This episode certainly delivered a lot to chew on. In many ways, it is superior to almost every other episode of the show so far, and certainly has some of the best material Dollhouse has yet delivered. I'd go so far as to say I loved most of it - yet I can't help wish a couple of key aspects had been altered to make it a true home run.
This was the episode all about Sierra, completely explaining her backstory and how she came to be in the Dollhouse, after we learned last season that she'd been somehow put there by a man named Nolan Kinnard (Vincent Ventresca, playing the Worst Person Ever). The opening scenes, showing how Kinnard attempted to woo Priya, Sierra's true identity, instantly were riveting. Kinnard was someone Rossum owed a lot to, and as a result, he had full use of their resources - which he used in a unique way. It was very interesting to see how Echo and Victor were there to play the perfect parts in Kinnard's pre-scripted scenario on how Priya would hear the right things that would help make her fall for Kinnard.
We also got to meet Matthew Harding here, a Rossum higher up who DeWitt answers to. Keith Carradine plays Harding, and it was great to see him in this role, on the heels of his strong work on Dexter. Carradine brought just the right smirking, confident edge to Harding, who made it clear to DeWitt that she had better fall in line - at one point bringing up her use of Victor as her own boy toy with the flippant remark, "Everyone likes to take a little something home from the office once in awhile."
I've made no secret of my dislike of Topher throughout this series, and as this episode began, I feared the worst, even writing, "Topher annoying" in my notes, as we saw him ramble to himself in another supposed to be funny yet actually not funny scene. But I have to say, what followed gave Topher some of his best and most interesting scenes so far, which actually helped me be truly interested by his character for the first time.
As it turned out, DeWitt, Topher and Boyd were all in the dark about Sierra's true history, and the fact that Kinnard had used antipsychotics to horrifically make her appear psychotic before she was brought to the Dollhouse. Topher finding himself dealing with a situation that truly repulsed him and his reaction to it brought a lot of drama to the episode, as we saw the character suddenly act quite differently than we're used to.
However, the big problem with this episode also came about from this aspect of the story. From what we saw, Kinnard passed Sierra off as having severe mental issues in order to get her brought to the Dollhouse - I assume on the theory that Topher could fix her. But at the same time, they also made her a doll. The entire episode hinged on DeWitt and Topher both being rather horrified to find out Sierra did not actually volunteer to be at the Dollhouse - and yet the story they were originally fed would still have led them to that conclusion! How was it okay to take a disturbed person and turn them into a doll without their consent, as opposed to a "normal" one? Topher asks Priya if she wants to leave the hospital she's at and she says yes was that all the okay DeWitt and Topher thought was appropriate back then? Even if they did get an okay from Priya in the messed up state we saw her in, how would that be acceptable?
Yes, this show in general and this episode in particular evoke how almost every character has a murky sense of morality and justifies actions most would not. But this was still too much of a hurdle for me to overcome. It would be one thing if they found out Kinnard manipulated her or forced her to go to them, but nothing we saw showed Priya ever even appear to have volunteered to be a doll, so the shock and horror that DeWitt and Topher feel, which is integral to the episode, had a very big hole at its center. They seemed so upset that she didn't volunteer and then we see they never thought she volunteered!
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