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26 April 2009 @ 11:56 am
Dollhouse: "Haunted" Episode Review + Meta  
Dollhouse 1.10 "Haunted"

After a dear old friend of Adelle's suddenly passes away, she imprints her memories and personality into Echo as a way for her to communicate one last time. But her friend wants to solve her own murder, thinking that perhaps knowing the truth would set herself free, however the complications of life-after-death can have an impact on how friends and family actually thought of you, and the truth is harder to accept than not. She discovers that it was her son that murdered her through a tranquilizer drug used for horses, and as he finds out about the imprint he attempts to kill her again but is stopped just in time.

Meanwhile, Paul is conflicted between his continuing relationship with Mellie knowing that she is an unwilling participant from the Dollhouse, and gets closer to the truth regarding his search for the organization. Also, Topher takes a day off to secretly imprint Sierra for a personal task of his own, a bff to celebrate with for his birthday.

Life After Death: Imprinting Taken To Another Level

While Echo's personality of the week wasn't as engaging as the others have been, the episode did present the fascinating concept of having imprints from those deceased, or at least those who are willing to allow themselves to have their memories and personalities copied before death so they could live on. This raises some interesting questions regarding the technological advancement of such devices to make this possible, and the ethical reasoning for doing so.

The entire concept of the Dollhouse, erasing and imprinting personalities, is very science fiction indeed, so understanding the actual process is beyond our scope of knowledge unless one is highly intuitive with how such technology works. This is like downloading on a Battlestar Galactica scale, transferring memories and personalities from body to body if necessary to live on and, knowing Joss as a huge BSG geek himself, he probably did this deliberate because in the world of science fiction that is closer to our own technological evolution in today's current world, this is not far from being possible in that near future. Knowing that such advancement within this is absolutely possible, who knows if the Dollhouse has actually considered this, which brings us to the morally conflicted part of the equation.

Adelle clearly frowned upon the idea of being usage aside from this personal engagement, as a special duty to a friend, but how ethically right was it even in that case? If handed into the wrong hands how many other clients would want their loved ones to be imprinted into Dolls? Even though we're seeing a softer side of Adelle there are other directors of other Dollhouses that might not see it as such and actually might take into account the eternal life stances, if only to gain more clientele. Moral ethical codes don't usually apply when concerning the Dollhouse, since they bend those rules and justify them to their own means however and whenever they feel like it.

Nevertheless, the idea was placed out there and Lord knows what might happen if such technology does get handed to the wrong people. Boyd was right, it would be the end of human civilization because people would be wanting to have eternal, everlasting life.

Loneliness Within The Dollhouse

We've seen many characters try to deal with loneliness, sometimes in a productive manner that otherwise may seem destructive and morally wrong from an outside perspective, but nonetheless these characters have human needs just as anyone else. Before we saw Adelle dealing with the stresses of her job position as she becomes a secret client herself, using one of their Dolls for emotional release. In this episode we see Topher using the same method by imprinting a Doll, any Doll he wasn't exactly specific, just a Doll that hadn't been on an assignment for some time, with a friend-like personality where he could just hang and goof around with.

The saddest thing though is understanding why this needed to be done, it was Topher's birthday. While he's being all science guy within the Dollhouse he has limited time for friendship, at least stable friendships outside of work, and with his confidentiality contract it can be hard to maintain those bonds. So when Adelle mentions that he only gets this chance once a year, it was like the saddest thing ever. Of course she understands this need, and the loneliness and attachment can become dangerous in the business they run, but seriously, once a year? Jeez.

No wonder Topher seems kind of off-putting though kinda adorable seeking out "man-friends" in the workplace, a.k.a. Boyd for example. He's still slightly trying to fill that void of friendship without really doing so.

Another example given in this episode is, surprisingly, Paul's downward spiral into giving into what the Dollhouse is selling only to perserve his chances of survival and without getting caught in the process. This turn of events for him was dark and disturbing, even though he and "Mellie" are a consentual kind of couple, she's programmed. After learning of the identit(ies?) of the true woman being held captive underneath it all he still went for the bait of hiding that suspicions from the Dollhouse by sleeping with her. Again. This time however it was rough sex, and it was after the fact that Mellie had announced that it didn't haved to "mean anything" which was repeated, either by herself or in his head, and he knew this was true. Dolls were meant to be without consequence, and with that and having the warning in his brain he needed something to stop the madness. So he ended up rough sexing/raping the woman he swore he never would do because it would be advocating what he was trying to prevent. We see Paul absolutely disgusted with himself afterwards, hating himself for what he'd done. Even though Mellie is very happy, Paul isn't. He knows it's all a fake, all a lie, and it's breaking him.

