Why Dollhouse's Original Pilot Will Make A Better Second Episode

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I know you're concerned that Joss Whedon is making a new pilot for his mind-wiped puppet show Dollhouse, and turning the original pilot into the second episode. What if this ruins the show before it starts? But you can forget that worry, almost as if a high-tech device had erased it from your mind to make way for a new personality. We've looked at both pilot scripts, and the original pilot really does work way better as a second episode. Spoilers ahead. So as you've probably heard, Whedon's original pilot sets in motion a ton of subplots and launches a bunch of character arcs, which we all hope will play out over the course of seven (or twenty) years. And the new pilot is much more straightforward. It just introduces the idea that Echo (Eliza Dushku) is an empty vessel, who can be programmed to "be" anybody and have any skills. Here's the good news: the first two episodes of Dollhouse will be a nice one-two punch that will hopefully draw in tons of addicted viewers. The new second episode isn't just a whole cannery full of cans of worms - it's also like a mini-thriller, a suspenseful action movie full of weird twists and turns. In particular, the most compelling twists revolve around FBI agent Paul Ballard (Battlestar Galactica's Tahmoh Penikett). Ballard is the guy who's on the trail of the Dollhouse, where you can hire a mind-wiped "Active" to play any role you want. We see him in the first episode too, including an awesome scene of him justifying his investigation juxtaposed with a sequence where he kickboxes someone and nearly loses. But he really comes into his own in the second episode, as the Dollhouse becomes aware of his investigation and tries to shake him off. We have a long noir-ish scene where Ballard tries to get information from an undercover agent, Keene - and we don't realize until later that Keene is really Victor, one of the Dollhouse's "Actives." He's just been programmed to think he's an undercover FBI agent, to throw Ballard off the scent. When that doesn't work, and Ballard gets hold of a photo of Echo, Keene/Victor feeds him some information that leads him to a meeting with Echo herself. (We showed a clip from that scene a while back.) Echo tells Ballard she's looking for her missing sister, and she needs Ballard's help. Ballard seems to buy it at first, but it's too good to be true, an actual lead in his stalled case after so long. He's all like, We're a team now, and they share a tender moment - until Ballard pulls a gun on her and accuses her of telling him what he wants to hear. Then Echo gets the gun away from him and puts two bullets in his chest, and we realize she hasn't just been programmed to think she's looking for a missing sister. She hasn't even just been programmed to deal with Ballard. She's been programmed to be a psychopath, which she proves later by trying to go into the hospital and finish Ballard off. Echo gets lots of great moments in the second episode, too, including an early sequence where she sits by the bedside of a "nineteen year old alkie" who's detoxing after drinking a bottle of vodka and a ton of percocet. (It's this "pro bono" good deed that seems to start Echo remembering stuff when she's supposed to be empty and mind-wiped.) We go straight from Echo talking to Danika, the nineteen-year-old girl, about staying sober, to a scene where she's at a wedding, drinking champagne and dancing with the bride's ex-boyfriend, whom she's crazy in love with. (I mistakenly thought this scene was from the new pilot, in my writeup a couple of weeks ago, because that page got mixed in with the new script pages.) We see her being a Latina gangster for another client, who's having some trouble with a local gang. We also get some hints about her backstory, including the fact that she has a visible reaction when Ballard asks her if her real name is Caroline. Other characters also get some cool moments, including Boyd, the "Actives"' handler, and Topher, who programs them. They worry about the fact that Echo and two other "Actives" are starting to herd together during their supposedly blank periods. We learn that Boyd is suffering pangs of conscience over the idea that the mind-erased "Actives" are still people. Topher says it's just like Boyd's tie: it doesn't keep Boyd warm, but Boyd wears it anyway. We're all programmed, but at least the Actives get to have an awesome range of experiences. And morality is programming as well. At one point, Topher calls Boyd "man-friend," and Boyd says not to call him that. "We're not friends?" Topher says. "We're not men," Boyd responds. We also get some awesome scenes with the Dollhouse's head, Adelle Dewitt, and the doctor who looks after them, Claire Saunders. All in all, when the first two episodes of Dollhouse air, they'll be like an introduction to this fantastically off-the-wall concept, followed by a whirlwind tour through all of the bizarre and creepy possibilities it opens up. Anybody who watches both episodes will be a Dollhouse fan for life. [Thanks to The Ugly for the script]



People hate The Train Job? Huh.

@ArthurPDragon - Dude, I'm pretty sure that Charlie can still tell what you're saying and could ban you. Though I don't know why she would. Right now I'm just trying to figure out what "vrtns" and "9's Hd" are supposed to mean.

I'm definitely looking forward to this, but yeah, I think it will be a bit less accessible for the casual viewer. Firefly was mostly episodic with some stuff continuing throughout the show... with Dollhouse, however, it looks like if you haven't watched the previous x number of episodes, you'll have no f'ing clue what's going on. Or, at least, you'll get the basic gist of the episode, but everything beyond THEY NEED TO KILL THIS GUY might be impossible to understand without background knowledge. Like BSG.