Sunday, July 20, 2008

So this week I've bombarded you with all things Dr. Horrible, but after Saturday's Act III finale I felt it was time for a proper review of the entire 40 minute saga. But a warning: Here there by spoilers. I'll still keep things vague, but if you don't want to know anything about the show because you still haven't seen it (shame on you) then you should stop reading NOW!

As you should all know by now the plot centers on Dr. Horrible (NPH) as he tries his hardest to get into ELE (the Evil League of Evil), win over the love of his life, Penny (Felicia Day), and avoid being torn apart by his nemesis, the complete lunkhead Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Act I opens with Horrible sitting in front of his computer blogging about his evil laugh, his attempts at joining ELE and answering a few letters. One of the letters asks about the "her" he always mentions on the blog, which sends Horrible into the first song, "Freeze Ray" about the girl from his laundry mat, and how he'll use his freeze ray to win her over. (This is the catchy-ist song of the bunch and probably my favorite) When his song is interrupted by his pal, Moist, he receives a letter from Bad Horse, the head of the ELE saying they are watching him and considering his entry into the League. Seems this couldn't come at a better time as Horrible is about to pull a big heist (robbing a currier van) that will help complete his freeze ray (It freezes time, not people).

It's at this big heist he runs into both Penny (who he officially mets for the first time, telling her his name "Billy") and Captain Hammer. The latter of which tries to foil the robbery, but gets distracted when he sees Penny. The two sing a duet and are clearly falling for each other. Act I end with Horrible a little bruised and realizing he's just introduced his nemesis to the girl of his dreams.

Act II opens straight into a song "On the Rise" which lets us know that Billy/Horrible has been following Penny & Capt. Hammer and that Penny is falling hard for the "Hero." But at the same time Billy and Penny have become close friends and laundry buddies. But while his relationship with Penny has gotten better, his relationship with the ELE has started to deteriorate.

It seems that Horrible's latest caper, to use his freeze ray at the Mayor's ball has been thwarted. Apparently the LAPD and Capt. Hammer also read his blog and were there to stop him, a performance the ELE saw and were not impressed with. Instead the ELE commands that he assassinate someone in order to join the League. As we've seen thus far Billy is really just a good kid with a great heart, so to him killing is really out of the question. So he's not sure what to do, something he confides in Penny, without giving her the details.

It's during this laundry session that Penny tells Billy that things will be ok. She tells of her own troubles and how happy she is now that she's found "love." But as she sings this to her "Billy Buddy" its apparent that she may not be so happy after all, especially when she and Billy almost kiss. But before they do she remembers that her beau is on his way to met her and her good friend. Billy is clearly not ok with this and tries to leave but Hammer arrives before he can.

Hammer doesn't appear to recognize Horrible when Penny introduces them, but when she walks away it's apparent that he not only recognizes him, but he plans to sleep with Penny simply because Horrible wants her. It's in this moment that we finally see just how much of a self-involved, sleazeball Hammer really is. And this revelation brings about a realization in Horrible, if he has to kill someone it might as well be Hammer. End Act II.

Act III finds the city abuzz with news of Hammer and his new girl, Penny. Hammer has helped Penny get a building donated for the homeless and there's to be a ceremony in his name honoring him for his great work. Meanwhile Horrible is working on something big, in order to kill his nemesis at this ceremony. Also we see Penny alone at the laundry mat waiting for Billy, and wondering is Hammer is really the guy for her.

At the ceremony Hammer gives a big, musical speech about how wonderful he is for helping the homeless and once again shows us how much of a tool he really is. And finally Penny seems to realize it too (and I think she finally realizes her feelings for Billy as well) and she slinks off the stage while Hammer continues to sing.

Enter Horrible and his freeze ray, which works and stops Hammer in his tracks. For the first time we are catching a glimmer of evil in Horrible, not a lot, but some. At this point I'll skip over some of the details and say Horrible finally gets his wish to join the ELE. And the series ends with him singing about finally making it. But as we're shown him gaining power, respect, money, and entrance to the ELE, we also see that the cost of it all might not be worth the gain. In a haunting last shot we cut from an especially evil Horrible entering the ELE to Billy sitting alone in front of his computer and clearly upset.

You see in the end while he got what he wanted he lost the one thing that he REALLY wanted. Before when Billy is in front of his computer he's always in costume as Horrible, but in that last shot he's just Billy in normal street clothes. I read a comment on IMDB which really seems to nail it. Before he was just sweet natured Billy dressing as Dr. Horrible, because he wanted to be something more. But in the end Dr. Horrible has become his life and he really just longs to be Billy once more.

The series really takes a dark turn in Act III, while up until that point it had been funny and whimsical. And while many writers can rip your heart out of your chest, the Whedon Bros. have a unique gift of pumping your heart full of love for their characters so that when they finally rip your heart out it, it's as painful as possible. And I mean that in a good way, for while it hurts to watch something like that it's a testament to their writing that they can make you care so much. In the end the series boils down to one main thing, it's the origin story of a Supervillian, and a dang good one at that.


Gina said...

Very well said, and completely agreed! I understand people get upset and they can have their own opinions about the ending - but the clues were there all along. What Joss did different here was indeed make us feel for the villain, and so in the end, we feel duped. Even thought it really was "our bad" to root for the guy in the first place. I mean, not completely because he was a decent guy. But in the end, he wanted to be in ELE more than he wanted to be WITH Penny. So, it really couldn't have ended any other way. That was his fate, based off his choices. And honestly, with Penny's own personality, emotions, character traits, her own flaws (taking everything at face value, and not to mention both men fighting for her - her fate was sealed. It's just how it goes in these stories. People claim "Joss should have done something different!" I think he did; he tricked us into rooting for the bad guy! And no matter what people think, Dr. Horrible is a bad guy. It's what he was aspiring to be all along, no matter his good intentions. He's still selfish and yearned to be evil.

GAH. So much love for Joss & Co. :)
Can't wait for the dvd with all the spiffy extras! More music, too!!!

The Future said...

Well, Dr. Horrible didn't get a PhD in horribleness for nothing. He probably worked real hard!!

I think my favorite line was:

Dr Horrible: I just want to do something with my life. You know, like Bad Horse.
Penny [shocked]: The Thoroughbred of Sin?
Dr Horrible: [pause] I mean...Ghandi.

That cracked me up!!

And that Bad Horse was an actual... well, you know. Awesome!

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