Bennett has twice the resources I have. She thinks she runs that House. And she might, for all I know. But there is one thing of which I am certain. I have a cooler office.
This is something I didn't touch upon in my review of The Left Hand, and that is this. Topher does have a very cool office. But it also does a couple of things. One, it reinforces the very large God-complex Topher has. It is literally an office encased in glass, situated above those he has complete power over. He can make any Doll whomever and whatever he chooses. Bennett's office is farther removed. It is an actual office-like area, filled with books and music and tea. It is more analytical. It doesn't create the same sort of Doll-Programmer familiarity Topher's arrangement allows. It doesn't create a bit of emotional pull; it doesn't facilitate getting to know the Dolls, their personalities and their grouping patterns. Topher has the cooler office for any number of reasons; his is more like a day care center in terms of toys than any actual office. But what really makes it so that he has the cooler office is how it pulls him into the overall Dollhouse community. He is not separate. He is above, but not aloof. He is apart, but still included. Because of that, his reaction to things like "grouping" is different than those who are separate, who are not a part of the overall community. It is what allows him to call Echo a friend, and it is what leaves him less than thrilled at the end of this exchange:
HARDING: Are they grouping?TOPHER: Oh... They, uh, technically...HARDING: They're grouping, aren't they?TOPHER: I'm sorry to say, yeah.HARDING: Oh, it's okay. It happens all the time.TOPHER: It does?HARDING: Yes. It's very common and easily dealt with.TOPHER (looking a bit apprehensive): It is? Of course it is, yeah.HARDING: Split them up, place them in separate Houses. They'll be fine. The girl would be perfect for Dubai.
And this exchange allows us some other insight. Victor and Sierra aren't special. The Los Angeles Dollhouse isn't the only breeding ground for un-Doll-like behavior. Dolls naturally gravitate toward each other. The need for true companionship, for interaction is still present and strong. There have been many studies about the human need for socialization, for friendships. Dolls aren't too separate from that. Even if Sierra and Victor are particularly adorable in their personal grouping.
What also comes through clearly in the episode is that Dolls are not simply a Tabula Rasa of the person they were before being Dollified. Ballard had been working from that basic assumption, and it didn't seem too far off in the early episodes of the show. What we knew about Caroline, her altruism and her bend towards justice, seemed to be mirrored in Echo's more child-like attempts. But the Doll is separate, and Echo isn't necessarily too keen on the possibility of Caroline coming back:
BALLARD: You said Bennett gave you her own memory.ECHO: Of Caroline. And it wasn't... I didn't like it.BALLARD: Well, that's Bennett's perception, and she doesn't sound remarkably stable.ECHO: But the idea that Caroline might not be... I've been saving this body for her, but I'm not her.BALLARD: You don't know that. You've resisted the wipes from the start. You tracked down my cell and you couldn't remember my name. You knew that I would help you, keep you from DeWitt. DeWitt was Caroline's enemy, not Echo's. Maybe it was Caroline picking up those shells.ECHO: I'm not her! My name is Echo.......ECHO: You think I'm a freak - or a child.BALLARD: I think I don't have the right.ECHOL It's not my other... personas that make me feel what I feel.BALLARD: The Dollhouse made you fall in love over and over. You told me that.ECHO: They also made me aggressively sexual and phenomenally creative in bed.BALLARD: Now, that's just cruel.ECHO: Also, sociopathic, inexperienced, blind, and - at least seven times - gay. There's a lot of noise from the Chorus Girls, but they're not me. There is a me. This is me.
There are couple of issues I have with this part of the episode. Part of it is the reverse Florence Nightingale effect, what with Echo falling in love with Ballard as he's devoted himself to taking care of her and helping her get ready in her quest to take down the Dollhouse. But part of it is the fact that Paul Ballard has, in essence, been chasing after Caroline from episode one. It is creepy, because just four episodes ago he was leering at her recently college-decked out body in Belle Chose. It's creepy, because Echo has been programmed to trust and rely on Ballard.
