Tag Archives: Eliza Dushku

Dollhouse

Created by Joss Whedon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine a technology that would enable people to completely remove an individual’s memory, personality, identity. . . . Terrifying, isn’t it? A girl by the name of Caroline finds herself dragged into a corporation (the Dollhouse) that does just that–for profit. For various reasons, she becomes an “Active” called Echo, her own identity erased to become whoever the client needs her to be: spy, lover, special agent in a hostage situation, whatever. Only, unlike most of the other Actives, Echo keeps having pieces of old personality imprints popping up after they were supposedly erased; memories she shouldn’t have retained begin showing up. She is evolving a self of her own, beyond that of her original, Caroline. And Echo is determined to bring the Dollhouse down, whatever it takes.

I know I’ve said before that I really enjoy Joss Whedon’s shows. . . . Dollhouse is the best I’ve seen of them yet. I absolutely devoured all 26 episodes and was saddened that there wasn’t more (although I think they ended it very well). Rather than being about the paranormal, this is very much a science-y show–but not in an obsessively, overwhelmingly geeky way. While it does give a clear and terrifying picture of what could (likely would) go wrong if this sort of technology ever did come into existence, it is much more focused on the individuals involved in this particular story. Echo herself is absolutely the focal point of the entire story, and she is an excellent character. Eliza Dushku’s acting in this role is exemplary. She shows the individuals whose minds are implanted into Echo as distinct and yet also shows the gradually developing entity that is Echo as an individual herself . . . it’s truly fascinating to watch! The relationship that grows between actives Victor and Sierra (without giving too much away) is absolutely beautiful as well. The whole show is a strong argument for there being some–a soul perhaps–that makes us who we are, even if all our memories and such are stripped away. More challenging characters include scientific genius Topher Brink (whom I enjoyed very much, although he is again, a challenging character) and Dollhouse leader/shepherd Adelle DeWitt (who is excellently played, though provoking, and in my personal opinion absolutely maddening).  I guess what I’m getting at is that the characters, characterization, acting, and character-driven aspect (sorry if that sounds repetitive) are all wonderful. I’d also like to note that the production for the whole series is quite lovely–it’s visually stunning. Plus it has a great soundtrack. I would highly recommend Dollhouse to all mature viewers (not a kids’ TV show).

Starring: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Olivia Williams, Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, & Miracle Laurie

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Angel

Created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt

Leaving Sunnydale behind, Angel finds himself alone in Los Angeles, brooding (what else is new), alone, and still nursing his guilt over his previous (pre-soul, vampiric) life. Fortunately, the powers that be (truly) send help his way in the form of Sunnydale expatriate Cordelia Chase–who’s not making the big movie break she was expecting–and Doyle–an Irish half-demon with skull-bursting visions that point the team to those in trouble. Together, these three form the beginnings of a team, “Angel Investigations,” dedicated to rendering aid to those who need it–and, of course, to opposing the working of evil in the city, which in L.A. means the law firm, Wolfram & Hart. Angel and his team are sure to have their work cut out for them, but they just might be able to make a difference . . . and if they’re lucky, they might even make enough money to stay in business!

I came to Angel as, probably, most viewers do: as a spin-off series from Buffy, starting simultaneously with season 4 of the Sunnydale classic. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good thing or not. There are certainly things that carry over–you have a lot of back-story on the characters going in to Angel if you’ve watched the first few seasons of Buffy first, for instance. But the genres are pretty different. I feel like I should pause and say first that I honestly enjoyed Angel very much and would watch it again. Having said that, I felt like it was, on the whole, a weaker story–the plot’s all over the place, the character set is erratic, and sometimes I had no idea what sort of genre I was supposed to be watching. Plus, they used all that CSI flashing between scenes at the beginning; that just about gave me vertigo (hyperbole), ugh. But in spite of not knowing whether it’s a detective story or a soap opera, I usually enjoyed the story, wherever it went. I think a lot of that is attributable to the characters, many of whom I absolutely loved. I think one of the most positive aspects of this show for me was that it took characters that I rather disliked in Buffy–namely Cordelia and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce–and actually developed them into mature characters that I truly enjoyed. Also, the inclusion of more peaceable characters like Lorne and Fred (love those two!) added a lot to the story. Honestly, the one character I really didn’t care for was Angel himself, not because he was poorly placed–Boreanaz did an excellent job portraying him–but because I just don’t like who he is, never have really. But I guess the show must have some significant redeeming qualities elsewhere if I like it despite disliking the main character. Finally, the ending was somewhat abrupt, but I do understand that the show was cut unexpectedly (and is said to be continued in some graphic novels, though how that’s possible, I don’t know).  Anyhow, I enjoyed Angel, and I think Buffy fans who have a taste for more detective-y, urban stories would likely enjoy it also.

