Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible Act III: This Will Shock You and Hurt You

I have to say I just finished watching Dr. Horrible's third act and I am completely speechless. I litterally haven't said a word since it stopped playing. Fortunately I don't type with my mouth.

This third act relies on the first two for background, but it is by far the most powerful. Anything more I say will need to be under spoiler protection, but I think you will agree with my by the end of it.

[Spoiler Alert] Act III Reacap:
First of all, the last act left me a little dubious about what was going to happen. The plot really isn't that complex so I felt like I'd seen this kind of thing before. I must say that I was both right and wrong.

The act begins with the city planning to open the homeless shelter in Captain Hammer's name (with statue). Penny and "Billy" duet again and it's clear through some visual clues (frozen yogurt, friends calling) that Billy is falling away from Penny and the rest of the world in preparation for the big event. Dr. Horrible is seen doing devious things in his lair while the news media fills us in that Penny and Captain Hammer are getting more serious. We also see who is wearing those shirts they sell in the Jinx store.

As the shelter is being dedicated, the room is set up with a presumed statue of Captain Hammer under a cloth in the room and a podium with the Mayor and other relevant people. Captain Hammer give a speech and it becomes clear to Penny that he really doesn't think much of anyone but himself. The crowd eats it up though as Penny edges her way off the stage.

Near the end of Captain Hammer's pretty amazing song, he is suddenly frozen by Dr. Horrible, who was (rather obviously) hiding under the statue's hood. It looks like the "Freeze Ray" is finally working. Dr. Horrible begins his song, telling everyone that they are sheep and if they only listened and thought a little they would see through Captain Hammer's veil of goodness. This is also a pretty awesome scene because you just don't know what's going happen...the climax, so to speak.

Finally Dr. Horrible begins firing his Death Ray (shown in a slightly earlier scene) in the air and scaring most people away. Just as he is about to kill Captain Hammer and seal his destiny, his Freeze Ray fails and Hammer punches him about 10 feet. Captain Hammer then picks up the Death Ray and intent on firing it on Dr. Horrible, it blows up in his hands. He hurtles away in pain, screaming.

It is at this moment that Dr. Horrible discovers that the bits of the blaster that exploded have impaled Penny and she is dying. She just barely recognizes, say, "Captain Hammer will save us," and then dies quickly. I'm not sure what to make of all this so if any one has any decent analysis of it, post in the comments. Anyway, the press immediately asks about why he murdered her and it is driven home that SHE, not Captain Hammer, will be the murder that gets him into the League of Evil.

The rest of the episode is a big flowing scene of his new status as a supervillan, his donning of a more evil looking uniform (pulling down the goggles), and his entry into the League. It is interesting to see that among the rather weird League members (Fake Thomas Jefferson?), Bad Horse is actually a horse and this is why he has cowboy messengers.

All of this slowly comes to an end and at the last possible moment, when the song goes, "...and I won't feel...a thing," the words are spoken by Billy, sitting in front of his webcam, out of his costume. This image was a real stunner because we really see how getting all he wanted in the end doomed him to not being able to enjoy it.
[/Spoiler Alert]

So, were you stunned by the ending as I was? I can't even begin to figure out what to do with this show in my mind. Absolutely incredible!

[Here are links to my thoughts on Act I and Act II.]


  1. I found your blog searching for other people who just finished watching Act III!


    I'm still in shock. The first part was so funny. I was enjoying comparing Captain Hammer in my mind to an ex-bf when... BANG! Everything flipped around. Still shocked. And sad, because Penny would have ended up with Billy if... Well, if everything!

  2. that was a great review, i also agree analysis on the penny thing and i would also like help understanding the last "billy" scene. But other than that i loved the third one, but would rather not have seen what happened to penny.. i was SOOOO rooting for Dr. Horrible.

  3. I soooo agree with you on this.. it is amazing.. the only thing I could say is..

  4. These aren't my words - A John Gringas posted them at the Dr Horrible Facebook page - but I think they do a good job of explaining why the third act turned out the way it did:

    John Gringas wrote:
    "I really liked the story. I was hoping for a happy ending to it, but the story wasn't about a superhero, it was about a supervillain. The tale showed how the goofy and bumbling Billy could become the feared supervillain Dr. Horrible. We got to see everything that pushes him over the edge. As an audience, we like Billy. It makes it difficult to accept what happens to him. We share in his misery and can understand how he became evil. That's how really cool villains are made. You can have a villain that does what he does because he's evil and that's just... meh. You get a villain like Dr. Horrible who is complicated, who could have been a superhero but was driven to where he is by his poor choices and unfortunate circumstances... well... that's awesome. Anyway, that's my opinion on the whole thing. I always like happy endings, but endings that make you think are sometimes even better."

