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Old May 20 2013, 01:15 AM   #3
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Location: West Haven, UT, USA
Re: Return to the Dollhouse

Stage Fright
I seem to recall this episode getting very mixed reviews when it initially premiered, but I personally think it's a great ep for the following reasons:
* It's a 'message ep', and 'message eps' have traditionally been among the best-written eps of Joss Whedon's series, regardless of whose name actually appears on the ep

* It furthers Paul Ballard's story arc nicely, and fleshes out Adelle's character by showing us that there's more to her than just 'the British chick running the Dollhouse'

* It adds to the unfolding tapestry of the Dollhouse universe by introducing us to Victor and establishing that while Ballard might think he's in control, he's being heavily manipulated by Adelle

* It gives Eliza Dushku a chance to showcase the full range of her talents

* It fleshes out Echo's characterization by showing us that she's able to transcend her rigid programming, which provides a nice point of contrast to what happens to her in the very next episode

I'd like to know how much, if any, help Joss might've imparted to his brother Jed and sister-in-law Maurissa, because it certainly carries a lot of his stylistic trademarks (being the first ep of the season/series to really do so). I'd also like to know if Jane Espenson had any input into the ep because it really reminded me of her episode Earshot (as well as the episodes Eternity and Older and Far Away).

The ep isn't the best of the first three eps, but it's a very solid ep and gets an 8.8 from me.

Gray Hour
When I initially watched the series, this ep stood out as by far my favorite, and that impression didn't change upon rewatching it.

Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain created a story that not only serves as the perfect counterpoint to Stage Fright in terms of what it does for Echo's characterization, but that also seamlessly and nicely furthers Paul Ballard's story arc and deepens the mystery of Alpha.

We also get to see some nice interplay between Sierra and Dominic and Adelle, as well as some nice character-building moments for Topher, who comes across in the ep as someone who does genuinely care for and about the Actives under his care.

As much as I love the ep, I wasn't sure whether it deserves a higher rating than Ghost (even though, in my eyes, it's the better ep), so I 'hedged my bets' and am giving it the same rating as Ghost, a 9.0.
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