Friday, April 24, 2009

The complainant

So regular readers of this blog might remember that there was a time when I wrote about a wider array of subjects than Joss Whedon's latest television show (although on that topic to call Dollhouse awesome beyond the telling of it is selling it short). A few months back I started, and promised to finish, a series about feminism and prisons. I probably won't resume that series regularly until the end of May, but I hope to post a few things that have come up before then.

In the future I want to explore how feminists support the current (in)justice system, what does the legal system provide for survivors of rape?

Anna has discussed the rape myth's used in the recent trial of a taxi driver rapist. This was the second trial, as a previous conviction was overturned on appeal. One of the reasons that the appeal was successful:

The prosecutor was also criticised for "personalising" the issues and repeatedly using the victim's first name instead of calling her "the complainant".

Could there be a clearer indication that rape trials are not allowed to be about rape survivors. It is a mistrial if a rape survivor has a name.

I'm sure this could be changed, if enough effort was put in then eventually this decision could be over-turned. Eventually rape survivors would be allowed names.

If that was achieved, then it would be a step - a name is a step towards being allowed a control, being allowed a story, being allowed to exist. But I think

I don't expect this one issue to persuade anyone to abandon reform of the trial system. But I hope it will make it helps people understand the size of the problem, and maybe consider the possibility that there may be better ways of getting justice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kristin Dunne-Powell

I want to pay tribute to, and stand in solidarity with, Kristin Dunne-Powell.

I had a rant about the media, and the coverage, but I've decided the only voice that is important in all this is hers. Her victim impact statement was in the Herald, and on Thursday she did an interview with John Campbell. In both she explains things she should not have to explain, and makes the reality of abusive relationships clear.

I imagine the Sunday papers tomorrow are going to be horrific. I don't think I'll read them or write about them. I don't want to know what the victim blamers are saying. Women who are abused by powerful men get every piece of misogyny, victim-blaming, and abuse apologism thrown at them from so many channels. I thought it was really powerful that Kristin Dunne-Powell approached Louise Nicholas for support.

I also want to remind people that very few women in abusive relationships have the resources that Kristin Dunne-Powell does. Money doesn't protect women from abusive relationships, but it does remove one of the barriers to leaving. Consider donating to women's refuge.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dollhouse Review: A Spy in the House of Love (with added stop-watch action)

That was Nifty.

So nifty that, for the first time, my review involved a stop watch. Be warned, I’m getting even geekier as time progresses.

It’s so frustrating that just as the show is getting even more mindblowingly awesome Fox is messing it around. For those of you who missed the fan panic (and fans can panic): last week Fox announced they would be airing Omega the season finale of dollhouse, which is episode 12, in May.

However anyone who is even minorly obsessed with the show knows that there were 13 episodes, and the 13th episode is called Epitaph One (and it’s Joss Whedon there’s a lot of obsession for dorks). This led to high confusion about whether the show was cancelled, and Fox decided not to comment, fuelling the panicking tendency. It turns out it’s not cancelled but Fox the production company and Fox the TV network are in arguments about what makes 13 episodes of Dollhouse. The TV network are counting the unaired pilot as an episode, but the production company are, so the production company made 13 and the TV network are only airing 12. The two arms of Fox are still in negotiations for a possible season 2 and nothing has been announced.

Joss had been sounding very dismal about the possibility of renewal, but apparently when Fox heard these dismal noises they contacted him and told him that the show wasn’t cancelled yet and another season was possible.

So I’m still looking for people with Nielsen boxes who accept (very small) bribes.


I think that was the best teaser I’ve ever seen.

I loved this episode from the first few seconds when they showed Echo and Sierra wondering around together. What I wanted most from this episode was to see that the dolls were still friends, and that Dr Saunders evil plan hadn’t worked in the way she thought it would. So I was far more entranced by Echo and Sierra’s conversation than the fact that someone was being shot up in the chair (except when I was wondering who the ‘her’ could be and was scared it might be Mellie).

