As Halloween is nearly upon us, I thought that it would be the perfect time to write about a rather chilling Joss Whedon project that always seems to get unfairly snubbed when it comes to discussions of his works. The project I am referring to is the positively genius Dollhouse. This article will be absent of spoilers, so if you’ve yet to see the series, don’t fret.
Essentially, a very base synopsis of Dollhouse is that it centres around a young woman called Echo (portrayed by the always-engaging Eliza Dushku) who is a Doll under contractual obligations of the Los Angeles faction of the Dollhouse. In a nutshell, the Dollhouse has a group of human beings (interchangeably called “Dolls” and “Actives”) who are hired out to wealthy clients. Missions that they undertake are called “engagements” and they can range from simply being a date for a lonely client or even assassins. The possibilities, as you may imagine, are endless. At the end of each engagement, the Active has their memory wiped, thus resulting in them being in a tabula rasa state until they are called upon for their next engagement and programmed with a new identity. What makes Echo so special, however, is that she retains small pieces of memories leftover from her imprints.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will more than likely recall the season six episode “Tabula Rasa” which centres around memories (or lack thereof). However, if you are expecting that level of hilarity in Dollhouse, you will be disappointed. The series does have plenty of humourous moments, but most of the time, it is far less overt than what you will find in the Buffyverse.
What makes the series so compelling for me is how the writers were never afraid to leave the audience asking more than a few questions. The plotline itself is interesting to mull over from an ethical and moral standpoint alone. Not only that, but you also have the unceasingly gripping storyline to chew on, which is full of stunningly crafted details. Certainly, it isn’t a series that you can mindlessly veg out to.
Another thing that people might be interested in knowing is that in addition to Eliza Dushku (Faith in Buffy and its spin-off series Angel), there are several other Whedonverse alums sprinkled throughout its two seasons including Amy Acker (Fred in Angel), Alan Tudyk (Wash in Firefly), Alexis Denisof (Wesley in Angel) and Summer Glau (River in Firefly), just to name four. All of them are simply terrific in their roles. The non-Whedon regulars such as Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman and Olivia Williams are just as good, too. As you would expect from a Whedon series, the chemistry between each and every actor is unmissable.
Plenty of scares can be found in Dollhouse but in order to keep this spoiler-free, I cannot divulge what they are. I will tell you this, though: it is all about atmosphere. Gaudy, cheap scares are nowhere to be found. Instead, all of the horror is provided to the audience thoughtfully and it leans more towards the psychological end of the spectrum than anything else.
Dollhouse is home to my favourite Whedon-directed episode of all time, “Epitaph One” and my favourite Whedon-created character of all time, Dr. Claire Saunders (portrayed by my personal favourite Whedonverse actress, Amy Acker). So it goes without saying that it is my favourite Whedon project. I’m trying hard not to sound like an incessant fangirl, but it truly is a series worthy of adoration.