stakebait: (Ever_Upward)
[personal profile] stakebait

Binge watching my way through Dollhouse, really missing having a synchronous community of fen to talk it over with, even though I totally did this to myself.

Disjointed observations follow, on the off chance that anyone still cares: (spoilers through season 2, middle of episode 6)

Edited to add: spoilers for the reason of season 2 in the comments.

Not having all the feminist feels that I dimly remember thinking/hearing I would when it was airing.

OTOH, surprised that more (like, anything) is not made of them "killing" the imprinted personality every time Topher does a wipe. Everyone's concerned about the originals (and rightly so) but they're the ones who consented. The imprinted personalities consented to nothing... that I know of, unclear where they get these templates. Especially after the Whiskey/Dr. Saunders "I don't want to die" scene made it very explicit that imprints who know they can be wiped don't wanna.

The emotional prostitution side of this is creepy as fuck but makes perfect sense, people who want someone to really feel it, not just act. But for the purely skills-based assignments, It stretches belief that people would prefer to hire actives for all these things rather than hire regular experts. Once in a while, sure, there'll be someone who can't GET an expert but when you can, which is most of the time, the ability to have them forget is surely balanced by the risk of having the Dollhouse know.

Speaking of which, how much DOES the dollhouse know about each assignment, and how much granular control Topher has over the build, seem to vary with the speed of the plot.

Paul Ballard is the worst FBI agent in the world. Ruin my suspension of disbelief bad. I don't necessarily expect, or even want, CSI/NCIS levels of super high tech hat-rabbiting, but I can't believe the FBI in the real world could employ people who can't cope with anticipating the possibility of bugs, not getting followed home by suspects, or buying a decent lock. I feel surprisingly sympathetic with the guy-who-played-Crowley-on-Firefly agent's lack of patience with Ballard. I kinda want to slap him upside the head myself. His only real skill is making the puppydog face at the woman who is actually competent. At least the NSA guy knows what he's doing, though it's unclear if his hate on for Echo was NSA or Dollhouse related.

Speaking of Firefly, the two white people fighting in an Asian restaurant that is inexplicably empty of actual Asian people scene was weirdly deja vu. :)

OTOH  I am liking their portrayal of BDSM, and there's even a surprisingly large number of larger women (at least by American TV standards) who are not being played for laughs or pathos.

What is the point of the Attic? If Actives become unusable, why not just give them back themselves and let them go, instead of paying to keep them in storage for the rest of the five years? Or if you really have no intention of letting them go, why go on and on about how what you're doing is not so bad because they're volunteers and you're giving them back? The ethics, too -- how unscrupulous either this particular Dollhouse or Rossem in general is, and what various people believe about it, also seems to move at the speed of the plot from episode to episode.

As done the resting intellect of the actives (Echo excepted) and how much they understand, though in a narrower range. They all talk way too much in front of the actives -- they don't get their resting state memories wiped regularly that I can tell.

How come it is okay for Victor and Sierra to be all snuggly now when before it was a terrible thing?

Doesn't Dr. Saunders have a GPS strip, since she's an active? Or did she take it out? Shouldn't they at least discuss tracking her?

Everybody talking about how amoral Topher is reminds me of everybody talking about how dark and selfish Mal was. In neither case are they actually showing it. We actually see a LOT of Topher having ethics and morals and not wanting to be seen as a bad person, trying to help people and not to hurt them. Most of the him being uncaring stuff is told, not shown.

Which contributes to him being more adorable than he really should be. Him squeeing over Bennett with clone-him is super adorable. Though I think it;s weird that clone him doesn't mind knowing he's going to be wiped soon. Him being all needy and clingy in the dystopian future was also adorable. Also him playing laser tag with Sierra. Though I was relieved to see, in the scene with Whiskey, that he does have sexual feelings. He's so twee they almost play him pre-pubescent sometimes.

I enjoyed the dystopian future episode in and of itself but I find it disquieting how they just dropped it into continuity and then pick back up at an interim point and never explain it. Or what Alpha did to Echo and how it changed her. I get that it's probably going to be a big reveal, but IMO it's going on too long and detaching me from the Echo storyline. I find myself mostly in it for the Dr. Saunders character nowadays, which is funny when you think about how much I disliked Fred on Angel. I guess it really is the character and not the actor.

Date: 2013-11-24 06:50 pm (UTC)
mtgat: (Happy Little Narwhale)
From: [personal profile] mtgat
May I introduce you to [ profile] bookishwench? She's very nice, and really loved Dollhouse, so she might be up for a chat.

Date: 2013-12-01 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi! It's been a bit since I watched Dollhouse, but I do love a good fandom chat!

