When you look back at the Buffy series, you realize that what Joss Wheden did altered television for years to come, influencing TV writers and what have become "standard issue" episodes for scifi/fantasy programs of all sorts (such as the "maybe I am just in an institution" superhero w/a complex episodes, a version of which was most recently seen in "Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles" last week). Again, with his new series DOLLHOUSE, Whedon is showing his flair for the original. This time, he has a show which, despite its slow first episode (which is there to set up much of what is to come, backstory, a base of characters, even getting his audience familiar with the setting), is totally mesmerizing by episode three with the complexity of what DOLLHOUSE is capable of already confounding watchers. For Whedon is intertwining the between-episode tensions, laying minuscule plotlayer over plotlayer, delicately.
Unlike this years' hit show, TrueBlood, fabulous for its radical character developments and where viewers really must watch every second of every episode to enjoy the next, DOLLHOUSE is showing that a TV show can both carry narratives through an entire program's season and engage watchers on an episode to episode basis. For DOLLHOUSE has chacters who change in minute ways in each separately plot-driven episode--so underneath the questions of who is doing what and how each week, there is here also an exploration of what drives each of the characters he set into motion in episode one. Whedon is weaving a complex net, driving his viewers into the middle of it, snaring them.
I hope the station knows enough to keep this show going, as it the potential to snag varied television viewers: those who like action, like a little element of fantasy (both on the Heroes/Smallville level and a titillating Victoria's Secret level), those who are interested in posing questions of human behavioral psychology as played out in psychological dramas of this caliber. Excellent start, Joss, I look forward to seeing the episodes to come.