Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dollhouse: Belonging

“You're a rapist scumbag just one tick short of a murderer. I've forgotten, do you take sugar with your tea?”

Before I go on to this episode and its rather harrowing events and themes, I can’t help mentioning that this episode is directed by Jonathan Frakes, Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He ain’t bad.

This episode covers some rather heavy themes and deepens our concerns about the ethics of what the Dollhouse is doing and whether, whatever Adelle might try and convince herself, the Dolls truly consent to what is being done to them. We also see an entrenchment of Topher’s ethical troubles. Most of all, we are exposed to the full horror and tragedy of Sierra, a character whose pain we had never suspected.

Flashbacks show us Sierra as she was before any of this happened: a free- spirited Australian tourist on Venice Beach, an amateur artist and easy prey for Nolan, a creepy and predatory pervert who, sadly, combines this with being rich and powerful. She is only an active because of his sexual abuse and disturbing machinations, and cannot be said to have in any way consented to being made an active. Most upsettingly of all, Nolan is still seeing her as a client, which can only be considered as rape. Yes, Adelle is furious and throws the book at him, but the episode ends with Sierra still as an active with a year of her contract yet to run. The only concession she gets at all is to get her memory wiped to remove the events of this day. It’s all very dark. Fortunately, all this is balanced by the very sweet love between Sierra and Victor, which makes this episode less harrowing then is otherwise would have been.

Topher, with his new found conscience, is left to face the full horror of what he has done to Sierra while recruiting her. He may have been ignorant of Nolan’s motives, but he is left with deep misgivings about his role and things he has done. He is intelligent but juvenile; this is the first time he has ever considered the ethics of what he does and he has to go through it alone. Adelle may be something of a mother figure to him, but she has he own ethical blind spots. He may collaborate with Boyd in covering up Nolan’s death, but this act of washing away the blood is an apt metaphor.

Oh, and did you notice the graffiti on the inside of Echo’s pod? The story arc proceeds apace.

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