“Dollhouse” Unaired Pilot – Echo

I can’t believe this ended up being an unaired pilot. Unlike Ghost, the show’s “official” first episode, Echo is a gripping, emotional and mind-bending opener. I’m in shock.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Echo is that it’s literally everything Ghost is not. First off, it’s worth noting the lack of a standalone case here because instead of wasting our time on a dull and uninspired personality (Miss Penn), we’re treated to more of Echo and it makes us truly emotionally invested in this character’s journey. I take back (almost) everything I said about Eliza Dushku’s performance before because she somehow manages to convey a whole range of emotions in Echo whether it was in her badass entrance, her intense confrontation with Paul Ballard or finally that heartbreaking realization at the end. Echo uttering the word “Caroline” as the Dollhouse beds start closing in on the Actives is a truly haunting and terrific way to bookend this near-perfect pilot.

From a structural standpoint, it’s definitely interesting how much plot is crammed into this hour-long premiere. We immediately get the Paul/Echo confrontation, Boyd questioning the morality behind this facility and even Echo becoming a little more aware, all of which feel like story arcs that should be spread out. While the show probably ended up leaving these twists for later on into its two-season run, none of it feels rushed here somehow. The execution is strangely impressive, the script much wittier and the overall tone a lot more consistent.

Damn you, FOX. Judging from this unaired pilot alone, this really could have eventually turned out to be one of television’s greatest shows.


Bits

– I loved the shocking twist with Paul’s friend Keene being another Active from Dollhouse! The name they use on him there is Victor.

– Sierra is underutilized here and maybe that’s a good thing? She shouldn’t be taking over the spotlight for Echo.

– While they might be exposition-heavy, the several montages of Echo’s different personalities and clients while Adelle (Olivia Williams) talks about Dollhouse is quite effective in setting the pieces of the pilot in motion.

– Loved seeing Echo, Sierra and Victor having lunch together, which made Topher go mad.

– I smiled at Topher’s “emoticon” reference. Who remembers those pre-emoji smiley faces?

– What/Who is Alpha?

– Badass moment as Echo twists Paul’s arm, steals his gun and points it at his face. This is the heroine we deserved to see!

– Even better is how this pilot gives us a much clearer look at what Dollhouse really is. Did we even know that these Actives voluntarily signed up for five years of personality removal from Ghost? I think not.

Quotes

Echo: There’s a lot worse to be than a waitress, and you’re already most of them.

Adelle: You are a man who can have everything he wants. If what you want is to have someone dress up as a cheerleader telling you how big you are, you can hire a thousand women to do that quite convincingly for the price of one day with an Active.

Adelle: This is not about what you want. This is about what you need. An Active doesn’t judge. This will be the purest, most genuine human encounter of your life. And hers. It is a treasure. One I guarantee you will never, never forget.

Paul: We split the atom, we make a bomb. We come up with anything new, the first thing we do is destroy. Manipulate. Control. It’s human nature.

Topher: These folks elected to give us five years of their lives, after which they will be blissfully ignorant and very wealthy.
Boyd: What about during? What about the things you program them to do? Even if they did sign up, they didn’t know what they were signing up for.

Topher: They fall in love. Real love. With unreserved passion.
Boyd: There’s nothing real about it. They’re programmed.

Topher: This is an awesome gig. This is cutting edge science in a house full of hot chicks. Morality is programming too.

Topher: Now we have our own little conspiracy, man-friend.
Boyd: Don’t call me that.
Topher: We’re not friends?
Boyd: We’re not men.

Claire: Love is a selfish emotion.
Topher: And altruism isn’t? Break it down: helping others makes us feel good about ourselves.
Claire: It’s not that simple.
Topher: I program them so that it feels good.

Rating
A

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