Dollhouse: Stop Loss/The Attic

I know I said I wasn’t writing about Dollhouse anymore just last week. Note that I didn’t say I wouldn’t. And this week piqued my interest again, giving me a taste of the Whedon creativity I know and love.

But first, “Stop Loss” bored me. I would say “to tears,” except that I have an eye infection again so the tears might not have actually been Dollhouse related and while it is sometimes tempting to blame Joss Whedon for everything wrong in the world, in this case I really don’t think he’s responsible. And he did make a Hyperion Hotel reference, so, you know, points for that. When it didn’t bore me, it just pissed me off, with the whole “PTSD miracle cure” bit.

And also the whole “oooh back to evil Adelle” bit with the ooooOooO music. This was supposed to set us up for “oooh Adelle is evil and amoral,” so that we would be all shocked and stuff when she turned and we learned that she’s actually good and dandy and plotting to bring Rossum down. Wow, what a shocker! (Seriously, all of the “plot twists” in Dollhouse have been remarkably untwisty. Which I wouldn’t mind, except that they are being framed as “goodness gracious! Look at this! Betcha didn’t see that coming!”)

But. “The Attic.” Let’s talk about “The Attic.”

I have a deep fondness for Joss’ surreal disturbing wandering inside the mind episodes (“Restless,” for example, if one of my all time favourite television episodes of all time ever). Which was what “The Attic” was, and it was awesome. This is the creative genius that I love. The kind that takes me on a totally bizarre journey into a world I cannot understand, with rich and complex visual imagery. The kind that makes my mind bend.

This level of creative intensity would probably be too hard for me to handle on a weekly basis, kind of like trying to eat a chocolate torte every day. But as an occasional treat, it is ideal and perfect and lovely. It almost makes up for the rather uncreative, dull, and frustrating recent episodes, honestly. It also serves of a reminder of Joss’ potential and the reason that I am such a huge fan of him despite the fact that he spends a lot of time pissing me off.

Dollhouse has been using the Attic and the threat of what happens there for quite a while. I knew we’d see it eventually, but I definitely did not think it would be quite like this, and I loved it. And the way it fed into the larger story did feel a bit heavyhanded; look, Rossum really does feed on pure evil! But it allowed us to explore a terrifying and complicated and chilling world, so I forgive them for doing it.

It allowed us both to play with a very surreal world within the mind, and to explore the possibility of the future we see in “Epitaph One,” which is actually one of my favourite Dollhouse episodes, even though I guess it’s technically not part of the canon (or is it? I’m not sure, honestly). I find it interesting that the two standout episodes, for me, have been ones in which we play with an alternate version of the future and actually see where the technology could go.

I haven’t been enjoying the puzzling together of bits and pieces that’s been unfolding, the heavyhanded moralizing in the midst of a very problematic framework. I have enjoyed the episodes in which we skip ahead to the future or see a vision of what the future could be. Honestly, I almost wish that we had started with those, and we had been plunged into the world that could be and then backtracked to fill in the dots that led us there, if that makes sense. Imagine if “Epitaph One” had been the premiere episode! Socks would have been knocked off, I tell you what.

And I love that the focus of the show has been on Echo breaking people out of the Dollhouse, when actually this episode took us into a world in which she had to break people out of their own minds. To me this got to the core of the show and what the show is about. What makes us human and who we are. The whole show has been about breaking out of the mind and blurring lines; Echo’s self realization and Priya and Anthony’s bond which manages to transcend their programming being particularly bold examples.

I do feel like there are a lot of parallels between Dollhouse and Angel, now more so than ever before. But I’m actually looking forward to, instead of dreading, the final three episodes of Dollhouse, and that’s a pretty remarkable turnaround. Maybe Joss will pull this one out of the bag after all.

More thoughts on “Stop Loss” and “The Attic” from Laura over at Adventures of a Young Feminist.

2 Replies to “Dollhouse: Stop Loss/The Attic”

  1. Re: Epitaph One. The episode itself and its events are canon. The memories, however, are prone to the faults of real memories: some of them could be real, some could be misinterpreted, some of them could be fabricated.

  2. Imagine if “Epitaph One” had been the premiere episode!
    oooh, that would have been BRILLIANT.

    epitaph one and now the attic are my two favorite dollhouse episodes as well, and i also found watching the show really rewarding this week. referring the viewers to the future “fixes” so many of dollhouse’s problems. where i feel like the show often focuses too much on the flash and glamor of engagements (the kind of mentality that brought us the horrible, horrible “stage fright”), the chaos of the future stands in stark contrast with said glamor and lets us appreciate the extreme break between the zen “current” dollhouse and the (literally) ugly destruction it will cause.

    what else? showing the future also talks about the consequences of the dollhouse technology without getting overly moralistic- it’s really a matter of showing-not-telling. i feel like in episodes where topher suddenly gets morals or they make echo blind and it’s “innovative and shocking” are more examples of telling/beating us over the head with the revelations of the dollhouse. seeing the future for ourselves is really so much more terrifying and compelling.

    And the way it fed into the larger story did feel a bit heavyhanded; look, Rossum really does feed on pure evil!
    i can see what you mean here, but for one thing i thought the humans-as-computers (if that’s what you’re referring to) was a really neat idea, conceptually. and for another, the episode was directed by john cassaday who does comic-book art. i think this influenced both the aesthetic and probably also the very clear sense of good and evil the episode reveals.

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