Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A More Horrible Ending

Fair warning: I'm going to assume that anyone who wanted to watch Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has already done so. If you haven't, you're too late, since it only ran for a week and it's since been pulled. If you want to see it, then buy it on iTunes or wait for the DVD to come out or torrent it.

Which is a longwinded way of saying "Here there be spoilers."

Now, I think the vast majority of us will agree that, as a whole, the DHSAB project was excellent. (Who knew Neil Patrick Harris could sing? Not I.) I believe we are also in similar agreement that Acts 1 and 2 were near-perfect.

The problem, however, comes with Act 3.

Really, at this point anyone who is surprised by Joss brutally slaughtering an innocent, beloved character has only themselves to blame. And yet, the interblogwebosphere is aglow with thousands of flames, as if an oilfield of fandom was ablaze with thick, viscous clouds of "OMG HOW COULD YOU JOSS" or "Her death totally undermines her status as a strong feminist character" or "Blah blah blah rattle pootie tootie" rising into the sky, their acrid odor choking all observers.

As you may have guessed, I too have some problems with the execution of Act 3. I also think Joss fumbled a critical scene -- but not in the way you think I think he did. My thoughts, let me show you them:

Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is, fundamentally, about loss of innocence. Some salient points, below, and then my rewrite of the scene.

Act 1

  • Our protagonist is named Billy -- not Bill, not William, but Billy, a child's name.
  • His alternate persona, Doctor Horrible, dresses entirely in white, the color of purity. (If you wanted to get really fancy, you could mention that while he has black goggles, they sit, unused, on his forehead instead of being worn properly. This is indicative of the dark future which looms over him but has yet to claim him.)
  • Captain Hammer, however, is dressed in blacks and browns, shades associated with corruption.
  • Based on all of this, and the way both interact with Penny, it could be reasonably inferred that Billy is a virgin, and Captain Hammer clearly isn't. Billy = white gloves = innocent; Captain Hammer = black gloves = not at all innocent. In fact, it's hard to find a single redeeming quality about ol' Hammer.

Act 2
  • At this point we can see the beginning of Billy's change to "true" evil. The man who in the first act refused to fight someone in Dooley Park "because there's kids there" is now opening wondering, in song, if "throwing poison in the water main" would change anything in the way the human race behaves. He even states outright that "It's plain to see/ evil inside of me/ is on the rise."
  • Instead of objecting to murder on moral grounds, his arguments turn toward style. "Killing's not elegant or creative." He's already on the slippery slope.
  • And then, during the confrontation with Hammer in the laundromat, you can practically see the change come over him as he decides that, yes, murder is his style after all:
    It's a brand new day
    And the sun is high
    All the birds are singing
    That you're gonna die
    How I hesitated
    Now I wonder why
    It's a brand new day
  • This is also the first time that Billy self-identifies as "evil".

Act 3

Given all that has transpired in the previous acts, two things are clear: One, Billy fully intends to kill Captain Hammer; and Two, he has to psych himself up to do it. Billy is not at all cool and calculating when it comes to murder, which is possibly the entire point of the "Slipping" song -- he's getting into character, as it were, working up the necessary rage toward his enemy -- otherwise, he'd just kill him and have done with it all.

But then there's that scene where shrapnel from the exploding death ray kills Penny, and while it's powerful, it doesn't organically complete the arc of character development we've been evolving throughout the previous acts. No, Billy is all set to kill his nemesis, the freeze ray malfunctions, and suddenly this story about loss of innocence and the conscious embrace of evil has its biggest moment subverted by malfunctioning equipment.

That's a cheat. The story of Billy and Penny deserves better than that. Here, then, is how I would have done it:

Billy: (singing) It's gonna be bloody/ Head up Billy buddy/ There’s no time for mercy/ Here goes no mercy...

[Enter stage right Penny, who runs between Billy and Captain Hammer]

Penny: Billy, stop!

Penny, what are you.... wait, Billy? How did you... ?

Penny: [indicating the goggles on his face] Well, it's not like you wear a mask.


Penny: And you have a video blog.

Billy: Right.

Penny: And...

Billy: (interrupting) I get it!

Penny: But even though I knew you were Dr. Horrible, I was still your friend. Because I could see the good inside of you. You have a good heart, Billy, you're just misguided. I hoped that, by being your friend, maybe I could turn your villainous impulses into something more constructive. More... good.
Billy: (speechless)

Penny: But if you kill Captain Hammer -- if you commit murder, Billy -- then I can never, ever be your friend again.
[At this point, Billy goes into another verse of "Slipping". I won't pretend that I can write believable lyrics, but they should convey the mixed emotions he feels. Because, whatever he does, he loses. If he does as Penny asks, then the woman he loves go off with his greatest enemy, and he doesn't get into the E.L.E, and Bad Horse will probably kill him. But if he kills Hammer, then once again he loses Penny, and worse, she hates him for the rest of her life.

