I just finished watching Terminator and Dollhouse and just felt compelled to write a short comment. Both shows were really good tonight, in their own way.
Terminator resolved a number of huge plot threads and the same time it opened a number of intriguing new ones. The coolest part, though, was that John Connor was finally given a moment to really shine and show the potential to be that “great leader of the future” he’s supposed to be. The scene I’m talking about — and you’ll know it when you see it — completely captured my attention, and I pretty much never focus on one thing at a time.
Dollhouse was really good in a similar way. Some big new aspects to the plot were introduced, and there were a number of really great twists that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps best of all, I think I finally see how the show can work as a series. As you may know, lots of people have expressed doubts that a show which focuses on a main character who is basically a blank slate can ever be compelling. Though it is clear that the ‘heroine’ Echo is slowly retaining more of her past memories, this episode made it clear to me that the supporting characters may turn out to be the real focus of the show. Echo serves as a mirror through which we can see reflections of what the other characters see themselves as, or what they want to see themselves as. There’s a wonderful scene where a ‘villain’ looks sympathetic at the same time he calls the motives of the ‘hero’ into question.
I’ve been hooked on Terminator, and I’m glad to see that it has been living up to my expectations. Dollhouse, I think, has finally snagged me.
I was going to joke and ask: is it a sweeps week? But, it turns out, it is!
Yeah, my husband and I agreed that last night’s episode of Terminator was one of the great episodes of TV ever. Last episode of M*A*S*H? The end of the first season of The Wire? Buffy’s “The Body” or “Normal Again”? The episode of Dead Like Me where we found out how legwarmers were invented? The Twilight Zone at its best? Hard to top any of those, but last night’s episode of Terminator is right up there.
I can’t believe how good a job they’ve done developing the characters. I can’t believe how believable they are, and how much I care about them. How John can be the future leader of humanity and Sarah’s defensive teenage son at the same time. How much sense the conflicts make, even though they’re about freakin’ robots and time travel… You find yourself thinking, yes, this is exactly what it would be like. (And it was all buried in the premise, forgotten in the chase scenes of the second movie… There are good Terminators? Oh, okay. But wait, how does that work? Do people trust them? Everyone? Should they? Do they trust each other?)
Can’t say enough good things about it. Can’t think of much TV that’s affected me that strongly.
But Dollhouse? Oh, the contrast was painful. I had thought it was getting better, but last night’s episode, coming right after great all time TV, just seemed so… hollow. I wanted to like FBI Paul, honestly, because he reminds of me of The Incredible Hulk’s Mr. McGee, and I always loved Mr. McGee. But he’s completely incompetent
He has not only a Doll, but the very Doll he’s been obsessed about, and he lets her get away. Makes no effort to stop her. Twice. He barely even tries to interrogate Stuart-from-King-of-Queens. He sleeps with his neighbor though it’s very clear he couldn’t really be less interested. Comes off like a sleazeball. Meanwhile the whole rape subplot at the Dollhouse is just uncomfortable to watch. Everyone seems sort of… Annoyed. They’re annoyed that one of the Dolls is being raped. Urgh. Meanwhile, I am rapidly growing to hate the Topher character. First of all — he’s the entire department? He’s neurologist, computer programmer, the psychologist who designs the personalities? So basically, he’s the whole Dollhouse? Second, his lack-of-social-skills schtick was okay on Buffy, where his character actually had some depth. Here, where he’s just a plot device, it’s irritating.
Finally, I’m find the completely unrealistic depiction of the FBI distracting. Alias was more believable than that…
Re: Terminator, I agree that the characters come off as wonderfully realistic and sympathetic, even ones like Derek Reese who I was originally predisposed to hate.
Re: Dollhouse, it’s interesting to her your quite different take. For me, I felt that the episode intentionally made us question the FBI agent’s motives, and made him question them himself, and I felt that was a good step in developing a character for him. As for his relationship with his neighbor, I didn’t think it was obvious to him, at least, that he isn’t interested: the scene seemed to emphasize that he had been deeply shaken by his encounter with S-f-K-o-Q, and confused.
I’m not sure we’re supposed to like the Topher character! I’ve been nurturing a deep dislike for him, as well!
I got a little ranty-er there than I meant to. Well, I’m a Joss Whedon fan girl, so a lot of it is just having set my expectations too high. You’re right that we’re probably not supposed to like Topher (who apparently is not the same actor as A-f-B after all) and FBI-Paul did get a bit of character development — it’s mostly the contrast with Terminator that made it seem less impressive. I did like seeing Ms DeWitt “play her bad hand extremely well.”
I’ll keep watching Dollhouse, because the truth is I love TV like this even when it’s bad, and this is not bad. Just not as great as it could be.
BTW — as an about-to-defend grad student in optics and a big pop culture/genre fiction nerd, I really love your blog.
Mary: Hey, you’re allowed to be a little ranty! Like I said, it’s genuinely interesting to hear someone else’s opinion, especially when it is really distinct from my own!
Thanks! And good luck with the defense!