The man who shot Mal Reynolds in the gut came back to kick us in the teeth, with Friday's Dollhouse episode. Tim Minear's brilliant episode left us with tons of questions. Luckily, he was willing to answer them. Spoilers below...
How long ago did you guys decide that Boyd Langton was going to be the mastermind behind Rossum? Was this a recent decision, or something planned since the beginning?
It was decided upon early in the forming of the stories this season.
How does a man run a Fortune 500 company without tons of people knowing what he looks like? Did Harding and Ambrose know Boyd was the big boss, and just ignore him on purpose whenever they were in Adelle's office?
The notion was that nobody could ID Boyd as the head of Rossum. How he ran the company and kept his face hidden is something I will leave to the speculation of others.
Did you include the scene with Boyd packing up to go on the run just because it had been in "Epitaph One"? Is there a desire to connect the dots as much as possible with the flash-forwards in that episode? Is there stuff you can't do because it'll contradict that episode?
Epitaph One was the elephant in the room as we broke much of the eps and for me especially this one. For instance — I needed Dominic to come out of the Attic (so something would happen in the story, frankly, at that juncture), but he confronts Adelle at gunpoint in Epitaph One, and talks about the Attic, so I had her send him back so that scene would still make sense.
The trickiest of the flash forwards was the Saunders/Boyd-on-the-run scene — because we weren't thinking "Boyd is going to be Rossum" at that point. Mostly, we were thinking "nothing matters — we're cancelled." Whoops. So simply putting that scene in and trying to craft scenes around it seemed the best way to tackle that element.
Another for instance — I was going to include the Ambrose-as-Victor in the kitchen scene, but Adelle's hair was long. So I considered including it as a flashback when Adelle is telling Boyd that he has to go on the run, that Ambrose wouldn't confine his consciousness to a single body — she was going to tell Boyd she knows this because a few months back Ambrose came to her — in the form of Victor. And it was this incident which helped her make up her mind to take down Rossum. Here was the trouble with that — I already had a flashback structure and it would have been weird to suddenly have this one "flashback" that wasn't part of the Caroline/Bennett b-story. So instead I simply wrote a scene which could fit with that theory without explicitly stating it.
One of the things I love about Dollhouse lately is the imaginative brain hacks in every episode. Like in this one, Topher hijacking Bennett's chair and giving Apollo a new program complete with "Gingersnap" off-switch. Lately, every episode has had weird brain hacks — do you guys have a list of awesome uses for the tech that you want to show off before you run out of episodes?
No list. Just kind of seems the place to go given the concept. In this instance, the only direction I had was that Paul and Victor/Tony would break into DC and nab Bennett. Initially it was going to be in their POV breaking in from the outside. Couple of problems:
As I was writing that act, I realized that nothing was happening back at the LA Dollhouse. And I didn't want to have scenes of the folks back in LA talking about "the plan," because I was saving exactly what it was they were up to for much later in the act. But if I cut back to them and they were only talking about the scene we just saw — i.e. Caroline's wedge is missing — this would be lame. So this was a way to have some chit-chat scenes with characters (Topher and Ivy) about the story and make them involved with what was happening.
The other thing I realized is that I was directing this one and I didn't really want to spend a day shooting some half assed break in sequence. Frankly.
A big theme of Dollhouse, from the beginning, has been how artificial and fragile our "real life" emotional connections are — just like the dolls' connections. And in this episode, we see "real" people's emotional connections being erased — Paul's brain gets rewired, Bennett is in shock and doesn't hear what Caroline's really saying to her, and then Bennett's feelings for Topher get erased in the simplest fashion of all. Is this a theme you consciously developed?
Again, the concept rather suggests this is the place to go. Pragmatically, Jed and Mo left me with "Paul will find out what we took from him." But we never figured out what that might be. There was talk it might be his "fear" or what have you. I made the choice to make it his connection to Echo because how do you dramatize "he has no fear." And how is that bad? In the end, better to have Paul's loss redound to the main character. Also made the "Mellie is back" thing land better.
So far as Bennett "hearing Caroline wrong..." I think I was the one who wrote that flashback in "Left Hand." It was a shorthand thing of "Caroline betrayed Bennett." I had no real idea what the context of it was. Of course, then I get to this ep and now I have to flesh that out. There was some discussion about whether I should redeem Caroline at all by twisting that memory a little — I did it because for me, as a writer, if I go back to that moment and don't say something new about it, then what's the point of going back to it? So that's why I did that.
And I shot Bennett in the head because it's funny.
You wrote "Omega," the episode in which Echo actually meets Caroline, and she promises she's just keeping the light on, waiting for Caroline to come home. Now Echo is so eager to avoid having Caroline come "home," she's glad the wedge is missing. What's changed?
Echo has changed. She's starting to feel the way Saunders does in "Vows." If Caroline comes home, where will Echo go? But mostly her only feeling about Caroline are Bennett's memories which are specifically negative.
I see in the draft script, Victor actually volunteers to have Caroline's personality loaded into his body. That would have ruled. Why did we not get to see that?
Um, well. Even if they planned to do that, the wedge was lifted and missing. But in the draft, and I know I cut this for time, Echo says it has to be her because Caroline can lie to the rest of them, but she can't lie to her — not if she's in her head where she can manage her.
And finally, I have to ask about the thing where Topher routes through an "io9" to control Bennett's chair. Was that an intentional in-joke or just a random bit of technobabble?
Total and obvious shout out.