I Speak TV: Your Buddy, Your Pally, Your Season Finale (Part I)

Posted: May 13, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , ,

dollhouseSo good TV is wrapping up for the season, and it’s time to look at how things shook out.

This week, we’ll look at “Dollhouse,” “House,” “Fringe,” and “Lost.”

Let’s dig in:

If ever there were a case for letting a creative type just DO WHAT HE’S THERE FOR without interference, it’s “Dollhouse.” After five okay-to-annoying episodes that met Fox’s criteria (mostly: put Eliza Dushku in sexy clothes and plot be damned), the real potential of the series (as Joss Whedon imagined it) popped up and stayed there for the rest of the season, more deftly blending humor with serious questions about the nature of humanity and personality, all along tossing in some unsettling uber-plot implications.

“Omega” wrapped up a lot of plot threads by explaining what the hell happened with rogue doll Alpha (the always-welcome Alan Tudyk) just before the series started, and satisfactorily ended those season-long mysteries while introducing some fascinating future plotlines involving seemingly amoral mind-programmer Topher and scarred in-house doctor Claire – revealed (to the audience and herself) as a damaged doll imprinted with the personality of the previous (casualty of Alpha) in-house doctor.

This show absolutely deserves a second season – not least because neither “Buffy” and “Angel” hit their strides until they got theirs – and hope remains (at least until Monday, when renewals are announced). If it does, I recommend grabbing the DVD (and skipping past the one real clunker, the “Echo becomes a backup singer” episode).


It’s been a sloppy fifth season for “House,” with untethered plots no one cares about (the chemistry-free Foreman-Hadley romance), character development that just kinda halts (the grieving Wilson), new characters dropped when their spinoff plans dissolve (the Poochie-like P.I.), and the continuing struggle to balance new and old cast members.

The answer to some of these problems: Kill Kumar. The out-of-nowhere suicide of Kal Penn’s character was intended to give the remainder of the season a tighter arc, but acted mostly as a weak lead-in to one more “Is House Going Mad?” season finale.

This descent started with the continuing hallucination of last season’s casualty Amber (an unhelpful reminder of how much more interesting she was than the truly irritating Hadley), then ramped up during a 12-hour detox/Cuddy scenario that shocked everyone with its implausibility (that no one initially pegged it as a hallucination is no compliment, since this show tends to do big plot moves without stopping to think about whether it makes any sense).

So here we end, with Wilson driving House to a pretty gothic-looking facility (and if it’s the same one his schizophrenic brother’s at, Wilson is saving on gas while helping a friend – clever!), while Cameron and Chase get married and hope for more screen time next year.

“House,” like “24,” tends to do season openers and closers pretty well, tricking the audience into returning next year. As usual, my fingers are crossed that the show figures out how to do a compelling middle for a change.


So when exactly did I turn around on “Fringe,” which I had begun to regard as an repetitive exercise in monster-of-the-week stories with overly vague allusions to a larger scheme, featuring characters who were still pretty much ciphers?

It was probably around the point they told us the master-plot was a secret war with a PARALLEL FUCKIN’ UNIVERSE! And also they started to let Anna Torv smile and joke around and be human occasionally. And lastly, they dropped any pretense that the science they talked about was based in any kind of fact, which freed them up immensely to just have fun with it all.

The season finale only advanced the master-plot by making explicit things people already grasped, but I’ll never fault a show for explaining its intentions. The villain of the season – attempting to cross over to the parallel reality where the mysterious William Bell has been holed up – was iced in a very Warren Ellis style, a tiny bit more information on the parallel Earth deal was delivered (via a pretty impenetrable bit of mapping out “soft spots” in the fabric or reality), and with a few minutes of downtime left in the episode, Dunham crossed over, both to meet William Bell (and thanks to Transformers: The Movie, I’ll always be able to pick out Leonard Nimoy’s voice) AND to show how “slightly different” things are in the other reality – the meeting takes place one of the still-standing Twin Towers. Oh, and also, Peter Bishop apparently died at age 7 on our Earth – meaning the snarky dude we know was abducted from the parallel Earth about 17 years ago…just about when Walter went mad.

It’s this boldness to be a full-on science fiction show, one where the sci-fi aspects are central to the plot, rather than window-dressing, that has made me enjoy it so much more over the last couple of months. It’ll be interesting to see how the next season goes, since resetting it to monster-of-the-week stories is (hopefully) not an option. We’ll see.


After an incredibly complex (and audience-testing, for those unprepared for the blatant sci-fi-ness of time-travel stories) but satisfying season, “Lost” decided to screw with viewers just a little bit more, by introducing a buttload of information about island phantom Jacob, without offering anything close to solid answers. It even swerved lostaway from expectations by not offering a definitive conclusion to the time-travel arc, instead fading out into an uncharacteristic negative-field version of the usual end-screen. What’s coming up next is anyone’s guess, but here’s what we know:

Juliet’s dead (and one way or the next, I’m going to find a way to blame this on Kate); whoever’s been parading around the island as a bad-ass know-it-all Locke isn’t exactly the guy we know, seeing as how Locke’s dead body is being carted around by a bunch of weirdo (possible) cultists; Miles FINALLY voices the possibility that Jack’s “Let’s detonate a bomb into the hatch so none of this ever happens” idea might actually be fulfilling history, rather than changing it; and Jacob is an actual guy, centuries-old, who has been manipulating our heroes’ destinies since childhood.

The rest is all speculation, thanks to the first scene featuring Jacob and an unnamed, dark-haired figure (“Deadwood” alum Titus Welliver) about some kind of human chess game, involving the Black Rock slave ship we’ve all come to wonder about – a game that’s been going on for a while, and apparently continued with the Oceanic castaways – all while speaking cryptically about a loophole Welliver’s been looking for that would allow him to kill Jacob.

Is Welliver’s character destined to become the smoke monster? Is the secret war between Ben and Widmore part of a larger (or smaller) war between Jacob and Welliver/Smokey? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS?!

What is clear is this: “Lost” viewership is down to the die-hards, and the producers know it, so offering a lot of non-answers before the final season didn’t hurt them at all. It hurt all of our fan-brains, but we “Lost” viewers are used to that by now.

Next Week: “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and, despite the fact that it’s probably not worth getting into here, “The Mentalist.”

  1. Tad says:

    Well, you beat Doc Jensen in posting your analysis, but no where near enough obscure literary references for me!

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