I was actually relieved to finally see an episode of Dollhouse which did not involve Echo having sex with someone. Each time this occurs, the lack of consent means that she is being raped. The casualness in which each rape has thus far been presented is really starting to get to me, and so this break was much appreciated. I wonder how many viewed this as rape when the show originally aired?
In this episode, Echo is tasked to prevent the murder of a pop star by a crazed fan. Raina, the pop star in question is clearly suffering from depression, and is actually encouraging the fan to murder her. Whedon has been playing with depression and disability since Buffy, and I am still not certain that he got it right. To have Raina saved by a hyper able being, who is unable to consent is problematic. It tells us that even when women are perceived as strong, they are still weak and those who are further marginalized by an ism other than sexism, are doubly in need of saving.
The two women of colour in this episode are Sierra, who is imprinted to think of herself as a huge fan and Raina herself. While I am happy to finally really see more people of colour on the show, their characters leave a lot to be desired. Honestly, after watching seven seasons of Buffy, I don’t believe that Whedon is capable of writing good characters of colour. In the last episode, Boyd, Echo’s handler was shot with an arrow and this leaves me wondering if he is going to last the entire two seasons? Whedon has a habit of seeing characters of colour as highly disposable.
In this episode we see Sierra on her first mission. In this episode, Sierra is viturally mindless because she is programmed to be a simple minded fan and to save Raina, at any cost. This is further problematic when one considers that Echo, the White doll, seems to be able to maintain some form of memory and is able to supersede her programming to solve the crux of the problem. At the end of the episode, it is Echo who indicates to Sierra that they should not stop to speak, and Sierra mindlessly obeys. Juxtaposed to the already disempowered Echo, Sierra is decidedly less than, and functions as a simple side kick. This sets up a clear hierarchy in which it can be understood that what little value their exists in womanhood, belongs solely to White women.