SCC: "Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep"
...oh, look, the evocative voiceover. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate these? Every time I hear one of these, I ask myself: "Who is the character talking to? And why are they saying this?" If the answers are, "Fucked if I know" and "Because it sounds cool," the voiceover is probably a dumbass idea. Case in point, here. More so, because Sarah Connor is not somebody to go talking pretentiously about "dark spirits of the shadowlands." She is somebody to *mock* people talking pretentiously about "dark spirits of the shadowlands."
(Seriously, WTF? Who let that bit of dialogue through? It's trying so hard that it's going to throw its back out, if it's not careful. Really, guys, just stop that right now.)
The episode has some decent scenes, and a very good guest star turn by Sarah's roommate (again, the show has many flaws, but for the most part casting ain't one of 'em), but it is undercut by the hilariously stupid voiceover and the fact that IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. I admit my attention wandered a little, but I came out of that episode not quite understanding what was going on with the bad guy: did Sarah kill him? Or not? If not, how the hell did he survive? And why do I even care? The episode's pulling the "this is a dream! no, psyche, THIS is the dream!" crap. Boooooorrrrrring. Seriously, if I want something this lame and cliched, I'll go watch the "Most Dangerous Game" episode of DOLLHOUSE, thanks.
DOLLHOUSE: "Stage Fright"
Well, it's a step up? The script is better than the previous couple of episodes -- it's still dumb as a box of retarded armadillos, but there are better character bits here, Echo gets to be a little more interesting, and we get to see more of the Dollhouse personnel -- you know, the people who're actually the regular cast. The surprise twist at the end is not all that effective, because you can't really buy into the character in question being so much one thing and then the other, but as dopey TV it's not bad dopey TV. Also, lots of attractive women wriggling around, and you know the network was happy about that.
SCC: "Ourselves Alone"
Oh, yeah, that's more like it. This is a rare episode, in that I think Summer Glau is actually the worst thing about it. Glau's performance feels a little off, for some reason -- she's been stronger -- but "Ourselves Alone" is a terrific episode, full of good character scenes and some remarkably tense moments. The scene with Cameron confronting Riley is a standout, as is John's maintenance of Cameron. Thomas Dekker has been turning in terrific performances this season, and he's fantastic in this episode. I also appreciated John's realizing -- and Cameron's admitting -- that Cameron is capable of doing her own bodywork, and her pretending that she wasn't sure what was wrong was an attempt to manipulate John into a closer relationship with her. To me, that's the show's best bet for explaining Cameron's being an advanced model: it's not that she's a perfect mimic of human behavior, but she understands human interactions better than other Terminators do, and is capable of deliberately shaping social situations to make humans do the things she wants -- ie, the things that will further her mission. This episode played that up nicely.
The fight between Jesse and Riley was really terrific, even if the table didn't quite collapse on cue; I wasn't at all sure who would win, or who I wanted to. It's rare that you get two characters actually bound and determined to fight to the death, and the episode does a very good job of selling the desperation. It's not pretty kung fu, like so many TV fights these days; it's ugly and sloppy, and that works, and the longer it goes on the more you realize that no, they're not going to interrupt this with some bullshit excuse to keep both characters around -- and the more you don't know who's going to drop. It was a very good send-off for the character who did.
Also: discussion of gun laws! Be still, my heart!
DOLLHOUSE: "Gray Hour"
Yet again, the scenes in the Dollhouse are roughly five hundred times more interesting than the scenes outside it. I already liked Echo's handler, Boyd -- Langton, is it? -- but now I'm really starting to like Ms. DeWitt, who runs the place. Interesting character, well acted, and she keeps getting faced with interesting choices. As David Gerrold pointed out, a character's dramatic potential is essentially linked to that character's choice-making. Which means that DeWitt has the best dramatic potential of any of the characters we've seen so far. Boyd? He doesn't make fundamental choices, unless it's about how to protect Echo. Our heroine? She doesn't make any choices at all, or hasn't, yet. DeWitt's the one who has to actually make decisions that tell us something about the kind of person she is. I'm keeping an eye on her.