So, mad with passion and obsession and regret, he makes the only choice he feels he can make. It isn't a logical choice, of course -- the lyrics and the singer must make this clear -- but it the choice of a man with thwarted desires and a broken heart and more than just a little anger.]
Billy: (resuming his place after the song) I'm sorry, Penny. I'm really sorry it has to end like this. But... I'm Dr. Horrible, after all.

Penny: What do you...


Billy: ...

[Penny slumps to the floor. Billy takes aim at the still-frozen Captain Hammer. The Freeze Ray shuts down. The scene continues essentially as it did before, just minus the last words with Penny. After Captain Hammer flees the scene, the reality of the situation sinks in, and Billy picks up the lifeless Penny while singing "Everything I Ever."]

With this, the final scenes become more poignant and more relevant:

"Now the nightmare's real." Yes, but whose nightmare?

"Now Dr. Horrible is here." With the death of Penny, Billy is gone... only Dr. Horrible remains. He sheds his virginal white and garbs himself in red and black, the colors of death. For the first time, he puts the goggles over his eyes, covering the traditional "windows to the soul" with opaque black glass.

"And I won't feel...." Because he is a true villain now. Instead of having been granted his wish through comic misadventure, the conscious choice to kill Penny -- even in the heat of the moment, even if it was a decision he would not have made were he thinking clearly -- cleanly and logically closes the character arc. He's no longer pure.

As the chorus intones, he has "Everything he ever [wanted]."

"... a thing." And yet, in that same instant, he's lost everything. Innocence, purity... his soul.


Jesus, people.

I do not need 20+ posts telling me "ZOMG U GOT IT WRONG."

At this point, you're just rehashing the same old points over and over again.

And nothing you say will make me change my mind, either.

I respect your opinions. Kindly respect mine.


Enough is enough. It's been three years, and I'm still getting hate mail about this post. I'm mature enough as a writer to take criticism of my work, but I'm tired of the personal attacks. Therefore, I'm closing comments. If you want to see the kind of abuse I've been getting, go check out Unholy Ram's comment, which has been left as an illustrative example.


  1. I didn't even watch it, but I lean toward your reinterpreted ending as the way I would have seen it.

  2. See. Thank you.
    I've heard people bitching and moaning about how horrible the ending is, but no one could voice exactly why (except ZOMG! Joss Whedon totally flipped out and killed a main character again).

    This is perfect. Joss effectively robbed the series of its own climax because he allowed fickle fate to do what Horrible himself wasn't able to do. Killing had to be a conscious choice and Horrible never really got to make it.

    Of note, right before the gun explodes, Hammer levels the weapon at Horrible and basically confirms that he is the real villain, with no moral compunction about blasting Horrible away.

    But at the end of the series, you aren't really clear whether Dr. Horrible is truly horrible or just rather consigned to his fate. He never really willingly gave up his innocence, so I wasn't entirely sold on him having lost his soul - so to speak.

  3. I also think a few lines of "A Man's Gotta Do..." would have worked well with Penny blocking his line of fire.

  4. so I've also heard so many people going on and on about how Joss screwed this one up (which I don't think he did). But I really liked your take on the symbolism and meaning behind the way things were presented (the changing of colour of Billy's clothes etc.) and if it had been done the way you suggested (which was bloody brilliant by the way) I don't think there would be potential for a sequel. Like zifnab pointed out, this way you don't really know if he willingly gave up his innocence which leaves the possibility for a sequel in which he either consciously leaves his innocence behind and becomes truly evil or realizes that he's made a horrible mistake and reforms for the memory of Penny.

  5. And yet, the interblogwebosphere is aglow with thousands of flames, as if an oilfield of fandom was ablaze with thick, viscous clouds of "OMG HOW COULD YOU JOSS" or "Her death totally undermines her status as a strong feminist character" or "Blah blah blah rattle pootie tootie" rising into the sky, their acrid odor choking all observers.

    I just want to say those lines express everything I feel. Thank you for putting it into words.

    Joss told the story he wanted to tell. It's not right or wrong. You can certainly argue there might be a way to make it more 'effective' or more 'climactic'... But now you've changed the story.

    And people, like zifnab, who think fate robbed them of a satifying ending... Bah. Welcome to life. An NFL player gave up a million dollar contract to serve his country only to die to friendly fire? Is that a satisfying ending? Nope, but it's life. And maybe that's why when Joss writes fantasy, I still believe it.

    Why do I feel so alone as someone who just enjoyed it for what it was?

