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'Dollhouse' premiere: 'Vows' not broken

September 26, 2009 |  8:20 am

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Fans know that the second half of "Dollhouse's" first season is when the show hit its storytelling stride as more was revealed about the Dollhouse and those that run it and live there. Luckily for us, and for them, seeing as how their renewal was more than a little uncertain, they continued on the path of discovery with the second season premiere episode, "Vows."

Seems to be a great start, and, yes, that is Jamie Bamber of "Battlestar Galactica" fame with Eliza Dushku's Echo! Apollo and Helo together again, but I digress.  We're only one episode in and we can see trouble a-brewin' on all kinds of fronts, especially from within. The cool thing is that with Joss Whedon, you're not sure exactly where, when or how the situations will pop up. A few of the main plotlines:

The moral struggles with a couple of the show's main characters -- Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) and Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) -- over Echo and her treatment are easily palpable. Though one is strangely romantic and one is weirdly paternal, neither really knows her. It's an awesome cushion for Echo.

One of the series' many big guest stars also helped illustrate another of the dilemmas the show will touch on over and over again: missions for the dolls. Martin Klar (Bamber), the arms dealer, is doing bad things, but it could be that Paul B. is doing worse things by giving Echo the personality of a do-anything-to-win (including marry and have sex with said arms dealer) FBI agent. Obviously the Dollhouse will use dolls in any way needed (exhibit: Whiskey [Amy Acker]) for its own purposes, but if this keeps up, it may eat at Paul as he has to watch her do these things, putting him on a dark path.

The Topher-Whiskey relationship. Great little drama. Whiskey's tiny twisted revenge-a-thon with rats and the bride of Frankenstein was a cool addition. Topher's (Fran Kranz) revelation that Whiskey chooses to hate him as Dr. Saunders shakes them both. Her revelation that going back to her original personality would be like killing off who she now is was another wrinkle thrown onto the already questionable and dangerous technology. Deep thought for the day from selfcreation.com: "If you think about it, not understanding why you do what you do and feel what you feel is like going through your life with a stranger's mind."

Speaking of Paul's path, one of the last scenes of the show sets up one of the central premises of the series, but finding Caroline will be tough. Though he's finally been made Echo's handler, Paul's been trying to do it for a while and still hasn't. Yes, he found Echo and the Dollhouse, but not Caroline. And I don't believe that Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) or Boyd will let any of his actions go unmonitored.

Small touches, including Sierra's (Dichen Lachman) British sexual deviant, Ivy's (Liza Lapira) reaction to said deviant and DeWitt's wry humor, are the perfect tidy ways to fill in the cracks of this episode. We'll be talking to another of those great fillers, guest star Alexis Denisof, who made a brief but memorable cameo as Sen. Daniel Perrin.  A dangerous new player in a house of dangerous players.

Lines-of-the-night award go to Amy Acker's Whiskey/Dr. Saunders: "Put the rats back in the cage, Topher, before one of them bites you." "My entire existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest. What do you suggest I do?"

Topher's mention of Fozzie Bear also gets a very honorable mention.

-- Jevon Phillips

Related:
 Jamie Bamber on guest starring, being intimidated by Joss, and fighting with a friend
 
Joss Whedon on dolls, writing and his hard, hard job

Photo credit: Fox

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