Mark Watches ‘Dollhouse’: S02E04 – Belonging

In the fourth episode of the second season of Dollhouse, we learn how Sierra became a doll. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dollhouse.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse/Rape

So it’s impossible to talk about this episode without talking about these two triggering topics, so the warning is there. If you are one of the few folks who read this site and don’t actually watch the episodes (HELLO TO YOU OUT THERE, I LOVE YOU, I KNOW YOU EXIST AND I APPRECIATE YOU), know that I have to talk about these things. There’s no way around it. If this will trigger you, or even if this is something you simply cannot handle, I would sit this one out. No one will judge you!

Honestly, I wish I could sit this one out. This is the most disturbing episode of this show’s run, and it brings forth the complicated disaster of issues that the Dollhouse has created. Consent. Rape. Assault. Morality. “Belonging” does not shy away from being fiercely uncomfortable as it forces us to acknowledge that despite liking some of the characters on screen, they are not easily categorized as “good” people, that anyone working for the Dollhouse can’t escape the horrific moral weight they are sitting under, and that this entire system is inherently fucked up.

For me, though, it made me sick. I’ve referenced it before only a few times, but I was the victim of sexual assault. Or rape. To be honest, I don’t even know what it is or what to call it. I’m not going to tell the story ever because it won’t help, I won’t feel better, and it would just make me feel worse. But for months at a time, someone took advantage of me while I slept and possibly even drugged me to ensure I wouldn’t wake up. I don’t even know the extent of what happened to me, which is one of the reasons I don’t even know how to classify what I went through. No amount of therapy or joking about it to minimize the damage or talking about it openly with close friends has ever made the fear go away. It is the reason that I am so adamant about not reading fic for Mark Reads videos that has rape in any form, and it’s why I’m probably a total asshole to people who treat rape and sexual assault flippantly. I’m haunted by it, I will forever be haunted by it, and nothing has ever made me feel better. Unless I am with people I trust, I purposely fall asleep last. This will never change. I will never get closure on this because… well, I can’t. There’s no way. I’ll never know the full extent of my assault, the person will never face the repercussions of it, and it will be with me for the rest of my life.

I think that’s enough information to give you so that you can understand my disquiet towards “Belonging” and the Dollhouse in general. I’m not about to tell you that this episode dealt with these themes terribly. On the contrary, I felt that this script by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon says everything that needs to be said about what happened to Sierra, pulling the attention of the viewer to all the moments of horror that come with the territory. I’m not a fan of things being disturbing for the sake of it, so I appreciate that this all has a reason. There is a reason Sierra can’t forget what happened to her. You never forget this. No amount of sleep, no number of brain wipes, no amount of therapy makes it disappear. Given the choice, I would ask for the knowledge of what happened to me to be erased from my brain, too. I understand Priya’s request, then, because she refuses to know what was done to her. That is her choice.

I guess this is just hard to talk about in any substantive way. It really is a great episode of this show, one that does so many things I needed this show to do and to say. I don’t know that I can talk much more about this topic though, so I’m gonna purposely move on to list other things I noticed in “Belonging”:

  • Enver Gjokaj is a perfect actor, and I don’t understand how he doesn’t have every award ever.
  • Dichen Lachman is a perfect actress, and I don’t understand how she doesn’t have every award ever.
  • Every single person in this cast gave incredible performances, for that matter.
  • I hope Harding is eaten alive by a puma.
  • BOYD IS HIDING SOMETHING. Oh god, is he part of some secret resistance force? Why did he go out of his way to give Echo that all-access pass? Who is the Goose? What’s his motivation? HE IS HIDING SOMETHING, I SWEAR.
  • I am terrified of Googling anything about this show because I really don’t want to spoil myself, but does someone have a screenshot of the underside of the glass in Echo’s sleeping pod? I want to read what she wrote. So, I can assume she is memorizing what things she can recall, right?
  • I miss Whiskey/Dr. Saunders. 🙁
  • What are the more “serious indiscretions” that Adelle has committed???
  • I AM GOING TO NEED BACKSTORY ON VICTOR IMMEDIATELY, I SWEAR. What happened to him in the war???
  • Ugh, this is a Whedon show, so I am very reluctant to say anything about a couple because couples never stay together in his projects, I swear. BUT VICTOR AND SIERRA ARE SO CUTE.

I think I’ll largely leave the discussion up to y’all and read along for this one. My head hurts.

[vimeo 55791508 w=500 h=375]

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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