Oh my, yes.
While I've enjoyed the show up to this point, this was a whole other level of goodness. More of Whedon snuck through than ever before. The characters just...popped. And the mythology elements were very interesting, and start to peel back the onion more and more.
I know a number of us were thinking that Ballard's neighbour might be an Active, and the show didn't dissapoint on that count. I thought how that was handled went very well.
I was probably more surprised that Ballard met Echo/Caroline. Again, I knew it was coming, hell, images spoiled it coming. But the way in which that was handled went very well, and I don't think it went as we expected either. The first encounter certainly did, with Echo/Rebecca's confusion over the whole affair, and her being cleared out of there. But then Joss comes along and drops the bombshell that there is Something More going on. Who is the mole inside the organisation? Who is Ballard's ally on the inside? Does it have anything to do with Alpha, or is it another agenda entirely? Echo says that she wasn't sent by Alpha, but whomever did send her could be connected to him.
Also, the Dollhouse may be in the business of dreams, but it's not their purpose? Well then, what IS there purpose? I think the answer to that, at least the basics, is pretty obvious: Alpha. They're trying to perfect a process to make the perfect warriors. Alpha would have been a great success, but he went a little crazy. That's why they couldn't risk killing him, and instead want him alive to study his actions. And of course, they can't say "Why yes, we let our true purpose escape to watch him," so they say he's dead to everyone working within the Dollhouse. Sex sells, so that gives you the funding to continue your research.
I enjoyed the little news snippets at the start of each act. They were a fun way to show reactions to the story, and I'm pretty sure they were a microcosm of reactions Joss has heard about the show, in a number of cases.
This episode definitely knocked over a few tables, literally and figuratively, putting the show on another level, and setting things up for the long haul. And speaking of tables, is it just me, or is Ballard just a smidge bit psychotic and insanely violent at times? He is one heck of a fighter with Echo, and he's definitely got rage issues.
Oh, and one last thing, Patton Oswalt was a blast. Perfect guy for that character. I love how Whedon actually makes you feel for the guy. For a few moments, you can almost see how something like the Dollhouse could be...beneficial? Good is so not the right word. That was a good, rational motivation for such a thing to be done. Of course, then they go and yank the rug out and make him skeevy again. As they should. ;) But for a moment...