Friday, September 11, 2009

5 years of Dollhouse Spoilers

I wanted to see if I was alone in my solace, and I was confirmed that I indeed was when I Googled a certain phrase and found one result, which was the result of a complete coincidence in sentence construction much to my chagrin. And so, allow me to say it now so that any similarly afflcited souls may find themselves guided to this site where they shall find, indeed, no matter how differently it may seem, You Are Not Alone.


Or, to put that in a slightly different way


And, just for the sake of keeping all bases covered


Obviously, it would be rampantly hyperbolic and loser-ish to say that a TV show could make me consider suicide, but at the same time in the aftermath of watching the most anticipated DVD extra ever , the 'missing' episode of Dollhouse (until last night one of my top ten favourite shows) I was reminded of Kevin Smith saying recently that all entertainment is is a tool to distract us from the fact we're about to die. E1 was... like leukeamia to that effect on me, I was so horrified at what it did. In the wake of suddenly being told I had a job interview and feeling on top of the world, this one fucking episode shattered that entire effect that our culture has gifted me with, the ability to consider death as irrelevant. I was depressed for the whole day. Before after and during watching two episodes of Scrubs that I'd never seen. I couldn't even bring myself to finish watching what seems to be the best Ashes to Ashes episode ever, because I was just imagining myself decomposing slowly in the chair, a fucking corpse with a short lease on life the bank manager of the universe is wanting back now.

Okay, I'm going over the top here. I hope. But... fuck man. I've never had a negative reaction to any TV show this bad. It's so deconstructionist it's made me think of TV as just meaningless filth that I am engorging myself on like a river of brain-arsenic. Is that what you were thinking, Whedon? Is that the way you get more ratings?

At some stage I guess I'll need to talk about the episode itself rather than just describing the sheer awfulness of it and setting up the mere fact that I watched it to explain all my oncoming failures in life Arnold Rimmer-style. But there's a trouble there. A certain regular reader may have an ongoing interest in DH, and not want to read spoilers. But E1 IS spoilers. It's nothing but.

And, see, there is actually a reason for it. It turns out that this episode was written when everyone was convinced that the show would be axed and soon. So... Joss decided to condense fucking five seasons of character development and action into 50 minutes of television. So much of it that when you actually watch it all it becomes completely meaningless. Get ready for the spoilage ...

Alpha dies, Dominic comes back, Ballard and Echo escape, Victor's body gets stolen, Adelle takes on Rossum, Rossum somehow get Topher to replicate Alpha's remote-wipe technology, this technology is used to call every house in the world and program whoever answers to kill everyone, Topher goes mad with grief, Claire gets with Boyd before he disappears, everyone becomes badass rebels with assault rifles, Claire loses her scars, Caroline becomes a messiah, Victor somehow gets his body back and gets with Sierra, everyone gets tattoos, Ballard and Caroline don't get together, Mellie dies, Penny from Dr Horrible's Sing A Long Blog turns out to be alive, and Whiskey ends up braindead and probably dead as well.

Wow, don't you feel a whole lot better knowing all of that? No?! My word, how is that possible??? Don't worry, though, we don't get to see whether Caroline kills Adelle or not. Thank god for that one bit of ambiguity. That mystery can keep me going for YEARS!

Until now, DH has been a good constant for me. I know Doctor Who will always have dud episodes, and Fringe made it clear from the start that it was too cheesy to be a truly great show yet is excellent junk food for the mind, the writers from Scrubs need to cut down on the meth and a solid episode of Ashes to Ashes is really the freak occurrence. But DH had a great, well-written episode every time. I always finished it feeling satisfied.

E1 is a fucking slap in the face to me. It does a complete 180 on the shows themes, takes all the characters and bitch-rapes them in the blink of an eye. It doesn't even build on any hints of what we saw earlier. Nothing in the show says that Rossum corporation wants a giant army of soldiers. Nothing says that humanity is about to end. Nothing sets up Caroline as a messiah for the human race. No, this is five years of stuff dumped on us suddenly.

I don't care if Whedon thought his show was about to get axed. So fucking what? End it on a finale that works on a few levels. You know, like Omega did. The type of ending that leaves you wanting more. This... just introduces a lot of shit that's never been hinted at in the show, and then resolves it. It doesn't fit anywhere in an arc or the mythos in general.

My big hope was that this was going to turn out to be a weird epsidoe that would make sense in a few season's time when we suddenly realise "Ohhh, that shit episode was just what would have happened if Adelle did that instead of this ohhh it makes sense now!" Nope. Whedon's come out and said that was the future. The world does get destroyed.