  6. You're missing the point of the musical. This is a tragedy. Much like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet. This isn't meant to just be a story arc about conversion; it's about tragic loss. It wouldn't have been tragic if Billy had killed her as that isn't what he wanted.

    The first lines of his last song tell everything:
    "Here lies everything.. the world I wanted at my feet": He wanted to be able to impress Bad Horse with death and make the world fear him. And he did. But there also lied Penny, who he conceivably wanted more. And she's dead, thus the overlaid funeral meaning with "Here lies Penny.. I wanted here and she's right there.. dead."

  7. Sorry, But your ending is exactly what I'd have expected from a two bit hack. It's horrible, and cliched.

    The thing is Dr. Horrible was never meant to be a True villain. Even in the second act, there is a misplaced sense of doing the right thing by the evil deeds he's doing in his songs.

    By your attempt to make the ending stronger you completely destroy the character.

  8. Criticize my work all you want, but the next person who resorts to name-calling gets their post deleted.

  9. Well, apparently people like to bash you, and that sucks.

    I like your opinions here, and though I don't think anyone can ever write a perfect script, I think there are many ways that this could have been rewritten to make it 'feel' a bit better.

    My own take is basically that Joss likes to writes stories that make you actually wonder wtf is going on. It's more like real life, where you don't know truly how to interpret things.

    Personally, of course.

    Nice writing style, by the way.

    My props. Let me give you dem.

  10. While I appreciate your interpretation, I have to disagree. My assumption is that this was only the first part of the story...the beginning of Dr. Horrible. What we, as the audience, don't know is whether Horrible would have actually been able to kill Hammer.

    What makes Joss's ending so much better than having Horrible kill Penny outright, is that it leaves his character open for remorse. He essentially used the woman he loved's death for his own evil ends, but he didn't directly kill her, so there's still hope for redemption. An evil character with the ability to be redeemed is so much more interesting than one who can't be.

    Let's say we went with your ending, in the next part, all we'd really have is a mega-evil Dr. Horrible. And even if he felt regret for what he had done, would we care? Would we feel pity for him? No, because a cold-blooded murder isn't forgivable, whereas her accidental murder is.

    So by NOT completing the Horrible character arc, Billy is still alive in there, which means that Dr. Horrible isn't ALL horrible.

  11. It's an interesting suggestion, but I still doubt that it would work. From the first two acts, I just don't get the impression that Mr Billy Horrible would actively kill anyone (he still was very hesitant when he aimed his death ray at Cpt. Hammer), let alone Penny. The transition he makes in the second act, with the evil rising, just does not seem fast enough to justify that.

    You say that he now sees killing simply as not elegant, but shortly after he says that he wouldn't kill a young girl and becomes positively annoyed at Moist when he suggests smothering an old lady in her sleep. Yes, he has grown darker, but I think he just hasn't become evil enough during the second act.

    I agree that the original ending does not work too well, because the ultimate turn to evil comes out of a comic effect, not out of the character. However, I don't think Horrible actually killing Penny fits in the character either.

  12. I disagree on this one. Your analyze of each act was perfect but the end was also perfect the way it was. In Joss' world the passage toward adulthood is never made willingly. In your version of the story, Billy decides to embrace his future as a vilain whereas in the original version, Billy was struggling between what he wanted and what he needed. He wanted to be a true vilain but he needed Penny to "feel something" (plus Billy seems to be alone, Penny could have been the one person to see his greatest achievement in his life). Losing her, he lost what he needed and got what he wanted. It's a "be careful with what you wish for" tale.

  13. One thing. If there is a sequel, we have no reason to believe that Penny would stay dead. This IS Joss we are talking about here... his characters have a really tough time staying dead! Im thinking the good Doctor brings her back as some kind of zombie, but even zombie Penny cant be evil.

  14. It's interesting to see so many people at odds with Joss' ending. I thought that the ending was perfect. When Dr. Horrible cries, "There’s no time for mercy", he doesn't quite have the guts to pull the trigger. He tries to suck it up: "Here goes no mercy..." But despite his downward spiral, he doesn't have the guts to do it. The equipment malfunctions, and he has the crap beaten out of him. Then, the death ray explodes, killing Penny. He's stuck in a very tough place now. If he would have found the guts to pull the trigger when he had the chance, Penny would still have been alive. She died because he choked.

    So, he decides to never choke again. That last shred of humanity got Penny killed, so he did away with it. I think you're revised ending makes Dr. Horrible out to actually be evil when the whole point of Joss' ending was that he wasn't really evil until his humanity cost him Penny.

  15. ... and it's going to haunt me forever that I wrote "you're" instead of "your". There's no way to edit comments, is there?