Twelve hours earlier we seem to be in Fox bait territory, with Eliza Dushku as a dominatrix. It’s only as you watch the episode that you realise that S&M Barbie has a purpose – because the themes for this episode is trust and pain (and I loved the idea that Handlers have preferences about imprints, and how annoying some imprints might be). In a more normally structured episode, this may seem a little bit pedestrian. But because the episode was so fractured I think it was really important to make sure we knew what this episode was about.

The teaser grounds the characters far more subtley than it reveals the theme. Over a 6 or so minute sequence we see where each of our major characters are and where they’re going (or where they want people to think they are, and where they want people to think they’re going). Not in an obvious way, mostly we’re just distracted by the hilarious dialogue (and the idea of bonsai people creating bonsai trees). You think the teaser can’t get any better when Topher loses an argument to Echo.

And then Echo asks to be imprinted, and those of us who are so inclined let out squeals of geeker joy.

I’m not going to concentrate too much on the structure of the episode (I have seven other things on my ‘must cover in my review’ list. Although now I think of it that can be regrouped into three headings, which greatly increases my chance of ever actually publishing this), but I think from the strong grounding in the teaser to the continual layering of tension, this episode was very well structured. Unlike Echoes, where the varying tone made the episode feel incoherent, this episode’s thematic unity meant that I didn’t care whether I was in a romance or an espionage thriller.

Our first foray into trust and pain, with an emphasis on the pain came with November telling Paul that she, and therefore Mellie, was a doll. That was brutal - Joss certainly knows how to bring the pain. Poor Mellie – she doesn’t know that she’s a doll.

And as for Paul – I’m surprised his brain didn’t explode from the horror. I have previously been unconvinced by Tahmoh Penikett, but I’m far more interested in deranged Paul Ballard than I was FBI Paul Ballard. I also think he did an extremely good job, particularly at the end.*

But the situation at the end of that scene is the most twisted thing I have ever seen on television. It’s heartbreaking for both of them.

I loved this episode structure, except when I’m watching the scenes between them, because I do not want to wait a week to find out what happens next.** At the end of the episode it looked like Paul had a choice between death, rejecting someone who is in love with him and who he clearly cares about, and sleeping with someone he knows is a doll, an action which he has described (and I agree) as the act of a sexual predator.

I think that’s all I’ll say for this episode, I’ve got enough to say about this episode without speculating what happened next. Clearly this is a crucial moment for Paul’s character and I’ll have much to say about it next week.

But poor Mellie…

The other major exploration of trust and pain was Adele and Dominic, and this episode was a series of revelations for the both of them. I’d always seen them as having a weird kind of sexual tension, expressed by his concern for her position, and her occasional willingness to let him use the lift. I didn’t think they’d get together, but I thought the under-currents were pretty clear.*** Which only makes the scenes in this episode, and Adelle’s character, sharper.

But before we could even explore Adele and Dominic, we got Adele and Roger (Enver Gojkaj is brilliant enough that I’ll pretend not to notice the accent). Adelle as Miss Lonely Hearts was an awesome plot twist (one that I was unfortunately spoiled for, but I can imagine was great to experience), and also a real character moment, revealing as it did the depth of Adele’s capacity and need for delusion. Because there is not difference between her and Hearn (Sierra’s rapist handler), but it’s becoming increasingly clear how much she needs her vision of the dollhouse to be true.****

Olivia Williams portrayal of Adelle only got more captivating and terrifying as Laurence’s portrayal as revealed. “Did you think I would show you rage or mercy” is chilling in a way I did not know was possible. Adele as a character is both convincing and incomprehensible - the writing and acting are both superlative.

It wasn’t just Adelle and Dominic, after this episode every worker we’ve met in the dollhouse seems to have unfathomable problems that have only been touched on.***** Boyd is just getting deeper and deeper in it, and sardonic comments about pimps and assassins can’t hide that.

I’ve no idea what Dr Saunders’ story is, but at this stage she must be in the running for the most damaged character on the show. I don’t think it’s what Alpha did, although that may be part of what’s going on. The way she talked about the outside world to Boyd at the end of ‘Needs’ makes it clear that she’s got a bigger reason not to leave the building than she wants to serve the actives. I wonder if she’s a ex-doll (if such things exist) who couldn’t handle the thought of going back into the world. I can’t wait to see more of her story.