Date: 2013-12-06 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi! Nice to virtually meet you! I have sort of blarfed my Dollhouse thoughts all over this thread, or at least my thoughts on the second half, but I am happy to chat if anything strikes a chord for you.

Date: 2013-11-24 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, having watched a few more eps, for the love of beer and skittles why does everyone who goes places they shouldn't keep leaving the door open behind them? Why do they leave dropped guns around to be picked up by their enemies? Why did they build the rooms where the secret stuff happens out of glass so everyone can tell when it is happening?

And WTF is up with Adele DeWitt? Much as I covet the evil queen blouse, I have trouble believing someone would go through THAT much crisis of conscience only to drop it at the drop of a glass of scotch, even if it is the good stuff. And if she has a bigger plan, might it not be time and past to bloody TELL SOMEONE ELSE ABOUT IT SO THEY CAN HELP, or at least stop working at cross purposes? There comes a time when even the freakiest control freak should notice that playing things close to the vest is not in fact resulting in better outcomes. I can think of one good reason to hand over the plans to Topher's device to Rossem, which is that they're doing it anyway, and this way you know exactly what plans they used. I can think of no good reasons not to start Topher on bringing the damned thing down ahead of time..

Date: 2013-11-24 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, no, Joss, honey, no matter what you think you're trying to do, making a big strong black man the feared faceless enemy and calling him "it", is not the move.

Date: 2013-11-25 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm getting tired of the specialness of Caroline. Now it is not even her convictions or charisma or the weird whammy Alpha put in her head, it is on a molecular level? What does she have, the Mary Sue gene?

I could live with the specialness of Buffy because she paid for it, and because it was explained (sort of), or at least presented upfront, not pulled out as a deus ex what the fuck for the big finish.

Also not impressed by "premature cut away from the dialogue to avoid giving away that someone's not a megabitch and then revisit later for plot twist." I'm cool if the characters are keeping secrets -- annoyed, but cool. When the only person keeping the secret is the director from the audience? That is a cheap shot.

They better explain after all this time who the mole in the dollhouse who was sending Paul the messages was, and why they wanted to know the purpose. I assume Boyd, at this point? But who knows? And where does Saunders stand and what does she know? [edit, well okay then, that created more questions than it answered]

Speaking of loose ends, did Paul never play his answering machine and hear November's activation codes? Has anyone tried them to see if they still work? Why did they put Victor in the attic when they'd been prepared to release him before? It's not like November where he doublecrossed them.

This is my cynicism showing, but I may be impelled to write sad fanfic where it turns out your memories and experiences do matter, and now that Priya and Victor are themselves again, they want and believe incompatible things and love does not conquer all.

Date: 2013-11-25 01:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Or there's the even sadder canon where Priya and Anthony end up breaking up over dystopian warfare. Never mind.

Date: 2013-11-25 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What, what? After all of this "none of the imprinted personalities are real, they don't count, the people who have them just know somehow" now all of a sudden it doesn't matter? And we're okay with letting Melly stay in Madeline's body forever? I hope this turns out to be BS.

Date: 2013-11-25 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, you made me feel like a real person? When the whole point was they all do? Schmaltz over logic.

Date: 2013-11-25 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh good. I was afraid they were going to leave Alpha a loose end. This is better. Also, oddly unmoved about Paul. The thing about all these shows, you never can be sure which deaths are going to stick and by the time you know, the impact is blunted.

Date: 2013-11-25 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Finished now. Crying for Topher, a lot. But the stupid science brain keeps saying "you know, you didn't test it. What if it didn't work and you blew up the only guy who could tweak it?"

Date: 2013-11-25 03:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The ending completely wrecked me. And lol your science brain is all over this post and thread! ♥

Date: 2013-11-25 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh. And, yeah. I heart Joss with great hearting, but I wish I had the bazillions of dollars to say to him "I will fund your next show but you have to work with this continuity-obsessed nerd as a fact checker."

Date: 2013-11-27 03:30 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (tea dammit)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon

can we talk about Topher sometime

Date: 2013-11-27 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yes, yes we absolutely can

Date: 2013-11-27 03:41 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (mightier than the sword)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
Topher is on a very short list of characters that I did not want to like -- I don't mean "enjoy watching," I mean "find myself in sympathy with" -- and it happened anyway. And oh god, his ending broke me.

"Why didn't I think of that? ... Did I think of that?"

Date: 2013-12-06 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was actually always more in sympathy with him that I probably should have been. Because I wasn't seeing him in contrast to Caroline or an actual moral pure person, who was effectively making the argument that this is not something you should b able to consent to, or that the consent wasn't informed, or the safeguards aren't adequate, or whatever. I think if there had been anyone like that around except the ghost of Caroline past, I might have seen him through their eyes and been repulsed.

