Doll & Em S1 Ep4 review

Paranoia, betrayal and a friendship coming apart at the seams

Emily’s paranoia reaches new proportions as Dolly’s injury and ongoing success leave her feeling increasingly inadequate and insecure, moving the pair’s friendship ever closer to complete disintegration.

Doll and Em KIng Bee/Revolution Films

Doll and Em’s friendship moves closer to total breakdown (Image: King Bee/Revolution Films)

Em’s descent coupled with Doll’s rise

Another sharply observed episode, but one burdened by a sense of inevitability and a curious lack of pace as Doll continues to prosper at Em‘s expense.

Despite her incapacitating fall and a blazing argument with her former boyfriend over Skype, Doll continues to march forwards. Indeed, her accident means the shoe is on the other foot in many respects. Now it is Em who has to buy coffee, drive to the set and fetch items for her friend.

Em’s starting to feel the pressure from several directions. She’s convinced everyone on set is talking about firing her, a paranoia which is fuelled by her director criticising her performance as she struggles to connect with a pivotal scene.

At the same time she sees how popular Doll is with the crew – she receives flowers and fudge from and is cosying up to the producers – but also feels she is milking a superficial sprain. She ends up snapping at Doll when she puts sunscreen in her mouth, and although this blows over the pair experience contrasting fortunes when they go to an audition together and Doll turns down Em’s invitation to go for drinks to go out with Buddy instead. She’s now at least as jealous of her friend as she is pleased for her.

There’s a constant sense of niggle that exists between the pair throughout the episode as each ignores the other’s requests. Em tells Doll not to answer her ex’s call, but she does anyway. Doll asks Em to drive carefully because she’s feeling ill, but that too falls on deaf ears. And third parties serve only to reinforce the divide between them, as Em is asked to imagine being betrayed by Doll and it’s pointed out to Doll that she sounds just like an assistant now.

Indeed, by the end of the episode it’s hard to see what is keeping the two together other than Doll being Em’s PA, as their friendship is buried under a volley of passive-aggressive barbs.

Neither fish nor fowl

It’s hard to describe quite where I stand on Doll & Em after four of six episodes, partly because it’s quite difficult to compartmentalise. Like Girls, it’s more of a dramedy than a straight comedy. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, it has a semi-improvised mockumentary style. In terms of its deconstruction of female friendships it’s more of a surgical scalpel than a samurai sword. And it’s crafted well enough that plot developments are neatly telegraphed – they feel organic and believable but also predictable.

Having been excited by the series’ direction after two episodes, I now feel like I’m half a step ahead and waiting for the scripts to catch up, leaving me a bit unsatisfied. Without the distraction of secondary storylines to contrast with and unburden the weight on the two main characters to carry the show, it all feels a bit sluggish.

As I said last week, I can’t help but feel this would have worked better as a film rather than half-hour episodes. It feels like we all know what the endpoint of all this is – a broken friendship, to be repaired at the last minute – but we’re still mired in the exposition and transition required to get us to the requisite point of crisis at which everything falls apart.

And that’s where I am right now. As a viewer, the linear structure of the show is that little bit too transparent. Nonetheless I’m enjoying the journey – I just wish we could either get there a little faster or add a little more flesh to the bones.

Doll & Em season 1

First scene preview

5 reasons you should watch

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

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3 Comments on Doll & Em S1 Ep4 review

  1. I loved it but I hated elements of it.
    Firstly it was way too short. At most you watch 20 to 22 minutes of it. Adverts in it kill most of the show.
    But the character Em was so spot on! That is with her feelings but not so much as to not dying to her friend how she is fucking up her work. If my friend said things infront of others eg age or feeling of peeing on stage etc. I would be livid and say what are you doing? That reality is missing.
    But em also shod have portrayed her confidence of her work status and she did not. In reality that happens. And the real doll “as nice as she may be in reality”, here is acting and should should be told some home truths and is coming off as a user, who gets away with everything and still comes up on top.
    Everyone knows a job is a job and no assistant lives with you, so the feiends have not had their boundaries discussed. When ordering a card , you order the card and not tell intimate atuff about your friend whilst she is in the next room. For one thing this friend/ assistant is breaching Ems confidence and private info to all and sundry and EM is not saying anything. The only realism I saw was when Em said “what the fuck are you talking about” , when doll was locked out of house and albeit Em was a little drunk, she was acting like a person in reality, a friend who was alittle peeved an angry. And then the same when she had lotion put in her mouth.
    And Doll is coming across as too much of a user and cry baby. And it’s annoying. She has the boyfriend trouble but sleeps with buddy.
    She cries when buddy takes the phone and wants Em to make it better, not caring she is working . And that she is costing her a job.
    Doll is a waste of space. Childlike when she wants to be and when things are not going the way she wants and cunning and conniving when she wants to be. The coffee incident. No one told her to be a prat and yet she is talking about taking it to the top to sue .dolly is out to get what she can.
    Em should just kick her out and get in with her life.
    But I bet you , doll and em have an argument because DOLL has betrayed EM.
    They fight. And later on all is okay!!
    It always works out for the user.
    Emily Mortimer is just Brilliant as an actress and very talented. She has presence and stamina to stand in front of a camera and harmonise the world. She has worked hard and made her stamp on the envelope or mark on the world.
    Dolly is just a cling on that is annoying.she needs people to carry her in scenes and it can get annoying . She may be talented in her work and to a point to make us hate her she does have some talent.
    But the only reason we are forced to watch her is because Emily is there.
    That’s why some people were ment for the screen, Emily , and some were not Doll!

    • I think these middle two episodes have still been good but had more flaws than the first two. (However, the last two episodes are superb.)

      Doll certainly has a habit of making herself the centre of attention. She doesn’t seem to realise that being Emily’s PA means she has to do all the little menial tasks that Em doesn’t have time to do herself – she seems to think of herself more as ‘friend’ than ’employee’ too often. However, Emily’s not entirely blameless either. She should have set clearer boundaries up front, she was callous in the way she forced Doll into that humiliating apology to Susan Sarandon and sometimes she doesn’t realise how condescending she’s being.

      But that’s the point of the series. Neither Doll nor Em are bad people, merely flawed. The deterioration of their friendship is not about it all being one big thing or even solely one person’s fault – it’s an accumulation of small things with an element of fault on both sides.

      Emily Mortimer is certainly the more successful actress in real life, but Dolly Wells is also very good. As a pair, they work well together.

  2. Sorry phone changed some words .
    7 th line, lying .
    17 should
    21 friends
    24 stuff
    Sorry about type ‘o’s.

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