With all these combined the Dollhouse is essentially about needs. Other than the clientele they have, Adelle using a Doll to unleash her frustrations and just being herself, Topher to have a best friend even for a single day, Paul to mask his knowledge of certain things by using Mellie despite feeling disgusted about the whole thing, and even with Adelle's friend who only wanted to solve her own murder and see how others thought of her. Every case has a specific need, but not every need is necessarily good or ends well, because in our minds we have these "what if" scenarios, but to these characters those scenarios are realities to can be hard to accept at times.

Memorable Moments from the Episode:

++ Eliza Dushku was absolutely amazing in this episode. I admit I wasn't as captiviated by the murder mystery Agatha Cristine kind of puzzle, even though those do appeal to me quite a bit. It was slightly predictable, but nevertheless Eliza did a superb job with becoming this woman by means of personality. Her speechifying, the way she carried herself and those amazing outfits which gave off a sense of elegance and respect, I thought she did wonderfully. ♥

++ And Eliza with horses = ♥ Just saying.

++ Also, I liked how Adelle chose Echo amongst all the other Actives to become this woman. Perhaps it was because Adelle favors Echo above the others, but I really liked the dynamic between the two and they played off each other nicely. Makes me want more Adelle/Echo kind of interactions, with or without imprints.

++ Awww, Topher is kinda adorable, y/y?? Imprinting Sierra as just a budding friend to play video games and throwing footballs and then lazer tag? Awwww. Even though it's still sad, I thought it was cute to see him actually being his geeky/nerdy self with another geeky/nerdy personality.

++ "Can we play with the sleepies?" LOL I loved this line because of the irony, but also how Sierra said it. And I liked her suggestions, it would be kind of what someone like Topher would think about. It's totally the geek fantasy of having that battle going on of seeing how gets more hits on YouTube. XDDD I WANNA PLAY WITH TOPHER AND SIERRA! They made it seem so fun and awesome, just being able to goof off without consequence or whatever. Sad because it was only for one day, but still. How awesome would that be?

++ LOL Joss, adding the incest without really making it so. LOL.

++ Paul is getting sneakier but also freaking me out here, at first I thought that whole scene with him and Mellie before the rough sexing was going to be a dream, a nightmare because he's been holding out for so long ever since discovering that Mellie is a Doll. But no, it was real, and they actually crossed that line with him. And y'know what? I kinda liked that they did. It's totally dark and twisted and immoral, and shows like this need to exist to bring such material and content. Srsly.

++ So, it appears that Mellie's true identity might've been either someone who dealt with identity theft or used different alliases for whatever reason. Not exactly the neighborly Mellie he once knew, which makes things interesting regarding her past.

++ Eternal life after death via imprinting, massive scifi notions of the dangerously fascinated degree. And Joss totes was doing this deliberate because of BSG, like totes ppl.

Overall: I enjoyed this episode. It was more of a stand-alone but it still had major points regarding morals of the Dollhouse and Paul stepping a bit closer to understanding that yes, the Dollhouse is real and he actually gained someone onto his side (which I cheered when he appeared into her office and she actually helped him out!) We get the inside scoop about other possibilities from these imprints going into the direction of everlasting life after death, the loneliness aspect in different cases, and how even with the notion of seeing yourself post-death it would've been better to remain unknown of those cold truths. I did like that Adelle's friend managed to see what others thought of her, hard as it was to accept, and make certain changes after figuring out who had killed her. So now she'll be able to rest in peace knowing that. But again, just a one time thing and it's sad nonetheless.


This also concludes that there are only two episodes left, three if they keep with the thirteen aired episodes, but with the speculated rumors of going back and forth I do think we do have only two left. Bummer. FOX PLZ RENEW THIS SHOW OTHERWISE THERE WILL BE BLOOD! I AM SRS HERE.
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: Bear McCreary - Caprica (Main Theme)
(Deleted comment)
Renée: Castiel. Halo.rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)
Definitely. I really enjoy taking a lot of these issues and questioning them, it's incredibly deep and dark and sometimes you don't want to go there and yet this show does just that and it blows your mind. I'm terrified for Paul, because he wants to do good but is getting dragged deeper and deeper into that morally gray area and it's just...heartbreaking watching him. :( Kudos to Tahmoh.

I love the cuteness factor of Topher and Sierra, I could totes see them being bffs even though she was imprinted to be that personality just for him on his b-day (makes me really wish Ivy and Topher could just become bffs instead of colleagues at work, y'know?)

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Renée: DH. Echo. Blank slate.rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
This is what Joss does to us, and I love that about him. Unpredictableness.

IKR?!?! :O
(Anonymous) on April 27th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
did we all see WASH on the promo!? WHO IS EXCITED? (squee)
Chinook McMutton Z: Dollhouse - Topher Better Callczgoldedition on April 27th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
Loved reading your review. :) I enjoyed this episode thoroughly!

And awwwww yes Topher, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. <3

So exciteddd so next week also!

