The final episode of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" airs today. My young kids are TV-free, so I won't be able to watch it until late this evening. So . . . how will Act III conclude?
Were Dr. Horrible an aspiring super-hero, we might anticipate a classic hero conclusion: guy defeats nemesis, guy gets recognition and respect, guy gets girl. But Dr. Horrible isn't a super-hero; he's an aspiring super-villain, and even though he's a sweet guy who is only putatively evil, story-telling conventions can't hand him an unadulterated victory. Besides, that's not Joss' way . . . even in victory, the winner has to be in some pain, or the audience stops caring about them.
On the other hand, I don't think Dr. Horrible can outright lose, either, because as stark as Joss' philosophy is, he still believes in goodness and doesn't want to disappoint his fans. So I think we're looking at a compromised victory for Dr. Horrible.
What kind of victory? Hmmm . . . well, here are some possibilities:
Dr. Horrible is redeemed. Billy attempts to zorch Captain Hammer during his big date with Penny, but fails, as usual. Captain Hammer reveals himself to be a total tool by the way he humiliates Dr. Horrible, and Penny's sympathies shift to Billy. Bad Horse suddenly shows up, ready to rub out Dr. Horrible for his failures. Dr. Horrible somehow defeats Bad Horse, winning his girl's love but crushing his ambition to be super-villain. This is the way Hollywood would do it, which is why I don't think Joss will do it. Joss will want to keep the premise of Dr. Horrible alive â€“ "nice guy wants to be bad" â€“ and turning him into a superhero just kills the fun.
Dr. Horrible wins, but Billy gets the girl. Dr. Horrible succeeds in being the villain he always wanted to be, defeating Captain Hammer. But in the process he terrifies Penny. Through a series of quick costume changes Billy manages to "save" Penny from Dr. Horrible. Billy wins the affection of Penny, but she doesn't know he is Dr. Horrible. Now Billy is in a real bind â€“ Bad Horse is on his case to do evil, but he must hide his evil-doing from his love. This seems like a better, more Jossy outcome â€“ the show's premise is preserved, even magnified, letting the main character win and lose all at the same time.
Penny wins. Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer duke it out to a draw, revealing their true natures to Penny. Penny is both sympathetic and disgusted with both of them, and says as much. Penny is endangered by Bad Horse, and Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible compete with each other to save her (or, alternatively, they reluctantly join forces to save her, still sniping each other in the margins). In the end Penny is saved, both Hammer and Horrible remain even more themselves, but no one gets the girl. This also has potential, because ever since making Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss is expected to write empowered women, and he won't want Penny to be anyone's prize to be won.
2. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I watched it, enjoyed it, and (as per his request) sent it to many other people who watched and enjoyed it. And if it were not for you, I would not have had any idea it existed at all.
3. I have to say, I like his resolution better than any of yours, in its way. And yet, I also found it profoundly unsatisfying, because--and maybe I'm missing the point--it just wasn't funny. Buffy and Firefly both used humor in the service of something more serious. In Dr. H, at least the first two parts, the seriousness was really background for the humor, so I was really not prepared for a not-very-funny ending.
Still, I enjoyed the whole thing, and was once again blown away by Joss Whedon's secret superpower, which is writing incredibly Broadway-style music. Thanks for pointing it all out!
After I had time to process it, I could appreciate the ending . . . but, like you, I wasn't prepared for a deadly-serious ending, and had to adjust. I try to cut Joss some slack, since 45 minutes is not a lot of time to develop characters and plot arcs and play around with different mixes of humor and seriousness. In an interview Joss mentioned the word "Absurdist," which might be the key to deciphering it -- for him, deadly-serious and funny are pretty close together by their very nature.
Reading your glowing review makes me want to see the whole thing again, which I suppose I will at some point. In any case, I did pass it on to a bunch of people who watched it, and I never would have heard of it if it weren't for you, so you can take credit for spreading the word.
What's interesting about your predictions is that you did a pretty good job of outlining the constraints that he was operating under, even though you didn't find his particular solution.