Joss Whedon: from the start, Dollhouse was different…

dollhouseposter2Gorgeously haunting Dollhouse  music: (Do not miss it)

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Dollhouse, folks, is a brilliant show about identity formation and about a certain technological society racing heedlessly towards apocalypse. Besides, it’s a total hoot!  (It’s also Joss Whedon’s most feminist series and yet it’s regularly called “misogynistic” and “anti-feminist” by those who don’t think about the show’s conceits — and their own gut reactions — on a “meta” level. Okay, that’s the news flash. Click on the link!  So now I go back to being all serious and professorial….

Joss Whedon has been responsible for some incomparable viewing experiences on television, including those many poignant seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” empowering a generation of young women, and the scattered episodes of the scintillating “Firefly,” creating a great science fiction feature film (“Serenity”) and a “Browncoats” movement that will not die — devoted to fighting the horrendous conditions suffered by  women around the globe, and to promoting reading and creative writing programs here in the U.S.

These shows were never watched by wide audiences at the times when their episodes aired (3 to 5 million households was typical). But these series were nonetheless works of art and had great cumulative impact, especially in the lives of those who loved them. Their DVD and reruns have been giving them far larger audiences and effects ever since.

From the start, Dollhouse was different. I focused on that difference (as I saw it) over at, in a review that for me was also a labor of love and a tribute to Whedon’s artistic vision. It was also a plea to Fox and the world at large to save Dollhouse — and shortly thereafter, to everyone’s astonishment, Dollhouse was given a second season, the lowest-rated show ever to be renewed.

Whedon’s latest project, starring Eliza Dushku (“Faith” on Buffy and Angel), had a rocky production history last season, and its viewership consistently fell off from its hopeful premiere audience of more than 5 million. Whedon fans (and others who had heard the hype) tuned in to see what the show was all about. Disappointment abounded and some shock and anger was voiced. The show was “misogynistic” and dealt with a bunch of “likable rapists.” The “eww” factor was a dramatic problem, but those of us who stuck with the show agreed that the series really found its feet around episode 6 and then grew steadily more impressive through its final aired episode, #12.  By then many critics were genuinely intrigued and on board. The unaired 13th episode, “Epitaph One,” became available in July on the Season 1 DVD and generated some real buzz, if mostly among TV critics and Whedonites.

However, I loved the artistic vision of this show from the very first episode. As a Shakespeare professor, Joss’s artistic decision here struck me as similar to Shakespeare’s move from his highly successful early comedies to the much darker “problem” plays, especially Measure For Measure, whose plot concerns a brother, imprisoned and facing death for a sexual misdemeaner (sex with his betrothed), entreating his sister to save him by agreeing to spend a night with the Magistrate, a much older man who is obsessed with her virginity. (“You only have to do it once,” and then you can pretend it never happened….)

I value Whedon’s series because it has given me many moments of moral tension deeper than any I’ve experienced before in scripted television. Sometimes I am so compelled or shaken by a scene that I cry out or weep, and that’s usually when the next scene comes along and delivers an even greater punch. Measure For Measure also masqueraded as a popular entertainment. It also combined stark tragedy and disturbing moral ambiguity with its genre appeals to romance and suspense, all of them offered with a titillating edge of the sordid or risque. When Dollhouse misfires, it usually does so by failing to integrate its generic rip-roaring action scenes (and the deliberately exploited glamour and sexual allure of its cast members) with its serious intent. There’s sometimes an awkward incongruity that hasn’t managed to rise to the level of frisson.

Dollhouse did achieve this seriousness last season, though, and it is still doing it this season, despite the unevenness of some episodes and its occasional scenic misses along with its stupendous and unforgettable dead-on hits. What I continue to notice, though, is that even the show’s most loyal fans tend to view the “eww” factor implicit in the show’s premise as a failing, whenever it crops up, when this is at the very heart of what the show is all about. Whedon is pushing his audiences harder than he’s ever pushed them before; all the episodes make viewers uncomfortable. It’s deliberate and it’s art. And that’s precisely why the audience continues to drop off, even as the show continues to explore issues of human identity-formation and the body’s relationship to the soul in endlessly creative and unprecedented ways.