  16. It's amazing how many people seemed to miss the little steps Dr. Horrible took on the path towards evil in his escalating conflict with Capt. Hammer. I'm impressed because you pointed out a couple I missed. When he's blogging the light often bounces off the goggles so you can't see how black they are at first. But the ham-handed ending you describe goes too far too fast from Billy's beginning as a nonviolent vandal with half-baked ideas about social change.

    I see the series so far as the tragic beginning of Dr. Horrible.
    He didn't mean to kill Penny, but he takes responsibility for the actions that lead inadvertently to her death. He also takes the credit.

    The nom de plume that first seemed so awkward (why Dr. Horrible? Because Dr. Doom and Dr. Impossible were already taken?) suddenly seems apt for the kind of guy who would shoot up a homeless shelter and kill an innocent unarmed woman. That's the kind of thing the Joker in The Dark Knight would do on purpose. Imagine the message that sends to all the superheroes who don't know how it actually played out. "You may be invulnerable, but I'll kill your girlfriend to get to you. Because I have a Ph.D in horribleness."

    I think Billy put on red and black and took his seat in the ELE partly out of guilt and self-condemnation. It's clear he's starting to realize his dream is a nightmare. I wouldn't be surprised if he has post-traumatic shock.

    Joining the ELE doesn't mean his troubles are over. They're going to test him, haze him. He'll be expected to kill more people, or at least design deadly weaponry. He'll have to defend himself from other superheroes who'll go after him just based on a reputation he may not want or be able to live up to. Maybe Capn. Hammer will come off the bench with more maturity and purpose.

    I so, so want to see where the series will go next. Joss Whedon has to make more episodes!

  17. As much as I enjoyed reading your analysis of acts one and two, and with all due respect to your skill as a writer, I have to say I'm happy it wasn't your call and that Joss chose a more ambiguous ending.

    Much of what you wanted to make explicit is implied anyway and though Joss can be over-the-top obvious at times, it's the layers of subtlety that keep me coming back.

    Less is more.

  18. While I was one of the people who was NOT thrilled by its ending, I do believe urs is stronger, but not quite there yet either. I understand Joss loves tragedy. But come on, even Shakespeare wrote a few happy endings! I never saw this as a franchise, so to hear everyone talking about sequals and crap surprises me (I know, NPH said Joss has way more than just sequal plans). I'm not saying this story needed a happy ending, I just think... this is gonna sound awful but... too many hands were in the cookie jar on this one. And to be honest, I think Joss's was the last one.

  19. I don't see his "it's not elegant or creative" as slipping down the slope, but, rather, as representative of the complicated rationalizations and denial that lets him aspire to be in the ELE (which pretty much requires self-identifying as evil) while actually finding murder to be repugnant.

    On preview, what Renee said.

  20. I thought the ending was quite appropriate, actually - it would have been discordant if Penny hadn't died as a side effect of Dr. Horrible "defeating" Hammer.

    Stay with me here - the evil was growing in Dr. Horrible, but there was still humanity left, e.g.
    No sign of Penny, good,
    I would give anything
    for her to not see.

    Dr. Horrible's evil was directed less at the general populace, who he held in disdain but wanted to rule anyway, and all toward Capt. Hammer, who was a dick. However, at the moment of his greatest potential triumph, his hesitation caused from the internal conflict on crossing the line into true evil gave Hammer the time to gain the upper hand. Horrible then even tried to warn Hammer about using the Death Ray, arguably because he saw Hammer was going to use it wrong and Dr. Horrible knew something bad would happen. Hammer didn't want to hear it, and payed the price.

    Dr. Horrible gained what he wanted (the defeat of Capt. Hammer) without crossing that line, but mythic story arcs require that a price has to be paid for gaining great things, often with the hero losing that thing they most valued in the process, making the whole experience a net loss. He won without killing Hammer, but he lost Penny as a side effect.

    Anyway. I kinda think the whole thing could be interpreted as a statement on the flexible nature of reality on the internet, since arguably the whole thing was just a daydream fantasy triggered by the email at the beginning of the first act (right before the first song), and ending with the last line "a thing..." with him in regular street clothes, and a look of shock and realization of the implications of what his efforts could bring about.

    Sorry for the long comment - it kinda got away from me...

  21. I definitely disagree with you on this one. Despite the fact that Billy had previously proclaimed himself as evil, he never really knew what it meant to be 'evil'. It was more of a vendetta against Captain Hammer, then anything else and this can be identified by his moral stance on killing.

    Billy would not have killed Penny, clearly even by this point he was more Billy than Dr Horrible and this can be seen during Penny's dying moments. This was a story about how a man became a monster, and this was only after everything he loved (i.e. Penny) was taken away from him.

