Dollhouse: Season One - Blu ray Review
By Dana Rae Aug 4, 2009, 14:15 GMT
From Joss Whedon, the creative mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, comes the provocative Dollhouse, a sexy, suspenseful thriller starring the stunningly talented Eliza Dushku. As an “Active,” the mysterious Echo (Dushku) serves as an unwitting agent of Dollhouse, an illegal underground organization that provides its elite clientele with programmable human beings. Actives receive personality imprints, allowing them to temporarily become anyone or anything—the perfect burglar, lover, spy, ...more
Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse Season One comes to Blu ray via Fox and looks super sharp in its 1080p picture.
The series has a well-rounded ensemble cast that includes Eliza Dusku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as the doll Echo; Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica) as the tenacious FBI agent Paul Ballard intent on uncovering The Dollhouse; Olivia Williams as Adelle Dewitt the hard and unyielding director of The Dollhouse; Harry Lennix as Boyd Langston who is Echo’s bodyguard/protector; Fran Kranz as Topher the unflappable and very entertaining scientist/engineer/programmer of the dolls; Dichen Lachman as the doll Sierra; Enver Gjokaj as the ever-versatile doll Lubov; and Miracle Laurie as the girlfriend of Agent Ballard, Mellie.
I really liked the premise of the series: The Dollhouse is a secret organization that caters to those who can pay for the elusive services of the dolls. The dolls themselves are programmed with different personalities, usually a different personality for each job.
Once the job is over, they are wiped clean again and become childlike (thus the term ‘doll’) and are content to sleep in their pods, draw their pictures, do yoga, or work-out, all within the confines of zen-like building they are in.
However, I believe that much of the show’s success rests upon Eliza Dusku’s shoulders, as she plays the doll Echo, and the show centers largely around her. Dusku pretty much dead-pans every episode in every situation imaginable, and this is fine when she is in the doll-like state, but on the different assignments, she never managed to convince me that her personality had been changed.
Some actors or actresses can pull this off admirably with mannerisms and face expressions and manage to become completely different, but Dusku does not and I felt that her acting the same in every character really harmed the show.
The ensemble cast that surrounds Dusku brings some good acting to the table, and almost makes up for any miscasting of the main character. The actor that stands out to me is Enver Gjokaj, whose ability to transform himself is amazing.
At the beginning, he speaks with a Russian like accent and is almost a con man. He is then revealed as a doll, and manages to convey the differences of each personality he becomes. In one episode, he is a Bond-like character, suave and sure of himself and speaking with an English accent.
Another memorable character is that of Topher, played by Fran Kranz. Kranz manages to pull off the nerdy-programmer guy Topher, who never seems to leave The Dollhouse, with fun and style. This could also be attributed to good writing, but I thought his character was the most witty - he brought the role to life with great comments and a quirky smile. What could have been a dull and boring role really shines.
Also of worthy note is Penikett and Lachman, both of whom are excellent in their roles. Penikett plays the Agent Ballard who is obsessed with finding out the secrets of The Dollhouse and bringing it from the status of ‘Urban Legend’ (people on the street think of it as something like the boogey man, unreal but terrifying just the same) to reality. He gets very close, and with each episode we see the tension in him building.
Lachman plays another doll, Sierra. To me, Lachman made the role just by face alone. Her features are so unique that is hard to not give her your full attention when she is on screen. I thought she played the episodes where she is ‘compromised’ by her protector with great depth and venerability.
And last but not least, honorable memorable in the acting department goes to Miracle Laurie. As Ballard’s neighbor and later girlfriend she is quiet and supportive. When secrets are revealed about her later in the season, she becomes another character all together. I don’t think she was used enough in the series, for she is very talented and her character added a much needed twist mid-season.
Special features on the Blu ray include the original unaired pilot Echo (thank you, Fox, for once again undermining a Whedon show), Audio commentary on selected episodes only, and some featurettes: Making Dollhouse, Coming Home, Finding Echo, A Private Engagement, and Designing the Dollhouse.
All in all, Dollhouse is a highly imaginative idea that is brought to life by Whedon’s visionary genius (previous works include Firefly, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), so if you are a fan of his, you won’t want to miss this series. Whedon has the amazing ability never to appear stale in whatever he does - each show he is involved in is drastically different and won’t disappoint, and Dollhouse is not an exception.
However, I don’t think it is his best brainchild (Ok, you caught me, I am a die-hard Firefly fan), but still it is entertaining. It will keep you watching until the end and in the end you are left wondering: could this really happen? Could humans become programmable? The thought then makes the show a lot more disturbing, but that doesn’t lessen the show’s entertainment.