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Featured TV on DVD Review: Dollhouse: Season Two

October 9th, 2010

Dollhouse: Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first the movie, then the TV series. He followed that up with Angel, which developed a similarly devoted following. Firefly didn't last as long on TV, but has since been hailed as one of the best short-lived shows ever. Because of this, there were high hopes for Dollhouse; however, it wasn't able to perform as well as expected the first season and barely, barely hung on for a second season. Since it was canceled, you know it didn't turn things around in the ratings, but was it at least able to wow critics?

The Show

It's a rather complicated show with a very high concept. In the show, Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, an active at The Dollhouse. I know, I'm going to have to explain those terms. There are many Dollhouses worldwide that cater to extremely wealthy clients. These clients hire actives, who in their non-active state are nearly mindless. But before they are given a job, personalities and skill sets are programmed into them. Many of the population at large have heard of The Dollhouse, but it is dismissed by most as a crazy conspiracy theory. Most people. Paul Ballard is an FBI agent obsessed with finding out the truth behind the Dollhouse, to the point where he is thrown out of the agency by the end of season one. As we follow the actives, we learn more about who they are, who they were before, as well as the bigger picture of who runs the Dollhouse and what their intentions are.

The first season starts off a little slow before really picking up by the end, so I had high hopes for season two. However, there were a lot of changes in the off season. In fact, as Joss Whedon mentions in the audio commentary track for the first episode, it was a little bit of a surprise that they even got a second season. Because of this, he ended season one with an episode, Epitaph One, that was set in the near future, an apocalyptic near future. Additionally, certain recurring cast members were only available for a short while, so their storyarcs had to be shortened.

So what am I getting to after all of that? Season two does not start at the same quality level shown at the end of season one. It does have some of the same problems. For instance, because of the number of changes that happened during the off season, the show has to do a lot to introduce / re-introduce viewers to the overall mythology of the show, which hurts some of the early shows. But quite quickly, by Belonging, the show is back to amazing. The first of the amazing episodes does happen faster this time around then compared to last season, while the average quality level was higher. And even if the finale seems a little rushed, it is more satisfying than most short-run shows like this get.

The Extras

There are audio commentary tracks on two of the season's 13 episodes, the first with Joss Whedon on the season premiere, and the second on Belonging with the writers, Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon. Over on disc four, there are close to 6 minutes of outtakes and 10 minutes deleted scenes. There is also a 13-minute featurette called Defining Moments that looks at the making of season two. Finally, there is a roundtable discussion with Joss and much of the cast, that runs just over 16 minutes. The DVD also comes with a short preview of the upcoming comic.

I don't have the Blu-ray, but hopefully it will arrive shortly. It does cost about 30% more, and since the show was filmed in High Definition this season, it does appear that it will be an even value, at the worst.

The Verdict

At its heart, Dollhouse had a concept that should have given the show a long shelf life. Having the characters jump into different personalities every single episode meant the show wouldn't get stale for a long time, while the mythology behind the Dollhouse and the people who run it could have been the backbone of the show for seasons to come. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and the Season Two is the show's last season. It does go out on a high note and the DVD and the Blu-ray have enough extras that they are worth picking up over just renting.

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