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'Dollhouse': 'The Public Eye' and 'The Left Hand'

December 5, 2009 |  8:53 am

We may as well enjoy "Dollhouse" while we can. Echo's back. Topher's back. November's back. Sen. Daniel Perrin is ... back? And with all of the fireworks that happened, way to return from the break!

Sorry it's not getting the rousing welcome-back reception that it deserves, but these twin episodes of "Dollhouse" were SO GOOD that it creates a kind of melancholy knowing that this too will end. But until then ...

I'm choosing to think that Fox wanted to double the viewers' pleasure (not get rid of episodes quickly) when two shows were aired back to back: "The Public Eye" and "The Left Hand." In them, Alexis Denisof's Perrin finally takes the dollhouse public, with the help of Miracle Laurie's Madelyn/Mellie/November. Let's call her November since the dollhouse never actually bothered to take out her programming when she was released from her contract. Both are going to testify in a higher court about the existence of the dollhouse and their manipulation of minds and lives. Or both think they are.

Dollhouse_LeftHandtopher But the dollhouse can't have that. Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix), Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) and Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) figure that Perrin's wife (played well by Stacey Scowley) is a doll, which is why the dismissive dollhouse bigwigs are still pretty calm about being exposed. They have a plan, one that does not include DeWitt and her clan, and one that they figure could end up with November dead. So they step in, and promptly botch up a carefully laid scheme when Echo-as-hooker-Bree stops by with a confused Perrin the morning after being drugged. Ballard goes after November at the same time but is forced to let her go when she asks him to respect her freedom. The quandary causes Ballard to go MIA for the rest of the episode. And really, I don't know what that's about. Morality issues, again? He's as mixed up as Perrin, and why is the senator confused, you ask. ...

Daniel Perrin is the doll, a twist that was brilliant! Some saw it coming because it was too easy for them to figure it out. But he's not a mind-wiped volunteer, as Perrin really just has some tweaks and personality traits added or heightened. The show is always figuring out new ways to show how dangerous and powerful the technology is -- you don't have to be made a clean slate to be manipulated. Whatever was done, a different dollhouse was in control of him and, using a device created by Topher, Perrin's handler-wife (another good twist), is able to bring him and Echo into their D.C. headquarters. The fight between Echo Dollhouse_LeftHand-summer and Perrin's wife-handler was good too, resulting in one of the best lines of the series (see below). As a consequence, we get our first glimpse at another dollhouse, and another chief tech person.

No zen. No pretty wood. But there was Summer Glau. The onetime ballerina has helped create some great characters, but Bennett Halverson might beat both River Tam and Cameron Phillips as a memorable quirkster. She has more personality than the terminator from "Sarah Connor Chronicles" and is just as unstable as the programmable psychic killing girl of "Firefly."

As "The Left Hand" episode starts, we see that Bennett is an emotionally damaged friend of Echo's original personality Caroline, a friend who now hates her for leaving her behind and possibly causing her left arm to be mangled. When DeWitt and Topher arrive in D.C. to retrieve Echo, Topher and Bennett have a fun back-and-forth that's kind of cute until her betrayal jumps right up and bites us all. DeWitt plays hard ball with the local dollhouse leader, so to speak, while Topher does things behind Bennett's back and she does the same. Though she may have a big hate for Echo, I still think it was a dollhouse directive to activate Perrin's kill code.

And that's what she did -- another twist that I just didn't see coming. Even after the fun that she and Topher seemed to be having sharing big-brain theories and such, she overwrote Daniel Perrin to kill. Not just Echo, but everybody. He killed a dollhouse agent, then his wife-handler(!) before Victor/Topher back at the L.A. home base was able to hack into him.

An aside: Victor as Topher. Victor as Topher? Victor as Topher! Imprinting Victor with Topher's brains and personality was a GREAT stroke of genius. The quirks, the language, the brilliance, the wardrobe -- just another awesome performance by Enver Gjokaj. He and Dichen Lachman continue to be bright spots, though Eliza's Echo is pretty good. As is Olivia Williams as DeWitt. And Fran Kranz as Topher. Forget I said it; they're all great.

DH-Ep206_perrinattack It was a bit unclear to me in the end. Perrin fulfilled the exact role that he was supposed to, exonerating Rossum Corp. and stranding poor November (who sadly is left to the tender care of Bennett in the end). I suppose it meant that he's back under the control of the dollhouse, especially since we saw that they can activate him anywhere he is. Could it be that Perrin is purposely acting under them now to bring them down from within, with Echo's help somehow? Wouldn't that be awesome!?

It'll be such an intriguing ride watching Joss Whedon and the writers try to wrap this up as the end nears. You wonder how much further up the cancellation pushed their timetables in the storyline. What were they headed toward that they won't be able to explore (besides the ideas brought up by Denisof)? Will they be able to bridge the gap between now and the future that we've seen that may coming?

Some favorite lines:

"Is this some sort of fantasy scenario, 'cause I don't get it. When do we get naked again?" -- Echo as Bree.

"You just woke up a lot of people ... and they all think you're a bitch!" -- Echo.

"The moment you start wondering about the people upstairs is the moment they start wondering about you. And that is something you don't want." -- Bennett.

And I thought it was a great moment when doll Kilo, played by Whedon writing partner and Jed Whedon's better half Maurissa Tancharoen, helped demo Topher's disruptor -- and the little touch of adding a doll falling down the stairs in the background.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photos: (Top) Topher (Fran Kranz) examines Echo (Eliza Dushku). (Middle) Summer Glau as Bennett. (Bottom) Sen. Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof) attacks Echo. Credit: Fox

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