A final episode is meant to keep you wanting to watch the show. This did the exact opposite. I never want to watch DH again. I couldn't care less. How can I laugh at anything Topher does when I know he's going to turn into a tragic, gibbering halfwit? How can I be worried for Paul Ballard when I know he lives another nine years at least? How can I enjoy Adelle's wit knowing that she is responsible for the destruction of the human race? How can I be amazed at the plot twists that Whedon has given me with absolutely no setup at all?

The worst thing is that in pure technical terms of what has gone on the script for 50 minutes of television drama, independent of an actual TV show, there is nothing wrong with the script. Well, aside from a minor plot twist in the framing narrative that makes no sense at all which I can't be arsed to explain at all. Now, because it is, on that one level, faultlessly written it rubs it in worse. People who just like to see writers be clever, which unsurprisingly seems to be 98% of the Whedon fanbase, are all over this and don't even care about how retarded the idea is. But it also lets me know that... this could have been good. There is no real reason for it be so terrible to the series as a whole other than Whedon's paranoia that his show was going to die.

Again, I feel the need to apologise for the supersized scale of everything that I've said in this review, but I have never known such strong feelings toward any show before. What can I say about something that's nearly put me off an entire medium?

Interestingly, I'm now back where I was seven years ago, with a complete dislike for Joss Whedon rather than the loving respect I had until 7.35 last night. To close this entry here's something I wrote to a friend at that tender age, when he kept trying to force Firefly on to me, stricken by memories of a crap Buffy episode:

Oh, yes, I GREATLY look forward to watching Firefly. You simply cannot understand the leviathanic scale of my longing to see it. You cannot comprehend the ease of which a simple mention of Joss Whedon's name throws me into a cataclysmic orgasm over thoughts of his insurmountable genius. YOU WILL HAVE NO CHANCE of understanding the lengths I went to creat a shrine to Whedon from nothing but flimsy sticks and dental floss. Why? BECAUSE I LOVE HIM! Yes, that's right, I have fallen uncontrollably in love with Joss Whedon, this man who has given so much to the artistic world of the Planet Earth, and who I will never let die, as I have decided not to donate my body to medical science at all, but straight to the Whedon estate so that Mr Whedon can continue his existence past his life-expectancy which is not worthy of a man of such unbridled genius as he, and I will breed many children, so that once my body has also expired they may take up the all-important mantle of ensuring that the Northern Star of Wisdom, the burning bright light of Whedon's imagination shall continue to glow for all eternity, so that he may continue to serve us all. All worship Whedon or die, for if you cannot appreciate his magical works, you are not worthy of life.

BTW I was being sarcastic.

Ah, how my droll wit has nurtured. Weird that in that email I actually mentioned the technology that is a key part of Dollhouse, too...

Anyway, somehow I get the vibe that this would be the wrong time to finally watch the copy of Children of Earth that I've got..


Miles Reid said...

I rather enjoyed Dollhouse in places, although it did make me feel uncomfortable about certain... things that my fiancee and I do when we want to... enjoy ourselves.

But on the whole it was a decent show, admittidly, I liked it more when it wasn't clearly such a Joss Whedon show, because the one thing that annoys me about Joss Whedon shows is that a lot of his dialogue seems to consist of relatively intelligent people snarking witty one-liners at each other. But then, I never really got into Angel and I stopped watching Buffy after the season where Buffy's mother died and Buffy died, 'nuff said. I like Firefly, I do like Firefly, but it isn't the greatest science fiction show EVER and to be honest, Blake's 7 does a much better job with 'dysfunctional people in space', that's the scary thing, I could imagine going down the pub with Avon, Tarrant, Vila et all, but not Mal Reynolds, Wash et all. Weird. But then, sci-fi nerds need a new figure to hold up as the modern-day prophet of the TV age, Nigel Kneale's dead, Gene Roddenberry's dead, Terry Nation was a hack writer, Rod Sterling and the Twilight Zone writing team... dead and old, J. Michael Stryzinski is suffering a Post-B5 backlash and that a lot of people really didn't like his run of Amazing Spider-Man, Chris Carter is STILL trying to live off the fact that he created 'The X-Files' and the only real people we have is Joss Whedon, RTD, Stephen Moffatt, J.J Abrahms and Lawrence Miles...

wait... no...

But while a lot of what RTD did with Doctor Who and Torchwood is very much cribbed from Joss Whedon's Buffy, I hold RTD as a much better writer, mainly it might be because I find his characters a lot more believable at being total losers than the Scooby Gang. But both writers have played a part into introducing a level of character drama into the nerd genre (while JMS and his fantastic soap opera in space Babylon 5 seems to get unfairly kurb kicked nowadays, it isn't fair.) But then, RTD seems to be either this figure you either love or you loathe while Joss Whedon has been elevated to Poet Laureate status by the Great Unwashed Nerd Masses who see Joss Whedon as the guy 'who can make nerds seem sexy and clever on TV'. Where am I going with this?

