Thoughts on Dollhouse, 6 weeks in

In comments, j_lovescoffee asks what I think of Dollhouse now that the show has gotten up to speed?

I think it’s improved a lot since the first episode, enough so that I’m in it for the long haul. My favorite episode so far was #4, the one where Echo became a bank robber. I like the Alpha myth arc a lot.

I thought this week’s episode suffered from overhype—it was fine, but after all the talk about what a game-changer it was going to be, the actual revelations were something of a letdown. OK, so the Dollhouse is a global conspiracy, and there’s someone on the inside trying to help Agent Ballard (if the mole turns out to be Adelle, that would be a cool twist, but my guess is it’s going to be Amy Acker or Topher’s assistant).

My biggest concern about the show is that Joss’s feminist discomfort with his own premise may end up sabotaging the story. The “sex trafficking is evil!” subtext is already tedious. Yes, if the Dollhouse were real, it would be evil. But it’s not real, and if you’re going to go to the trouble of imagining it in fiction, surely there are more interesting dramatic statements than “Wow, what a horrible thing I’ve imagined!”

An example of where this gets to be a problem: One of the things we learned this week is that the Dollhouse has a strict rule against handlers having sex with dolls. Indeed, it’s a death-penalty offense. The question is, why? I could think of some in-story explanations that might make sense, but I suspect that the real reason is that the show’s writers were grossed out by the idea, Did Not Want To Go There, but at the same time recognized that it was weird not to go there, since the kind of people who would work at the Dollhouse probably would have sex with the dolls, a lot. So instead of just not going there, they decided to make a big deal out of not going there, even though that paradoxically draws attention to the weirdness of not going there, and hey! Did you see how she broke that guy’s neck!? Woman power!

Anyway, for now I’m enjoying it enough to let the moral panic slide.