"Vows", was everything I wanted from the first episode of Dollhouse's second season. It delved right into the mythology of the show and didn't spend any time playing catch up. Speaking of catch up, if you haven't seen the first season or need a refresher, this is a great video to watch:
The episode was rich in plot, in fact both A and B plots were given equal screen time. I ended up caring more about the inner happenings of the Dollhouse than what was going on with Echo's engagement and I attribute that to Whedon's excellent use of Amy Acker in the episode. Acker is beginning production on ABC's Happy Town and is therefore unable to appear in more than three episodes this season. She was arguably given the best dialogue of the episode and I was with her every beat. She was definitely at her "best", bringing an intensity and unsettling nuance to the character we had not yet seen. I can't wait to see what else is done with her character.
I thought the episode had more in common tonally and structurally with the unaired pilot, "Echoes" (available on the Season One DVD) than the rest of the first season, which is absolutely a good thing. It is darker, more serious in nature and most importantly more intriguing. Each character interaction offered the audience more tangible reasons for following their stories. We care. The preview for next week's episode, "Instincts" seems to uphold these notions. Whedon has upped the stakes for this season and I expect great(er) things from the rest of season and series as a whole.
I appreciate the use of non-diegetic music in this episode, more so than in previous episodes. On the levels of lyrics and tone, I thought the following two songs worked particularly well. "Hazy" was played in the scene crosscutting Echo's wedding night with Jamie Bamber's character and Paul Ballard's cool and eery contemplation of Echo's actions. The latter, "The World" played as Topher sat alone on his bed pondering his creation, Sierra and Victor shared a moment and Dr. Saunders/Whiskey drove away-"running out" and having "[run] out of excuses."
"Hazy" (feat. William Fitzsimmons) by Rosi Golan on The Drifter and the Gypsy
What if I fall and hurt myself?
Would you know how to fix me
What if I went and lost myself?
Would you know where to find me
If I forgot who I am,
Would you please remind me oh?
Cause without you things go hazy
"The World" by Earlimart on Mentor Tormentor
Oh, the world is all around us,
Have you noticed me?
Yeah, the world is all around us,
Now it's plain to see
That the world has overshadowed me.
Here is the preview for Dollhouse 2.2, "Instincts":