This show is supposed to make you go “eww.” And then to think about it! (Viewers, let’s try to exercise some of that “negative capability” the poet Keats recommended — who urged us to linger with the questions and with the tragedy for awhile, as Dark Star is currently in the theatres to remind us….) What does it say about our society, after all, that a supermodel (Dushku) who is breastfeeding a baby will send viewers running?  Or ask yourself, is it perfectly okay for a high-flier to have a weekend fling with a gorgeous young girl who thinks he’s genuinely interested in her (he’s not, and this scenario happens all the time in “real life”) — but then, if the same girl turns out to be an (unknowing) birthday present paid for and provided by a wealthy friend, it’s rape?  It’s okay for our society to tailor young girls to be the dream date, but not for the Dollhouse to do it for money?  Joss is disrupting our accepted assumptions, and he always has been with this show. (I discuss the “American dream girl situation” just mentioned, from episode 1, here.)

Dollhouse is all about making us feel uncomfortable.  When Joss says it deals with “sexual exploitation and human trafficking and how compromised we all are” — why do we wonder why the ratings keep falling?  This isn’t the show’s failings. This is our unwillingness to welcome television drama as being something challenging and essential to our moral and human development, the way the Athenians once viewed their great civic tragic dramas. And Joss & Crew do entertain us at the same time, after all. Last night, in an episode called “Instinct” — as in maternal instinct that is — there was a great spoof on the conventions of the killer madwoman, who shows up in the midst of a sudden lightning storm and is armed with a ridiculously large and gleaming kitchen knife. “Echo” looks down at the knife she is holding, along with a baby, and eventually experiences a gentle moment of recognition.”This… isn’t me,” she says quietly, and she drops the knife on the floor. But is anybody listening? This is a person — a humanistic subject seeking the freedom of self-actualization — who is trying to transcend any of the stereotypical and reductive roles laid out for her to follow.

Mentoring a nephew of mine recently, I recommended that he take an on-line Briggs-Meyers personality test, as a tool for determining the kinds of jobs that might best fit his natural tendencies and genuine passions. All of this test’s personality categories possess obvious and important social roles within the fabric of society, and my nephew might find himself among the “Guardians,” for example, who constitute up to 40% of any population taking the test. These are the folks who crave and enjoy an orderly routine. They are extremely dependable and consistently dutiful, at work and at home. Without them, what would any society do?

Out of curiosity, I took the test for the first time myself.  And I ended up in a tiny 1-2% segment of the typical human population. These are creative people who do a lot of thinking, but they also want their efforts to result in protecting the helpless and vulnerable in the larger community. It occurred to me to wonder…. Maybe we are the small (but likewise irreplacable) group that this show is feeding and nourishing. At least there’s no difficulty understanding why, unlike most viewers, I found from the start that I care deeply aboutEcho-Dushku when she is in her innocent “doll” state (when her mind is “wiped”) and identify with her also when something inside her keeps compelling her to go to the aid of others. (The Echo/Caroline deep inside of Echo realized that the baby she was protecting was in no danger whatsoever from the person standing in front of her and offering his life for its safety.) To me, Echo is unforgettable in her most innocent and childlike states. As Adele says, “an active is the purest soul among us.”

In previous shows, of course, Joss appealed to the rebels and artists also,  but he could count on pulling in additional viewers with the trademark Whedon snarkiness and wit, and by assembling a “family” out of a wide and varied cast of lovable characters, each character appealing to one segment of the fan-base. Dollhouse does contains some remarkable characters — my favorite is Topher, the insufferable genius computer-geek, or Adele, whose icy career-woman executive is remarkably multi-layered and unfathomable with her overwhelming range of competencies. But these characters are definitely the bad guys, or are they?

So this Whedon enterprise is deliberately attempting to do something much more dangerous and more breath-takingly difficult than anything he’s tried before. That’s why I compare Dollhouse to Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure, in which Shakespeare deals with the same repugnant issues of sexual exploitation and hypocrisy, along with other themes that are more (elevatingly) humanistic.

The ratings numbers for the first two episodes of the new fall season are terribly disappointing. But they are also perfectly explicable, I think, in that this show is asking a great deal of its viewers and is taking them into uncomfortable and liminal territories every week. In the process, it is building an incredibly thought-provoking mythology and a major narrative that extends into a fascinating and apocalyptic future. The already ambiguous and surprising characters are acquiring unusual layers of depth, and they are often far more ambiguous than we ever see in Battlestar Gallatica, for instance. Joss rightly applauds BG for its daring and its dramatic strengths. But BG never prods us to go out on the limbs where Dollhouse takes us every week. Despite flaws and defects, this is powerful art, and I think it is working powerfully for those who are willing to go where usually only the tragic drama is willing and able to take us. (So maybe it needs to be assigned in classrooms, like Shakespeare and Dante. That’s often the first time modern young people get hooked into anything that isn’t simply easily-digestible entertainment….)

