Dollhouse Series 2 (DVD)
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Review of "Dollhouse Series 2 (DVD)"
Relieved and delighted to see the back of a horrible 2016 and working towards better things.
For some reason I’ve felt like digging through my old DVD collection lately – must be Netflix boredom – and so it happened that I watched season two of Dollhouse for the first time in years.For the uninitiated, Dollhouse is a Joss Whedon invention, focusing on a secretive corporation to which people could sign up for contracts to become ‘Dolls’ – a group of people whose personalities are stored for the duration of their contract and wiped from their minds so that they can be imprinted with set personalities and abilities at the request of high-paying clients. But some people have heard of the Dollhouse, including FBI agent Paul Ballard, who became obsessed with Doll operative Echo in season one.
He’s not the only one who suspects there is something even more sinister than mind control going on, and not everyone seems to have become a Doll by their own free will. The power of the parent company, the Rossum Corporation, seems to be more potent and far-reaching than anyone could imagine and, as season two starts, it seems that Echo isn’t functioning as the Dolls are expected to.
CASTEcho / Caroline – Eliza Dushku
Boyd Langton – Harry Lennix
Topher Brink – Fran Kranz
Paul Ballard – Tahmoh Penikett
Adelle DeWitt – Olivia Williams
Dr Saunders – Amy Acker
Victor – Enver Gjokaj
Sierra – Dichen Lachman
Alpha – Alan Tudyk
Senator Perrin – Alexis Denisof
Bennett Halverson – Summer Glau
Mellie – Miracle Laurie
JOSS WHEDON SYNDROMEIf you’re a bit of a Whedon geek (like myself ever since Buffy started kicking her way through Sunnydale twenty years ago…yes, twenty) then you’ll know that Joss Whedon is pretty loyal when it comes to casting, so there’s a lot of cross over appearances from previous series here as well as some new faces. Personally I like that rather than think it compromises the quality of the show. Some of the previously spotted Whedon club cast in Dollhouse are:
Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tru Calling)
Alexis Denisov (Buffy and Angel)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Summer Glau (Serenity)
EPISODES***Just a quick note about spoilers – I may reference some events of season one, or some events in season two might be giving away a little, in reviewing this series.
EPISODE ONE – VOWS
With Ballard now her handler, Echo is sent into a dangerous operation which sees her married to someone connected with one of his FBI cases. Dr Saunders takes her frustrations out on Topher, while Echo’s cumulative memories cause problems on her assignment. The Rossum Corporation, and the Dollhouse, draws the attention of rising political star Senator Perrin.
EPISODE TWO – INSTINCTTopher’s work on Echo’s new imprint is more effective than anyone anticipated, and Senator Perrin’s obsession with the Dollhouse becomes more concerning to Adelle.
EPISODE THREE – BELLE CHOSE
A client approached the Dollhouse to try to access some dark family secrets which are locked in the unconscious mind of his nephew, but two of Topher’s imprints become compromised.
EPISODE FOUR – BELONGINGThis episode focusses on Dichen Lachman’s character Sierra, showing the dark story of how she become a Doll and how the impact still affects her.
EPISODE FIVE – THE PUBLIC EYE
Senator Perrin has found someone who will testify against the Dollhouse but Adelle and Ballard fear for the witness’s safety and use Echo to try to intercept. The Washington DC Dollhouse enters the story, along with it the scientist Bennett.
EPISODE SIX – THE LEFT HANDThe history between Echo and Bennett is revealed and Adelle has a power struggle with a rival Dollhouse. Perrin finds his plans to take down Rossum have collapsed.
EPISODE SEVEN – MEET JANE DOE
Echo’s whereabouts are unknown and she is struggling to process reality, as well as the multiple personalities and associated abilities, and needs help after trying to look out for someone else. She can only think of one person who might be able to save her.
EPISODE EIGHT – A LOVE SUPREMESomeone is targeting Echo’s previous romantic engagement clients, suggesting that Alpha is back. Ballard continues to develop ties with Boyd Langton and Topher, raising suspicions with Adelle. Ballard suffers at the hands of the person targeting Echo’s former clients.
EPISODE NINE – STOP LOSS
Victor’s contract with the Dollhouse is up and he returns to the real world, but there’s more than just readjusting to reality to deal with once he leaves.
EPISODE TEN – THE ATTICNobody ever comes back from The Attic – the storage facility for “broken” Dolls. But Echo, Sierra and Victor are sent there by a furious Adelle. Can Echo make sense of the truth behind the feared facility and escape?
EPISODE ELEVEN – GETTING CLOSER
The true scale of the Rossum conspiracy is uncovered and Echo has to face her original personality – Caroline is the only person who can identify the people behind the corporation’s plans and that knowledge was powerful enough to see her memory wiped and have her locked in the Dollhouse.
