General Impressions: The semi-musical episode. At least we can see that Eliza can sing. This was the first episode to start revealing the actives - Victor's revelation was just very awesome. Also Victor's scene with Mellie gives us the false signals that Mellie could be in danger of somewhat from Dollhouse if she keeps mingling with Ballard. I just love it. I think this is also the last episode in where all the stock footage from the original pilot is done with. Oh wait, there's still the pool scene which we get in the next episode.
Well, in rewatching my opinion of this episode got better as I can now understand the ideas and themes behind this episode, but this is still very non-Dollhousey episode. It's very typical, this could be a Quantum Leap episode where Scott Bakula has to fix people's lives. Quantum Leap is awesome, but this episode was so typical of tv. True, all of these first 5 episodes use very familiar tropes or scenarios, but Stage Fright really nails hit with non-Dollhousyness.
It's about a singer, a pop star, who feels like she is a prisoner of her own fame. She's just a fantasy, not a real human being, imprinted with society's desires and she wants to become free. Yes she's supposed to mirror Echo's own situation in Dollhouse, but there's just something very tiresome and uninspired about her tale.
The song Freedom is supposed to be very meaningful when it plays in the end, and while yeah it's good to know that Eliza can sing, it has somewhat the opposite effect from "The Devil That You Know" scene in Needs. Okay it's not that bad, but I'd rather have had Echo alone singing that song. In her dollstate. That would have been deep.
However the ending is more into awesome. But that is the subject of my next category.
Echo's Journey to Enlightenment: Echo is programmed to be a friend with this superstar. She is supposed to be very protective of her. However, the episode starts with a small wonderful scene from Echo and Sierra.
Sierra trips, Echo grabs her.
Sierra: "I'm sorry, I was dizzy."
Echo: "I didn't want you to get hurt. You're my friend."
Sierra: "Friends help each other out."
So in the end Sierra gets kidnapped. Echo and Sierra are both imprinted. Echo is supposed to be protective of that popstar. However what happens is that Echo kicks the popstar unconscious and is seemingly going to trade her life for Sierra's. Well she is going to trade. It's just that the circumstance allows her to save both Sierra's life and help the popstar to deal with her meaningless existence. But the underlying "friends help each other out" theme is just so powerful and one of the best things about this episode.
Foreshadowing: I think we get some signals that there is something inherently unlikeable about Sierra's handler. Also the end scene where Echo and Sierra walk pass each other, we see how aware Echo is of her surroundings. And that denying nod which says "too many people looking at us now." Beautiful.
Grading: Powerful underlying Dollhouse themes, but overall the episode feels very non-Dollhousey. C. Or possibly B-. Depends on how I rate the future episodes.