When Echo held Dominic out the window and asserted “I’m not broken” I believed her. Clearly compared to the non-actives in the dollhouse she’s getting it together. While I loved the teaser, I was worried when she first got in the chair and asked to be imprinted. It made me very uncomfortable – as if they were showing her asking to be used. As the episode progressed it became clear that she was choosing Topher in his fight with Dominic. Actually there are many reasons why you might not want to help Topher, but siding with him over Dominic makes perfect sense.

Last week’s episode was brilliant, but I was scared that there would be too much of a reset. I was so reassured that we saw the relationships between the dolls continue, and that having her Needs fulfilled seems to have only increased Echo’s self awareness.

I think I’ve covered everything important I’ve got to say about the characters and themes of this episode – now it’s time to get out the stopwatch.

When I first watched Dollhouse I thought the chronology went like this:
Victor imprinted with Roger
Echo wiped of Dominatrix
November imprinted with Mellie
Topher finds Chip in chair
Sierra imprinted with Sydney Bristow

But I rewatched the episode and I don’t think this chronology works (although it is what we’re led to believe happened. We see the time frame around when the chip was found in two different scenes – once in the teaser, and again in November’s imprint. These scenes are from different perspectives but they both show Echo waving at Mellie.

In the teaser, Topher rushes down the stairs, chip in hand, to warn Boyd. From the time he enters screen to the time Echo waves at Mellie is 1:18 seconds. But from the beginning of the scene where November is imprinted with Mellie to Echo waving at her is only 38 seconds. Topher is not in that scene at all, and November is being imprinted by Ivy. So the order must have been:
Victor imprinted with Roger
Echo wiped of Dominatrix
Topher finds chip in chair
November imprinted with Mellie
Sierra imprinted with Sydney Bristow

The chip cannot have been in the chair when November was being imprinted, as Topher already had the chip. Therefore the NSA chip is not the way that dolls were loaded with parameters to give messages to Paul, and Laurence was not responsible for those messages. There is definitely another mole and another method of changing the imprints.

Unless the writers are less obsessed about this stuff than I am, which is a distinct possibility (they forgot that Paul Ballard wasn’t supposed to know where Mellie had gone, and had him mentioning her mother’s). But until I hear otherwise I’m going to use my stopwatch confirmed theory of evidence that there’s a second mole.

Although, I still think the messages might not come from a mole. At first I thought that November telling Ballard that Echo was a doll was a sure sign that the dollhouse wasn’t behind the messages that were being sent to Ballard. But the more I think about it the more possible it seems. If their goal is to break him, what better way than to create a situation where he feels he has to sleep with someone he knows is a doll.

This week’s dollhouse has been pre-empted with a re-run of Prison Break. Which means we're going to have to wait even longer for more Victor/Sierra (the only thing missing from this episode). I’m going to clearly suffer major withdrawl symptoms. But rest assured that I’m not going to stop a little thing like no new dollhouse episodes stop me writing about the Dollhouse. I’ve wanted to write more about Dollhouse’s portrayal of race, where most of my thoughts span more than one episode. I may also finish some other pieces I’ve got in my head. Never under-estimate my obsession.

* This is a bit of a tangent, and possibly an over-reading, but I really appreciated that they showed Paul Ballard notice as soon as Mellie zoned out. You don’t often see such an explicit example of checking in, and being aware of your partner in sexual situations. I thought it was great that a show which is so much about sexual violence and non-consent, also explored some ways to ensure that sex is consensual

** My other, slightly larger complaint is that Sierra’s mission had no purpose, except to show that shoes can always get more ridiculous. ‘You were making fun of our shoes before - take these impratical high heels with zips.’ At this stage they’re taunting those of us who are sceptical about the footwear choices of the female characters. I’ve decided that Topher loads “strange affection for and agility in high heels” into every female imprint, whether she’s an NSA impersonator, CDC Doctor, or Dominatrix

*** I was surprised that the people I was watching with disagreed. They were much more about the potential for Boyd and Dr Saunders to have scowly babies. I thought that had pretty much been destroyed by the end of Needs, but I do think Topher has a thing for Dr Saunders.

