Whedon is a brilliant storyteller, there's no doubt about that, but Dollhouse is suffering from something I'd like to call "sitcom-ism." The story is developing slowly, at best, and the episodes thus far feel disconnected from one another when, for a show of this type, they should be following a noticeable plot-arc. The first episode was a throw-away, one which Whedon and the producers could toss out there to establish the central idea and let us know what is going on. The problem, however, is that the first episode shouldn't have been a throw-away. Whatever the FOX folks did to the first episode may have irreparably damaged the Dollhouse franchise.
The second episode probably should have been the first, because what it did was bring in an interesting story that, quite frankly, should have been a part of the whole idea in the first place. What happens when a company that imprints memories gets a glitch in the system and one of it's "products" goes haywire? Well, the answer to that is more interesting than the questions posed in the first episode; and that is the problem.
Dollhouse, essentially, is suffering from a problem of disconnection, where the episodes have connections that seem forced rather than fluid. Story lines that should be highlighted are given undeserved lesser treatment; the second episode pretty much established the first as a pointless waste of space. Yeah, we got to meet Echo and a couple of important characters, but now the story is conflicted by the disconnection between the Echo story and everything else. Whedon tried to bring them together, but thus far it isn't working. I want the Alpha story (the rogue doll) to become more important, but as of right now, it isn't. It's there to add back story and conflict that isn't conflict at all.
Perhaps I'm being harsh about Dollhouse, but I feel somewhat cheated at this point by Whedon. Firefly was brilliant: it never failed to highlight the important parts, or the most interesting parts. But Dollhouse isn't Firefly. It is missing something that Firefly had: charm and cohesiveness.
I'm not ready to give up on it yet, though. I'm hoping that the third episode will resolve some of the problems I see. I know sometimes it can take a while for a good show to come into its own. Perhaps that is what is happening here. To be honest, I think that Dollhouse could have benefited from a two-hour opener, much like Firefly seemed to benefit when seen on DVD. Generally I hate those two-hour deals, but I think it's possible it would work here.
What thoughts do you have on this? What do you think about Dollhouse?