Fighting with the Sky

Dollhouse: Instincts

Posted on: October 3, 2009

I just want to start off by saying that it is rumored that Amy Acker (the actress that plays Dr. Saunders/Whiskey) will only appear in two more episodes this season.  I am really upset about this because not only is that a great character and she is a great actress, but they were getting to a really good storyline between Dr. Saunders and Topher.  Sad news.

3d726397b182fdf773f2a797118e3c75On to this week’s episode, “Instinct” (in which Dr. Saunders didn’t appear).  The episode starts off with Topher explaining how he was able to alter Echo on a “glandular level” and we soon find out that she was imprinted to be the mother of a baby whose mother died in childbirth.  The father blamed his son for his wife’s death and needed someone who could love him because he couldn’t.  Enter Echo.  She is imprinted to believe that she was gone through pregnancy and given birth to this child and is now breastfeeding him (which is where the altering on the glandular level comes in).

She soon overhears a conversation that the husband has with Adelle in which he wants Echo to leave and says he will “take care of the baby.”  Echo takes this to mean that he is going to kill both her and her baby and runs away.  She is caught by the Dollhouse and taken to be wiped.  But surprise twist…the “maternal instinct” cannot be gotten rid of by a normal wipe and Echo escpaes the Dollhouse and goes to get the baby, even though she doesn’t have any of the memories, she just knows that he is her baby.  She threatens the father with a knife, but he is able to talk her down and she gives him the baby back.  Then she talks with Ballard about how she can’t necessarily remember all of the people she has been, but she can feel them.

Some bonuses, we see November again, but as the person she was outside of the Dollhouse since her contract was terminated at the end of the first season.  I really liked that actress and her character.  And more Alexis Denisof (Wesley from Buffy/Angel)!  He plays a senator who is investigating the Rossum corporation.  I heart him.

I have mixed feelings about Echo’s imprint of a mother.  The man who hired the Dollhouse wanted someone who would love his son because he couldn’t.  He considered adoption but ended up deciding to “hire” a mother.  To me, this was basically saying that adoptive parents can never love a child as much as biological parents.  From someone who is seriously considering adoption as a possible future way of having children (it’s all still up in the air), that hurts.  I imagine it would hurt more for someone who is an adoptive parent.  If the man didn’t think he could care as much for his baby as someone else, adoption would have been a great option rather than making someone the baby’s mother and then taking the baby away causing deep pain and suffering.

I tend to like episodes more than focus on inter-Dollhouse relations and politics rather than engagements.  But this engagement particularly rubbed me the wrong way for the reasons above.  I enjoyed seeing November again and there were some awkward moments between her and Ballard.  But this episode was pretty much all about an engagement.

Also, what does it mean for the Dollhouse and the themes of the show if they are now capable of altering people on a “glandular level”?  Now it’s not only that they are erasing people’s personalities/souls/personhood/etc., but they can now change the makeup of people’s bodies.

As a side note: I just have to say that when I watch TV shows, I often think about if the characters are real people, which ones I would be friends with.  In the case of Dollhouse, I think it would Topher.  He might have some moral “gray areas,” but he’s awkward and nerdy and amazing in other ways.

Also make sure to check out meloukia’s review up at this ain’t livin’.

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6 Responses to "Dollhouse: Instincts"

“I have mixed feelings about Echo’s imprint of a mother. The man who hired the Dollhouse wanted someone who would love his son because he couldn’t. He considered adoption but ended up deciding to “hire” a mother. To me, this was basically saying that adoptive parents can never love a child as much as biological parents.”

I also have mixed feelings with Echo’s imprint, but for different reasons. Mostly because I didn’t think the message was that adoptive parents can never love a child as much so much as it was that this father wanted to get to a place where he could love and parent his child – because he understood that he was irrationally blaming his child for his wife’s death and that his wife was a key part of this little guy.

My problem stemmed more from the implication that this particular imprint was soooo powerful, because it was connected to motherhood, that Echo would punch out Topher and go looking for her child. In the episode before, she could tell that she was all the imprints, but none of them were her. In this episode, she didn’t have that knowledge until Jordan explained the sitch to her. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Yeah, that was one of the things which made me deeply uneasy during this episode, the “omg MOTHERING INSTICT trumps all1!!!11!”

I also was not a huge fan of the little subplot with Mellie telling Ballard that she didn’t hurt anymore even though her child was dead, and Ballard then going to ask Echo if she wants to be extra-wiped or something so she won’t hurt anymore.

Yes, because the solution to feeling like crap is to erase yourself.

Oh hai I misspelled “instinct.” That’s my punishment for using all caps so early in the morning.

Hi! 🙂 Random person here… great review! I’m loving Dollhouse this season. some thoughts…

“To me, this was basically saying that adoptive parents can never love a child as much as biological parents.”

I disagree; to me, he was deciding between giving his child up for adoption, or raising him himself. He decided that he wanted to be his son’s father, but that he needed help with it – not that adoption was wrong, or less valid. He just decided that he didn’t want to give his baby up for adoption.

I think the weirdest part of this engagement plotline was that it actually worked perfectly – Echo ended up accomplishing exactly what he wanted! She made him realize how much he loved his son, and that he didn’t want to lose him.

I personally loved the baby/mothering plotline! I think it’s a fascinating angle to explore. It is an incredible connection; physically, emotionally, hormonally… and there’s a lot about it that we don’t understand.

I think ballard asking Echo if she wants to be wiped is pretty in keeping of his character. He wants to keep her safe, nevermind what’s best for her. He saw an example of someone who says being wiped works so he offers it to echo. It’s just another example of how little he understands her or truly views her as a fellow human being and not an object.

I think the advertising played up the mother angle in a more sensationalistic tone than the episode did. Topher tried a more intense mapping and didn’t intensify the wipe. Echo came out of the wipe without memories but an intense desire to find “her” baby so she reacted. Echo discusses how she becomes aware of the memories within her but that doens’t mean she can’t lose herself in one easily. She reacted on instinct because there was a connection that was stronger than she was used to and once someone was able to talk to her she was able to bring herself out of the imprint. I am not a mother but I didn’t truly see anything really harmful to the concept of motherhood.

Over at EW.com, the PopWatch review of this episode was very similar to petpluto’s complaint in #1. Remarkably, I think it was written by a man.

http://popwatch.ew.com/2009/10/03/dollhouse-recap-mommas-got-a-brand-new-bag-of-crazy/

mzbitca in #5 offers an interesting rebuttal though, and I’ll have to watch this ep again with all these opinions in mind and see which one I agree with.

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