Dollhouse – S01E04, Gray Hour – episode review

Dollhouse title

Four episodes in, and [[Dollhouse (TV Series)|Dollhouse]] is hitting interesting waters. “Gray Hour” sees Echo tooled up as a bank robber in an Ocean’s Eleven style attempt to steal some aready-stolen artworks.

Ho-hum, you say, recycling a recycled Hollywood story for fun and profit? Well, it gets better. Echo’s posing as a prostitute among a party of three men, when hotel security ask them to take their party to their room. Fair enough, they accept the bribe of two champaigne bottles and loudly leave the bar. Except five minutes later, Echo’s character comes running down the corridor with a bleeding lip to the safety of the security guy. He takes her to a secure room, and according with hotel policy tries to bribe her to keep the incident under wraps. She repays him with a knee in the face and a period of unconsciousness.

Yes, the prostitute thing was all an act. Echo and the boys (AKA the Bunnymen?) are all expert bank robbers, and they’re blowing a hole through the hotel to the adjacent bank. They get in, Echo’s character calling her catchphrase du jour of “Blue skies”, and discover a treasure trove of lost artworks. All is going well until one of the group, the ‘professor’ makes off with the piece they were tasked to recover and locks them in the vault.

So far, so humdrum. But what happens next makes things more interesting. Echo makes a call to Boyd to get him to catch the escaping professor. At the end of the phone call however, a signal on the line wipes Echo’s personality transplant and she ends up in her blank state. Not much use for escaping from a locked vault.

Of course, now the conspiracy machine goes into overdrive: Adelle DeWitt’s quiet panic confirms that the signal which wiped Echo’s mind was no fluke. Topher briefly wonders whether it was a rival neurologist, before the shocking revelation that it must have been Alpha (the rogue Active with a propensity for slicing and dicing his colleagues). “But Alpha’s dead!” Topher exclaims in 4 times as many words. No, idiot, he’s not. The Dollhouse folks lied to you.

At a loss for how to free Echo from the vault, DeWitt decides to load the bank robber personality into Sierra to gain the intelligence to get her out. Meanwhile though, we have to sit through some poignant art critiquing from Echo’s co-bank robber, and some carefully chosen analogies about how she’s broken inside. Probably most interesting is Echo looking at a forest scene and remembering being called by another name. Clearly some indication of residual memory, wouldn’t you agree doctor?

Once we’re through with this introspection, the bank heist thing resolves fairly quickly. Sierra tries to talk Echo through the process of escaping, but Echo fails at cracking the lock. The alarms go off, a gunfight ensues, Echo gives a lethal injection to the ‘nasty’ bank robber who was shouting at her, and helps the stabbed bank robber to safety. Game over, are you ready for your treatment, Echo?

Elsewhere, the plot that we continue not to care about continues: Agent Ballard is trying to unmask the Dollhouse, but wiley DeWitt is using Victor/Lubov to pass him bogus information. However it crosses my mind that however stupid Ballad seems to be, the Dollhouse somehow consider him a threat. And he shows that side tonight by double-crossing Lubov for getting him shot in a basement last week. Intrig – yawwwwnnnn – uing.

Best Bits, Questions and Opinions

  • Echo undressing prior to the bank heist to one of the guys looking at her: “They’re called breasts and yes, they are exceptional. You can mention this when you blog about it later.”
  • Boyd wondering out loud if the Dollhouse inmates are volunteers or if that’s a convenient cover story passed down from above.
  • Is Topher quickly becoming the most annoying character in the show? The wisecracks I can handle, but the pathetic begging and excuses “It wasn’t my fault/I couldn’t have predicted this!” and the seemingly misplaced professional vanity. I want to see how he fits into the bigger picture.
  • Following on from that, is anyone else expectantly waiting for Echo to wake up from a mind wipe and not ask if she fell asleep? It’s virtually a certainty.
  • The bizarre bank robber as art snob and philosophical genius: “We start out whole, but somewhere along the line pieces start to slide. We get broken.” I suppose everybody has to have a hobby.
  • I’m slowly warming to Dushku in the lead role (not enough to think her breasts are exceptional, though), but the doe-eyed thing bugs me a little bit. Just a little bit.
  • At the start of the episode, Victor, Echo and Sierra are observed grouping together. They’re clearly drawn together for some reason. Topher notes this as unusual behaviour, but doesn’t think it’s worthwhile mentioning it to DeWitt, even after Alpha chopped up 90% of the Dollhouse staff and actives.

Overall, slightly weaker than last week’s episode. The stories are clearly becoming a vehicle for the far more important (and interesting) subplots. Who is Echo? Did she volunteer? What was before she joined the Dollhouse?

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