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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



There's been a lot of reaction to the first episode of Dollhouse, which aired last Friday. A lot of that reaction is pretty negative. Another large portion is, let's call it concerned. Not much in the rave group. Including me. I'm more in the concerned group. The ratings were also not awesome.

Certainly the pilot (well, it's not the pilot, the pilot got scrapped so this is just "the first episode" and I liked the original pilot better) had it's difficulties both off screen and on. And it aptly demonstrated some of the inherent problems of the premise, namely that your main character is not your main character from week to week. At least, for now. And the fact that "Ghosts" is the first episode is indicative of another problem. Suits that just won't leave Whedon alone, something I just can't understand. The guy has a solid fanbase that's constantly growing and evangelizing. Did they really want to repeat the mistakes of Firefly, cancel it and then find out it was basically going to be huge.

Criticism have revolved around many things, for instance that the big action in the show seemed to be asthma attacks. I think that it just goes in the pile of criticism that the first episode just seemed watered down. The whole thing doesn't seem right and I don't think this is how Whedon really wanted to open the series. Reading between the lines in actor interviews bears this out. For example, Tahmoh Penikett said:
Speculation aside, the overall storyline and what the writers and Joss were aiming to do, is pretty much the same. Once we get about midseason, the fifth, sixth episode, it finds its feet again and the show really gets back on the path and the course that they wanted. I think it leaves the audience with something to look forward to. It’s a smarter choice.
Other criticism revolve around the creepiness of the organization that Echo is employed by. One commenter, I forgot where I saw it, said that it made him feel dirty. That he felt complicit in the pimping out of Echo. Here's my thing. Joss has always challenged the audience. This is one of the challenges of Dollhouse. Though we can be sure that the Dollhouse is likely the ultimate bad guys of the series, we still have to play along for now.

For now. That's my big concern of the series. Network interference or not, it disheartens me to hear the Whedon faithful lose their religion so quickly. Have they no faith? I do. I have a certain amount of faith. I see a potential in the show and it's not unlike something I've seen before.

We know that Echo's going to start remembering who she was. Even if you didn't read the interviews with Joss where he's said that, it's plain enough to see in the first episode that who Echo was is important and it's going to come to the fore one way or another. And eventually, I think, Whedon will have the building blocks of a great series and fantastic stories. The problem is that he's got to make those blocks by hand. Slowly. One at a time. To get to that story, we have to get though the somewhat lacking "Ghosts" and maybe some other things that don't live up to past Whedon works (which, by the way, Dollhouse is so completely unlike. And for that, I can also be a little forgiving. He's earned it, but there were certainly some dialogue moments that made me wonder).

It just may be that this is the story that must be told to get the story we really want.

It makes me think of Babylon 5. Those who enjoyed did so for it's extremely rich continuity and thought-provoking storylines. It was a show that rewarded it's viewers well for their loyalty. It's fans also like to evangelize and convert others the fold (yeah, lots of religious references in this post). The problem though is that the first season is painful to watch. There are huge chunks of it that are just bad. The main character isn't even the same guy as in the following four seasons. But all of it has to happen and if you watch it, you will have primed your mind to have it blown in the following four years. There's nothing like them.

That fact that B5 got all five of it's seasons made is a miracle (see?) and it nearly fell apart several times. It even required a cable network to step in and take over the final year after it's syndication deal evaporated after the fourth season.

Anyway, my point is, even if we don't love it...even if we don't like it, if we're Whedon fans, I think we should watch the full season anyway. I think Whedon has earned a little latitude from his fanbase. Some of the reaction is starting remind me of the blunders of that fanbase back in 2002, when the reaction to "The Train Job" was lacking and those same people who were turned off by the space/western combo and the network-mandated new first episode (sound familiar?) were the same one's who were snapping up the DVDs, converting their friends and lamenting the cancellation of a show they scarcely gave the time of day when they had the chance. His work has always been challenging, this is the most challenging yet. I want the chance for that second season to give me the goods.

Of course, there's the possibility that the second season might suck ass, but there's no knowing until it hits a screen.

Let me repeat that, because I know I'm sounding like a worshipper could still suck. But it might not, and if it doesn''s going to rawk and I don't want to miss it.

And they damn well better put the original pilot on the DVDs.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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