Dollhouse 1.6: "Man on the Street"

Joss Whedon and everyone else remotely connected to "Dollhouse" all pointed to this episode as an enormous "game-changer", bringing the series more into alignment with its original premise and addressing many anticipated concerns. And for the most part, this is true. The writers did address a number of things, not the least of which is the negative nature of the Dollhouse itself.


Bringing up the possibility of sexual abuse by a handler in the Dollhouse did much to highlight the hypocrisy of those running the program. They have no problem sending out the Dolls as sex slaves to the rich and famous, but the Dolls are off limits to everyone else. Does this rule somehow make DeWitt and the rest feel like they're somehow running a more moral enterprise? At the same time, they are clearly ruthless, which only makes it seem like hints of morality are merely a coping mechanism.


I've mentioned in previous reviews that the premise, while focusing on Echo's engagements, seemed to be more than simple fantasy brokering. As logical as it is to anticipate the rampant use of Dolls as sex toys, given human nature, the use of such technology to gain power is equally obvious. Human trafficking is one thing, but this is the means for taking control of anything and everything.


The implications are such that Ballard, in his search for the truth, really has no way of knowing who to trust. And now that he is out of the FBI, operating on his own, Ballard has no definitive support structure. He's on his own, and already, his chances of success are compromised by his relationship with Mellie. While it's hard to see how Ballard could possibly win at this point, his character does provide the writers with a means of communicating the paranoia within the scenario. If the Dollhouse is just one of many, and they all have a sinister purpose, then the implication is staggering.


For that matter, the existence of more than one Dollhouse, even as part of a vast network under one controlling authority, allows Echo/Caroline to bring down her own Dollhouse while leaving the larger premise intact. The show may have begun with Echo as an active, going on engagements, but that may have been a mere prelude. The real story might be uncovering the purpose of the Dollhouses from within.


The presence of a traitor within the Dollhouse helps to explain why the supposed genius Topher has been unable to prevent so many of the glitches taking place. If someone on the inside is carefully sabotaging the mindwipe process, allowing the Dolls more self-awareness than they should have, that opens up some interesting possibilities. Topher's assistant is an obvious guess.


Without a doubt, this was the strongest episode of the series, and one that opens up the scope of the series enough to overcome many of the earlier objections. No one watching this episode could possibly think that Joss or anyone else involved with the show considers the Dollhouse and its technology to be a good thing. The "man on the street" segments make it very clear that they've anticipated most, if not all, of the audience reactions to the apparent premise. Knowing that, it's a fair guess that Joss has something a lot more interesting up his sleeve. And now that the serialized elements of the series are taking center stage, it shouldn't be long before we find out what that is.

Comments

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Mar 25, 2009 10:00PM EDT

I think the doll's are just off limits when they're in the dollhouse just cause they're supposed to be these innocent naive people there the handler had actually taken advantage... there is a thin line that separates the two but it is there.
As for the one on the inside I feel like it is the Dr. I don't really know why but I just feel like there is something with her.
Good episode.

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Mar 26, 2009 12:45AM EDT

Great review for a great eopisode... suddenly can't wait for Friday!

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Mar 26, 2009 4:08AM EDT

my guess on d leak is d doc, dunno y, i just do.

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Mar 26, 2009 10:24PM EDT

i think its Dewitt, she saw Echoes picture of the house she had previously been to earlier in the episode and asked if she wanted to finish it, doesnt anyone find it strange that she didnt go to Topher to ask why she was painting a moment from her last mission? Her memory was clearly not properly swiped yet Dewitt did nothing in questioning it and sent Echo to finish the previous mission.

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Mar 27, 2009 6:15PM EDT

kimikim913:I totally agree with your view. She seemed really mad when Mr. Dominic suggested that Dewitt was more partial to Echo than the other Actives in episode 5, though I was confused that her trust in him after he misbehaved was returned fully by episode 6.

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