    When Billy 'tried' to kill Captain Hammer, Hammer was frozen in an almost lifeless state (and even then he was hesitant). Making it seem as if Billy could not will himself to kill a person who is clearly living and experience said person's reaction. For example, Doctors would probably find it easier to turn off life support of someone in PVS, than they would do to someone who had brain activity, was healthy, could see them, talk, etc... Alternatively, Hammer had no problem doing this to Billy, when he held down Billy and tried to use the death ray on him. Thus it seems obvious that Billy became a monster through certain events, but Hammer was the real villain of the piece. Like a Prison Guard who finds pleasure in abusing the prisoners. Just because someone is seen as good, does not necessarily make them so; Hammer was more an egoistic coward.

    Penny's death is very similar to that of Tara's in BTVS. Both deaths were accidental, but done through human means. One of Warren's stray bullets caught Tara and the shrapnel from the exploding gun caught Penny. Their deaths identify that bad things happen to everybody good or evil. She was a hero, she helped those in need – the homeless, but I find it very unlikely that Penny would have stood in between Horrible and Hammer, she was a strong woman, but she was not superwoman and it would have destroyed Whedon’s story (which is in fact very influential on society, many criminals are seen as evil because of their actions, but hardly anybody really questions the story behind them, this story may not justify their actions, but it shows that they are not inherently evil either). Besides, if she knew who Billy’s ultra-ego was, why would she continue to stay friends with him? Superman didn’t have a mask either yet no one seemed to realise who he was, it’s a fact of life that most people don’t put two and two together unless it is forced upon us, either we pretend it is not so or look for some other logical explanation. Consequently Billy’s reaction to Penny’s death is similar to that of Willow’s to Tara’s death. Both turned into monsters after who they loved were killed, as both did not feel much of anything afterwards, other than pain, which stripped them of their humanity.

  22. I was really hoping Episode 3 would end with Dr. Horrible being unable to kill Capn. Hammer and Penny stopping Capn. Hammer from killing Billy and defending her laundry buddy. Penny would realize what a prick Capn. Hammer was and break up with him. Then future episodes might revolve around Dr. Horrible trying to defeat / escape the ELE while trying to justify his goals to Penny. But the actual ending gives Dr. Horrible darker, more interesting choices.

  23. I like your interpretation of the ending (and your symbolic analysis within), but I cannot help but find the hero (although confused and angry) inside Dr. Horrible (not Billy, but Horrible himself). I pushed the symbols a bit too far maybe and found Penny as a of a symbol of innocence, purity, and hope (especially for mankind). This is why Dr. Horrible, who is essentially an anarchist, loves Penny; she is his fantasized hope for mankind - without her, mankind truly is corrupted and unable to survive, as I put it, "in a state of statelessness."

    So, I could, in a sort, buy the idea of rage and murder of passion; however, Dr. Horrible doesn't really win if he is without Penny (and that's the point). If there truly is no hope for mankind (Penny) than there is no hope for anarchy. That's why Dr. Horrible couldn't kill Penny, because Penny is his only hope. The accident makes the story a true tragedy (in an Aristotelian sense) and explains the dual-persona ending: Billy uses Dr. Horrible's evilness as self-medication for the pain and cynicism he now must suffer, having realized all hope for mankind has died.

    If you want a less clear, more lengthy, but more detailed explanation of my theory, check out my bloggggggg.


  24. Neil is quite the singer, isn't he? I remember reading something a while back that he played Mark in the L.A. production of Rent, but I never actually heard him sing.

    ...Obviously he wasn't quite so evil in that.

  25. i personally loved the ending. yeah, it caught you off guard with the tragedy and loss and seeing Billy's descent into true horribleness become hastened, both by circumstance and by choice after plenty of goofy frivolity throughout all three acts. but that was the point.

    the theme of lost innocence you discuss is astute, but the original ending still works better towards communicating it in a credible fashion. as much as the evil inside of him may have been on the rise, to consciously make the choice to kill Penny would be an even larger and more jarring decision. it renders him entirely unsympathetic where you don't CARE that he can't feel a thing at the end. good, that's what you deserve! you killed an innocent girl just for being there. that's not a loss of innocence. that's just revealing you were always a heartless sociopath masquerading as a person. so the title of this blog is apt...it is a more horrible ending, but not in the way that you mean.

  26. I agreed rather completely with this comment: "What makes Joss's ending so much better than having Horrible kill Penny outright, is that it leaves his character open for remorse. He essentially used the woman he loved's death for his own evil ends, but he didn't directly kill her, so there's still hope for redemption. An evil character with the ability to be redeemed is so much more interesting than one who can't be."