Starring: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Glenn Quinn, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker, Vincent Kartheiser, Andy Hallett, James Marsters, & Mercedes McNab

Note: This TV series consists of 5 seasons (yes, it doesn’t seem like it should end where it does).

Note 2: Does anyone else get a Star Wars vibe out of Connor?

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Created by Joss Whedon

When Buffy Summers moved to the small town of Sunnydale, all she wanted was to leave slaying and destiny and vampires behind–lead a normal high-school life, you know? That might have worked better if the town she moved to weren’t built directly over a Hellmouth, a center of supernatural and paranormal activity of all sorts. As it is, before her first day of class is even over, she’s encountered the tell-tale work of vampires and met her Watcher, Rupert Giles (read “stuffed-shirt British librarian sent to tell her what to do” is what I’d like to say, but Giles is actually a pretty cool guy with some interesting surprises up his sleeve). It seems there is no running from destiny, and Buffy’s got plenty of destiny to deal with as The Slayer, the one and only girl in the world with the super-powers to fight the forces of darkness . . . whether she likes it or not. Destiny may put a crimp in her social life, but Buffy actually develops quite a delightful group of friends who join in her fight against evil–which is totally against all Slayer rules, I might add. Not that Buffy’s much for rules; she tends to meet the forces of darkness and the forces of red tape with much the same snarky attitude . . . and she usually wins.

I had honestly avoided watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years on the grounds that I generally hate American TV shows on principle. It was only when I realized that 1) the series has a huge cult following among the geekier types and 2) it’s created by the same guy who wrote Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that I decided Buffy might be worth checking out–and I am so glad that I did. I really love the series. It’s a very multi-layered story. On the surface you have the story of a young girl going to school, making friends, fighting monsters–fun urban fantasy, maybe a little silly (and a little too much sex) but enjoyable nevertheless. But then underneath that you’ve got a very real, thoughtful, and sometimes vulnerable development of all sorts of real-life problems and complexities and questions–things we all struggle with, handled in a thought-provoking way. It’s neat the way the layers mingle and make each other richer. The characters are all incredible–highly developed and growing a lot over the course of the series–and the actors do an incredible job bringing the characters to life. I find the plot pacing interesting. It runs sort of like the Harry Potter books: one season per year in the characters’ lives, each season dealing with episodic issues but also culminating toward some big showdown with a “Big Bad” at the end (they actually make a joke about this in the seventh season). It’s kind of cliché, but it works. (Regarding age-appropriateness, I would generally say that it’s suited for people the age Buffy is in that season and up, so the first year is 15+, second season is 16+, etc.) Music is also a big part of Buffy, and I really enjoy the wide variety of music that is brought into the show. Plus the choreography that goes into the fights is really impressive–both intense and oddly beautiful. This is definitely a girl-power sort of show, I might add–although the guy characters are amazing too.  There’s a lot more I could say, nearly all positive as I truly enjoyed this show, but for now I’ll just say that if you enjoy funny yet thoughtful character-focused urban fantasy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely a good option to check out–just be warned, it’s addictive!

Note: This TV series comprises 7 of 22 episodes each (except for the first season, which is 12 episodes). The plotline is continued in a canonical graphic novel series which I intend to review separately.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Kristine Sutherland, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seth Green, Robia LaMorte, Emma Caulfield, Eliza Dushku, Juliet Landau, James Marsters, Amber Benson, Marc Blucas, Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, and a bunch of other cool people

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