Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some thoughts about yesterday's TV

I expect I'll have more to say once I've fully digested the events of "Daybreak" and look back on the final season, but "Battlestar Galactica" is over, and... yes, I feel a loss. For all that I disagreed with the increasing pseudo-mysticism, for all that I found the finale's ultimate message problematic, for all that the unresolved questions left me deeply disappointed, the truth is I was in love with these characters, these remarkably complex and flawed and compelling people; with Adama and Roslin and Lee and Kara and Cottle and Helo, with everyone who made it to the end and everyone who didn't. Yes, even Baltar. I loved them all, and I'll miss them terribly.

Meanwhile, the sixth episode of "Dollhouse" aired yesterday. For context's sake, this was the episode Joss Whedon flagged as being of interest to those viewers who, like myself, were having mixed reactions (at best) to his newest project. According to Whedon, all we had to do was wait until episode 6 for the show to start hitting its stride.

I'll get to the actual episode in a bit, but that kind of request annoys me. I mean, isn't it unreasonable to expect your audience to just patiently hold their breath for a month while you get your act together? I'm not saying it's unheard-of for series to improve over time - even within Whedon's own filmography, the second season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was superior to the first - and patience is certainly rewarding when it comes to the slow-burning plot.

But there has to be some kind of baseline appeal that transcends the problems, that makes you want to hang around. "Dollhouse" doesn't have that, for reasons I've already discussed, and the only reason I'm still watching is because Whedon's got a lot of goodwill stored up with me. But that won't last forever.

Especially since the much-hyped sixth episode is good, but not great. Don't get me wrong, it is a very different creature: Ballard is pushed much closer to the spotlight, there's a lot of physical action (the kitchen fight scene was rather good) and our attention is finally shifted away from the inconsequential missions (the whole conceit of the show is that nothing the Dolls do matter, so why then have we been following their "engagements" so thoroughly?). And it's somewhat amusing that this episode aired the same day as the "Battlestar Galactica" finale, because "Dollhouse" also seems to be working the whole "Sleeper Agent" bit; we now have two characters who've turned out to be Dolls hiding in plain sight. And we're only six episodes in.

I don't know... I'll admit the sixth episode is an improvement, but I still don't feel like I need to know what happens next. While I'm all for experimental, postmodern approaches to fiction, I don't think Whedon is able to circumvent the very real need for a hook, a reason to tune in next week. And so far, that hasn't turned up. At my most charitable, I'm still only mildly curious about the future of this show.