    If Horrible killed Penny directly and completed his arc, it'd make him into another Anakin Skywalker or somesuch. I loved the ending and thought it was perfectly executed to remain outside of the expected norms - which is the beautiful of Dr. Horrible, it sarcastically and playfully challenges old-set supervillian archetypes.

  27. The look on the Doctor's face before the freeze ray fails is one of torment and doubt. He wasn't going to kill the hammer - he was far too innocent. The freeze ray failing took action for him, certainly, but I never believed for a second that Dr. Horrible had it in him, regardless of how he built himself up through song. His hesitation is the cause of his sorrow - it allowed the situation to slip from his control into the arms of chance. And that's his tragedy. He's not a villain filled with malice who would kill in cold blood but an angry man filled guilt at his inaction and now driven to evil so as not to be destroyed again by moments of mercy. He can't stop, lest he get hurt, but he can't stomach it either. He felt something and hesitated, and now must go on being empty.

  28. I think what you're missing is that the death ray explosion is a completion of Horrible's character arc and is directly his fault, you're just looking in the wrong act for where Billy is at fault. It happens in Act I, not Act III. The pivotal scene is where he decides to go through with his heist instead of chasing after Penny. He decides that being a successful supervillain is more important than Penny because he thinks he can have both and by going through with the heist he introduces Penny to Captain Hammer which then sets in motion the rest of the events that transpire, including Penny's death. Your ending is much more overt, and frankly uncharacteristic of Billy, he wouldn't make the choice to kill Penny if it was literally will I or won't I kill her, but he did kill Penny by choosing to follow the supervillain's path instead of the path of love. So basically I think your point is moot, you want the ending to be more related to Billy and the choices he makes but it already is and you missed when it happened.

    If you need further convincing just watch the start of Act II, he literally says that he introduced Penny to Captain Hammer due to pulling off the heist. Her being involved with Captain Hammer sets him on his almost murderous path which in turn leads to the death of Penny. You have the ending you want, you just weren't able to pick up on it.

  29. So, Penny is hiding behind a chair while Capt. H points the death ray at Dr. H. There is an explosion, a chunk of death ray gun pierces the chair, narrowly missing Penny. She stands to look around and find her ex-boyfriend and the possible new boyfriend in a smoking pile on the floor.

    Part 2.

    Penny's Sing-Along Blog...

  30. I think you've got it all wrong. The entire point is that Billy never chose to be truly evil. He didn't have the guts to do it, and was especially concerned about Penny finding out that he was Dr. Horrible. He even says so in his song while he's gathering the strength to kill Hammer.

    When Hammer points the death ray at Billy and Billy sees that it's malfunctioning, why do you think he tried to warn Hammer about it? The gun was being pointed at him, he was arguably in just as much danger whether he was shot or the gun blew him to pieces. He was warning him because he didn't want anyone to get hurt (maybe not even Hammer, not really).

    It's not until Penny dies, and everyone puts the blame directly on Billy for it -- even Billy himself likely blames himself for her getting killed -- that he resigns himself to truly be on this path and becomes Doctor Horrible.

    Like Anakin Skywalker, he never truly gave himself over to being Darth Vader until he'd lost everything that ever mattered to him.

    It was meant to be a tragedy, and I think it was an effective one.

    I think the entire series was somewhat awkward, but I think that's what you get when you try to establish characters in such a short period of time. I definitely don't think it would have been made better if Billy *chose* to be Evil.

    I also don't agree with anyone that it was done this way to leave it open to a sequel. I don't think Joss works that way. In fact, I don't think any writer worth his weight writes their story with their eye on a sequel. Joss likely told the best contained story he could.

  31. In Response to Shane: The only thing I would disagree with is the idea of a sequel. Maybe sequel is the wrong word, because as a writer myself, I know that any writer worth their salt never writes a story in a bubble. When I sit down to write a character, I know their entire history, past and future. So while Whedon may not have been thinking of ever doing a sequel, I can guarantee you that he at least has a vision for Doctor Horrible's path after the final act.

  32. I definitely felt wierd the first time watching it, as there is a very silly tone to it, from the costumes to a decent amount of the songs (the most evil character has a theme song song by cowboys). The second time I remembered it was Whedon and realized that it's really a creation story, "The Rise of Dr. Horrible".

    I think people complaining didn't get that point, or any of the ones you make here. I do think that Whedon's job nailed it though, from Penny's last words: "Don't worry, Cpt. Hammer will save us"--showing Horrible she believed in him like everyone else; to slight lyrics spread out through the other songs ("Only the darkness will remain" if Hammer takes Penny away, or something to that effect).

