Fighting with the Sky

Dollhouse: Belonging

Posted on: October 24, 2009

I’m going to start off with some upsetting news: Fox has decided not to air Dollhouse during sweeps in November.  It will be back in December but this probably means that they are looking at cancelling the show.  But the good news: Summer Glau will be guest staring on December 4!  I got really giddy when I saw the previews.

dollhouse-tv-series-2x04-stills-gq-05It’s really a shame that Fox is thinking of cancelling Dollhouse because this week’s episode, “Belonging,” was amazing and thought-provoking and really pushed on the viewer.  (I’m going to do the recap out of order of how it was presented in the episode just to make it more clear for the reader and more congruent.)  In “Belonging.” we learn of who Sierra was before the Dollhouse and how she came to be a part of the Dollhouse.  We learn that Sierra was an artist named Priya who is the obsession of a doctor named Nolan (we also learn that Priya has previously met Victor and Echo while they were on engagements and that she had an attraction to Victor before they were both in the Dollhouse).  Nolan can’t handle the rejection of Priya and ends up drugging her with drugs for mental illness and institutionalizing her because she appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic (but it’s really just a result of the drugs that he gave her).  It also turns out that Nolan is already a client of the Dollhouse and ends up offering Priya up to the Dollhouse and then repeatedly has her for an engagement.

When Topher, Boyd, and Adelle learn that Priya/Sierra was not really mentally ill when she was brought into the Dollhouse and that Nolan as responsible for that, Adelle confronts Nolan.  But Nolan threatens and blackmails Adelle into permanently imprinting Sierra and sending her to him.  Topher has some MAJOR problems with this, and even though Adelle is following instructions, Topher ends up imprinting Sierra with her original personality, Priya, and sends her to Nolan to confront him.  Priya ends up killing Nolan after a fight and calls Topher.  Boyd, of course, hears this call because he’s head of security and comes to help Topher and Priya cover up the murder — he even lies to Adelle about the situation.

Did anyone else know that Topher is actually a medical doctor?  I was kind of surprised.  I knew he knew a lot about the human body, but I figured he was a scientist/researcher…but no, he’s a medical doctor.  But in this episode, we actually got to see Topher outside of the Dollhouse.  First we saw him go to the mentail institution where Priya was to see if she would be a “fit” for the Dollhouse.  Then we saw him go to Nolan’s house when Priya/Sierra calls him after she kills Nolan.  But on top of seeing Topher outside of the Dollhouse, I think we really saw Topher grow in this episode.  He had some major moral qualms about the situation with Sierra and he made the decision to go against what he is told and try to help Priya/Sierra.  When Adelle is first telling him that he needs to send Sierra to Nolan, Adelle talks about how the Dollhouse chose Topher because he has no morals — he already thought of people as play things.  But we see him move away from this in this episode.  He doesn’t just want to “play” with Sierra and send her off to Nolan, who they describe as a rapist (which he is, but I just wanted to point out that the Dollhouse is describing him as this, which is a big thing!).  He’s starting to develop some moral qualms about how people are being treated and viewed by the Dollhouse.

This episode raised a lot more questions about consent for me.  How can Priya, who they thought was a paranoid schizophrenic, really give consent to be in the Dollhouse?  How can Nolan just offer Priya up to the Dollhouse without her consent and really only for his personal gain?  It was obvious when Priya confronted Nolan that he thought he “owned” her.  He made a reference in passing that he “allowed” the Dollhouse to “whore her out.”  This “allowing” shows that he thinks that he still has control over Priya, just like he did when she was in the mental institution.  And even if Priya did give her consent to be in the Dollhouse (which is pretty obvious that she didn’t), did she then give consent to be permanently handed over to a rapist who is dangerously obsessed with her?

And on the topic of consent…aren’t the contracts with the Dollhouse for five years?  This is something I have been thinking about for a while: how can the Dollhouse do permanent imprints (in the case of Dr. Saunders and what they were going to do with Sierra) if their contract is only for five years?  Do they just forget about the contract if it is convinient for them?  Would the Dollhouse have gotten Sierra back from Nolan when her contract was up?  I really don’t think that was the plan.  So how can they just forget about that five years that’s in the contract when creating permanent imprints?

I really liked that this episode centered around Sierra instead of Echo.  I really like Eliza Dushku and I think she’s doing a great job with the show…but every episode is about her (and lately it’s pretty much only been about how she’s remembering), so it was a nice change of pace to see some different plots.  But I did like that they added in a little bit of a side plot about how Boyd is catching on to how much Echo is actually remembering.  We find out that she is reading books and keeping notes of the inside of the “lid” to her sleeping pod.  Boyd comes out and asks her: “when did you learn to lie?”  He is obviously realizing that Echo is keeping a front of being an Active, but isn’t really anymore.  And at the end, he gives Echo some sort of key “for the storm” to help her in her quest to “wake up” people.  And just as a side note, we didn’t see Ballard at all in this episode.  While I like looking at the actor, the character of Ballard is starting to rub me the wrong way…especially his seemingly paternal and simultaneously romantic relationship with Echo.

I’m getting kind of confused by the relationship between Victor and Sierra.  I think it’s cute, but something just doesn’t seem right to me in the context of the Dollhouse.  Topher and Dr. Saunders freaked out when Victor was having “man reactions” (as Topher so greatly referred to erections as) around Sierra in season one.  But now it’s ok for Victor and Sierra to be in a romanitc relationship?  Is it as long as there are no biological reactions?  Shouldn’t it worry them that they have formed a connection to each other and always remember that connection after every wipe?  And when Sierra is imprinted with Priya, she remembers feeling love for someone, but she doesn’t know who.  Then she sees Victor in the Dollhouse (still as Priya) and knows that that is the man that she loves.  I just think that if they had such a reaction to Victor’s “man reactions” that they would also be worried about their romantic relationship.

I know this is a long post, but this was a great, thought provoking episode that reminded me so much of why I love this show.  I’m really excited to see Summer Glau on the show in December, but I don’t know what I am going to do until then without any new episodes.  I’ll definitely be going through withdrawl by the time the next new episode comes around.  If you’ve never seen Dollhouse, this episode should make you want to watch it…even though you would probably have no idea what was going on if you had never seen an episode before.

Also make sure to check out meloukhia’s analysis up at this ain’t livin’ for a different take.

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