As for this:
So, it appears that Mellie's true identity might've been either someone who dealt with identity theft or used different alliases for whatever reason. Not exactly the neighborly Mellie he once knew, which makes things interesting regarding her past.

I assumed we were meant to take those as all her Dollhouse personalities? I mean, you'd think the Dollhouse would have to get proper identification and things for each imprint so that if they were to get into a situation that was difficult to extract from immediately, they'd have credentials that wouldn't raise suspicion. Maybe it was a bug in the system that all the personalities weren't erased afterward? Although you would think they'd have one for "Mellie" in there if that were the case, so you may be right. So many interesting possibilitiessss, I hope this show gets its contract renewed.
Renée: Sierra. Taking charge.rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
Thanks bb. :)

I admit I was a bit sketchy of Topher at first when the series premiered, because knowing of all of what they do there he seems the least bit morally worried over what he does. But over the course, like most of the characters, we get to see how indepth and personalized they are which connects us to them on that level, which now I adore him and feel so sad for his situation. That is the Joss Whedon way, cutting into own hearts like this.

I assumed we were meant to take those as all her Dollhouse personalities? I mean, you'd think the Dollhouse would have to get proper identification and things for each imprint so that if they were to get into a situation that was difficult to extract from immediately, they'd have credentials that wouldn't raise suspicion

Perhaps, though we do know that the Dollhouse has its flaws but I do assume that those were probably still being held in whatever record online and once being popped up they got notified and erased it. Though it makes it interesting to see who was orchestrating that and why, or if it was Alpha. We need more information about how their security works and how precisely are these people suddenly "erased" from the system, since them being in the Dollhouse means for a clean slate from their old lives. Also, seeing it again, there appeared to be only two photographs with two separate names with her. So idk. This show keeps you guessing, and yeah they better renew it or else I will be majorly pissed.
Gaby: [dollhouse] the fiercest of them allsquaringkarma on April 27th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
So a couple things:

1) I was really uncomfortable with the rough sexing scene. It was like the first time not counting the Middleman trying to kill Echo in episode 2 that I was like "Whoa. This show. Whoa. That is too far."

2) Ever so slowly, my heart is being to melt around Topher. I always like some of his lines, but he still squicked me out a bit. But aww, him and Sierra were totes adorable this ep ♥

Renée: Sierra. Taking charge.rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
1. It was definitely meant to make us feel as uncomfortable as possible, because Paul knows better and in fact had been acting differently towards Mellie because knowing of who she really is. And then his decision to just go along with the act because that is what's expected of it...it was meant to cross that line, meant to be dark and as much as that made us uncomfortable it was really what makes this show unlike others. It takes us to those dark places and we really get into Paul's psychological state right now. He's torn, on the verge of having a breakdown because his entire life is surrounded by the Dollhouse. Whether he's actively seeking it out or them seeking him out.

2. Yeah, Topher's amorality is something that would make me uncomfortable if I were in the same room with him (and knowing me I'd have arguments with him about what is right and wrong, like how Echo when she confronted him in "Needs"). But every character we've seen, from Topher to Adelle and even Dominic, has something sympathetic and surprising to show us. These characters aren't cardboard bad guys, everyone is in that moral grayness. But Topher was just adorable in this episode, and he and Sierra were just squishable. It made me wanna join in the fun with them. ♥

futurestarlette on April 27th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC)
I love your Dollhouse meta each week! Meta is something that I just can't seem to do (postep squee, yes, actual thinking, no), and I am in awe of you guys who can write it for every single ep!

ME TOO. I think this was my favorite imprint of Sierra's so far actually. It was adorable seeing those two just having totally silly fun, and oh so sad when Topher had to give his friend up for another year. :(

Paul continues to freak me out. And I want to find out who Mellie was before she became a doll! Probably someone awesome!
Renée: DH. Sierra. Squee!rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
Sometimes I amaze myself when I can write coherent reviews and meta because sometimes my brain is on overdrive. So, yay me? ;D

It totally was adorable, because taking away from the whole imprint thing, it's just cute seeing them acting so natural as though they've been bffs for years. Though this is probably the only time Topher will ever have something close to a normal friendship with someone, and that's just sad and heartbreaking. I mean that last bit with him and Sierra when she brought him the Twinkie with candles...I just wanted them to remain bffs forever because of that. :((

I kinda wanna know everyone's original past, who they were and how they came there. We saw flashbacks to Echo's past, but what about Victor, Sierra, Mellie? I only hope we can get another season to explore this more.
futurestarlette on April 28th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, flashbacks for all would be pretty cool, although we did learn some about Mellie and Sierra during the episode where they all broke out. (Now that I think of it, Sierra had a English accent in that ep, didn't she? So the wiping process can change your speech?)