    I have to admit though--when she died, I really wanted him to make a reanimator or something and have a happy ending, but I'm optimistic. ;)

  33. I too have to disagree with your ending preference. Had Dr. Horrible outright killed Penny, or even Captain Hammer (I love how we're left to wonder whether or not he would've gone through with his plan), all sympathy for him would have gone out the window. Dr. Horrible would have gotten what he deserved. Story over.

    It's that sense of "if only..." that makes a tragedy so tragic, and that's what keeps a story stuck in your heart. Had Dr. Horrible actually murdered anyone, his feelings at the end would seem pretty deserved to me. Story over.

    Your proposal would also be too big a shift of characters. They're the sort of over-dramatic twists that you might find in a soap opera. Not to mention that if Dr. Horrible killed Penny, Captain Hammer would seem a lot more justified in trying to use his own death ray on him, and so in the end we'd probably feel more sympathy for the "hero," which is not the point.

    For myself, I loved the story start to finish, though I can understand that obviously there's no such thing as a perfect (i.e. loved by all) ending.

  34. Interesting and unique interpretation. I've never really thought much about the symbolism of innocence and such as I was watching, though I did think it striking that Dr. Horrible chose to dress all in white until the very end. Though, I feel I must disagree... I don't see Billy killing Penny. Her death by the shrapnel is almost cruel in its randomness. I think that's what drives him over the edge. He had the chance to gain what he wanted--to be admitted into the E.L.E *and* have Penny, but in trying to gain one, he loses the other... consequently losing himself in the process. It's a very bittersweet, genius ending, I think.

    Lovely ideas, though, they were very entertaining to read.

  35. I love the current ending, just so we know where I stand when we start this off .

    Thank you Shane, for bringing up Darth Vader. That's exactly how I feel about the end of this saga. Dr. Horrible is also a villain who doesn't truly give himself over to evil until he loses the one thing keeping him human.
    He may be evil now, but he fell down that slope with all the best intentions.

    Dr. Horrible wanted to remake the world, not for any truly evil reasons, but because he thinks the current system doesn't work. He may want to rule the world, but he wishes to rule to SAVE humanity from itself.

    But, with the loss of everything that matters to him, he truly becomes the monster he was posturing as. The world can go hang. As Penny died, so did Billy's humanity, and his faith in humanity as a whole.

    He's flogging himself with her death, as well. becoming the evil thing they perceive him as is his penance for inadvertently causing the death of the only person he cares about.

    Being evil, truly evil, and distancing himself from Billy... completely changing himself into a monster, he might also be doing this to NOT feel her death as deeply. he isn't Billy anymore(as you state in your post) he's now truly Dr. Horrible. Billy was weak, he loved, he felt pain. Not Dr. Horrible.

  36. Thank you Danicus, thank you.

  37. When Penny dies, Dr. Horrible sings the only explanation he has: "so you think justice has a voice, and we all have a choice?"

    You sir, want Billy to have a choice. You are the very person Dr. Horrible is arguing with. The point of the death is that he denies choice.

    If Billy had chosen to kill Penny, there would be no moral ambiguity. He would have been without any justification and we (the audience) would have no reason to empathize with him. The world would be presented as cleanly and as black-and-white as Captain Hammer's preconceptions.

    Billy contends, with some reason, that there is no choice...and what does he say to people who think as you do?

    "Well now your world is mine"

  38. I like it. Its dark, but I like it.

  39. I think to make Horrible evil at the end would have been the obvious and traditional path. Joss’s path is always much more nuanced. What is good and what is evil? What makes a hero and a villain? Is it black and white? How do our actions (or even not understanding who we and trying to be someone else) change our lives in ways we never intended? How does how the world categorizes us by how we look affect who we become?

    The arc was not that Billy goes to the dark side. Dr. Horrible is never really evil, even in the end, just as Capt. Hammer is never really heroic. Both are men who have gifts (Dr. Horrible does throw the thing to control the van in a superhuman way and he only has a black eye after Hammer throws a car at his head) but only one looks like a hero. The stereotype tall dark and handsome. But Hammer is not at all heroic. He just does things on the side of good and loves the adoration and the ego boost and the fame. He doesn't even really truly see those around him and when he does they often gross him out.

    Billy looks like a nerd, can't even talk to a girl he likes and has a nervous eye twitch. He is no one’s stereotype of a hero. But he needs to feel like he is someone. Why? For Penny. And, like Penny but not Hammer, he sees the pain in the world. He just thinks his only way to control/change it is through being a villain. Without that power he feels he is nothing. one with out that. At least not anyone who could win a girl like Penny. When he is pulling the heist, he does choose to blow off Penny and complete his mission BUT his last line in his song before Hammer intrudes is "Your wish is my command". Meaning Penny. Now evil would have talked about taking her and having her and controlling her…sort of what Hammer does to her. But Billy loves Penny and he also feels he is not worthy of her. Beneath her notice. So he continues on the heist so he will be something she will want.