****I thought it was a very effective way to answer questions like ‘Why would the love of someone who had been imprinted to love you matter?’ After the scenes between Roger and Adelle I have very little doubts about why.

***** Except for Topher who, appropriately enough, went the other way and spent this episode acting like a human being who has cares about people. Not just the scene with Boyd, but he looked genuinely concerned about Ivy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Needs: Dollhouse Review, Episode 8

Just before watching the latest episode I was talking with my friend Betsy about the costumes on dollhouse, most notably Alice's, and what a crazy job being in charge of the wardrobe for the dollhouse organisation would be ('so for this engagement he wants her to be really naieve and innocent, but a sexual object. What's your ugliest pair of white stockings look like?'). And then they showed us the dollhouse wardrobe - talk about giving us what we want.

This episode had everything great television needs: it was hilarious, upsetting, character-centred, and thematically unified. Clearly “the dolls wake up” is a great premise for an episode, and that premise was well utilised (“we’re all going to die” from Victor was my favourite line, but it’s not alone in its greatness). But the writers weren’t content just to milk that premise for its jokes about fruit, they took it much further, and much darker.

This episode explored six characters needs: Echo, Victor, Sierra, November,* Paul Ballard and Adelle Dewitt. I think it’s very important that this episode extended its exploration of needs beyond the dolls that were being experimented on. Adelle tells Caroline that she signed on to escape her memories. Even though Caroline ran for two years, and was being held captive when she signed (which does away with any idea of meaningful consent). Adelle clearly needs to believe that people volunteer for this, and that they are benefiting from having their memories removed. I have wondered a lot about whether they really let people go at the end of 5 years, and it seems to me that if they don’t, then Adelle must be able to maintain her belief that they do.

Paul Ballard’s needs were complicated, but they certainly make the character more interesting than they were previously. A few episodes ago it would have enraged me, that the only hope we got at the end of this episode was his message from Caroline. A lot about Paul Ballard is both boring and obnoxious - how dare he provide me hope. But I’ve felt much more engaged with the character since Man on the Street acknowledged how creepy his obsession is. I felt that his dream at the beginning took that creepiness to another level (nothing like having making out with a corpse to up the creepiness). The ending wasn’t so much hope as Paul Ballard also getting what he needed, or possibly just what he wanted – at this stage it really isn’t clear.

Of the dolls, November’s needs (and plotline) were least integrated with what we already knew. In fact I think her plotline didn’t make much sense. We had seen Victor, Sierra and Echo grouping, and Echo going off task. Each of these were connected to what they resolved in this episode. But we'd only seen November glitching when she was remembering the trauma of being attacked as Mellie. The idea that she needed to grieve for Katie was not connected with anything we've seen of her up to this point. It also wasn't at all clear to me why November was picked out as one of the four priority cases – she only glitched when directly injected with the drug, and previously her performance had been described as perfect. The writers included November in the dolls who woke up because the audience care about her, but did not do enough work for it to make sense within the story. That made her whole storyline less than satisfying for me (and I'm vocal about my Mellie/November love and desire to know about her). I think it says a lot for my general engagement with the character, and Miracle Laurie’s mad skills that I still felt for her. But the feeling was an abstract one, it wasn’t feel connected with what I knew about her.

Caroline’s needs were neither new or a surprise. I don’t have a lot more to say about them, although the scene with Topher and Dewitt was very satisfying. And the scene where the actives all walk out the tunnel is beautiful.

I hope that Caroline or Echo realises that she can't save the world be herself. That freedom isn't won by the actions of one individual fighting alone for others, but everyone fighting collectively for themselves and each other. I've no idea if that's where they're going with this show. If it wasn't a Joss show I don't think I'd even bother to hope that the writers set up Caroline's acting alone as a limit deliberately. But after Chosen, Jaynestown and The Chain, I don't think it's beyond the bounds of possibility that that's where they're going.**

But the heart of the show was Sierra, Victor, and their relationship. I could seriously spend all my episode reviews praising Dichen Lachman and particularly Enver Gjokaj. The first great moment of the episode was the scene of them going to bed. It’s such a beautiful portrayal of love, and it doesn’t need words.*** The scene in the utility closet was just as powerful, because they articulated the role of their relationship when they’re enslaved. Their relationship is about love and connection as resistance.

