More mostly spoiler-free thoughts.
Apparently, Whedon has been telling people the show “gets good” after the first five or six eps. Sorry, but I don’t think Fox is going to stick around that long, and only the Whedon die-hards will still be watching. They can try to convince their internet buddies to give it another chance, but… no.
Here’s why I think the show is in trouble, talking solely about the concept and the tone:
If the show is about corporate creeps who erase people’s memories and then whore them out to billionaires, then the creeps are evil and the whoring is repulsive. The pleasure of the show comes from seeing Echo resist and strike back. If the show is more action-adventure, as the network has reportedly insisted, then the audience is supposed to be thrilled by the dangers she’s been whored into.
That doesn’t work. It breaks the tone with a nasty undercurrent of ick.
And not only does the lead character not actually have any, she also doesn’t have any agency.
Compare it to a show that I think works, mostly: BURN NOTICE. The hero of that show is a spy who’s been “burned” — fired from his agency, all his assets frozen, no explanation needed or given. He’s stranded in Miami taking on PI and anti-con artist jobs for rent money while trying to find out who burned him and why. In the second season, he’s put a face to the people who destroyed his career, but he is still trying to work out who they are.
The major difference there? Michael in BURN NOTICE has agency. He makes his own decisions, plans, takes action, fights, whatever. Echo in DOLLHOUSE can’t. She can only be what her creepy pimps make her.
The only way to make this show work is to do what they hinted at once or twice–she needs to break her programming, and fast. Maybe that’s what Whedon is hinting at when he talks about the sixth episode.