Post-Game TV Recap: Dollhouse S2E2: Instinct

Post Game TV Recap: DOLLHOUSE S2E1: Vows

In this column, we'll have a variety of contributers from our Best Shots and Blog@ crews taking a look at the biggest sci-fi and genre shows, providing recaps and commentary. The nature of the column allows for SPOILERS, so consider yourself warned.

After the first episode of Dollhouse’s second season ended on such a high note, I found myself intrigued by the premise of this week’s episode: the previews made it seem like the episode would be built based on a number of my favorite horror movie tropes, with Echo playing the part of the slasher in the episode.  That turned out to all be a huge tease, though; most of the episode was consumed by showing Echo’s imprint, Emily, developing paranoia that the client, her imprint’s husband, was going to kill her and their baby.

Where episode one was a flurry of action, very little happened in this episode to advance the plot of this season.  Echo, imprinted with the mother of a newborn baby, is the recipient of some new advances by Topher Brink; using standard imprinting technology, he has been able to induce changes to Echo’s body on the glandular level – in this case, she is lactating, so that she will be able to breastfeed the baby.  But the client decides that his arrangement with Echo isn’t working out, and he wants them to get rid of her; Echo overhears his phone conversation and begins to be afraid that he is going to kill her and hurt the baby.  As a new mother, she is understandably concerned for her safety, as well as the safety as the child.

Meanwhile, we have another chance to see Senator Perrin: this time, at home, spending an afternoon with his wife while he obsesses over a lack of solid evidence as to Rossum’s transgressions.  The doorbell rings; Mrs. Perrin (who I would bet large sums of money is an active after the style of November) answers it.  There’s nobody there, but a file containing all sorts of information that shows Perrin that Rossum’s crimes against humanity go deeper than he had originally believed.

While all of this is going on, Adelle DeWitt pays a visit to November (now Madeline) at her home, entreating her to come in for a diagnostic to make certain that she has experienced no ill effects from her time at the Dollhouse.  Madeline refuses at first, but DeWitt finally manages to convince her.

Ballard manages to track down Echo, who has run away with the baby, and return the baby safely to his father.  He and another handler manage to wrangle a kicking and screaming Echo back to the Dollhouse just in time to run into Madeline at the end of her diagnostic, during which she has been given a clean bill of health by Topher.  Ballard and Madeline have a chat that seems geared at giving Madeline a reason to continue being part of the show, but in the end, she walks off into the night.  

Meanwhile, Topher manages to wipe Echo’s imprint, and for a moment it looks as if she is going to go back to being the platitude-speaking zombie she always is between imprints.  Then, she sucker-punches Topher and makes good on her escape, then returns to the client’s house and spends all of five minutes terrifying the hell out of him, until he pleads with her not to hurt the baby.  In the end, she gives the baby back to his father and Ballard escorts her out of the house.  He offers to have Topher figure out a way to wipe Echo for real so that she does not have to suffer so much; Echo declines, saying that it’s better to be awake and feeling pain than asleep.  

The entire episode felt weak.  It teased at being good a number of times, but all in all I was left feeling unsatisfied.  November likely won’t be rejoining the show, if IMDB is any indication, and what could have been a really cool episode built around a series of slasher-flick tropes felt instead like it was lazily and hurriedly cobbled together; the concept was cool, but it never ended up fully realized.

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