Joss has made this show extremely cheap for Fox to produce, in order to keep Dollhouse a going concern. The writers, actors, and stage crew are devoted to it, to the riskiness and wildness of this ride that they (and we) are on. This show deserves to keep its unenviable Friday night niche at Fox….  It’s working for some of us, and like Shakespeare’s problem plays, and his tragedies, these pieces of art are not likely to be going to fade away in the future.

If we get a future, that is.  Dollhouse is seriously asking this question too.

Sometimes art seems to be the only light in the darkness, yet it still depends on its wealthy patrons. The nagging fear, as Joss admitted recently, is that on television he will only be permitted to invent if he is willing to do nothing more significant than “running the daycare on the Death Star.”

13 thoughts on “Joss Whedon: from the start, Dollhouse was different…

  1. yes yes yes! thank you for saying what i’ve been feeling so eloquently. bless you.

    that very first conversation between caroline and adelle, in the pilot episode. nothing is as it seems. is this the power relationship that is reversed? subverted? i am hoping… praying… that caroline’s intention for joining the dollhouse was soteriological to begin with. i think it makes sense, because this is what we see over and over again with echo.

    echo is the porchlight, but she is different from the other dolls in that she is polyphrenic. she is able to be many-minded, to take multiple (even contradictory) perspectives simultaneously. this gives her an amazing ability to empathize, and it her empathy for others that has me riveted.

    her polyphrenia is made evident to her by Alpha, who is also polyphrenic but who is not empathic, and this stems from some kind of self-hatred he refuses to confront – which is why he destroys his original wedge, and cuts other people as “art”. when echo is “enlightened” through her experience in the Chair, she is dubbed Omega. the mythological undercurrent likewise becomes evident – the Alpha and Omega of the Universe, Gnostically cast as deranged demiurge and healing Soteira.

    the omega point: everything that rises must converge.

  2. Hi Janeaire,

    Thanks so much for writing! I think I get where you’re going with this, but can you explain “polyphrenic” — what discourse that term’s coming from? It’s unfamiliar to me. And what did you mean by Alpha’s “original wedge” — his “original” mind that was on his own “tape”?? Did he destroy it?

    I’m enjoying your comments — need to think about them. I wonder, though — Echo doesn’t have to intend deliberately to play a soteriological role, does she? She’s a person whose deepest nature it is help others (it’s her core self, her soul if you will). And If she can’t find and keep faith with that deepest part of herself, even in the midst of these mind-wipes, by experiencing them and using them to become whole, then in the world of Dollhouse, humanity is doomed. We can’t avoid the mind imprints; we have to go through them and beyond them; turn them to good. So her journey to autonomy is the only way of escape from subjugation and slavery for everyone, too?

    This is the world the dolls live in — and so do we, Joss suggests very powerfully.

    And yes, there’s a lot here that is traversing the same ground as traditional old nature/new nature (or old man/new man) theology. The “new creation” is nothing if it isn’t the deepest core of the self that was there all along, being freed to grow to fruition. That’s why Christians, taken doctrinally, are NOT gnostic dualists, posing good against evil as different and opposites in essence, but something much more complicated and nuanced, posing good against the twisting and frustration of the good within which it struggles to grow. There has to be grace and we already know where that comes from, in a Joss Whedon world, from friendship, from love.

    Do you happen to remember just a second during that pilot interview, when Caroline says to Adele, “I was just trying to stand up for myself and do something, you know, LIKE SHE SAID….” ???

    Fascinating! There’s history here between Caroline and Adele. They shared a mentor (or something like a mother)? There’s so much more coming, on down the line, from Joss — and drats! we may lose it all….

    I think Dollhouse is “missing,” because it is hitting too close for comfort.

    Does any of this make any sense to you?

  3. Hi Janet,

    First: yes, according to Topher, the first thing Alpha did when he “had a choice” was to destroy the “backup tapes” of his original “self”, which was stored on a “wedge” (it looks like a hard drive). Unlike Alpha, Omega!Echo does not choose to destroy her original self when given the opportunity.

