Evolving Plot

I was checking Whedonesque as I’m wont to do, and I came across this article on Dollhouse from io9, which says this:

“The problem is, the only somewhere it can go that could be satisfying for the audience involves Echo remembering/realizing who and what she is and doing something about it, and in the most important sense – no matter what the outcome of that may be – that finishes the story.”

Now, pretty much everything Graeme McMilan said up to this point I agree with, but I completely disagree on this point. What’s implicit in Graeme’s statement is that the overall story of Dollhouse is what it’s been shown to be so far, which I don’t think it is. To dollhouse-04explain I’m gonna go back almost a year, and give you some of my first thoughts on Dollhouse from when we first started to get some info on it more detailed than ‘new Whedon show OMG!’.

So, new show, Eliza is playing an operative of the Dollhouse, and she’s starting to retain some memories. Tahmoh is an FBI agent looking into the existence of the Dollhouse. Now, to me it seemed obvious that this was merely the initial setup for the show, and not some status quo from which they were planning on pulling seasons worth of storylines. Over time Eliza would become fully aware of her situation, and Tahmoh would find the Dollhouse, and they would then end up teaming up against it, or something. That was how I saw the story playing out several months ago, and with three episodes under my belt now I still haven’t changed my mind on this. The fact that Graeme’s article didn’t seem to take this into account made me stop and think about something that I’d never really noticed before.

I’m a big comic book fan, I’ve been reading them for most of my life. Evolving plotlines and huge status quo shakeups happen all the time in comics, sometimes to try and increase sales, sometimes because a new creative team has come onto a book, sometimes just to stop things from getting stale. It seemed obvious to me that with Dollhouse, Whedon was planning on taking some time (I’d guess around half a season) to let us get to know the characters and the ‘verse before smashing everything to bits, changing relationships, choosing sides, and thus revealing the show’s true status quo. What we’re seeing now could be thought of more as a preface, an introduction before dollhouse-05the real story starts. To give a comic example, Robert Kirkman’s Invincible used the first 13 issues (over a full year) to introduce the status quo then rip it to pieces with a shock revelation, thereby introducing the book’s actual status quo. All of this was outlined in his original pitch for the series, too.

What Graeme’s article made me realize is that, while this sort of thing is pretty commonplace in comics, it very rarely happens with television shows. When it does happen (say, a five-year time jump) it’s to a long-running series. I can’t think of any time when something like this has happened at the beginning of a show.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about this,  and Whedon is planning on keeping things how they are. I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen, though.

-Jerk

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~ by Jerk on March 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “Evolving Plot”

  1. can i just say that’s an epic quote of the day? I wish we could comment on those.

    I hope this is in the works. Every time I think of this as a long running show it just makes me want to watch more Alias. odd.

  2. It took lot’s of replaying of that scene to make sure I’d transcribed the quote right. However it’s my favourite scene in all of SCC, so I was okay with that.

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