Review: Dollhouse Season 1 DVD

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I am a huge Buffy fan.  And Eliza Dushku’s Faithwas one of my favorite characters on the show.  When Buffy ended, I hoped for a Faith spin-off.  I was more than a little disappointed when that didn’t materialize.  So, you can imagine how excited I was when Dollhouse was announced.  Any Joss Whedon series is a cause for celebration.  But Joss a Joss/Eliza reunion seemed like something special.

Dollhouse had a bumpy road.  The disagreements between Whedon and Fox are well domunted.  Like Firefly before it, Dollhouse had to undergo some massive changes before it aired.  When it finally hit the airwaves, Fox scheduled it on Friday nights – a death slot.

Unfortunately, the early episodes just weren’t very compelling.  The premise of the show prevents the audience from getting overly invested in characters who have their memories wiped at the end of each episode.  It’s hard to build strong connections to the characters when they are essentially blank slates.  And the characters who are not are largely unsympathetic.

Then there is the issue of the show’s subject matter.  It’s not much of a stretch to say that Dushku’s Echo is a prostitute.  The show makes this comparisson frequently.  The Dollhouse is  a brothel although they do other distasteful jobs as well.  The show can be icky, and not always in a good way.  Sometimes, it’s just icky.

Over the course of the season, I contenplated giving up on Dollhouse.  But my loyalty to Whedon kept me around.  And my loyalty was rewarded.  The show got progressively better as it grew beyond the constraints of the initial premise.  Clearly, this was always Whendon’s plan.  But the first season was an awfully slow burn getting to that point.

It’s a bit of a miracle that Dollhouse was renewed for a second season.  The ratings have been abysmal and the reviews have not always been kind.  As good as the last half of the season was, I would not have been disappointed to see the show go out on a high note.

The truth is, I would not have bothered with the Dollhouse DVD except for one thing.  Whedon and company filmed an unaired 13th episode which was to serve as the series finale if the show had not been renewed for a second season.  Frustratingly, Fox has refused to air the episode despite renewing the show.

“Epitaph One” is unique to say the least.  Although the series regulars appear in the episode, the story focuses on characters who are new to us.  The action takes place in the not-to-distant future.  An apocalyptic event has occurred and the Dollhouse is to blame.  The story centers on a ragtag bunch of survivors on their run.  Eventually, they stumble upon the abandoned Dollhouse which they see as a potential safe house.

The central story is pretty standard zombie fare.  Members of the crew are picked off one-by-one.  But the episode intercuts the main story with flashbacks that provide glimpses into what happened after episode 12 that lead to this dystopian future.  Honestly, these vignettes look like they came from a more interesting show than the first season of Dollhouse.  Which is a good thing since they are likely glimpses into what we will see in the second season of the show.

If you didn’t watch Dollhouse or you gave up on it, the DVD gives you a second chance to catch up before the new season starts.  Hopefully, the second season will live up to the potential that is promised in the unaired 13th episode. 

read/RANT

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17 Responses to Review: Dollhouse Season 1 DVD

  1. seventhsoldier says:

    Is the unaired pilot on there, too?

    If not, you can find it online… and it’s really, really good. You can tell that, originally, Dollhouse was going to be something special. I still contend that the series has a lot going for it, but those early episodes are just such a damn pain to make it through.

  2. seventhsoldier says:

    Also, isn’t the episode called “Epitaph One”?

  3. dclebeau says:

    Thanks for the catch on the episode title! I have corrected it in the article.

    The pilot is there, but I haven’t watched it yet. The Entertainment Weekly review of the DVD release indicated that all of the original pilot got chopped up and included in other episodes. So, I didn’t make it a priority.

    This review was mostly just going to be about Epitaph One, but there was no way to write about it without going into the history of the show a little. Once I did that, I figured I might as well just review the entire DVD even though I haven’t watched a lot of the DVD features yet.

    Those early episodes were drudgery. I’m sure Fox is to blame ;)

  4. seventhsoldier says:

    Oh, they are. Watch the original pilot sometime soon – it’s a vast improvement.

    • dclebeau says:

      I’ll have to do that. Given that there is no way I will actually sit through the first half of the season ever again, I need to get my entertainment value out of this purchase somehow!

  5. seventhsoldier says:

    Yeah.I’ll only watch the first half when it comes to showing other people the series… and even then, I’ll seriously think about skipping ‘em. I think you can start with “Man on the Street”, since that’s when it starts to matter.

  6. seventhsoldier says:

    By the way, have you heard anything from Bruce? Haven’t seen him on here in a couple weeks and he’s apparently stopped pimping the site so thoroughly.

  7. dclebeau says:

    He posted on my Supergirl review that he had met Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. So, I’m assuming he was at Comicon.

    I bet he’s back to pimping in no time!

  8. brucecastle says:

    I’m here, I’m here.

    And I haven’t really stopped pimping. I don’t post on the dcboards much, though. That’s lebeau’s business.

    I just figured you were busy, Seventh. My last few comments have gone unanswered, I believe.

    Yeah, I was at Comic Con. It kicked the shit out of me, but I’ll be up to things soon.

