I was browsing through Amazon Prme's Videos library yesterday looking for something to watch, and decided to rewatch Joss Whedon's last foray into television, Dollhouse (the first few episodes of which I had watched when they premiered on FOX 4 years ago), and also decided to start this thread as a place to post my thoughts on the show and hopefully get others to offer theirs.
One note: I'll be watching and reviewing the series in chronological order as opposed to airdate/DVD order in the interest of maintaining the highest clarity of story and narrative.
Now, let's get started.
Some people - actually, probably a lot of people -might disagree with me, but Ghost is, as of now, the best pilot episode Joss has ever written and shot, and here's why: he willingly strips it of most of his own stylistic trademarks, giving us an episode that feels more like an episode from Stephen S. DeKnight or David Fury, which is what the series needed as a first episode because it's a decidedly different animal from anything else Joss has done up to this point in time.
Immediately after reswarching the episode, I found and listened to a podcast roundtable discussion about it, and I realized something that had never occurred to me before: Echo, and by extension ALL of the Actives, are a representation/manifestation of the thematic storytelling direction Joss wanted to go with River's character on/in Firefly/Serenity.
Story-wise, Ghost stands out as Joss' best pilot ep because it not only tells us everything we need to know about the characters and their world, it also establishes a pattern of making viewers think they're watching a standalone ep that isn't actually a standalone ep at all.
In closing, I give Ghost a 9.0 out of 10, and reiterate what I said about it being Joss' best pilot to date.
Although Ghost was written and shot to replace the episode Echo and serve as the series' pilot, The Target could also very easily been used as the pilot if the 'Previously on Dollhouse' montage/recap had been omitted, and would have been, in some ways, a better introduction to the series than Ghost (which is funny given how highly I praised Ghost above).
The Target is a much more character-driven episode than Ghost, and gives us, as an audience, an excellent glimpse into the characters' heads, particularly Boyd Langton and Echo, especially in the story's waning moments when we learn/discover that the 'keywords' Echo was programmed to respond to aren't working and we see her 'take charge' and take out Richard.
The episode also continues the pattern established by Ghost of giving us a story that might seem standalone but actually isn't.
The juxtaposition of Langton and Echo's story with Paul Ballard's is also handled very well, establishing several things about him and his part in the show's unfolding narrative that the pilot really doesn't.
Despite what I said above regarding The Target having all the elements that could've let it serve as the pilot, Ghost is ultimately the better episode, although not by much.
The Target gets an 8.8 rating from me because of its character-driven main story and the ways it helps establish things that Ghost didn't cover.
I'll be back later with a review of Stage Fright and Gray Hour. In the meantime, I'd like to hear other people's thoughts on the series in general and Ghost and The Target specifically.