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More on Dr. Horrible
I've seen a number of people complaining about the events in the last episode.

One complaint is "Penny dies and that sucks." This is a totally valid complaint, Joss you bastard.

However, the related complaint of "Penny's death turns Dr. Horrible properly evil and that's a stupid cliche" I'm not sure is valid. It relies on seeing Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog as an origin story -- Dr. Horrible starts as an ineffective, idealistic anarchist who doesn't want to kill anybody and turns into a proper villain. Penny's death lets him join the Evil League of Evil, and he becomes successful although not happy. But that's not the interpretation I have of the film. I think it's an ending story. It's how he stops being a villain.

This interpretation relies on two things: the ambiguity of the first part of the last song and the previously-established fact that not everything that happens during the songs is part of the continuity. I think that what's onscreen during the first part of the song (up to the point where he lays Penny's body on the, um, whatever that white thing is) represents what's actually happening in continuity, and somewhere between there and the point where Dr. Horrible is shown entering the party it slips from what's happening in the world of the show to what Dr. Horrible is fantasizing about. I think I'd put the transition at the point where the groupies are shown; it could be earlier, but he looks pretty shell-shocked in the bank heist so that might be meant to have actually happened.

The previous fantasy sequences, for reference, are in Act I in the laundromat when he briefly freezes Penny with his finger and in Act II at the end when he's 100 feet tall stomping around downtown. Neither of those is part of the continuity; they're Dr. Horrible's fantasies.

The first part of the song[1] is very nicely balanced between lamentation (with irony) and supervillain gloating. The way Neil Patrick Harris sings it is clearly lamentation. I think that's his actual feeling; we then get the what-if fantasy of the alternative interpretation before switching back to reality with the last two words. At that point, not only is Billy not wearing the cool new blood-red Evil version of his outfit, he's not even wearing his goggles or labcoat. I'd say he's given up villainy and gone back to just being Billy.

(Well, actually I'd say it's pretty ambiguous. But I haven't seen anyone else mention the fantasy interpretation at all, so I wanted to get it out there.)

Here lies everything
The world I wanted
At my feet
My victory's complete
So hail to the king
(Everything you ever)
Arise and sing

So your world's benign
So you think justice has a voice
And we all have a choice
But now your world is mine
(Everything you ever)
And I am fine

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(Deleted comment)
Even my ten-year-old daughter spotted that. "Doesn't SHE get a say about who she goes out with? I'd dump both of them and go out with someone who likes ME!"

I don't think Penny's less of a character than Captain Hammer is. They're both just there for the story-telling utility.

Considering how short the piece is and the nature of it, the only fully realized character could ever be Dr Horrible. It's his blog, after all. Capt. Hammer is just as one-dimensional. And with that cast, the Bechdel test is meaningless.

Dr Horrible says some pretty agreeable things at times, things I can't disagree with... and I find myself wondering when "Evil" became a code word for, "smart enough to handle moral ambiguities without outside help".

Thing is, I still believe in the concept of evil as a bad thing, and I also believe in having a sense of humor while dealing with the most awful things imaginable. But it seems like we have to pick one or the other if we want to be understood.

When Captain Hammer says "This Hurts! I've never felt that before!" I really liked it. Let's put the Good toes to the fire once in a while, and not let Evil get all the parody.

Bruce Sterling wrote a lovely bit about the difference between good and bad people: good people can map out what's going on in a bad persons' mind, in a way that a bad person can't do. (Only he wrote it much better than I.)

I didn't get an idea that I needed to take Penny seriously in any way: I'd love to see her come back and correct some wrong ideas about the damsel in distress. As it is, she is just waking up to how lame the Captain is when she's put back to sleep.

This is a totally awesome post.

I've only listened to the set once through due to time and internet connections but I'm going to have to go back over it again and watch more closely after this.

I did not consider the end to be a fantasy and while I'm still on the fence as to it being one or not, it's very neat to have the possibility pointed out.

Thanks! I don't think it's obviously fantasy, but I find the ambiguity intriguing and thought it was odd that nobody (I saw) pointed it out.

I think it's basically a first-person story with an unreliable narrator. That's confusing enough in books, and nobody's expecting it in a film so it's probably extra-easy to interpret differently.

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