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There is no denying that Joss Whedon is a master storyteller. Looking at his history in television, every one of his shows has been about story first and foremost. Buffy, Firefly and Angel thrived on riveting drama with captivating characters, witty dialogue, and a constant progression of story from week to week. As a fan, I went into his newest creation, Dollhouse, with extremely high expectations. And after watching the first couple of episodes, I was really scared. This was not the Joss I knew. As stand-alone episodes, they were entertaining enough, but there was no momentum. There were clues that something more was going on under the surface, but nothing was coming together. It took awhile, but eventually, the show found it’s footing and can easily hold it’s own with the best of Joss’s work.
New to Blu-Ray, this is the perfect way to watch the show. As stated above, it was difficult getting into things when it was on regular television. But in this format, it’s much easier to push through those opening episodes and get to the real meat of the series. For the uninitiated, the story deals with a secret agency that wipes people’s individual identities and replaces them with new ones, manufactured to provide a service to their clients. They can turn anybody into any anybody else, providing any service. The show is mostly told through the point of view of one of these “dolls” named Echo, played by Eliza Dushku. It is an amazing feat to have a lead character that is literally a different person every week, but they have managed to pull it off.
Eventually, the show does branch away from the focus on Echo and becomes a very strong ensemble-piece. There are many “actives” or dolls who we begin to follow and discover pieces of back-story, and the Dollhouse itself becomes a sort of character itself. It obviously has a pretty elaborate backstory, and while hints are dropped, I believe there is a lot of information coming in the next season. There is also a side-plot regarding an investigation from the outside into the Dollhouse, which is considered nothing more than an urban legend in the real world. Full of twists and turns, the show deals with a lot of questions regarding identity, purpose, the soul, etc. It’s a relatively thought-provoking and emotional show that doesn’t provide a lot of easy answers.
The absolute highlight of the Blu-Ray is an episode written by Joss Whedon that Fox decided not to air. Entitled Epitaph 1, the story is set in the year 2019, and shows us where everything is going on a global scale. It’s a very bleak end-game, and extremely gutsy to reveal this far in advance. I hope Fox decides to air it someday, but for now it’s worth picking up the Blu-Ray for this episode alone. Other extras include the unaired pilot, a relatively generic making-of, a feature showcasing the behind-the-scenes staff and their history together, a look at Dushku’s work in the lead role, etc. There is nothing too substantial in these segments, but they’re still kind of interesting for the fans.
The transfer to Blu-Ray looks great. Everything feels more cinematic than it ever did on television. The Dollhouse itself is beautiful to look at, and the show is a lof of fun to watch on a visual level. The details come through really well in this format. It’s a great transfer.
The show requires patience. In order to get to the good stuff, you have to suffer through some mediocrity, but it’s worth it. Joss has created another masterpiece and has completely reaffirmed my faith in him and his ability to tell a story. Here’s hoping Fox gives him enough time to tell it in its entirety. In going through the show for a second time, it is very obvious that there is a lot we don’t know yet, and I can’t wait to fill in the missing pieces.