Post Game TV Recap: DOLLHOUSE S2E1: Vows

Post Game TV Recap: DOLLHOUSE S2E1: Vows

After a first season characterized by many as having gotten off to a weak start, Joss Whedon’s newest series returns on the kind of high note you have to see to believe. In the opening episode, Echo has been on a long term engagement; the episode takes its title from the fact that we first join her persona, Roma, on her wedding day.  But all is apparently not the blissful picture it seems: while Roma shares her first dance with her husband, Martin Klar, a wedding guest takes a phone call about a “shipment” being delayed.

However, it turns out that Klar is not the actual client. Instead, Echo is working as Paul Ballard’s partner, trying to bring Klar to justice. It turns out that Ballard and Klar have something of a history, from the days before Ballard started looking for the dollhouse.

All is not well in the Dollhouse, either; Dr. Claire Saunders is continuing to have trouble accepting the fact that she is in actuality Whiskey, another doll.  She takes her existential angst out on one Topher Brink, spending the entire first half of the episode antagonizing him in various ways. Topher, ashen and twitchy, gives us the sense that Whiskey has been subjecting him to her malice all summer.

My personal favorite scene of the episode is one where a sleeping Topher wakes up in his nerdcave (the dollhouse server room) with Saunders in his bed; this was probably my favorite part of the entire episode, because it offers us a chance to see a side of Topher other than his usual wise-cracking, overconfident persona.  He manages to fend off Saunders long enough to put on some pants, and then they discuss why Topher built Saunders the way he did, while Saunders reveals that she believes Topher to have built her the way he did because he wanted a romantic challenge.

While Echo is in the Dollhouse during her post-wedding night checkup, we discover that the composite event at the end of the first season has had some far-reaching consequences.  While Topher and Adelle DeWitt are convinced that Echo has returned to her blank, unimprinted state, Echo is calling up memories of prior engagements at occasionally inopportune moments.  Meanwhile, after watching Senator Daniel Perrin (Whedon vet Alexis Denisof) announce on national television that he plans to take the Rossum Corporation to task, DeWitt tries to convince Ballard to become Echo’s handler.  

Coming back to Echo’s engagement: Klar has been given photographs of Echo with Ballard, and he is not happy.  After slamming “Roma’s” head on the desk in his office, he confronts her with the photograph, and she nearly manages to convince him that it was all a ruse to hurt him – that is, until a glitch causes her to refer to herself, out loud, as “Mrs. Eleanor Penn.”  Klar and a captive Echo start making their way to the airport. After a call from Ballard, Topher is just about to call in Echo’s handler when Ballard suggests that he has an idea to extract Echo without getting her killed, then beats Echo around until she glitches enough to remember the imprint from the Chinese restaurant of last season, when the Dollhouse sent Echo out to keep Ballard busy while November curb-stomped Hern’s neck. Echo and Ballard beat up Klar’s thugs and get the hell out of Dodge; Klar is apprehended by the police.

At the end of the episode, Ballard is talking to blank-Echo about his guilt over having been a source of pain to her, which of course, she doesn’t remember. “I remember everything,” Echo tells Ballard, and then she goes on to reveal that she remembers bits and pieces of all her engagements, and she wants to find the real her, and she wants to help the other actives do the same. In the end, it is Echo, and not DeWitt, who convinces Ballard to sign on as her handler, so that he may help her “rescue” the other actives.

The episode ends on Boyd Langton, Echo’s one-time handler and now dollhouse head of security, finds a note on Saunders’ desk that reads, “I am running out of excuses” – a reference to a conversation they had wherein Saunders reveals that she never leaves the dollhouse. Then, we see Saunders in a convertible, looking anxious as she drives out into a bright afternoon, and Sierra and Victor come together and hold hands, smiling because Victor’s scars are all gone after a series of expensive surgeries provided at the expense of the Rossum corporation.

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