. It would be like me saying if Death Star is powerful enough to destroy a planet, it can certainly move fast enough to get close to it without being bothered by small vessels. There can be lots of logical reasons to why slayers can't be wiped out by magic, or why a timing devices can't be made, I'm not sure it's all that important to the story he is trying to tell.

Piaw Na said...

I think it's important in that it's very difficult for me to believe in a world where the characters who are smart enough to do one thing can't take the obvious next step. The deathstar analogy is incorrect, since the death star isn't a character.

Amy said...

People are looking for different things in what they watch. I thought Dollhouse was one of the most enjoyable and addictive shows I've ever seen, as have several people I've showed it to. Buffy I tried watching a few episodes of and can't stand. But I also freely admit my favorite genre of movie is Attractive People Blowing Shit Up.