It broke my heart when Victor went straight into bed, and didn’t wait for Sierra.

I do have one reservation about the way their relationship is portrayed, that was only exacerbated by this episode. So far Dollhouse has focused on Victor’s desire for Sierra, and Sierra only as an object of desire. It is Victor’s need to get the girl that Boyd and Dr Saunders discuss at the end of the episode.**** Even though she didn’t feel closure until she’d kissed him either. If all she needed was to confront Nolan, then she would have shut down once she left her apartment.

Clearly they can’t show Sierra’s desire for Victor, using the same ways they’ve been showing Victor’s desire for Sierra. But the most powerful statement about his desire for her isn’t his man reaction, or his recitation the Mets (or was it the Yankees) to avoid it, but that she makes him feel better. And we could see that from Sierra, we could see her desiring him. I think it’s really important that we do.*****

Obviously there was more to Sierra (and Victor’s) plotline this week than that relationship. I am really glad that they’re dealing with the issues of consent and the dollhouse head-on. It’s now explicit that Priya (the woman Sierra was) did not give any kind of consent. I think it’s important to acknowledge that not only can consent be coerced, but the very notion of consent can be ignored for people with enough power. Like ‘Man on the Street’ this episode didn’t shy away from the horror of abuse. I think “It’ll be ever better now” from Nolan after Sierra left, might just be the most disgusting statement I’ve ever heard. Despite this they still managed to normalise Nolan. Nothing about the music or the way the scene was shot implied that he was a strange psychopathic variation; it was made very clear that his abuse was a result of his power.

I have duelling analyses in my head about the scene between Priya/Sierra, Victor and Nolan. I find it frustrating that the show again showed another man punching the abuser as a solution to a woman being abused (and made the link explicitly in the scene between Dr Saunders and Boyd, although clearly Dr Saunders isn’t as reliable a character by the end of the episode as she was in the beginning).

But I'm really not asking that every rape survivor do their own punching. I think our limited visions of what it means to be strong can be really damaging; there's strength in breaking down, strength in letting other people helping you, and strength in ignoring it all and finding a way to continue anyway. While I was rewatching the episode, I was wondering about the director’s decision to have both of them in every frame in the conversation with Nolan, as I felt it didn’t give Sierra space in her own story. But the other option would have been to have Sierra more alone.

I think, in the end, that what makes me OK with what they showed, is that Sierra wasn’t silenced by Victor’s presence, or his punching – that it was her voice that rang out in that scene “I’m more of a human than you.” I don’t think it takes away any of the strength Sierra needed to confront Nolan, by showing her having support. And more importantly I think the show portrayed the strength Sierra had, and didn’t diminish her through the support she had.

But like I say I’m not sure, and I’d be really interested in other people’s views. Does the desire for representations of rape survivors as strong put additional pressure and limited views on what strength is? Does his punching take away from her words? Could we have done without the punching?

The show ends with a reveal, and what for me is quite close to despair. Amy Acker is an amazing actress, I was distraught when I discovered this whole, horrible, solution was her idea. It also felt very real to me, that is possible to control actives better by giving them some freedom. We appreciate that she sees actives as people not pets, but she is using that knowledge to deepen the dollhouse’s power. Liberal control can, at times, be more effective than totalitarianism.

* After considerable thought I decided to refer to them with their doll names even though we know Echo and Sierra’s actual name. I think the needs that were being explored in this episode were the needs of their doll-selves. I think the people they had been would have needed much more than they got in this episode

** Although it's probably beyond the bounds of possibility that we'll never found out where they're going because Fox is going to cancel the show. Anyone know anyone with a Nielsen box who accepts bribes?

