Joss Whedon gave a conference call today to promote the second season of Fox's sci-fi series Dollhouse, and he offered up breaking news to spare. Spoilers ahead!
Season two picks up with Echo (Eliza Dushku) experiencing many of her past imprints, sometimes randomly, sometimes deliberately triggered. Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) now works for the Dollhouse, grudgingly, as Echo's handler. Boyd (Harry Lennix) now works security for Adelle (Olivia Williams).
Dollhouse returns a week from Friday at 9 p.m. on Fox. Here are 9 things to look forward to in the new season.
1. Meet the neighbors. Guest stars Ray Wise and Summer Glau will play employees of another Dollhouse. Wise plays the head of the other house. Expect him to face off against Adelle (Olivia Williams). "Ray Wise will be appearing in episode six," Whedon said in a conference call Thursday. "He's going to interact with young Olivia, and it should be very exciting." Glau plays the second Dollhouse's programmer, a prettier version of Topher (Fran Kranz). "It's a somewhat eccentric part, but hopefully different than what we've seen her do before," Whedon said. That means we'll also get a glimpse at how the organization runs its franchises. Whedon jokingly called the Wise/Glau Dollhouse "much cooler than this lame one that I'm in."
2. Victor and Sierra need to get a room. Fans of the lovey-dovey goo-goo eyes between Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman) will get to see them consummate their attraction. "Victor and Sierra just can't keep their hands off each other," Whedon said. "They're like monkeys, and it's something that they're going to be seeing through for a while. It makes some people very uncomfortable, and sometimes it's extremely sweet. Sometimes it's just funny."
3. Echo is going Braveheart. As she gets closer to learning how to control all her personalities, and access her true one, Echo will lead an army of Actives. Folks like Victor and Sierra might make good soldiers. "Echo is very much building herself, and she sees it as an indication that they are ready to be pushed to a level like hers," Whedon said. "She's looking for allies, and so Paul is the first person she's going to turn to for that. Then a lot of this season is going to be her attempt to put together some kind of team, even though she has trouble articulating it at first. She's looking for the sense of family that I think the audience was looking for last season. So we're going to be seeing who's on her side and who not so much."
4. Topher's gadgets get an upgrade. The imprint chair has got to be the coolest toy around, but Whedon said there's more technology, of questionable morality, coming to the Dollhouse. "We're going to stretch the tech fairly heftily," Whedon said. "I actually can't answer the question directly, because a lot of it has to do with the different ways in which this tech can be manipulated. We're going to see that it's not all just simple chair treatments. There's more that can be done, and the excitement and the danger of that is a large part of this season."
5. Dr. Saunders and Mellie will recur. When Dollhouse's future was in flux, Amy Acker signed on to Happy Town, limiting her ability to recur as the scarred doctor on Dollhouse. That means that when you do see Dr. Saunders, it's all quality time. "She will factor in as much as we are allowed to factor her in, which is exactly three episodes' worth," Whedon said. "They will, however, be three extraordinarily memorable episodes. We're seizing the day. We just don't get to seize as many of them as we'd like."
Miracle Laurie also returns this season as the tragic Mellie/November. "I can't tell you exactly how," Whedon said. "I can tell you that she'll be back early on, and that we're definitely not done with the character, and, well, that probably means there's going to be some pain involved. More than that you're going to have to wait for."
6. Alexis Denisof is not the new Paul Ballard. Since Whedon revealed that his former Angel regular was playing a senator investigating the dollhouse, he realized it made people think of Paul Ballard's original motivation. Now he distinguishes Denisof's character. "He's got his own crusade going, a very different person than Paul, but he's in a similar position, except he's gone public with it," Whedon said. "How much the Dollhouse loves a senator to go public with an attack on them we'll find out in later episodes. He's not 'the Paul' of this season, because he's going to have a different set of problems thrown at him, but he has a similar vibe in that he's very tenacious and righteous."
7. The Dollhouse gets a facelift. You may notice a subtle, different look to this season's episodes. New HD cameras will change the way cinematographers shoot Dollhouse. "We're keeping a lot of things basically the same, but we are trying to free up the camera, to create more depth and emotion with the lighting and the camerawork," Whedon said. "The HD [rig] is smaller, it takes less time to light, the lighting is more environmental. We get more time with the actors, we get more opportunities to do different angles. We're going handheld more, not like 'Epitaph One,' but more like something that still has some of the elegance of the first season but also is more visceral."
8. Explore the Attic. You've heard that there's a place in the Dollhouse called the Attic, where they store old Actives and personalities. This year you'll see it. "It is going to be creepy, but I think ultimately what it's going to be like is going to be something we're going to hold onto pretty tightly," Whedon said. "I don't want to say, but it ain't pretty." Sounds like a set designer's dream. "Depends on the set designer. It might be a dream where he's screaming."
9. "Epitaph One" has not been forgotten. Although plans to refer to the DVD exclusive episode "Epitaph One" have been postponed, Whedon still plans to keep the post-apocalyptic episode in the show's continuity. "It had originally been my intention to start in that era, and then come back, but I just had too much information in my first episode," Whedon said. "What we're talking about doing is perhaps revisiting that timeline toward the end of the 13 in a similar fashion. We keep trying to go back to the future, ... then realizing, 'No, it's not time yet.'" The future episode still informs the direction of this season, leading Whedon to wonder how a future episode could benefit other shows. "I want to know what post-apocalyptic future was caused by Two and a Half Men," Whedon joked.