    Anyways, I learned the term “polyphrenic” from the woman who taught me about how to “do myth”, ritually, as suggested by Joseph Campbell and Jean Houston. Unlike “schizophrenia”, which denotes having multiple but fractured or dissociated selves, “polyphrenia” is the ability to employ multiple conceptual frameworks (including personas) more or less at the same time, in a connected or holistic way. It’s like Echo says in Omega:

    Echo: We’re not anybody. Because we’re everybody. I mean, I get it. I understand it. I’m experiencing like… thirty eight of them right now. But I somehow understand that not a one of them is me. I can slip into one… actually, it slips into me.

    We should all know Joseph Campbell by now – his Heroic Journey is practically the template for the series-long arc of Buffy. Campbell says that all myths have a common structure – a call to adventure, death and rebirth, mommy and daddy issues, retrieving the Boon, and a return home: the journey confers the freedom to live and the ability to navigate both “the real world” as well as the special mythic spaces (so polyphrenia is embedded in the framework of myth!) Anyways, it’s Campbell who encouraged writers to rewrite the myths in ways that more suitably address our present day sensibilities. George Lucas showed what was possible with his original Star Wars trilogy, and in Hollywood today the Heroic Journey is considered a standard “treatment” for all kinds of scripts.

    The value of myth isn’t in its historicity, but in its metaphoricity. Myths are stories that never happened, but are always happening. They are blueprints or maps for navigating the territory of our lives. In the Dollhouse, it’s the Chair that is the vehicle for myth. It can be both liberating and enslaving – for myth is a tool, just like the Chair. In aligning one’s personal story to the universal story, a sort of synchronization or convergence occurs – a sense of communion, of being one with all the world. It also opens a window to the subconscious mind, which can be terrifying.

    For someone interested in the convergence of science and religion, I’d recommend Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “The Phenomenon of Man.” It’s a bit dry, but it’s an earnest effort to wed the “two sides,” by identifying a common and recurring pattern that seems to infuse every level of the universe – atoms converge into molecules, molecules converge into proteins, proteins into DNA, cells into organisms, individuals into communities… and consciousness into God.

    You ask if Echo intends to play the role of savior, and I’m not sure if she’s thought it out that far. In particular, I’m not sure she’s invested in the *role* so much as the *process*. Why is her deepest “nature” to help others? I think the root of it is her amazing capacity for *empathy*, to really embrace the perspective of another, and to care for the experiences they have. And yes, thank you, her faith in her Self – not just her Caroline ego, but her Echo self – is reflected in her recognition that “we are all lost, but we can be found.” This is Truth not in the scientific sense of *veritas* or representation, but in the religious sense of *aletheia* and revelation. Maybe the notion that everyone has a Savior within, and Echo is curious as to whether she can get the other dolls to “wake up” and see the light.


    It’s something that Caroline is saying in her home-video, the one that Alpha finds and sends to Paul Ballard – pilot episode Ghost, if I recall, at the end. I think Caroline is talking about an inspiring college teacher… before she ever heard of the Dollhouse.


    I agree. Those who go in for thrills get to see a harsh reflection in the mirror, and those looking for escape find there’s nowhere to run: we must confront our painful issues. Dollhouse challenges fundamental assumptions, and asks us to look where we dare not.

    1. Janeaire,

      Wait a minute. I guess I get to go back and watch “Omega” again!

      As much as I like what you say about Alpha, didn’t he destroy his original tape so that the Dollhouse wouldn’t “own” him anymore? I mean, the original Alpha is clearly “in there,” right? He’s looking for someone he remembers in spite of all the other voices inside of him, even though he feels splintered into many pieces…? Or did he “remember” who he was?

      1. I think Alpha wanted to forget. He never wanted to remember again. That’s why he destroyed his “original”. By smashing his past, he doesn’t have to confront the painful memories that would reveal the “corruption” his soul. He was probably abused as a child.

  4. Bethany Reid

    I wonder if the difficulty is that people go to television not to be provoked and made to think but to escape, to be soothed out of themselves (which is not so different from what’s going on in Dollhouse, if you think about it). This is a wonderfully intelligent conversation and you have me hooked.

    1. We have many intentions for turning on the television set. Escape, yes, and you’re so right that this is mirrored in the conceit of the Dollhouse! Whedon is like Topher, programming his actors/dolls for whatever the show demands, as dictated by the executives (Adelle and her superiors) who are responding to the audience and advertisers (clients).

      Then there is the layer of being provoked, of being stimulated and engaged. We watch Dollhouse to gain another perspective. We watch to see another side, to learn about the world, to see Dollhouse as a metaphor… as art.

