Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Third Age: Episode Eight - 'Hyperopia'

This week, The Third Age kicks into high gear. After completing her ritual with Morning, Holly knows what she has to do, but can she do it? And, Jerrod Woolf's vision reaches a critical point, thirty years of work and it's all lead to this!

If you're just joining us, The Third Age is a fantasy/sci-fi webseries that I produce/execute, you can check out all previous episodes here: http://watch.thethirdagebegins.com

More blog stuff will be happening this week, stay tuned!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dollhouse: Late Season Two

I guess I’m the only person left watching Dollhouse who doesn’t love it because every review or discussion I’m seeing about it seems to ignore the gaping illogical flaws in the back half of the second season, and the arbitrary plot twists and developments that the show tries to cover up with fast paced storytelling and a just keep moving forward attitude. Even though the second season is better on a micro level than the first one, it’s a lot more enjoyable and exciting, but it’s even more illogical than the convoluted, but logically somewhat plausible first year.

Now, I’m not a big believer in the need for stories to make strict sense, or for all the dots to connect. When Morrison or Russell T. Davies tell crazy stories, I’ll jump past any plot inconsistencies because they’ve always got strong, very real emotions at the core. I need the feelings to make sense, even if everything in the plot doesn’t strictly hang together. But, there are certain elements that need to be internally consistent within a narrative world and this year of Dollhouse just doesn’t do that.

The second half of the season posits the idea that all the employees of the LA Dollhouse would all of a sudden decide to go along with a conspiracy to attack their corporate backers and battle against them. Why are they doing this? It’s ostensibly attributable to the Rossum scheming with Senator Perrin and the revelation that Rossum’s aims are much higher than running a weird brothel/human trafficking operation. But, what Rossum plans to do is really no different than what everybody at the LA Dollhouse has been doing for years, with no moral qualms, so the sudden about face feels very wrong on a couple of levels.

It feels like if in the second season of The Sopranos, Tony all of a sudden decided that being a criminal was wrong and decided to take down Johnny Sack and New York because their criminal schemes were wrong. And, not only did Tony do this, everyone else in his crew decided to go along with it. It would take a show that was an interesting exploration of moral ambiguity and the way that people justify the bad things that they do, and spin it into a simple good vs. evil tale, conveniently skipping over the fact that just a few episodes ago he was doing the very things he’s now putting his life on the line to end.

It’s plausible that some people in the Dollhouse could feel this way, and want to take it down, but to have every single character do so makes no sense, and even with the Boyd twist at the end of the last episode, it ignores the conflict that could come from somebody there saying, “Why are you feeling this way all of a sudden?”

The show raises a lot of interesting questions in its premise, but resolutely refuses to engage with anything that could be really troubling or emotional. Why not have the rebel crew struggle with whether to kill DeWitt, or have to forcibly make Topher serve them, rather than have everyone go along with it. There’s no real consequences that way.

Similarly, after raising the idea that Caroline might be a bad person, they counteract that by having it turn out that she didn’t betray Bennett, and actually got captured to save Bennett. This story makes no sense on several levels. We’re to believe that Bennett was not mad that Caroline was spying on her, and actively chose to go along with a terrorist plot against her employer, but then got mad at Caroline for not making her get caught as a terrorist, and as a result, decided to keep working for the company in question. If she really wanted to get caught as a terrorist, just say she was one. The whole story is rendered illogical, when it could have been so much cleaner to just have Caroline accidentally injure Bennett when she used her info to sneak into the compound behind her back.

That’s the kind of lazy plotting there’s been a lot of lately. Another weak development is to have Dominic literally wander out of the attic at the perfect time to deliver a key piece of information, then get shoved back in the attic. There’s no excuse for that kind of lazy writing, there would have been much more elegant ways to get the information, not to mention the fact that this undermines the threat of the attic. Equally frustrating was the idea that all these guys who were played to do security in the place are going to be cool when all of a sudden the higher ups decide to release all the actives. Wouldn’t somebody wonder why this is happening and what it’s going to do to business?

I guess my biggest problem with the series as a whole is that the business model of Rossum makes no sense, and consequently, it’s difficult to engage with the show on any sort of intellectual level. This is a company that is using an incredibly complex piece of technology, but each branch seems to have their own version of it, they can’t advertise their services nor confirm their existence, yet clients as diverse as a new dad, a college professor and a music producer know about the company and have the money to pay for full time employment of both an active and a handler.

Every show has a conceit that separates it from reality. It’d be foolish to nitpick Doctor Who for the existence of the Tardis, you just accept it and move on. The conceit of Dollhouse is the imprint technology, I accept that, but I don’t accept the business model that’s built around it, and frankly, fitting this into a more realistic business model would make for more interesting stories. I’d rather see this as a real company than as a standard issue evil corporation from a movie. Even the company from Avatar, as broad a caricature as you’re like to see, at least had a business model that made sense and didn’t abandon their pursuit of unobtainium halfway through the film for no apparent reason.

So, even though these episodes have been exciting, the writing is just so sloppy and twisty and turny for no apparent reason, I can’t really enjoy them. It’s not good writing, it’s not good TV, it’s entertaining in the moment, but has no internal consistency. If I really cared about the characters, that might not be as big a deal, but I don’t, and that brings all the flaws to the surface.