I'm enjoying it. What I'm liking:
- Eliza Dushku is not awful as Echo, as some critics are saying. In the episode where she played an art thief, I expected her to say "five by five" as Faith from Buffy would say. In fact, Television Without Pity calls one of their recaps of Dollhouse "Five by Five."
- the relationships between Sierra, Victor and Echo, as dolls. It speaks to the fundamental human need for friendships and other relationships, no matter how mentally blank you are.
- Adelle Dewitt's wardrobe. She's the head of the LA Dollhouse, the head pimp if you will, the main Big Bad other than Alpha, making the hard decisions, and she dresses in these soft dresses and blouses with ruffles. I've also written before about the shades of grey she shows, esp in the episodes "Echoes" and "Spy in the House of Love."
- One of the main characters, Sierra, is Asian American. One big complaint I have about Buffy is the lack of Asian American and any major characters of color, despite Buffy being set in California. And Firefly, which is still my favorite Whedon show, is set in a future where China and the US merge, but there are no Asian American actors or characters?!? Using Asian imagery and Chinese cursewords is tokenism, not integration. Come on! On the other hand, Sierra continues the trope of the Asian American woman having the most tragic and sexually exploitative storyline. I should see what Racialicious says about Dollhouse. They had good thoughts about Firefly.
- The engagement of the week structure works for me. We need to see what the Dolls do and see what happens to them, in order to really understand what the Dollhouse is and how it's bad. It's showing, not telling.
- Everyone is showing shades of grey. It's like watching the flip side of the Whedon characters we know and love. Topher is the smart, witty one, like this show's Xander or Wash. Xander and Wash were clearly the heart of their gangs, the nice guys. Topher on the other hand is the amoral Xander and Wash. And ChrisTopher continues the trend set by AleXander and Washburn. Adelle is like the female Mal, and in some ways Buffy from the later seasons. Aloof, trying to do her job, nasty as it is. It's like watching the Big Bad from their point of view. In which case is the Rossum Corporation Dollhouse's version of the First Evil? Or is it human nature to want, take, have? And the 20 Dollhouses is how it happens?
It's not as fun a show as Buffy or Firefly (still haven't seen Angel). It asks harder questions. But I'll keep watching.
ETA: Here's a good post on the gender issues in Dollhouse, at Asking the Wrong Answers.