Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blogging the Dollhouse: Episode 23: "Getting Closer"

10 reasons I love Joss Whedon:

1. Boyd was the last person we suspected. Therefore he should have been the first person we suspected. And he was still the last person we suspected.

2. Even after all he’s seen – after all he’s done – Topher still isn’t ready to believe he’s helped bring about the apocalypse.

3. He acknowledges the Matrix connections, through the mouth of one of the characters.

4. Ballard’s an imprint now. Of himself. Which is to say: he’s both himself and an imprint. Well, aren’t we all? Isn’t that this show’s scariest question?

5. In the flashbacks to Caroline and Bennett’s friendships, Bennett keeps making noises about wishing she were different, wishing she were Caroline, and Caroline alters her to make her…herself, but moreso. More real than real. At the very beginning, the first layer of subtext this show presented was the idea that women are subjected to unreasonable demands by society, that they’re programmed to internalize everything from unrealistic body images to fear of feminism. In these flashbacks, these moments from before anybody really knows there’s a Dollhouse, we’re taken back to that idea.

6. Boyd’s complicity in everything raises the possibility that Echo’s great awakening was always just another Rossum machination – that you can never really wake up. It’s only honest to acknowledge the possibility that raging against the machine will only ever, in the end, strengthen the machine. That’s why the machine lets you do it.

7. All this hard s/f intellectualism pingponging around, and still it all seems to come back to the squishiest, stickiest of things: love. Topher’s love for Bennett, how it humanizes him, and sets Saunders off. Mellie’s (not November’s) love for Ballard, and his inability to keep himself from meeting it with doe eyes. Echo’s love for Ballard, and his inability to meet it with anything but raised eyebrows. Bennett’s love for Caroline, and how its frustration sends Bennett over to the Dark Side. And how all this focus on the squishy in no way feels like a cop-out on the hard: from the very beginning we’ve been asked to think that maybe love/lust proceeds from someplace so deep no mind-wipe can really reach it. That’s a romantic notion if we think it’s love we’re talking about, but an almost cynically hard-headed one if we think it’s lust we’re talking about, animal instinct.

8. As so often happens in Mutant Enemy productions, but this one most of all, we reach the end of an installment, slam through a big reveal or two, gasp when the music swells, and sit back satisfied that we know what’s going on, finally. And then, gradually, as we begin to persuade our hearts to climb down out of our mouths, we start to say, hey wait, why would Boyd program Saunders to kill Bennett when she’s trying to reconstruct Caroline if he’s only going to come back and preside over Caroline’s awakening himself? Like, do we really understand anything at all now? And if we don’t, how clever of Joss was it to make us feel like we did?

9. Have we finally seen a crack in the future? In Epitaph One we see Victor programmed with Ambrose’s personality, and acting and dressing a lot like the middle-aged man we’d met as Ambrose, the man we just saw shot and killed. Now it’s possible, and even likely, that the man we know as Ambrose was only ever just a doll-projection of the real Ambrose, who we’ve never seen. But that would make the not-Ambrose the first not-young, not-particularly-fit doll we’ve seen. That, or we finally have an indication that Epitaph One isn’t chiselled in stone.

10. We get a great big sloppy misty-eyed moment when we realize Boyd and Saunders have been together, just like we always hoped they would be. Then it’s taken away when she goes sleeper and he goes Big Bad. We get a great big sloppy mist-eyed moment when we see Bennett and Topher finally falling in love. Then it’s taken away when… Actually this isn’t something I love Joss for. I hate him for it. But I love to hate him for it.

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