In this piece, Jessica Rae reviews Dollhouse season 2, highlighting what made the second season stand-out, and elaborating on the special features of the DVD set.
It’s likely that if you didn’t watch Dollhouse on TV, you won’t buy it on DVD or Blu Ray now. That’s a shame, and I hope it gets forced upon you! But in the purposes of being honest, for most of us this is a re-watch. And re-watching TV series is a honorable activity, one I engage in with a critical eye depending on how much new TV I have on my plate. My “family reunion” theme plays not just on the idea that you’re re-watching episodes you’ve may have already watched, but on the idea that Dollhouse season 2 was packed with actors and actresses from other Joss Whedon projects. These are faces we’ve come to love. But we don’t keep them around just for their faces, they have to pull their weight. And that’s exactly what they did. Instead of just being a garnish on the plate, they grouped together into being a significant and impressive side dish.. like lobster pasta! (I’m hungry right now, yes.)
Dollhouse: The Complete Second Season was released on both DVD and Blu ray on October 12th. We received a copy to review, and that made me completely gleeful. First off, for full disclosure, I am a major, major, MAJOR Joss Whedon fan. …Who IS Joss Whedon you ask? I won’t go so far as to call him a creative GOD (some do), but he’s certainly a creative genius. He’s also the creator and executive producer of Dollhouse (as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – the man does not take vacations!) When it comes to his series Dollhouse, I prefer season two over season one because of the evolution of characters and the amazing guest cast.
Season 2 of Dollhouse gave us guest appearances by the swan-like Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) who is transformed into a hyper intelligent nerd who has a major hatred for who Echo (Eliza Dushku) used to be, Caroline. There is also the return of Whedon staples: Felicia Day, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker and Alan Tudyk. And what about the new cast members that Dollhouse introduced us to?
The newcomers to the Whedon clan got plenty of screen time and character evolution. I have major love for Fran Kranz who plays geeky Topher, a character I found intrinsically interesting in both seasons. Olivia Williams also stood out for me, and I’ve later recognized her in all sorts of movies such as An Education and the FX series Terriers.
The central character of Echo was played by an actress that Whedon had worked with before. I’m an Eliza Dushku fan, of course . This is something you’ll know if you’ve followed my Dancing with the Stars reviews where I seem to always mention when she’s in the audience to cheer on her boyfriend, Rick Fox.
A big highlight of Dollhouse season 2 is the final episode, Epitaph 2. This ep proved to be one of my favorite hours of TV because it felt like so much like a action-adventure movie with a huge budget (while it was actually neither.)
Of course, what you gentle readers especially want to know is info on the DVD special features. Like, what are they, and what do they offer? For once in my life, I’ve got the answers.
Dollhouse Season 2 DVD Extras:
Audio Commentary on ‘Vows’ by Joss Whedon
Audio Commentary on ‘Belonging’ by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
Outtakes (Highlight: Alexis Denisof ad-libs about dairy, shoes and underwear while in character.)
Deleted Scenes (Highlights: An extended look at Madeline’s ((Mellie)) life once she came back from the Dollhouse and a scene for the Victor/Adelle fans.)
Defining Moments (Highlights: Interview moments with Joss Whedon on set and behind-the-scene footage of season 2. Whedon explained why he let so many of his friends join the second season. We hear when the cast was told the show was canceled, and what their reactions were. And Joss and Eliza talked about the character of Echo being so powerful. Joss said, “The idea, very simply, was this woman doesn’t exist. She builds herself from scratch. To me, that is the most powerful act a person can do.” Note: Don’t steal someones identity and try to do that just to prove your strength. You can go lift up a car or or something.)
Looking Back (Highlights: The main cast members and Whedon got together for a round table dinner to discuss the series. It’s impossible not to smile while watching. It’s cool to see how they interact and what they remember the most. Franz Kranz and Enver Gjoak discussed what it was like when they were both playing Topher Brink, and Joss said he actually pitched 6 years of the show to Fox – needless to say he had lots of ideas.The cast also discussed their favorite character to play and genre hopping vs. character hopping. Interesting stuff. I feel smarter already. If college classes had been this lively maybe I wouldn’t have been prone to taking not-so-secret naps during lectures.)
Dollhouse Comic “Epitaphs” (Highlight: It let’s you imagine the story expanding in ways the show didn’t have time to share with us. There’s some quality dialogue, and the art is great. I’m not a major Comic book fan, so if I like it, you’ll like it. Although, the same is not necessarily true for my fondness of teacup pigs.)
What I’ve realized is that to fully appreciate Dollhouse as a series, you should watch it on DVD (it wouldn’t be good for ratings, but the show is canceled now anyway.) While the show aired we were all (fans, bloggers, critics, aliens) so damn tense about its possible cancellation, and we were so used to Whedon giving us such perfection that we sneered at something that needed time to develop. Was the show perfect? No, and no show is. But if you look at the corners and edges of every layer that made up the show, you’ll notice the tell-tale signs of a cast and crew devoting themselves to details. In re-watching episodes of season 2, I am, almost for the first time, really letting witty dialogue register, and appreciating story progression in a new way. This is a solid purchase for not just Joss Whedon fans, but for fans of solid storytelling. The plot of Dollhouse is like one we’ve never actually had before.* Joss Whedon is a phenomenal storyteller. So, go buy the DVD and relive some unusual, magical and engaging stories.
*Remember that thing I said about Joss Whedon being a creative genius? Yea.
Disclosure: A copy of the DVD was provided to review, but I was not monetarily compensated in any way. The views expressed are my own.