    I'm reminded of a popular aphorism:
    "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."


  5. Just finished watching Act III. I'm still in shock. I think the ending was a good one, though, considering that this is the creation of a villain. If you look through all the classic comic book villain, you see the same sort of tragedy that leads the character into his life of "evil." And still, it was not at all what I was expecting. Kudos to Joss Whedon.

  6. I, personally, loved it. The whole point of the series, it seems, was to watch a bumbling buffoon slowly turn into a villain you could actually take seriously.

  7. thanks for that repost "berry"...they are right on

    I agree phoenix ;)

  8. I figured on Penny getting injured but not so...I guess it was still shocking.

    The first two episodes had me laughing and humming their songs in the shower. When the credits rolled after ACT III my sister and I literally just stared at the screen in shock. And we've been a little depressed for the last half hour, actually.

    The last image - Billy in front of the camera in his civilian getup - was a great knock out punch.

    wow. One question.


  9. It's the Jacob Rule in action: everything you wanted, in the worst possible way.

    I'm actually having a little trouble processing it too. It's not that it was bad -- quite the opposite -- as I'm thinking that Joss should maybe explore some avenues for getting emotional mileage out of his stories that don't involve killing off beloved characters. Because I was pretty sure I saw this coming by the end of Act II (the only other plausible twist I could think of was that maybe Penny would be revealed to be, or have connection to, Bad Horse, and that seemed a little far-fetched).

    Also: I'm a little bit in love with Neil Patrick Harris now. Again.

  10. I Believe if there was a season two it would ruin everything. Maybe another blog with some
    other twist to it, but if they ever repeated Dr. Horrible, it would kill it. Just the way that the story is, it wasn't meant to be continued, just like what Strawberry reposted, this was about watching a villain become a super villain and it was touching. But watching a super villain stay a super villain is in no way as touching or interesting. Also, do you really want to see this go the way of "The Land Before Time" where there are so many sequels that you have to count them on your friends fingers? No, this is perfectly fine for me, and it sends a great message (even if it didn't mean to). Im trying to take it to heart, and trying to live my life to the fullest each day, just because it was so moving. I don't want to end up "Not feeling a thing" You know?

    I guess i took it too seriously, but thats what i got out of it.


    For the person who said they were confused by the last two seconds...the general consensus is that Billy blogged as Dr. Horrible as his fantasy of what he wanted to be. Now Dr. Horrible blogs as Billy as his fantasy of what he wants to be again. Apparently being evil kind of sucks.

  12. Gotta agree w/ mr_subjunctive and leftoverkumquats on this. Joss is full of awesome ideas and execution. Laughed myself silly with the first episode, cheered the second ep, and developed a numbing sense of dread as the third one rolled. Loved the performances and story, but the end left me vaguely depressed. It'd be nice to see Joss push his characters w/o killing them off. It does seem to be a bit of a trend: Tara, most everybody in Angel, Book and Wash (I've decided that Serenity was simply non-cannon and that's all) and now Penny. Time to find a new trick.

  13. I should have seen the ending coming, but I didn't. I really thought the story was going to end with Billy somehow being "redeemed" by Penny. But, no, the whole point of the story was to show how a wannabe villain became a supervillain, when the only thing that kept him in touch with his humanity, was lost. The final turning point, I think, was immediately after Penny's death. You could almost see Billy/Horrible struggling with the question of whether to grieve. He chose not to, denying his feelings and sealing his own fate. As to the last two seconds, my own take is that it was a nonliteral "visualization" of the last shred of Billy, now hidden away securely and deeply within Dr. Horrible's psyche, so it won't bother him again with its emotions.

  14. If you can't get enough of that wacky singing mad scientist bent on world domination stuff (because it was only 3 episodes for a limited time) ... then check out Doctor Steel! The ongoing movement for world domination with robots, toys, puppets and Mind Control Cookies!- definitely not here for a limited time only!

    Check it out his music at under Audio Experimentation or on YouTube. (psst.. it's free, too!)


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