Last night’s Dollhouse felt crammed, in both good ways and uncomfortable ways. Written and directed by Tim Minear, who really knows how to handle this stuff, the episode “Getting Closer” seemed as though a lot of information and subplots had been added and compressed once the Dollhouse folks knew that cancellation was probably inevitable. Whether that’s true or not, the result was a dense but by no means unpleasant hour. SPOILERS AHEAD.
How could it be unpleasant, with Amy Acker back as Dr. Saunders, and the revelation that Saunders has been having an affair with Boyd? (Or should that be “?!”) Romance was in the air, as Topher was reunited with Summer Glau’s Bennett. They spent a fair amount of time kissing and making goo-goo eyes at each other… that is, until Saunders shot and killed her.
See what I mean about sudden subplots? The episode began with flashbacks to three years previous, to how Eliza Dushku’s Caroline first met up with Bennett and we witnessed the full scene we’d only glimpsed part of before, when, being hunted down by DeWitt and a Dollhouse squad, Caroline left Bennett with her arm trapped. The two had broken into Rossum headquarters, and Caroline saved herself to fight another day.
There were flashbacks and (I think) a flashback within a flashback, or it could have been a flashforward — my head was aching pleasantly by then with all the twisty complexity. There was good Whedonesque dialogue (Topher to Bennett: “I’m so sorry I hit you”; Bennett to Topher: “I was trying to kill your active”; Topher to Bennett: “Ehhh…”)
And Minear’s direction was low-budget masterful, from the way he made it seem as though scores of hit-men had invaded the Dollhouse to the way Topher’s anguished profile, as he continued to work on Caroline’s wedge, was positioned alongside the bloodspray from the Bennett shooting on a screen behind him.
And there was the night’s big reveal: That Boyd Langton is really the head of Rossum.
Who among you saw that coming? While this Joss Whedon-playbook development has worked well in other series such as Firefly, on a first viewing last night, it seemed a little arbitrary, as though the producers really wanted to reward Harry Lennix for being such a good team player for two seasons. And: What does this revelation mean, coming down to the final two episodes?