But I was seeing him in contrast to people whose hands were just as dirty as his but got off on feeling superior to him because he was having fun. And that pissed me off at them more than at him. He seemed like everybody's moral whipping boy, even DeWitt, who IMO was a lot worse most of the time.

It was DeWitt who I came to a tardy and reluctant sympathy for, largely because of how she took care of crazy!Topher in the future, but it was never as wholehearted because they played her too enigmatic and I was too busy suspecting fakeouts to use my empathy to fill in the blanks.

The person who confused me the most, though, was Bennett. She was so willing to turn on Rossem without a qualm when Caroline wanted her to, and so content to stay with them and condone some of their worst abuses afterwards. I get that she hates Caroline for abandoning her... well, I sort of get it, though given that she KNEW it was to save her it seems a bit much... but doesn't she have any moral views that are independent of that relationship? In either direction?

The thing that bothered me most about Topher was how much that didn't bother him about Bennett, to the extent that he knew about it.

Date: 2013-12-06 02:46 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (mightier than the sword)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
Oh, man, I also came to an overwhelming and unexpected sympathy for DeWitt -- but the difference there is I feel that she actually changed and earned it. While Topher ... also changed, but he had me in sympathy with him before that.

I should probably say at this point that there was one major difference in how I encountered the characters: we didn't watch the first flash-forward episode at the point where it aired. We watched both future episodes together after seeing the rest of S2. It makes a considerable difference, especially for Adele -- because yes, her taking care of Topher in the future was oh god heartbreaking.

Bennett confused me too, though I attributed that at least partly to having WRONG CANON false responses to the actress. But I'm inclined to read her as not really having much of a moral center, being sort of desperate for a real friend, and that desperation driving most of her actions surrounding Caroline.
(Wait, did Bennett know that Caroline left her in order to save her? I seem to recall getting the impression that she thought Caroline left her to save herself.)

Topher's reactions to Bennett in general bugged me. I mean, they were perfectly in character, but ... I would have liked him to think of her as a person rather than solely as his dream girl.

Date: 2013-12-06 05:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, when she puts it in Echo's head, it ends on "sorry sister, if I stay we both get caught," but when we see the full scene later, it turns out Caroline adds "I'm going to make sure it is just me" or words to that effect.

Bennett is still conscious so she presumably hears it.

But whether she believes it is of course a different issue. Or she may have been too bitter about what happened to her arm to care, or about Caroline never coming back for her (and maybe, when she finds out she's an active, instead of taking that as "of course she couldn't come" she read it like Alpha does, as running out on her friends by accepting).

Yeah, not seeing the flash forward ep would have made a huge difference, and not just to DeWitt... a lot of my early season 2 WTF was about how they could just put that out there and leave it hanging and whether I was supposed to take it as THE future or A POSSIBLE future or a fever dream/hallucination/special Echo or Alpha-induced power, or what.

I think you must be right about Bennett's lack of moral center... or maybe Caroline was her taking her first and only chance on seeing other people as more than tools, and she became convinced that it not working was proof that she was wrong and not just unlucky or paying an unfortunate but necessary price.

I like to think he would have come to see her as more, or less, or other, if they'd had longer together. Topher's interaction with Dr. Saunders was surprisingly nuanced and complex, I thought.

Date: 2013-12-06 05:26 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (mightier than the sword)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
See, yeah, I remember that scene -- and I remember Caroline turning away before she says "I'm gonna make sure it's just me" and not saying it very loudly, such that it's entirely possible Bennett never heard it. Though as you say, equally possible is she didn't believe it -- or believed it then and became bitter and disillusioned about it later.

Topher and Saunders/Whiskey, oh man. *wails*

man now I want to watch it all again.

Date: 2013-12-10 04:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wanted SO MUCH MORE of the Topher and Saunders/Whiskey plotline. Not pairing them romantically, but it was one of my favorite things because I didn't see it coming at all and yet in retrospect it makes SO MUCH SENSE, of course the only active who knows she's an active while she's, well, active would develop an obsession with her creator.

It reminded me of the best possible fanfic, the kind like Gaiman's The Problem of Susan where you just give things a half-twist and they shake into a new configuration and make an entirely different kind of sense on an additional level, and i was very impressed that they managed to do that to their own canon, because it usually takes an outsider to see it.

I adored their big catharsis scene, but I was disappointed that we never got to see how their relationship would develop afterwards.

Also I had mixed feelings about the "the smell of you makes me sick" "I did that so we'd never" thing. On the one hand, it's nice to think that Topher has qualms about exploiting someone who he had the ultimate power over and didn't know it, and set things up to make sure he couldn't take advantage of his knowledge of the cheat codes.

