Well, I’ve finished both seasons of “Dollhouse”, and if I had to describe this show in one word, it would be “infuriating.” It seemed like for every good thing the show did, there were just as many bad things that were thrown in as well. Since Season 2 is full of plot twists (I’ll get to that later) and plenty of spoilers, I’ll once again be giving my general thoughts on it as a whole.
Let’s start with the things I did like. For one, I felt the overarching plot had more structure and flow this time around. Episodes still had their main plot, but the subplots mainly focused on continuing Echo’s evolution and mission to free the other Dolls. There was also a lot more character development for the supporting cast this time around that I felt was sorely missed in Season 1. I found myself really enjoying Victor, Sierra, Adelle and even Topher’s backstories and evolution. However, I did find it annoying that Adelle was often a target for “what a twist!” moments, and Topher often would have a good, dramatic performance in one episode only to be back to purely the funny man in the next. Inconsistency is an ongoing thing through this show, but I digress. There was also some cameos from previously seen characters as well as a new one in particular that I wished stuck around. She seemed like someone Joss would’ve kept on if a third season had been in the works. At least, I felt like more stories could have been made with her, and I found her background far more interesting than Caroline’s pre-Echo days.
But for all those things I liked and then some, I found things took a turn for the annoying by the second half of the season. A lot of the plot was very rushed, though I know most of this was due to the show’s cancellation. While I enjoyed Echo’s evolution over the season, I also still found her less interesting at times than the supporting cast…except for Paul. Even by the end, I still found myself not caring about him or his relationships to anyone (let alone Echo) whatsoever. There’s a reappearance by Alpha as well. That might be considered spoilers, but I have to get this off my chest: I HATED what they did with him this season. His role, while well-acted, felt pointless and weak. I feel like he was supposed to have a much larger arc leading into the series finale, but the cancellation prevented it. I honestly wish they had just not bothered bringing him back at all in this case.
A lot of my problems this season also stem from what felt like an over-reliance on plot twists. I touched on Adelle being a magnet for them, but they really ramped them up near the end of the season. There’s one involving a main cast member that I was initially shocked by and really liked. But in hindsight, I realized how flawed and nonsensical it was in relation to what the show had been building up to. The Attic is also finally brought in and shown, and while the representation of it was neat, the plot involving it felt VERY contrived. Yes, in a show about programmable people and shady corporations dealing in futuristic tech, the Attic felt contrived. I could get behind the show’s overall premise, but for some reason that one plot point just irked me. Finally, even more disappointing was the realization that a lot of what goes down in Season 2 ultimately has no long-lasting tension thanks to “Epitaph Part One”, the actual finale episode of Season 1. Of course, I won’t spoil the details, but this lack of tension coupled with some other annoying decisions made the series finale, “Epitaph Part Two”, feel like a major letdown to me.
Overall, “Dollhouse” ended up being just average to me. It had an interesting concept and some engaging characters, and some of the missions the Dolls had made for some decent “monster of the week”-like stories. However, Season 1 started out slow and felt unfocused at times, and Season 2 got caught up in plot twists and questionable decisions. Even “Firefly” had me feeling more invested in its story and characters in only 14 episodes (and one movie) than “Dollhouse” did in 26. It felt like too much was going on at once, and yet it also seemed like it brushed over some of its heavier themes. I left it feeling more mixed than I have watching any other Whedon work. It felt like a show full of missed opportunities, and for me personally, that might even be worse than feeling it was outright bad.