I will get to each show in turn, but I promised I would get Dollhouse watched for a fellow Joss fan by tonight, so its review comes first. Expect some looks at the two missing episodes of Heroes later this week. On with the show...
So Joss Whedon returns to television with Dollhouse which reunites him with Eliza (Faith) Dushku. The show is a bit high concept: a private organization erases the memories of dozens of individuals and turns them in to programmable agents able to be assigned to missions from the highest bidder. Dushku plays Echo, one of these agents of the Dollhouse.
We open with an interview from before her time as a doll (for lack of a better term). She has done something not right, although what it is remains vague, and she is in trouble. The Dollhouse offers her a way out. We flash to the present, where Echo meets a boy, has a wild weekend, and is promptly made to forget it by her handlers. She returns to the Dollhouse as little more than a slightly confused, docile automaton while the Dollhouse awaits her next assignment.
Meanwhile an FBI agent named Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) has a meeting with his less than happy superiors about the lines he has crossed in search of the elusive Dollhouse. But he knows as well as his superiors that his case won’t be closed... someone higher up wants it solved. He goes after a human trafficker named Victor and sets him up as a potential contact in his hunt for the Dollhouse.
After a brief encounter with a new doll named Sierra (Dichen Lachman), Echo gets her new imprint, that of kidnapping expert Eleanor Penn. Her mission is to help secure the release of a kidnapped girl. But the mission goes bad at the meet, when one of Eleanor’s programmed memories recognizes the face of the man who kidnapped and abused her. Her handler, former cop Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix), helps her plot the kidnappers means of escape. He also convinces the head of the dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) to refrain from wiping Eleanor’s personality too quickly.
Eleanor tracks down the lost child, convinces the two non-child molesters to let the girl go, and moves to escape with her. The newly minted Sierra arrives to lay waste to all the kidnappers and recover the money.
The show ends with two ominous looks at the future: a folder named Project Alpha handed by DeWitt to her aide Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond) and a mysterious killer with knowledge about Echo’s past and information for Agent Ballard.
All in all an interesting idea with a weird mix of comic-style super agents and Matrix-like mind programming. I detect a similarity in spirit to Jay Faerber’s comic Gemini and the far more lackluster My Own Worst Enemy but Joss has made sure to design Dollhouse as its own beast. We will have to see if the conspiracy mixed with the hints of something wrong in Echo’s programming (shown tonight as a flash to the view of Sierra’s programming while talking to her client as Eleanor Penn) and the various players can come together to form something memorable or just lackluster. And hope that if the series does carry the same quality as previous Joss shows, that it doesn’t fall in to the same fate as the similary time-slotted Firefly.