EPISODE TWELVE – THE HOLLOW MENThe LA Dollhouse is targeted and Echo and her fellow survivors take the fight to the Rossum headquarters in Tucson to try to avoid an apocalyptic event caused by the scale of Rossum’s power. There is a traitor in the team and Echo is weakened as it seems that reintroducing Caroline’s memories hasn’t worked as it should.
EPITAPH TWO: THE RETURN
Set ten years after the season finale, the world is a very different place. Very reminiscent of some scenes from The Terminator in the way it is filmed, Epitaph 2 sees Caroline, Ballard and others fighting to protect the remains of humanity after the events of Epitaph 1 and in a society which has almost been destroyed by the technology of Rossum. Guest starring Felicia Day.
The Season 2 DVD is a four-disk set which you can buy from Amazon at £13.26 at time of writing (May 2017). Blu-ray is another option at £5.72 and Amazon Video a further choice at £10.99.Certificate 15.
EXTRASAs well as the previously-mentioned bonus episode, Epitaph 2, special features on the DVD are a retrospective with Joss Whedon, and ‘roundtable’ with Whedon and the cast and commentaries on some episodes.
MY THOUGHTSWhy oh bloody why do Fox insist on cancelling really great shows?!
This is another example of it. I suppose you could argue that with just two series, the show has at least been allowed to retire gracefully and remain fresh and still look quite slick and stylish now eight years after it initially hit our screens. And there wasn’t really anywhere else to take the show beyond the two Epitaph episodes, which are absolutely great but done in a very different way. Perhaps someone realized that, whilst Dollhouse was a great idea, the only way to stretch out its longevity would be to suspend the character development aspect of Echo, Sierra and Victor and the wider Rossum showdown story arc and instead stick in an extra series of more stand-alone episodes focused on the assignments of the dolls, which would have cheapened the overall pace and style of the show. So I guess the show’s cancellation could be viewed as both a good and bad thing.Anyway, back to Season Two. I recently decided to revisit some of my now rather ageing and neglected DVD collection and I’m really glad I decided to keep hold of this one – much of my collection has gone the way of charity shops by now.
It’s a great series. The concept of the show is still fresh and very soon in Series Two there is the bigger plotline about the truth behind the Dollhouse, the Rossum corporation and the true value of Echo or, more to the point, Caroline, to the company. It’s beautifully filmed with great sets, a gorgeous-looking cast who are all equally strong actors, a little of the Joss Whedon humour and some fantastic action sequences.Joss Whedon may seem to be completely nuts about Eliza Dushku but she’s fantastic as Echo, conveying very well the gradual ‘evolution’ of the Doll who has an ability to break through all of the Rossum technology to retain memories of her previous characters, so going from the childlike state all Dolls are kept in right through to total self-awareness not only of her now multiple personalities but also the failings of her original personality.
Likewise the relationship between Sierra and Victor is convincing, as the two Dolls naturally gravitate towards one another due to the strength of their instinctive love for one another – something which again proves to be more complex than the Rossum scientists can comprehend at one stage.Part of the skill in the writing is also evident when the true cost of Ballard’s recovery mid-season becomes evident, but is not over-played. It is quite tragic but it isn’t until Epitaph 2 that we see the long-term impact it has. On the subject of Ballard, Tahmoh Penikett is perfect as the former FBI agent-turned-handler, now under the roof of the Dollhouse working for the enemy he was determined to bring down and responsible for the woman he had become obsessed with finding.
On the acting – and this is where some of the Whedon humour really comes across – special mention has to go to Fran Kranz who is excellent as Topher, the intense and very distinctive character who manages to become less unlikable and show a more human side than in season one, and then to Enver Gjokaj, who at one point is imprinted with Topher’s personality and absolutely nails his impersonation of the character created by the other actor.The writing and execution is sound right through to the end, where the combination of that and the caliber of the acting mean that some of the twists and revelations towards the end are genuinely surprising. As the climax of the season nears, more flashbacks are used to fill in the required background information and everything comes to a well-timed and unrushed conclusion (not including Epitaph 2, which is set much further forward in time).
Epitaph 2 is excellent – whilst the series concluded on its own, this bonus episode gives further clarity and closure ten years later, as well as giving Whedon and the cast a chance to do something grittier and less glamorous.I absolutely loved this show and season two is probably better than the preceding one, with the storylines stronger and less episodes focusing purely on the events during the assignments of Echo, the cast more used to working together and the characters more defined and developed. The pace is just right and everything is done stylishly and well. Highly recommended.
Product Information : Dollhouse Series 2 (DVD)
Manufacturer's product description
Actor(s): Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
DVD Region: DVD
Classification: 15 years and over
Listed on Ciao since: 16/05/2017