Last Friday, Dollhouse, the latest series from Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, began its second season on Fox; and it may have found its footing at last.

Here’s hoping it’s not too late.

Dollhouse centers around an organization that programs various men and women with the necessary personalities for a given situation. Then it “rents” them to high paying clients. When not in the field, these “Actives” or “Dolls” are kept in a child-like state. These individuals all agreed for reasons of their own to have their personalities wiped for five years, while selling their bodies into indentured servitude. At the end of that time, they’d receive a huge paycheck.

The central character is “Echo” (Eliza Dushku), or “Caroline”, to give her real name. She should have been the series’ prime mover- especially given the revelation that even after being returned to a tabula rasa state, Echo often retained some bits of the personalities she’d been programmed to assume.

Instead, the series’ prime mover last season was FBI Agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett), who’d been searching for Caroline, and was trying to prove the Dollhouse existed. For all intents and purposes, it was The Paul Ballard Show.

Yes, I was curious to know why Ballard was so driven, especially since he didn’t know Caroline; but Echo was the protagonist. She should have driven the action.

It looks like she finally will. She has told Ballard (who agreed to work with the Dollhouse for unstated reasons) that she remembers being other people. She also not only wants to “find Caroline”, but (if I understood) help the other “Dolls” find their original selves.

All well and good, but something along those lines should happened last season.

And what is the Dollhouse’s raison d’etre? In one episode Echo was programmed with the personality of a hostage negotiator. Why? Why not hire an actual hostage negotiator?

The “Dolls” aren’t androids capable of handing situations ordinary humans couldn’t; nor is the Dollhouse meant to handle top secret and/or sensitive situations that can’t go through “ordinary channels” (some Dollhouse clients appear to treat it as an escort service). So why the need to program “Actives”?

If the show were set in a political environment akin to the Cold War, it might make sense to have the volunteers programmed with personalities sympathetic to the enemy power. The “Dolls” would carry out their programming unaware that they were double agents. They’d have no qualms about what they were doing, because they’d have no feelings of guilt. Raymond Shaw, but with better programming. The closest we came to that was the way the Dollhouse used the Dolls Victor and November against Paul Ballard.

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