Dollhouse: "Man on the Street" and "Echoes." The fabled 6th episode of Dollhouse was not perfect but it was certainly a step up in terms of both acting and plotting. Patton Oswalt was great, Whedon brought some fun dialogue (“I’m sure I’m in serious need of some moral spankitude, but guess who’s not qualified to be my rabbi?”), and they finally justified the concept of the Dollhouse -- you really could not just hire someone to act out this fantasy. The mole in the Dollhouse, as well as the idea that there is a larger evil purpose behind the place, rather than just a kind of fancy whorehouse was welcome (though surely should have been set up earlier). I was not wild about the man on the street interviews though it did provide some much needed context to the show -- what does the average person know or think of the dollhouse? And the revelation that the girl across the hall from Helo was an active was kind of handled in a kick-ass way (and was nicely tied into a sub-plot about a handler who was raping his agent), although she was the most obvious person to be an active, and the way the show reveals actives suggests that Whedon really liked the idea of Cylons. The fight scenes were suddenly better but I still find Topher insufferable. Every time he is on screen I understand why it is that some people simply cannot stand Whedon -- this guy surely embodies everything they hate to such a degree that even I, who like Whedon, despise how cutesy quirky he is. "Echoes" was not fantastic but I have to admit that the overall arc of the show is growing on me to the point that I still want to watch (the fact that there are only 6 more episodes this season is helping as well). Everyone getting high was maybe a too cute idea, and not every actor did it so well or was given good stuff to work with. But the scope of the story is bigger now, and the conjunction of Echo's backstory with the story of how the Dollhouse recruited someone else was smart. The virus thing was kind of a silly device -- no one really needed to stop it in the end, since it stopped itself. I wondered if Echo's boyfriend could be Alpha but it did not seem like that actor had the chops for psycho evil powerhouse.
Kings -- the first four episodes. Ratings on this are terrible so it looks like this will not be with us for much longer. I kind of like it though, perhaps only because it has both Ian McShane and Brian Cox in it as well as religious subject matter, which I enjoy seeing pop culture struggle with. The King James Bible is kind of awesome source material, especially when you realize that all the critics who complain the show is little more than a tricked out soap opera have maybe accidentally gone past the show and are now commenting about the bible, which is totally like a tricked out soap opera -- hilariously this means you can't really blame Kings for how pulpy and trashy it is, which is kind of brilliant. The dialogue and acting are uneven -- eveything about the show screams HBO-lite, a situation not helped by the presence of McShane and Cox and the NEED for some Deadwood style dialogue that almost never materializes (though surely bringing in more from the King James Bible is the way to go here or even just a little more acceptance of the fact that everyone should talk even MORE like they are in a comic book). Still the show gets a lot of little things right -- I particularly like the two Shakespearian clowns even though I suspect I shouldn't -- and is kind of interesting. And you have to respect a massive serious thing like this taking the butterfly so seriously as a symbol.