    And when does he go to kill Hammer, that is all jealousy about Penny. Not pure evil or his wish to be a super villain. He is a jealous man with powers and a villain alter ego who wants to prove he's somebody to win the girl he loves. To the last his concerns are if he can actually pull the trigger and hoping Penny doesn't see. After she dies his song very obviously tells us that what he wanted, all he ever really wanted, now lies at his feet. Penny. Not getting into the League. Not destroying Hammer. And of course the terrible irony is that we know Penny did see Billy as who he was as a person outside of Horrible and was falling for him. But then she utters the dying line that kills him doubly inside "Capt. Hammer will save us". Not only does she still think Capt. Hammer is a hero but Billy has ot wonder if perhaps Hammer actually could have saved her if he still had his powers.

    So now Horrible goes through the motions of being a villain but inside he is numb. He does it because he is now the stereotype villain. Like Hammer saved people not because he really cared about their plights but because he was the stereotype hero. And I don't think it is coincidence that in the end villain Horrible feels nothing and no longer superhero Hammer feels everything. Just the opposite of all that came before.

  40. I'll come right out and say I'm to lazy to read 40 comments, so if this has been said I apologize.

    The way I see it, the ending fits perfectly if at least one more act is planned (which I think is likely). If this was indeed meant to be a trilogy then you're ending would have been brilliant. But because the very last scene is Billy on his blog, I don't think he has lost his innocence quite yet.

  41. The ending was brilliant. The main stream wants the same formula over and over again. Thats why we get so much crap out of Hollywood, because thats what your buying. If this movie had ended your way you would have said"...hmm, good movie." Then never given it a second thought. Instead your blogging about it. Please quit encouraging the production of horrible movies. Good cinema is in danger of becoming extinct.

  42. I love the suggestion the commenter made of the meaning of "The world i wanted at my feet" because its very much designed to be misconstrued. I believe he is talking about Penny.
    This is not just a tradgedy but a romance story. Even if he was made to be truly evil, he wouldn't have shot her, he'd have shot the hobo who smells like poo. I do like the concept behind your endingt, but the story it tells is just plain mean where the current one is just sad.

  43. Nooooo don't you see what this ending is saying about evil?

    Evil isn't just a conscious decision to kill or hurt people- evil is doing things purely for yourself, with no thought or care for other people or how it might hurt them.

    Penny was everything Billy wanted (except to be a villain of course) yet she wasn't worth sacraficing his childish dream for. He was ultimately selfish and did what was best for him, not Penny.

    He was willing to kill her boyfriend instead of letting her realise his treachery on her own. In fact if he hadn't tried to kill him Penny would have left the convention and ran straight into Billy's arms!

    He chose to built a device that could be used to kill- if not in his hands- anyone, including Penny. And that's exactly what it does.

    That's why it's somewhat easy for him to become a supervillain at the end: because he already made the decision to be evil a long time ago but only realizes it after Penny dies.

    Sorry if that was verbose, I'm 15 and a bit over analytical :P

  44. I'd just like to add that I find it amazing that through this definition of evil, Dr Horrible and Captain Hammer aren't any different at all.

    Captain Hammer takes a more traditional role of selfishness, using women for sex and disrespecting homeless people. He does all this for a macho status rather than to help the world.

    Billy is the same. He too is willing to do pretty much anything for the status that he wants, putting people's lives in danger and destroying society. While he isn't becoming a supervillain to hurt people, he isn't doing it to help them which is the same as Hammer.

    These characters are just two ends of the same spectrum: confident/shy, masculine/virginal, ignorant/smart and "hero"/"villain": they both seek status to make up for their insecurities and neither are really suited for Penny, who is probably the only non-evil main character.

  45. I actually enjoyed the way Act 3 played out. It shows NPH's character psyching himself up to become evil, but he's nervous, scared, and unsure if he's doing what he should be doing. He's forced into becoming evil because of Captain Hammer... the "good guy" causing the death of Penny which ends up completely pushing Horrible over the edge, cause there is nothing left to care about. Which, in a way goes back to Act 1 when they discuss society needing it's head cut off. Bad metaphor. In my opinion the best stories are told through actions, not through in your face dialogue. "Billy: (resuming his place after the song) I'm sorry, Penny. I'm really sorry it has to end like this. But... I'm Dr. Horrible, after all." That's just, too expected, too predictable, and well... flat out unemotional. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm saying it takes away from what makes this show appealing. It make's it more real by Penny's death being accidental and him taking it as the death of his morality and emotion.


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