Last week, I really warmed to this show, as a number of important plot revelations turned the concept on its head. The creator had mentioned that episodes six and seven where ‘game changers’, so I was curious to see what rabbits were pulled out of a hat in this week’s story Echoes.
But what momentum they’d created previously was unceremoniously sent for recycling in this complete klunker of a story. What I loved last week was the edgy nature, TRON-cycle direction changes, and big arc story development. Well that was then, and this week Dollhouse had an almost complete relapse into a mostly incomprehensible mess.
It all starts with footage that I assume was shot for the never screened pilot covering how Echo (real name Caroline) was inducted into Dollhouse, interesting but hardly pivotal. We then go to some labs run by Dollhouse connected Rossum Corporation, where a student under the influence of some narcotic is acting strangely, and ultimately kills himself. The drug that he’s affected by won’t impact on actives, we’re told. So three black vans full of them turn up, think they work for the NSA and take control of the college campus, where more students are being overcome with this chemical compound.
The slight twist to this is Echo, who isn’t part of the detail. She’s with the guy we first saw her in the show with, playing ‘girlfriend’. She’s wearing the same odd clothing, presumably because he likes her in it. This gear seems to be from a different historical era, for a woman ten years younger than Echo, and is probably the most unsuitable attire for riding a motorcycle – which is exactly what she then does.
She sees a TV report of the campus lockdown and then gets a Close Encounters compulsion to go there, leaving lover-boy tied to the bed.
I’d detail the whole show, but it’s mostly mindless. Echo has memories to do with the Rossum Corporation, when she was into protesting about animal cruelty, and it has ultimately lead her to the Dollhouse. All the non-active employees of the Dollhouse are affected by the drug and start acting like idiots. This was mildly funny for five minutes, but they keep going back to them for more drug fuelled ‘hilarity’. Some people who – like me – are children of the 60s might find people who are intoxicated by drugs funny, but I’ve seen enough Cheech & Chong for a lifetime, thanks.
The twist is that, although we’ve been told it won’t do anything to the actives, it, in fact, does, and they all start having flashback memories of previous experiences. This isn’t something new, as we’ve seen this with Echo in previous stories, without drug assistance. If you were wondering about Paul Ballard, he appears in this story but to no consequence whatsoever. He’s sulking because they withdrew Mellie back to Dollhouse, providing them with a less than romantic separation.
In terms of the bigger plot, the story painted a huge sign about what will happen next week. It’s telegraphed that the actives will all keep on having memories and realise their predicament. I’m sorry if you didn’t get this from the show and I’ve spoiled it, but other than running a trailer at the end telling you that, I couldn’t imagine it could be sold any more obviously.
After last week’s quite brilliant reversal this was an almost diametrically bad follow up, I’m left with concerns about the consistency of the production. It also makes me wonder who makes horrible costume choices for the clothes they put Eliza Dushku in, and exactly what creepy demographic they’re aimed at. The resurrection that Dollhouse experienced last week was implausibly short lived and possibly, in retrospect, was just a blip. I guess after next week we’ll get confirmation one way or the other.
Check out our review of episode 6 here.