Here's what I think: Dollhouse has the most untapped potential of any TV show I've seen in years.* The premise is that there are people ("dolls") who have 'volunteered' to have their minds first wiped and then replaced by programmable personalities. The show explores what happens to these dolls, and to the people who look after and control them.
Here are four reasons I want to keep watching this show:
It's using its premise to create inventive soap opera storylines and weird-ass relationships that are extremely uncomfortable and dysfunctional.
Caroline's backstory (as hinted at in the first scene of the pilot, and the most recent episodes) has been enough to hook me into watching the show to completion.
The sense of paranoia that pervades everything. This show has a mood, and it's not typical Joss Whedon wise-cracking territory.
From episode 6, I'm watching a show that's growing more interesting and layered with every passing scene. This is a show that's not afraid to take its time establishing its characters.
If you watch Dollhouse, I recommend you skip the third episode (which is weak). I'd recommend you skip the fifth episode (which I felt had a weak payoff) but it contains a small plot development which has an influence on future episodes.
Episodes 6 and 8 are strong and (coupled with the amount of exposition that dolled out in Ep 7) have me believing that Whedon is either aiming to:
- complete his overall story for the series in a single season (in case Dollhouse doesn't get renewed), or
- setting the groundwork for an amazing second season where the stories come primarily from the characters and situation, rather than an arbitrary 'Genre Movie Premise of the Week but with Dolls' episode structure.
* Heroes felt like it had this sort of potential in its first 12 episodes, but it gradually slid into a web of relationships and conspiracies that was too tightly woven for my tastes (every character either being related to each other, or plotting against them).