On the other, even with his knowledge of her, given everything else he said about how he made her, it is weirdly arrogant of him to assume that without an artificial repellent they would have had a sexual relationship. We haven't seen him assume he is irresistible to any other women. Indeed he barely seemed to notice that dimension of things for much of the show. And one could also take it as less concern for her than squick for himself, because she's not real. And that, given that he has no qualms about putting her or others in that situation, would be deeply problematic.

It also makes me think about the ethics of them not restoring the original personality of the girl who became Whiskey, after they got Clyde out and before Saunders/Whiskey volunteered to stay behind.

Date: 2013-11-25 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh, Dollhouse, so good. Or at least parts of it so good. The characters and the universe, as in all good Whedon things, are so vibrant... they just *live*.
Edited Date: 2013-11-25 05:38 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-11-25 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2013-11-25 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And more thoughts, of course.

When I rule the world, no one will be allowed to resolve a love triangle by killing one of the characters. (Paul/Melly/Echo, I'm looking at you).

I'm surprised the Dollhouse did not offer an actual spa service. Check your body in, have it dieted and exercised by a personality who likes that kind of thing, and either travel in a borrowed body in the meantime or just wait to be plugged back into yours.

It seems quite silly really that they restrict the actives to being beautiful. There are lots of non-romantic assignments where a greater variety of ages and appearances would add verisimilitude, not to mention a greater variety of tastes in romantic partners than this would indicate.

I cannot figure out what Rossem's actual goal was in developing the tech that ended the world. Obviously this wasn't it, since a company that makes its money on MRI machines does not benefit from a world of starving rioters, but what did they think would happen? What did they want to make happen? They wanted to sell it to governments? They wanted to use it to make governments eliminate regulations? They wanted to use it to cut out the middle man and just make people hand all their money to Rossem?

Also, since when does killing the CEO shut down a whole company? Don't you people have the rest of the C-suite, not to mention hundreds of senior VPs, and remote/cloud-based backups?

And if they had Clyde 2.0, surely he was as capable of Clyde 1.0 at doing the end-of-the-world math?

Speaking of which, if someone tells you only 3 percent of scenarios don't end civilization, you ASK WHICH THOSE 3 PERCENT ARE AND HOW TO ACHIEVE THEM.

Also, if the mainframe is the Attic, it shouldn't need server cooling?

And if the mainframe is the Attic, it is idiotic to run it on adrenaline mode all the time. Adrenaline makes you faster, but it doesn't make you smarter. To quote Topher, guns don't make me think better. When I had acute anxiety, my doctor basically told me that both my mental and my physical symptoms were basically the result of adrenaline poisoning, my system being awash in it for far longer than was intended. Trust me when I say, while that did indeed make me revisit the same problems over and over, in that condition I was NOT the girl you wanted making your decisions. (Although that would explain a lot about the dumber parts of Rossem's game plan.)

Date: 2013-11-25 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I confess. I haven't watched Dollhouse since it was on and really don't have much desire to rewatch it.

I found the series was really inconsistent. It really didn't stick together well. And there were loads of plot holes & inconsistencies.

I also recall thinking as much as I liked Eliza Dushku as Faith, she isn't a strong enough actress to carry a series. I really felt that was part of the issue. The show felt more like a vehicle for Dushku to show her acting abilities. But she wasn't good enough to be the lead in a series where she was supposed to be such varied characters.

Of course, looking at the dates on IMDB, I was pregnant at the time & had E while the show was airing... So my judgement could be very suspect. *laugh*

I recall thinking Tudyk's performance was interesting.

Unfortunately, the Topher character was so typical of Joss's writing. Xander in Buffy. Fitz in SHIELD. The nerdy, socially awkward guy that comes across as a bit to desperate and younger than his age. Luckily, Xander had years to develop into something more. (Which is interesting as Xander was as intelligent as Topher or Fitz.) But I feel like that character is Joss inserting his teen self into the stories. Or writing to the kind of guys he believes are in his core audience. But that could just be me reading into it. Too many criticism classes in college... (The hazards of a degree in art history... *laugh*)

Date: 2013-11-27 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree about Tudyk. The funny thing is I loved Topher and didn't much like Xander. I think it has to do with what's around him; Topher struck me as more like Wash, relative to an authoritarian power structure which he puts up with but never quite buys into. (Haven't seen Shield yet).

Not sure there's such a thing as too many criticism classes... :)

Date: 2013-12-06 02:48 am (UTC)
batyatoon: (no swimming)
From: [personal profile] batyatoon
Topher struck me (and some friends of mine) as being a fusion of Warren Meers and Andrew Wells. That was kind of a disturbing image.

Date: 2013-12-06 05:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, yes it is. Especially since they could easily have done that with science gone wrong.
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