I didn't go into this looking for Whedon's "spark" because Whedon's "spark" is witty banter, usually between adults who are pretending to be teenagers. The concept does not lend itself to witty banter, and attempts to do so would be totally inappropriate.
I went into this looking for some light cyberpunk. And in that regard, I was pleasantly surprised. The pilot takes the premise seriously and give it the moral weight it deserves and while the episode itself had clear bad guys, amongst the recurring factions there is nothing but ambiguity at this point.
The action made sense and it used it's premise logically. That's better than most recent network science fiction pilots, such as Bionic Woman and Knight Rider.
I, too, don't remember the names of any of the characters other than Ecco, but that's perfectly alright, I remember their role. You've got the morally ambiguous female CEO, who seems to want to do the right thing. You've got the pragmatic guy. You've got the ex-cop handler with a strong sense of morality and duty. You've got the morally ambiguous tech guy. You've got the FBI guy who wants to bring down Dollhouse. And you've got the escapeewho has no trouble killing people. I'd recognize them, and I want to learn more about them.
The Dollhouse orginization is interesting one wonders whether their actives are victims or vollunteers. They seem to be run by people who actually care about the actives, and who actually want to do the right thing, but the situation itself has some built in moral ambiguity innately.
And then you've got to wonder about the FBI agent. It seems that he actually believes that taking down Dollhouse is the right thing to do, but the thing about Crusaders is that their zeal often blinds them to reality, and leads them in the wrong direction. Dollhouse does a lot of good, it seems, and taking it down would create a void, all of the people that they would have saved will die without them.
And the escapee, was he right to run away, or is he just a poorly programed personality acting irrationally?
It has potential. I can see a great many places it can go from here. But to enjoy it, you have to forget that it's Whedon and pretend that it's loosely based on a Philip K. Dick novel. That'll make you much happer, I promise. I'll let you tollerate the moral ambiguity and the lack of snarky banter.