      The layer I’m most interested in, though, it the mythological layer, and this is dangerous territory. Briar Rose tells us how to read Dollhouse as *myth*. Every character is an aspect of *myself*. Everything is there for a reason, everything has more than one meaning, and then the Chair becomes a vehicle for self-discovery. The mythic, which is made of universals, converges with the personal, the details of my life. Communion is the experience, and this is why the final scene of Epitaph One is bathed in golden light.

  5. Yes, yes, Janeaire. You’ve precisely hit the nail on the head! Great stuff! Put this on your new blog! (Short posts are great and continuing to post is also important to gather a community.)

    You ought to send the above 3 paragraphs to whyiwatch at gmail to be added to the other reasons for watching Dollhouse!

    Bethany, thanks for the kind words. If you really are hooked, watch Epitaph One at some point. Mind-blowing. It’s at hulu or Ttunes. Or… I have loaner DVDs. : )

    And Bethany, you’d love last season’s “Briar Rose,” where the story of Cinderella and the Prince is re-interpreted — from inside of it. We can watch it together sometime.

  6. Soteriological!?! I guess! I just watched “Belle Chose” at and everything Janeaire was saying (and me too) came true, explicitly, about Echo’s core self and its power to absorb and transform the imprint, didn’t it? From murderer to sacrificial offering. The way she remembered seeing the mother’s little boy and used it motivate the mother to save him and other little boys from a monster, when Terry — whose memory it was — could not feel the slightest empathy for either of them.

    I bet you loved it, Janeaire.

    This episode should certainly help folks to root for Echo, if they haven’t already.

    And I need to say something about Paul Ballard. I continue to feel that Paul is so listless and hangdog because of his own sacrifice for another. I don’t see why people don’t get that he always loved Mellie, not Caroline. Last episode, when “Madeleine” came back and met him in the treatment room, she made the same mistake she has always made. She’s preternaturally sensitive to his concern for Caroline, but she always misinterprets it. It is a deep and genuine concern, even an obsession, but it is not the love of a man for a woman. I think Ballard gave himself up to purchase Mellie’s freedom at the end of last season. He doesn’t want to be inside the Dollhouse, though he’ll try to turn it to bringing the Dollhouse down, but he is pining away for the woman whose freedom he bought with his own slavery to the Dollhouse…. He made the choice to give her up and he intends to be faithful to that for her sake. Anyway, that’s my view and I’m sticking to it…. We’ll see.

    I cannot believe how beautiful this episode was. It sounds so grotesque (the plot summary) when in fact it was one of the most emotionally connected and accessible of all the episodes so far. Victor’s becoming Kiki was extraordinary. Some of his best acting ever.

    Soooo Did Ballard make sure Terry would not revive? (I think yes.) Was Kiki’s assignment paid for by the professor or was it to be entrapment? (I guess I just wanted it to be entrapment.) Very nice inversion to have a dollhouse scenario within the dollhouse episode — with a serial killer running it and a cage instead of a luxury spa. The acting was superb. Enver’s and Dushku’s best acting to date. I love the combination of completely screwball plot devices (totally unbelievable) with the emotional depth and truth of the characters. Metaphysical conceits, to the max!

    And once again I waited up to 12:45 a.m. Pacific time to watch online at — and already Belle Chose was featured there along with last week’s House episode as the two “most popular episodes.” Even though House has had all week to be watched and Dollhouse only a few hours…. I cant wait to see what the + DVR numbers for the season premiere are — when they FINALLY come out on Monday. (Why does it take 2 1/2 weeks?)

    Okay, I had to comment on this third episode of the season. Anyone else?

    1. So much wonderful stuff here I don’t know where I want to begin! Well, let’s start with Echo. She saves. She saves the people she’s been, even the one who is antithetical to her being. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for other people, and did you see how calm she was in that last scene? She was more concerned with making it *easier* for “mother” to kill her/him than she was for her own survival. Then again, she’s experienced death every time she’s been wiped in the Chair, so it’s probably old hat for her.

      I *loved* how this episode spoke the truth to power. Sexual power, physical power, nepotistic power, and always in bifurcated terms. The juxtaposition of Kiki seducing Gossen, while Terry!Victor is having an out of body experience, that was just masterful. Kiki in Victor, and Terry in Echo, and the family dynamics of the rich and powerful… I’m going to have to watch this again, because there’s just so much there.

