In the realm of childhood, a dollhouse is a place where anything is possible. Recollection of past dolls and dollhouses owned (at least for most of the female gender) brings back memories of the pure narrative of innocence that filled cloudless days with the life of our beloved stuffed animals and plastic dolls.
Entering its second season, Fox’s “Dollhouse” certainly embodies the “anything is possible” aspect of its namesake. The “Dollhouse” is an illegal organization filled with “dolls” or programmable people who can have any persona, biography and experiences imprinted on their minds at the discretion of their clients—for a hefty price. During the 12 episodes that comprised Season 1, the personas that Echo (Eliza Dushku), an “Active (doll)” at the Dollhouse, undertook (anyone from a hostage negotiator to a background singer/bodyguard) clearly demonstrated the wide range of personalities that dolls could be imprinted with.
Season 2, whose first episode aired at 8 p.m. on Fox this past Friday, promises to be filled with an even more intriguing plot and deeper character development than the first. The season opener began with Echo being programmed with her 40th personality, the soon-to-be bride of British arms dealer Martin Klar (Jamie Bamber), to the great apprehension of former FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett). Having developed a serious infatuation with Echo during the first season, Agent Ballard is worried that her increasing self-awareness might lead to the same composition of personalities that led a former Active, known as Alpha, on a serial-killing rampage. At the same time Dr. Claire Saunders (Liza Lapira), who takes care of the Actives at the Dollhouse, is having a hard time coping with the recent realization that she is the former Active “Whiskey,” and her new persona is in fact another personality programmed by the young scientist Topher Brink (Fran Kranz). If you watch the show, it makes complete sense.
“Dollhouse” already stands out by being a science fiction-based show among the slew of teen soap operas, reality TV shows, hospital dramas and the never-ending lawyer/cop series that seem to saturate prime-time viewership. The drama is a refreshing breath of something different this fall; it is sure to continue to captivate audiences by the questions that the premise brings to light. It is unsettling to see how easily the deepest emotions considered unique to humanity, such as love, hope and passion, can be manufactured. This season is full of promise as the conflicts and dilemmas faced by the Actives and their “Handlers” continue to deepen with intrigue. The question posed by being able to have a human “doll,” subject to whatever narrative the imagination wishes, remains on the verge of being answered. “Dollhouse” will surely keep faithful viewers on the edge of their seats during its 13-episode run this year.
Watch it: Fox, Fridays at 8 p.m.
Staring: Eliza Dushku