***Also I swear Enver Gjokaj’s ears stick out more as Victor than as pre-Victor – how is that even possible?

****I’ve gotten mightily bored of Boyd, who has done very little but punch people since Stage Fright, but there was a lot of depth in that scene

*****Oh and while I’m constructing a wish list for future episodes (which have been remarkably successful so far: I wished for more friendship between the dolls and I got Stage Fright. I wished for the writers to take sexual abuse seriously and I got Man on the street). Echo and Sierra's friendship was important to me. We have barely seen anything of them since episode three, and I am really disappointed that they didn't take this opportunity to build the only friendship (at the moment the only relationship) between women on the show.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A woman inprisoned

A woman who gives birth alone, and then abandons the baby is a woman who is out of options. A woman who does this on a plane, on her way to take up low-paying migrant work, is out of options and resources. Whatever your political analysis of the woman who gave birth in a plane last month, it does not take much empathy to understand that her situation was not one of her own choosing, and that what she did was an act of desperation and powerlessness.

I had wanted to write something, but hadn't known what to write. A polemic seems almost grotesque when you think what she has been through. But then I heard on National Radio, that she had been remanded in custody.*

She has been in prison for ten days now, and was arrested six days after she gave birth. I know I'm a radical when it comes to prison, and so what I have to say about how much people don't belong in prison sounds slightly hollow. But I don't understand what possible good comes from locking this woman up under any logic at all.

I believe that Karolaine Maika's situation, and her incarceration are a feminist issue, and that feminist solidarity is most important when it comes to women who are most marginalised by society. I would encourage feminists to to support Karolaine Maika in jail. The most simple thing you could do is write to her:

Karolaine Maika
C/O Auckland Region Womens Corrections Facility
Private Bag 76908
South Auckland Mail Centre
Manukau 2240

You can send phones cards and money to people in prison with your letter. Money goes into the prison account, and can be used to buy things from the prison shop once a week. Phone cards are useful as a way of contacting people outside of prison, and are sometimes used as trade for other items. If you send either of these things, then mention them in the letter to make sure they get to her (if you want to do more, then leave a comment on the thread - if there's one thing I'm not short on it's information on how to support people in prison).

Mostly when I talk about feminism I talk about collective resistance. But I think support plays an important role in feminism as well. It doesn't take much to write a letter.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dollhouse Review: Episode 7 'Echoes'

When I watched the preview for 'Echoes' the first thing I said was “Oh God, I hope they don’t turn Caroline into an animal rights activist. I liked Caroline.” This clearly says more about my issues than it does about the show. I had assumed that Caroline was an activist who had got into massive legal/other trouble, but I hadn’t actually expected to be right.

I didn’t expect this episode to be as brilliant as last week’s, but I was hoping that it was going to be good on its own terms. Instead I found it the most incoherent episode of Dollhouse yet. While there were lots of individual scenes I enjoyed, the only thing that bound these together was a plot that was sometimes sense deficient (my friend Besty found it even more annoying than I did and I only figured out a lot of the most problems of this episode talking to her).

I think the writers gave Eliza Dushku a very difficult task this episode and she wasn’t up to it. She had some very nice Alice moments* – such as the fists she tries to make when she thinks she’s going to fight. But in general Alice didn’t feel clearly delineated. I really didn’t understand the boundaries between her and Caroline. I think the writer’s should take most of the responsibility for this. I think a little bit more Alice before she started glitching would have gone a long way.

The biggest problem I had with this episode was the drugged staff of the dollhouse. While I found a number of lines and moments very funny,** I think it was far too early in the run of the show to do an effective “eveyone acts wacky” episode.# We’re not familiar enough with how people act normally for this to be much more than generic wacky humour. We saw some character humour with Adelle, but nothing like we could have seen from all the characters in the third or fourth season.***

I felt the active’s reaction to the drug had a little bit more of a purpose, both on a character level, and on a philosophical level. On a character level it was really important to show the effects of rape and attempted rape on Mellie and Sierra. ((and that was the only use of sexual violence, or the threat of sexual violence in this episode. So that’s two episodes of not using sexual violence to tell stories, and instead telling stories about sexual violence. Congratulations.)) On a philosophical level I love that brains, that people, don’t work the way Topher thinks they’re going to. I think the continual message that the Actives will resist their total colonisation, their total commodification (the metaphors are complicated I think) is very important.

