Dollhouse 1.4: "Gray Hour"

In the reviews for the first three episodes, I covered most of my concerns and thoughts on the series thus far. It still strikes me as remarkably sexist in its current form, which is likely an intentional story choice, meant to get the audience to hate the Dollhouse and sympathize with the actives. Yet it also still seems like Joss wants to have it both ways, given how often Echo and Sierra end up in skimpy outfits and the promotion is highly sexualized. None of this changed with this episode, so there's little point in exploring it in more detail.

Despite all of that, the series is beginning to grow on me. I've always enjoyed Eliza. Despite my misgivings at the mixed message, I cannot deny that her Taffy wardrobe was well-appreciated. She gets to show more range than usual in this episode, and Taffy was close enough to the Faith mold to satisfy those cravings.

But the real draw, at least at the moment, is the mythology that is building around the Dollhouse. Boyd continues to tentatively question some of the assumptions and attitudes about the actives (though not enough to outweigh his immense culpability), Topher continues to be Wash as an evil genius, and DeWitt seems to tred a highly self-deceptive line, protecting the actives while callously allowing them to be used in morally degrading ways.

Yet the two forces acting to bring the Dollhouse down are not necessarily better. Agent Ballard is ostensibly the good guy, since he wants to bring down the Dollhouse by any means necessary, yet his methods speak to a personal vendetta. His intentions don't seem to be pure (or, perhaps, they are a little too pure, as in "overzealous").

Alpha seems bent on tearing down the Dollhouse, but his methods are violent and equally manipulative. On the one hand, Alpha seems to be pushing Echo to her limits as a form of training and to break some of the programming. On the other hand, he could be trying to kill off the one active that might be able to stop him. It̢۪s not entirely clear, and that's a good thing.

What strikes me most, however, is the implication of what has been seen already. Literally anyone could be an active, and there's no reason to think that the Dollhouse is the only organization producing actives. There's no reason to think that the handlers aren't actives. Even DeWitt could be an active! This comes down to the very nature of identity, which strikes at the heart of the probably meta-fiction origins of the series.

This episode brings us about a third of the way through this short first season, and not too far from the point that Joss promised would kick the series into a higher gear. I'm willing to see where it goes, despite my misgivings, because I distinctly remember my tepid reaction to the first season of "Buffy". It may be worth seeing if this series can evolve as well.


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