I so love seeing Grr Argh on a weekly tv show again.
First up, this was not a home run for me. If I may stick with baseball metaphors for a moment, which I know next to nothing about, I'd probably say it's a solid triple at least. I'd rank it as stronger than the first aired Firefly premiere, though. It's been forever since I watched the *real* first episode, so can't really say how it compares to that one.
I've seen a LOT of people saying that this episode was seriously lacking in humour. Excuse me? I thought there was quite a bit of it. Maybe not as much as some other Whedon projects, but still plenty. Now, the dialogue isn't as *witty* as typical Whedon dialogue, but there was humour there.
Joss has set this show up pretty well. All the characters are pretty well established, except for Amy Acker's Dr. Saunders, but she's a minor role for the time being. We've got hints of her, and that's about it. Otherwise, pretty standard doctor role. I was surprised at Boyd Langton, Echo's handler. Everything we'd been shown up to this point was making him look to be pretty dark, on the 'evil' side of the scale more than anything, but he actually seems to be the opposite. Even Echo is established well here, which is no mean feat to give a blank slate a distinct personality. There are definitely childlike aspects to the dolls' personalities, and yet they're not. That quality almost bit them in the ass when Echo's childlike curiosity led her to meet her new friend Sierra when she shouldn't have.
Let me talk about Tahmoh Penikett for a second. I don't know what he does, and he didn't really do that much here, but he strikes me as one of those actors with real talent. He could be huge, if given the chance. There's just something about him that really draws me in to anything he's saying. The boxing scenes gave me bad BSG flashbacks, and they could have easily been excised, but they weren't bad either. Plus, a little somethin' for the ladies. ;)
Probably the weakest part of the episode was the beginning. Just after Echo (Or should that be Caroline?) signed her life away for five years to work at the Dollhouse, and we jumped forward to her engagement as the guy's weekend girlfriend. It just felt really clunky and awkward. Not the best way to introduce the concept, but then again, we had the rest of the episode for that. Probably some of the awkwardness comes from the writers trying to find their place with the expanded time they've been given with the fewer commercials.
Joss has done his typical Jossness here, and set up a lot of things to come back to later. There's a lot to deal with and explore, and gives me hope that they've got a lot of stories to tell, while still being pretty episode of the week adventure. We've got Caroline's past and why she's there. She seemed to know Adelle Dewitt pretty well, and I'm curious to learn more. Agent Ballard's quest for the Dollhouse will be a strong throughline for the season. And of course, the mystery of Alpha. Were the people he killed past clients of the Dollhouse, or did they know the real Echo before she was wiped?
"Nothing is what it seems" will be a strong theme of the show, which was pretty clear from what we'd already seen. And putting it right in our face in the opening scene makes me wonder just how much of that was real. Maybe it's a fake memory the Dollhouse has given/will give to Echo to make her believe that working there was somewhat her...well, not exactly choice, but better than kidnapped off the street and forced. For now, I'm going to accept it at face value unless other evidence otherwise occurs.
Your thoughts? I rambled.