Before we found out a bit more about how people became dolls, I had a theory that the dolls were all master criminals/con artists/hackers who chose five years as a doll over more years in jail. Makes sense that the Dollhouse would prefer actives with natural intelligence and adaptability, and this way they'd get their "volunteers". That's not how Echo or Sierra became dolls, but I'm still hoping for something along those lines for Victor or Mellie!
Renée: DH. Echo. Blank slate.rogueslayer452 on April 28th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
I'm think the erasing process of their original memories makes them essentially blank canvases, no hint of their old life whatsoever. Which is to assume yes, their original accents.

My theory is along those same lines, as well. We saw that Caroline was an equal rights activist who got tangled up with Rossum and, apparently, had been on the run from whomever was after her for two years. She and Sierra were both blackmailed into "volunteering" without suffering major consequences for their actions, whatever one deemed them to be potential threats. Or in Sierra's case, it was merely blackmail since she was literally sold to the Dollhouse. For others I'm thinking they probably were volunteers. We get the sense that Victor had military background and, from some theories out there, after all he'd seen from being stationed in Iraq or wherever, they offered him a deal to deal with such trauma, those memories and experiences which destroyed him psychologically. Or that he discovered something not for his eyes, which led to him being recruited to the Dollhouse.

So many possibilities, so many stories to tell, and I hope they renew the show because dammit, we need more answers!
♛ part-time maenad: bsg; because they're prettierradon_ on April 27th, 2009 07:00 am (UTC)
When they were doing all the life-after-death-via-an-Active thing, I got all kinds of excited because a) BSG! CYLONS! ♥ b) it was a fascinating issue. But I didn't really like how the show handled it. It was such a can of worms that they opened regarding the issue and it was boiled down to a whodunnit. I mean, it was cool that they broached the topic, but idk, I was hoping they had done more with it. (or maybe I'm still in the BSG state of mind hehe)

Topher ♥. In a way Topher and the other non-Actives are like the Dolls, they had a life before the Dollhouse and now they're all committed to serving the establishment 24/7, only that y'know, they have their memory intact, but it's still a kind of imprisonment. I'm liking Sierra more and more.

Paul. ):
Renée: Cylons. By your command!rogueslayer452 on April 27th, 2009 08:32 am (UTC)

I think they introduced the concept because it's one of the many morally corrupted ideas amongst the human trafficking business esp. with such enhanced technology they have. It's not necessarily a centerpiece as it had been in BSG, but I do hope they return to it at some point if/when the show gets renewed for another season. It's just too good of a concept to pass up, particularly since the Dollhouse is owned by higher corporations that probably want to experiment with other things for their clientele. Everlasting life via imprints is just the start.

But I am glad they went to that place, since it would seem rather intriguing if other Dollhouses ever went that far and still do so, passing one personality along from body to body. It would be something to explore more.

In a way Topher and the other non-Actives are like the Dolls, they had a life before the Dollhouse and now they're all committed to serving the establishment 24/7, only that y'know, they have their memory intact, but it's still a kind of imprisonment.

YES. This, exactly. I mean we seem to think that just because these people are operating from within that they have free reign, it's not entirely true. It's kind of heartbreaking, and it shows that even those running the establishment aren't free either. This makes me very intrigued with who, other than Rossum, is controlling or owning the Dollhouses worldwide, and for what purpose.

Poor Paul. Just, yeah. :((
secret_hotel on April 28th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
Topher and Sierra sharing the birthday twinkie was the saddest, most adorable thing ever! ♥!

Angry!Paul/Mellie smex was hot. Really hot. Oh Tamoh...

I am so excited for some Alpha!
Renée: DH. Echo. Blank slate.rogueslayer452 on April 28th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)
It truly was. Poor Topher. :(

It was hot, but disturbing and quite frankly very scary because Paul knows it's wrong, we know it's wrong, and yet they went there. He's going to be so fucked up about it, and the Mellie imprint hardly knows why and that's what's horrible about the whole situation.

secret_hotel on April 28th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
There's also the fact that if Paul doesn't keep up appearances, he's likely to be killed. It's such a fucked up situation, but I don't blame him with the whole "I'll be what you need..." thing that Mellie pulled...even though that was really fucked up too. I wonder how it's all going to play out with those two. So many questions and complexities! This show damn well better not get canceled! Terminator I could handle because we had two seasons, and it ended on a great note. But Dollhouse....I NEED MORE!
Renée: Sierra. Taking charge.rogueslayer452 on April 28th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
Oh definitely. Questions and complexities, what is right and what is wrong, morality and ethics placed on the table. The fact that few are watching this show or even appreciating what Joss is showing us is kind of sad. Because really worthwhile intelligent shows are few and far between, and if this gets canceled I will be majorly pissed.
secret_hotel on April 28th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
Fox just hates sci-fi. They have such a specific demographic. It's such a shame too, because they do it so very well.

This is why I typically stay away from network shows and stick with HBO and Showtime - when I can afford it.