Friday, July 31, 2009

On Episode 13

Joss’ strength certainly is in dealing with stories that are epic in proportion.

I have to confess that I was not that into the idea of Dollhouse, at least initially. Besides the philosophical problems with the core premise (whole mind/body issue being skewed in a pop-scifi way), the story just wasn’t that interesting. Of course the characters showed their potential of being fascinating and lovable, but the story just wasn’t there. The first half-3/4 of the season just felt like they were dragging along. However, towards the end, they really started to pick up more speed (like swimming to the surface) and develop different characters and continue previous arcs.

Despite this, I still wasn’t super crazy about the show… but episode 13 finally broke through to the surface, in all its nice shinny, epic proportioned Joss-ness, (ironically enough because his brother and sister in law wrote it).

This strikes me as the pattern for Joss in storytelling, and certainly his strength. This certainly was the case with Angel, and to a lesser degree Buffy. He begins the story by introducing the characters in “normal” circumstances, spends half a season or so there, and then begins to unfold the real story he wanted to put those characters in: and it’s always epic in scale. Joss simply doesn’t do “small”. For Buffy, this usually got resolved at the end of the season, and most episodes would deal with the larger arcs. That being said, the show still felt more episodic (though certainly to a lesser degree in the latter seasons). For Angel, someplace in season 2 it started and it didn’t really stop until the end of season 4, and that was only for a short breather for it to pick up again in the end of season 5.

I wonder if this pattern isn’t more common for a lot of TV. It seems like the “smaller” scale stories usually are sitcoms, and most anything else (to be taken serious at least) has to have some kind of largeness to it, especially those shows that are more serialized. But even a lot of popular network shows still find success in not being as “large” in scale as others. For whatever reason, Joss really seems to gravitate towards the everyday characters in earth shattering (sometimes literally) stories.

The one possible problem to this theory is Firefly. But I think this isn’t the case. Firefly begins in the wake of an epic, system wide battle, so it’s already different from the beginning of Dollhouse. But more than that, it did follow the pattern for Angel and begin to build towards a huge story, and unfortunately Joss had to tell the Season 2 – Season 4 scale story in a 2 hour movie, (don’t get me wrong, Serenity was still amazing). I think Firefly, though not literally as “large” as Angel, still maintained a lot of the same core elements to work.

All in all, episode 13 has me real excited for season 2 of Dollhouse. There is so much potential… it is so exciting to watch a TV show that every twist and turn makes you just get excited for more. Every new page of each arc is just cool and interesting, and also feels significantly and worthy of being called good art. I’ve only had that experience with a few shows before, and outside of the new BSG and B5, Joss was responsible for all of them.

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