    I couldn’t even make it through the entire first episode of Dollhouse.

    Nice to know it got better…

  9. seventhsoldier says:

    I thought I hit you back on most of ‘em?

    I was busy – the last two weeks have been hell, and I not only have a backlog of books to review, I have one or two I still haven’t read – but now that I’m done with my program, I have the time.

    See anything particularly awesome at Comic Con? I’ve never been able to afford one, so I haven’t gone. Color me envious….

  10. brucecastle says:

    Well, the way I run my cons is different from most people, but, of course, it’s the only way that makes sense to me.

    I don’t go after all the panels and hooplah. They’re a bitch to get into, and usually a waste of time. Plus, you can see them online.

    No, what I do mostly is get sketches and signatures, chat with the talent.

    This year I got 19 sketches:

    Patrick Gleason-Arisia
    Patrick Gleason-Soranik Natu
    Alvin Lee-Sagat from Street Fighter
    Cliff Rathburn-Reaper
    Joe Lisner-Batman
    Dean Yeagle-Mandy
    Terry Dodson-Emma Frost
    Jonboy Meyers-Wonder Woman
    Jamal Igle-Silver Banshee
    Jamal Igle-Supergirl
    Phillip Tan-Red Hood
    Aaron Lopresti-Wonder Woman
    Francis Manupal-Wonder Girl
    Cliff Chiang-Black Canary
    Sanford Greene-Supergirl
    Micah Gunnell-Wolverine
    Dustin Nguyen-Batman
    Nicola Scott-Scandal Savage, signed by Gail
    Amanda Conner-Power Girl

    Of the 19, only 3 charged me: 20 for Sagat, 40 for Arisia down to the waist, and 20 for Soranik Natu down to the waist with some marker too

    Uh, I also got some signatures:

    Wonder Woman Vol. 3 HC: Signed by Gail Simone, Terry Dodson, Bernard Chang, and Alex Sinclair, both Terry and Bernard drew a Wonder Woman in the book

    Wonder Woman Vol. 4 HC: Signed by Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti, and Bernard Chang, who drew a Wonder Woman in there

    Brubaker Daredevil Omnibus: Signed by Gene Colan and Bill Sienkiewicz

    Captain America #601: Signed by Gene Colan

    Invincible #64: Signed by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottely, and Cliff Rathburn

    Walking Dead #63: Signed by Robert Kirkman and Cliff Rathburn

    Haunt Preview Book: Signed by Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane, and Ryan Ottely

    Reaper: Signed by Robert Kirkman

    New X-Men Omnibus: signed by Keron Grant, Adam Hughes, Peter Steigerwald, John Paul Leon, Bill Sienkiewicz, Leinil Yu, Marc Silvestri, and Chris Bachalo

    Sinestro Corps Vol. 1: HC Signed by Geoff Johns, who drew a GL symbol in there, and Patrick Gleason

    Sinestro Corps Vol. 2 HC Signed by Geoff Johns, who drew a GL symbol in there, Patrick Gleason, Dustin Nguyen, and Jamal Igle

    Blackest Night #0: Signed by Geoff Johns

    Mark Millar Spider-Man HC: Signed by Frank Cho, who sketched one of his animals in there, Terry Dodson, who sketched a Mary Jane and wrote “Perv” pointing to Frank Cho’s signature

    Invincible Vol. 3 HC: Signed by Ryan Ottely, with an Invincible sketched in

    Invincible Vol. 4 HC: Signed by Ryan Ottely

    Brubaker Captain America Omnibus: Signed by Steve Epting and John Paul Leon

    That’s pretty much it. Damn fun!

  11. brucecastle says:

    That was all done in two days.

    Joe Linsner and his partner, Eva Hopkins, tried to set me up with a hot girl. Sadly, she had a boyfriend.

    All the girls I talked to at the Con this year had boyfriends. Grrr….

    Oh, and I met Greg Rucka! Totally by accident too. I was waiting in line for a Jamal Igle sketch, and he showed up next to me!

    We talked for awhile. He’ll be on Batwoman for 16 issues. Williams should be on for 12.

    I’d brought my Gotham Central Vol. 1 HC with me the previous day, but had nothing at the time. He opened his pack, took out a Detective Comics #854. Signed it and made it out to me.

    Then he witnessed people cutting ahead of me in line and got mad. :D

    Oh, and I got a bunch of free comics too. The first issues of:

    100 Bullets
    Y the Last Man
    Transmetroplotian
    Fables
    The Unwritten
    Madame Xanadu

    Much reading to do!

  12. dclebeau says:

    Glad you had fun at Comic Con. I too am jealous.

    Yeah, Dollhouse got better. Honestly, I’m not sure if the second half fully made up for the first half of the first season. But, if the second season is anywhere near as good as “Epitaph One” you’ll want to check out the last half of the first season to get caught up. It was good stuff.

  13. seventhsoldier says:

    Man, color me jealous! I just wrote papers and studied.

  14. dclebeau says:

    I worked, changed diapers and cleaned up baby puke. So I’m jealous of both of you ;)

  15. brucecastle says:

    Check out those sketches!

    They’re cool!

  16. dclebeau says:

    They sure are!

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