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I've no idea at all, but it doesn't matter because I agree with it. Joss Whedon doesn't deserve his current status because when it comes to characterisation he has an Achille's Heel - to probably an even greater degree than Bob Holmes he isn't able to write authentic sounding dialogue. His characters come from different walks of life but all have such standards of eloquence. Somehow it isn't mind-blowing to hear that Joss Whedon actually talks like that in quotes from his peers.

And... my massively negative reaction to the story made me realise that RTD is definitely the better writer. What I criticse about RTD most, which some see as his strength, is his rather introspective writing which borders on self-indulgence, but that pales into insignificance to what Whedon's done here, which is just throw his toys out of the pram. The fact that the show isn't actually cancelled just makes it all the more pathetic.

I probably don't say it enough (a lot of fans don't really..) but RTD is a really great writer, and even if I don't agree with some of his stuff I can at least always see a logic at work behind it..

Miles said...

Despite RTD's flaws as a writer (which usually revolve around the finale of a story), I think he's really, really good at charecter dialogue. Case in point, Mickey.

But to be honest, I think JMS is a much better writer in places, although his dialogue is less naturalistic and more theatrical than both Whedon and Davies, but he really seems to have become a one-hit wonder with Babylon 5, which is a shame. Of course, finishing off his Amazing Spider-Man run by having to write possibly the most hated character move in comics ever hasn't done him any favours with the nerdboy vote.

Youth of Australia said...


I dunno what to say. Except it sounds like a bigger let down than when She Spies turned serious and lost the surrealist humor.


Mind you, I finally got to read some DW fics that proved eleven years worth of soul-crushing disappointment.

If that helps.

Which it might not.

But, seriously, take it easy when it comes to Children of Earth. That crap is two parts Ambassadors of Death one part Threads...

I can't think of any human being alive who wants to watch the whole thing twice.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

To elaborate, Ewen, they jump ten years ahead and the story follows a grim-yet-incorrigible group of rebels armed to the teeth in post-apocalypse LA who find The Dollhouse in a sewer they go to to try and escape from the populace who have been rewritten into... well, the Reapers from Firefly.

(Isn't it interesting that all three of Joss' shows have groups that want to do nothing but kill people for the hell of it? Seems like quite a shortcut for giving badguys equal characterisation...)

The Dollhouse is seemingly abandoned, and eventually they decide to try and find out what happened with the help of a little girl they rescued and her mind-wiped father - they imprint the dad with memories Topher has stored in the chair.

Suddenly people start dying, and it seems like the killer may be the Active Whiskey, who's survived but is near brain dead and only talks about finding Safehaven. They decide she can't be the killer, though, because she's unable to understand death (as the Actives can't in their 'doll' form) and follow her advice - they find a hidden cache of memory tapes with her help.

In a really wtf plot twist the little girl turns out to be the killer, imprinted with somebody else who is never elaborated on and kills more people, framing her dad for the murders. The leader shoots the dad, but then bafflingly reveals that he knew the girl was the killer all along with a double bluff, and imprints her with Echo/Caroline's mind. The girl leads them up through the Dollhouse's high-rise office and to a rope ladder. Much sad/happy music plays. Roll credits.

During the many, many imprints undertaken by the dad and Whiskey we find out basically everything that happens between the last episode of the season and 2019. I am unable to lift my jaw back up.

Heh, I have seen your reviews of the DWP and they're keeping me amused.

@ Miles:

Sadly, I haven't seen any B5, but it sounds like a fascinating show. Anything that gives B7 as an inspiration has got me interested from the start, of course...

Youth of Australia said...

Babylon 5's pretty good, but I admit I've fallen out of love with in recent years. There's just so much exposition in it, and it's pretty clumsy to the point of distraction - but the jokes are brilliant, the monsters genuinely terrifying, the foreshadowing tragic and the characters real and loveable. Particularly Londo who is basically Vila if he had to put up with the dark shit Avon got 24/7, and is left... well...

Crusade the spin-off, however, is shit no matter what Galen tries to save it.

Cameron Mason said...

The original Dollhouse is much the same - six episodes worth of material crammed into 45 minutes.

I think Joss is going down the Babylon 5 route, but in an 'everything but the kitchen sink' way, whereas Babylon 5 sets things up one episode at a time - forexample Season 1 establishes the fate of two characters, , Season 3 gives the context and Season 5 sets them down the path.