      I’m sure there’s an angle on the Chaucer passage, so I’ll have some reading to do, too.

      Who paid for the professor’s engagement? I didn’t think college professors made enough money to hire out a Doll. Or was this another one of Adelle’s “charity” cases? I’m not as concerned with the plot point, so much as understanding the power dynamic involved. How much was Kiki *wanting* to exert her sexual power over Gossen? How much was Gossen *wanting* Kiki to exert power over him? Isn’t Gossen much like a Doll himself? Dolls go into the Dollhouse *wanting* someone else to exercise power over them. Through them. And isn’t dying also a “letting go” of power?

      I also have to point out that Topher’s exercising of power leads to another *mistake*. Kiki and Terry cross over, they trade places, and this is not what Topher intended. Yet it’s a felicitous mistake, for Echo had the power to resist the personality of Terry, a power I doubt Victor possessed.

      Finally, I think Echo is *right* to save Terry, and I hope that Paul let him be. Terry was not at fault for his neurological condition, he was simply incapable of exercising empathy. Even if he *wanted* to be empathic, he could not. Being confined to dreaming seems the best possible solution, for Terry can find bliss without harming anyone now. And I think it’s important to have Terry around, because *he* can speak truth to power as well, revealing the fucked up dynamics of his family, and how those with *that* kind of power exercise it. And, I don’t know, I think it’s important for Echo’s development to understand the *lack* of empathy, and how to deal with that fact in other people.

      Brilliant episode, absolutely brilliant.

  7. Absolutely. I agree, Janeaire.

    The “belle chose” reference is to the Miller’s Tale, and “Alycoun” is — forgive my French — a conniving little bitch who plays around with a lusty lover while playing rather cruel tricks (but very funny ones) on her elderly husband. On the other hand, she’s also the victim of a May-December marriage. At least, that’s the way I recall the tale and it it important that it is told by one of the two “low-class” working characters who are on the pilgrimage. Chaucer’s pre-Whedon reflection on genre conventions and social class!

    It is possible, given the allusions here, that little Kiki is playing around with her sexual power to tease this much older man. In any case, she certainly “gets” the story they are using as code between them.

    Some discussion out there on whedonesque is saying that the professor at least didn’t exercise the power of his position to coerce one of his real students, but turned it into a *harmless* fantasy instead. I have a lot of trouble with that. Is it better to hire a programed human body-and-soul and use her instead? (As Matt did in the dream girl episode “Ghost,” the pilot episode last season.) On the other hand, how do we know that the client asked for a full sexual encounter? Echo rises from the chair saying she “wants to dance.” Could he have wanted and paid for a “dance”?

    Also, I disagree with viewers who are saying Paul was arused by seeing Echo naked. Of course, no doubt he was, but I don’t think that was the point. He was deeply uncomfortable with the whole inappropriateness and invasiveness of the gorgeous woman whose childlike mind cannot know she is not a little girl or that her nakedness is sacred. An allusive play on Adam and Eve, in their state of innocence, who “did not know they were naked.”

    Ballard is totally opposed in every fiber of his being to what he is doing. And his assurances to Echo that he will protect her and “bring down the dollhouse” are helpless gestures. She doesn’t even know yet what that means. She is feeling her way (emotionally or empathetically) to the emotional truth of her situation. Sometimes reading even Joss fan comments, I feel some people are too crude-fibered in their responses to the action; their dismissiveness and their summarily reductive comments kind of wound me….

    The best thing was the way viewers could, if they chose, connect with Echo in this episode emotionally. Some are refusing to do so, and finding her “earnest” morality in the scene with the victimized women to be simply a ho-hum plot gimmick (Echo’s getting a soul, we’ve seen this before, so what?). This is a kind of defensive distancing, like the “eww” reaction to the breast-feeding episode. If we aren’t looking at ourselves in the mirror at every juncture in the episode (any episode) we aren’t getting it. Or so I believe.

    Finally, I’m pretty sure Terry has flat-lined in the final scene. But there’s a whole other possibility to Echo’s “Good gracious” comment at the end. It could be irony. Poetic justice has been carried out and the monster won’t hurt any more women and their little boys. “Good gracious.” (Or whatever the exact phrase was.) I mean, that part of us has to be put to death. Your reactions are on the side of Mercy while I am enunciating the Justice side of the equation. Mercy and Justice must kiss each other and that is called Grace….

    But Echo’s utterance can mean all these things. It’s a proffer that’s multi-valued.

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