Dollhouse Season 2, Episode 1: Vows

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Echo is sent on an engagement as the new bride of a wealthy financier  and must find evidence connecting him to illegal activities.

When Dollhouse was announced, Joss Whedon fans rejoiced. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had ended, although the title character lived on in animated series and graphic novels, Angel had investigated his last crime and Firefly, although cancelled on TV, had wrapped up with the movie Serenity. Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog sadly only ran for three episodes, but served to remind the world that Whedon was out there, planning his next show.

Dollhouse first aired in the US in February this year. The show follows the Dolls – people who, for a myriad of personal reasons, signed up to the Dollhouse to have their minds wiped and tailor made, false memories imprinted for various missions and tasks. Some missions are romantic, others not so, depending on what the wealthy client desires. Once the mission is ended, the Dolls return to the Dollhouse, their memories are wiped clean and they live in a blank state of blissful unawareness.

One Doll, Echo (Eliza Dushku), starts to become more and more self aware, even after her memory has been wiped of the backup singer, hostage negotiator, perfect date or other personality that she was imprinted with. Meanwhile FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) tries to bring down the Dollhouse and searches the real world for Echo’s actual self, Caroline, who has been reported missing.

Some episodes in season one were quite silly – the pop star who wanted to kill herself in Stage Fright for example, but there was always the feeling that it was building to something. The season finale of season one, Omega, delivered the promise that the season had been gearing up to. Alpha (Alan Tudyk), a renegade, mentally unstable ex-Doll and FBI Agent Ballard infiltrate the Dollhouse, a tactic which allows Alpha to kidnap Echo and many mysteries hinted at throughout the season to be revealed.

In the final five seconds of Omega, Echo, in her doll (or wiped) state repeats her actual name – Caroline. This hints that all is not well within the Dollhouse and the experiments Alpha conducted on Echo may have had a lasting effect.

So we arrive at Vows, the season 2 premiere. The first few minutes remind us of what has happened at the end of season one, and thankfully, this is not ignored or skimmed over. Dr Saunders (Amy Acker) is painfully aware that she is, underneath her doctor persona, a Doll and decides to mess with lab tech, Doll designer Topher (Fran Kranz) because, well, he designed her that way.

Echo’s assignment is as an FBI double agent working with Ballard to bring down an arms dealer. After a blow to the head, however, Echo becomes disorientated as previous imprints become reactivated within her. At the end of the episode, with Mr Bad Guy caught, Echo and Ballard have a conversation and Echo reveals that she knows she has “been many people… I am all of them, but none of them is me”.

Season two of Dollhouse is picking up where season one left off. Although, from the outside, all appears to be well, Echo now knows that her Doll self is not her actual self and she wants to find who she is. Dollhouse could easily skip over the notion of the soul, while focussing too much on the brain as the area where personality resides. Instead, the show is leaning more and more toward the notion that replacing someone’s soul is impossible and Caroline’s soul is struggling to break through the blank slate – Echo.

Vows is a more complex episode than had been seen for a while in Dollhouse – other than the season finale – and it appears as though the storylines are growing more complex and the question of a Doll rejecting their imprints is being raised as the overall show gets more comfortable with its subject matter.

It appears that we are in for a fascinating season of Dollhouse with deeper questions being asked and less fluff than the first half of season one.

GS Reviewer: Brogen Hayes

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