Can You Really Consent To Be A Doll? We Asked Maurissa Tancharoen

Last Friday's Dollhouse erased all our doubts about Joss Whedon's mind-blanking saga, and filled us with excitement about the story possibilites to come. So we asked writer Maurissa Tancharoen about the episode, and here's what she said.

The difference between Sierra and the other Dolls turns out to be that Sierra never consented to be a Doll. But none of the other Dolls could really give informed consent or know the kinds of engagements they signed up for. We're pretty clear that Sierra was being raped, but what about Echo and Victor?

All who consent to becoming a Doll are informed about what that entails... perhaps not in the greatest detail, but they are aware that they're giving up their minds and bodies for a number of years. But in Sierra's case, she was clearly violated. Echo's case is unique as well. As we established in Season One, she had no choice but to "volunteer".

Now that we've seen Sierra drawing the black smudges everywhere, it looks less and less like Topher's mindwiping can really remove the trauma of an engagement from the Active's mind. So are all the Actives being damaged by their experiences, or is Sierra a special case because Nolan was a repeat client and her original abuser?

All the Actives may experience trauma in one way or another, but Sierra's case is different. Repeat engagements with her original kidnapper/abuser? That's damage that runs deep.

Where was Ballard in this episode? (My theory is, you wrote this for season one and it got held over. Am I right?)

I like your juicy theory but Paul was absent for a much less interesting reason. We did have an exchange between Boyd and Topher that explained Paul's absence (Echo was on idle therefore Paul was given some downtime) but we had to cut that out for running time. We also had to cut a shirtless Topher bit from the end montage. DVD extras perhaps?

So Boyd is turning a blind eye to Echo's self-awareness, and Victor and Sierra are walking around holding hands and sharing a bed-coffin. Has the Dollhouse just gone completely soft all of a sudden?

Soft? Aren't we all softies? Don't we all want Sierra and Victor to hold hands and snuggle in a pod? Especially after Sierra's been through hell? We're giving you what you want America! Or the very small portion of America who watches us. And Boyd isn't necessarily turning a blind eye. He leaves an all access key card for Echo in her book. Which we may or may not deal with later. Tune in many weeks from now to find out what happens!

And finally, this episode felt, in general, like it had stronger ties to "Epitaph One" than any season two episode so far. And Sierra's violation feels like the leading edge of the apocalypse — what happened to her will happen, sort of, to everyone else. Is it just her bad luck to be the first casualty? Or are you making a statement about rape leading to dehumanization and depersonalization for everyone, not just the actual victim?

Wow. You must think we're smart or something. Yes? To what you said. In the question part. I'll go with yes.