After a very poor start Dollhouse has now moved into a curious pattern. Episodes are either inconsequential for the most part, or, as in Spy In The House Of Love, they contain enough revelations and plot development than you might reasonably expect in four stories.
Since Man On The Street we’ve been aware that there is someone inside Dollhouse who wants to lead Paul Ballard there. But in this story the Dollhouse finds out and sets about a mole hunt for the person who has been messing with the imprints.
What I didn’t like was the rather lame and overused ‘Twelve hours earlier’ scheme that the story is built around. We’re presented with something terrible going on, which we can’t see, and then rewind to explain how we got here and what’s actually happening. The narrative is then segmented into the imprints given to Sierra, Echo, Victor and November, and their ultimate consequences.
It’s Topher who first realises they’ve got a big problem in the Dollhouse when he discovers a chip in the imprint chair that shouldn’t be there. Thinking the spy is Boyd, he tries to warn him that they’ll be on to him, except he isn’t the spy!
Adelle DeWitt is away on business and unavailable, so he then tells head of security Laurence Dominic, who predictably goes ballistic. Soon he’s marching Sierra up to be imprinted as a super-spy and sending her into the NSA, where the technology in the chair came from, to find out who their spy is.
Aware that something is going on, Echo wanders up to Topher’s office and asks if she can help. Initially, Topher dismisses this, but she’s actually quite insistent, more than one would normally expect in an active’s passive state. “You change people,” she tells him, “Change me to help.” He does, imprinting her into a body language and interrogations specialist.
This made me think what an excellent place the Dollhouse would be to work as, if they get a leaky pipe, they just imprint the world’s greatest plumber (Mario?) and set them loose.
With these two particular clockwork toys unleashed, things start to move quickly, but what about November and Victor’s imprints? These are actually total side issues that have northing to do with the spy hunt. November is imprinted with the Mellie memories and sent back to keep an eye on Paul Ballard. Her return catches Ballard somewhat off guard, and the encounter takes a while to defrost. But eventually it does, and just as they start getting affectionate, she flips into another mode where she relays a message from inside the Dollhouse to him. This is quite a shock for Ballard, because, while we’ve known Mellie’s true identity for a while, he’s not made the connection till now. Paul is left with knowing she’s an active, and he must play along with her so that the Dollhouse doesn’t become aware he knows.
The Victor imprint is entirely weird, and quite unexpected. He’s sent on a ‘miss lonely-hearts date’, a repeat assignment with an old lady.
He’s dropped off by his handler outside her home, goes inside and gives her flowers, before walking out of the back, jumping in what looks like a Porsche 356a Speedster (1955-1958) for a rendezvous with an entirely different woman. Most jobs have some fringe benefits, but Adelle DeWitt’s isn’t unlimited office supplies! She’s having a affair with Victor who is imprinted as a British gigolo. She’s using it to handle the stress of the Dollhouse, but in this instance it’s actually keeping her from knowing what’s going on there.
The mole hunt gathers pace when Sierra does her mission impossible sequence and gets inside the NSA to get the secret document detailing their operations inside Dollhouse. She successfully retrieves the documents and escapes. But before she’s got back, Echo is also on the trail of the spy, and it’s not the same person that the NSA info incriminates. That points the finger at whiny Ivy, Topher’s assistant.
But Echo doesn’t believe that; she knows the real inside man is none other than NSA operative – Laurence Dominic! The problem with this is that Dominic tried to kill Echo, at least twice, so his wanting to stop Dollhouse didn’t really add up.
He explains this, saying that the Dollhouse technology was so dangerous that the NSA needed to make sure it was under control. To my mind, that eliminates him as the source of the messages that Paul Ballard has received.
Revealed as the spy, Laurence Dominic has his mind wiped and is taken to the ‘attic’, while Boyd becomes head of security and Echo gets a new handler.
Before they wipe him, Dominic says something to Echo that she will ultimately bring down Dollhouse, presumably because of something they’ve added into her imprint.
As Dollhouse goes, this was a strong episode even if they did wrap the whole thing in a very clichéd flashback mechanic.
Before I wrap up I’d like to say something about the number of episodes that are in this initial season of Dollhouse. I think I said at one point that there were only 12, as I assumed that, because the original pilot remains unshown, 13 would have been made. I was wrong. 13 will be made beyond the pilot. But it might also be that I was right, because only 12 will be screened and the 13th – Epitaph One – looks like it will be held exclusively for the DVD release. Or that’s what Felicia Day, an actress who’s in that episode twittered the other day.
Holding an episode to boost the DVD sales doesn’t actually send me the vibe that Dollhouse will get another season, but I could be wrong (or right) on that.
Next week Dollhouse goes a little Brainstorm on us, when Echo is imprinted with the memories of a dead woman to help solve her murder.
Check out our review of episode 8 here.