So when I heard that Joss Whedon was 1) doing another show with 2) Eliza Dushku, I was beside my geeky self. 🙂
Afterall, part of the fun of watching Buffy on TV was seeing the interesting dynamic between Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Faith (Eliza Dusku). Besides, Eliza Dushku rocks.
When I was finished with that I popped the DVD into my laptop and have been addicted since.
What can I say? It’s an awesome show.
It looks like a more mature Joss Whedon at the helm – but mark my words, he hasn’t lost his touch for irony, wit, humor and loads of that nuanced, sensitive storytelling combined with a riveting plot, a giant government conspiracy, a massive evil corporation, mysterious characters with checkered pasts, morally ambivalent (probably delusional) villains, and at the center of it all, an ever-growing stronger (uber)hero, Echo (Eliza Dushku) who is slowly resisting the imprints and evolving and regaining her will.
The story is about a giant, advanced tech, secret corporation, the Dollhouse, which has discovered, through its (annoying) tech guy, Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) that they can, much like computers, program humans: wipe away their whole identity, personality, past, and upload different personalities – personalities which are pimped to the highest, richest bidders in politics and business. Headed by Adele DeWitt (Olivia Williams), the Dollhouse is run like a top-secret, underground, regimented, peaceful Eden, with its “dolls” living like clueless, serene zombies until an “engagement” takes them outside into the real world. What happens though is that while Topher believes his systems and methods are full-proof, and that the “dolls” will never cause problems, such as old, original personalities re-asserting themselves, dolls going berserk, residual personalities coagulating into one doll and creating composite, suicidal dolls. The rise of “Alpha” (interesting name that – can it be more obvious?) who goes on a rampage and almost succeeds in killing everyone, makes the Dollhouse’s existence a bit more fragile but guarded. However, Echo has shown signs of evolution: while she is still responsive to the “treatments” (the mindwipes Dollhouse does to its dolls to erase previous personalities), Echo as Echo can and does think for herself, and as a different personality, consistently shows creativity, innovation against all odds, a mind of her own, an instinct for survival and of saving other people, and exhibits memories of her previous original life, and of past personalities downloaded on her.
The story isn’t anything unfamiliar: Atom Egoyan’s “Dark City” was premised on the idea of a dying alien race which kidnaps human beings to understand what makes humans “human”. They do this by getting all the memories of the humans and mixing them up, injecting them in each human, hoping doing so would help them survive more. One of the subjects evolves and begins resisting the experiments and defeats the aliens (still one of my all-time favorite movies). “The 13th Floor” was premised on mind-trips as well, as is “Existenz”, “The Matrix” trilogy, “Gattaca”, “Surrogates”, “Neuromancer”, and many others besides. At the same time, it reminds me of “Being John Malkovich” as well – in that at times, the show goes to the metaphysical level and asks interesting questions about humanity. And it also calls to mind “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – the idea that you can erase someone’s memories, but you can’t erase that person’s essence…or the person’s destiny and proclivities. The show actually even reminds me of a better, cooler, more well-written version of James Cameron’s now-defunct “Dark Angel” (and other TV shows with similar storylines, like “Mutant X”): superhuman hero, evil organization, scary, villain, good story.
And yet, while the premise is familiar, Joss Whedon still succeeds in making it his, making it original and creative. Ultimately what makes this series interesting, and worth watching,and worth investing money on is the fact that it is a thought-provoking meditation on self, identity, personality, identity, consciousness, the subconscious, essence, existence, soul, spirit, self-determination, free will, choice, reality, freedom.
And in the end, this is what makes this series worth it:
Because at the core of it is an exploration, finally, of what makes us human.