But what it also highlights is Ballard's concern that he doesn't have the right to the body Echo inhabits, even if there were no creeptastic factors, because it is in actuality Caroline's body. Here's where the problem lies. Because it is a violation of Caroline's body, just like a person can rape the comatose. But it isn't just Caroline's body anymore. It is now also Echo's. She is a person, separate from the other personas in her head and separate from Caroline. She doesn't have a body of her own, and being in Caroline's body may have helped form her. Does she have some say? Is she independent of thought? Does she have the right to a romance, to a love affair, to a sexual release? The Dollhouse, by creating someone who was intended for nothing more than caretaker and not for personhood in hir own right, denied the Doll in question the right to a full existence, and that is as cruel a thing as every other despicable action they have foisted upon these Dolls. Echo, Whiskey, others who come to consciousness, seem to live in the agonizing in between where they are aware their bodies and lives are not truly their own, and have to ponder their own mortality in a way few of us ever do or ever shall. They have to face the possibility of voluntarily disembarking, ceasing to exist, so another could live the life interrupted.
Which leads us back to Topher, who lives the agonizing life of being a friggin' genius. And one who has seemingly backed away from the "progress is always a-okay!" viewpoint he held not two episodes ago. It's no secret 'round these parts that Topher is my favorite. And this week he's my favorite because he is absolutely in way over his head, and he knows it. He's my favorite because he is just so bad at the whole moral thing, and yet keeps on trying. I also love how profoundly desperate he is becoming in his attempts to figure out how to prevent the future he foresees as the inevitable conclusion of the tech he develops from coming to pass. And how he turns to the one person he probably shouldn't for guidance and conspiracy:
ADELLE: I've been hearing about your new device all day. I don't need to see it. I'm sure it's very impressive. But with the resources at your disposal now, I'm surprised it took you this long.TOPHER: It didn't. I finished it two months ago. I spent the rest of the time trying to come up with another way to do it, a stupider way, a parlor trick... that wouldn't lead to anything else, anything bad.ADELLE: What else, Topher? What "bad"?TOPHER: Harding's got me working on a portable remote wipe, right? I saw Bennett working on a somatosensory system override. And there are what? 22 Houses, right?ADELLE: 23, now.TOPHER: Each working on their own small, specific, relatively harmless technology. So I got to thinging -ADELLE: It's a component. It is a piece of a larger whole.TOPHER: The next question is...ADELLE: For what?TOPHER: I think they're hoping to build a portable device that will be able to imprint anyone without any Active architecture implants. Any innocent on the street with a new personality.ADELLE: That's unnerving.TOPHER: No. What's unnerving is I figured out how to do it.......TOPHER: Are you out of your British mind?!ADELLE: I acted in the best interest of the House.TOPHER: You gave Rossum the deadliest tech I've ever heard of.ADELLE: Which you designed.TOPHER: I was trying to figure out what they were up to!ADELLE: You were fascinated. You were playing.TOPHER: No. Don't put this on me. I trusted you!ADELLE: Well, who thought that was a clever scheme?
Which, wow. No wonder Adelle feels responsible for Topher in the aftermath. I had originally thought it was more of the maternal instinct mixed in with a healthy bit of the belief she was just as complicit in the Dollhouse meltdown. Now, it seems as though more than a little bit of guilt is also there. What is also interesting to me is how Adelle characterizes Topher. I'm sure she's not wholly wrong; I'm sure Topher messed because he was revolted and intrigued by the idea. But I'm also sure she isn't wholly right. I'm sure Topher is revolted by the tech. There's a reason he didn't roll out the remote wipe tech once he was done with it, a reason why he didn't deliver the plans that would give him the title of Harding's (and Rossum's) Golden Boy for all eternity. The amoral Topher we originally met probably would have; but this Topher has grown. He grew through his disastrous attempt to save Sierra. He grew through his interaction with Echo. He grew from the belief that there is no such thing as morality. He accepts that there are such things as innocents. And he sees the big picture well enough to understand that doing what is in the best short-term interest for the House is not what is in its best long-term interest, nor in the best interest of the whole "world not ending" scheme.
- Why does Galena trust Echo? I would totally not be prepared to put my faith in the person who got me into jail in the first place.
- Wow, does this show borrow from the Matrix.
- Wow, Tahmoh Penikett is really good looking.
- He also can't really act.
- The whole "moving between personas" would be better if Enver Gjokaj were the one to do it.