I'm going to come right out and say it: season 2 of Dollhouse is off to a shaky start. The season premiere episode, entitled "Vows," follows a couple different storylines, and all feel partially told. Paul Ballard is now a Dollhouse client, and he "hires" Echo to be his partner and go undercover to bring down a major arms dealer. Things don't exactly go according to plan when Echo glitches during her assignment and can't remember who she is. Topher has become really grumpy and is sniping at everyone, while Dr. Saunders, now that she knows she was Whiskey, is going through a major identity crisis.
The through story for the season is revealed: Echo is fully aware and conscious of all her previous imprints, and Ballard has vowed to help her find not only her true identity, but all the other real-life people whose identities she has been imprinted with. It's an interesting idea, having the Active confront a real-life piece of her memory, and I am looking forward to seeing how that will play out.
The Whiskey/Saunders storyline is also an interesting one. Topher didn't just make her another Active; he made her a real, full human being, with emotions that evolve on their own. For example, she thinks she was programmed to hate Topher, but Topher assures her she came to that conclusion on her own.
Overall, I think a lot of interesting concepts and ideas were set forth, but I feel like the presentation was lacking. Granted, I did see a rough cut of the episode, so some of the story beats may be changed before it goes to air. But it was still disconcerting. The story cut erratically between Echo/Ballard and Topher/Saunders. Rather than intertwining the stories, they were patched together in large chunks, which made it jarring to go from one to another. It was almost as if they shot both storylines, then realized they didn't have enough of either one for a full episode, and mashed them together.
I'm going to wait until I see a few more episodes before I pass judgment entirely. I'm still a little bit of a Whedon fangirl, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if you haven't seen season 1, it's pretty easy to pick up where the show left off. However, it would not offend me if you studied up on my Dollhouse season 1 Tourniquets.
My recommendation for Dollhouse season 2? Proceed with caution.