I just finished True Believer and Man on the Street, but before I review them, I wanted to comment on a few other things:
1) I don't understand or agree with this idea that Eliza Dushku is emotionless when she's Echo. Based on the first six eps, I look at Echo and I see a character who does in fact have a personality, albeit a very childlike one. She reminds me very much of some people I know who have developmental disabilities, as well as the character of Red-verse Astrid from Fringe. Through the first six eps, I look at Echo in her Doll state and I see someone who is friendly, adaptive, resilient, and caring, with a natural calmness and charm that subconsciously draws people to her.
2) Each of the first five eps feature a Previously on Dollhouse recap, which belies their supposed nature as standalones; they also feature thematic and character carryover that links them together on an individual level as well as linking them together in terms of the ongoing story arc of the season/series.
3) I concur with Forbin's assessment that the show is better than perception would indicate, and in fact think it's on course to possibly eclipse Firefly - which I absolutely love - as Joss' best series to date.
Now, my reviews of True Believer and Man on the Street.
I don't recall being all that impressed with True Believer when I initially saw it, but I gained a new appreciation for it upon a second viewing.
The ep's plot is fairly standard procedural material, but what makes it stand out is the character information and interaction, both in the Dollhouse and out in the field. Echo's Imprinted persona is equal parts Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, and Eleanor Penn (her Imprinted character from Ghost), and Eliza is able to make you believe that she's exactly who and what she says, especially in the beginning.
We also get some nice and humorous interaction between Topher and Dr. Saunders that sets things up nicely for the next episode and starts to flesh out Sierra and Victor's 'blank slate' characterization, as well as some scheming from Dominic and some nice use of Langton's investigative instincts, which leads to the series' first use of Joss' trademark narrative curveball storytelling in the form of Langton uncovering Agent Lily' s complicity in staging the entire premise for raiding the compound and Echo and Langton being brought in to help out, and in the form of Dominic knocking Echo out.
Ratings-wise, I'm giving this one an 8.5; it tells a solid, if unspectacular, story that throws in a couple of narrative curveballs and sets stuff up for the next ep.
Man on the Street
This ep really reminded me of Goodbye, Iowa from Buffy's fourth season and Shiny Happy People and The Magic Bullet from ANGEL's fourth season, all of which mark a narrative turning point of sorts for their respective seasons, and consequently feels much more quintessentially 'Jossian' than the first five eps.
There's a lot going on in this ep narratively, what with the situation involving Sierra and Victor, Paul Ballard's investigation and developing relationship with Mellie, his first face-to-face encounter with Echo, and Adelle getting more involved in manipulating and orchestrating things to fit the outcome she wants, but nothing feels tacked-on or rushed.
it's also nice to see Patton Oswalt in a Joss Whedon show, even in a bit part, and there's a nice bit of symmetry in the way the ep ends, with his character getting his 'perfect day' even as Adelle's machinations tear Paul Ballard's life apart.
This ep is by far the best of the season thus far, and therefore gets a 9.5 rating from me.