I am really excited (and sad, and apprehensive) about Victor’s backstory. While the comparison between the dolls and prostitutes has been explicit throughout the story, the parallels between the dollhouse and an army have been largely ignored. I’m glad they’re expanding their metaphors, and entirely positive that Enver Gjokaj can do everything they ask of him.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get anything about Victor, Sierra and Echo’s relationships with other. It would have been really easy to have, for example, the way Echo and murderer-dude escaped the frat house to have been a moment of recognition between Echo and Sierra (friends help each other). Particularly as the stupidity and success of ‘run when their backs are turned’ strategy undermined the idea that the actives had been created to do this job.

And then there’s Mellie. I think I covered my conversion to all things Mellie last week. Mellie’s scenes with Paul this week ran very true to me, emotionally (and Miracle Laurie was brilliant again).***** I didn’t think, while I was watching it, she’s emotionally manipulating Paul, because that’s what the dollhouse wants her to do. I still don’t know if that was what was happening. Had they pre-loaded this parameter into her personality? Do they think that this will stop him investigating (because I think they’re probably wrong). Or were we just seeing her emotional reaction, and was the dollhouse going to use that?

So at this stage half my brain is wondering exactly how much the dollhouse finely tuned her reaction, and the other half is “see now he’s waiting at his door for her to come out.” I like that tension

Then there’s Caroline; I have so many thoughts about Caroline.

It’s strange seeing activists on TV. They very rarely share my politics, and sometimes I resent this – that activists are shown as such flakes. But then there isn’t necessarily a shortage of Caroline’s around.******

I do like that her plan failed. There’s a lot to admire about her as a person – I thought the difference between the Caroline that planned the break-in and the Caroline that talked to Adelle showed her strength in how much she had lost. But unlike Caroline I don’t think a small band of people following “this is where I am” changes the world. And I’m glad Joss showed this, I think it was an important antidote to Serenity (great as that movie is). ((I know some people resent the constant comparisons to Joss’s previous work. They think that it’s not allowing what he does now to stand by itself. I think that analysing a writer’s body of work is interesting and useful. Joss has themes, and I think it’s interesting to explore them))

Despite the animal rights flakiness******* (“What you say they’re experimenting on humans?” But there’s a cute dog over here”), I am interested Caroline, I want to know more about her. I want her to be free.

If I was going to articulate what this episode was about I would say: showing us how people become actives. I loved the ending; I love that we will now know one of the actives as a person. I am glad that they’ve made clear exactly that the dollhouse does not look for meaningful consent – they use coercion.

But most of the episode was superfluous to that story, and those scenes, for example the drug scenes, generally had no other character or thematic point. I wonder how much of the drug plot-line was constructed the way it was to justify the non-attic-ing of Echo. If the writer’s thought so many other things were going wrong, then the viewer might forgive the fact that the dollhouse is keeping Echo around even though she walked off an engagement.

I don’t know if that was the writers’ logic. But whatever their logic was, this episode didn’t work to me. And I think exploring how people become actives could have been an episode in and of itself.

*And huge props to the costume department - Alice’s outfit was hilarious. Matt is such a creep

** So I thought the funniest line was “say hi from me” – which is possibly a sign I’ve watched Innocence too many times (or as I like to think of it – almost enough times

# Julie talked about this in the trouble with Topher, go read that post. Although I don't agree with her that Victor was in the army - anymore than Echo was an animal rights activist. Hmmmm with my confusion about Mellie I think I may have to write more about this. Why is it that no-one complains that Alas focuses too much on the Whedon issues at the expense of more important blogging? Does everyone really think that all Whedon all the time is the way to go?

*** I thought that they were going to do something with the Actives being the only together people while those who usually control them lose control, which might have been interesting. But that ended up going nowhere.

***** I loved November’s very slow high five. I kind of want to see more of her, but not at the expense of Mellie (clearly I’m having some issues accepting the concept of this show).

****** Which makes me wonder if that’s like John Cleese’s accountant telling him he wasn’t offended by Monty Python’s accountants sketch because that was about chartered accountant, and he wasn’t a chartered accountant

******* And, because I have friend’s who are animal rights activists – just because I think Caroline’s animal rights flakiness is realistic doesn’t mean that I think all animal rights activists are flaky.