Space Ramblings

That Horrible Dr. Horrible Ending

In the ranks of the people who actually knew and cared that Joss Whedon had a new project called Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, there’s some dismay over the ending of Act III that sees the death of Penny and the transformation of Dr. Horrible into a full fledged member of the League of Evil. I never took the project too seriously, most non-Broadway or film musical pieces are basically self-indulgent and Dr. Horrible is a study in cute but self-indulgent and pointless online programming. I think a lot of people found Penny’s death shocking because the tone of the first two acts hadn’t prepared them for this.

Like it or not nothing in the first two acts of Dr. Horrible would lead you to think that this should be taken seriously. The ending that Joss Whedon then creates is the equivalent of Kevin Smith’s original Clerks ending that wound up with two corpses. My own reaction was, “Wait, were we supposed to be taking this thing seriously?” And it’s a legitimate one. The abrupt change of tone is off base, especially coming after Captain Hammer’s very funny musical parody of superhero songs and sentiment. In the majority of Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon created a parody world where real life rules don’t really apply and nothing needs to be taken seriously. Even as Penny is wheeled away, Dr. Horrible isn’t even arrested. Given that how seriously are we supposed to take this? Not very.

Trying to tack on a meaningful dark ending to light parody is just a way to annoy audiences and create a disjointed final product, which is what Dr. Horrible is, filled with some charming songs, but too derivative of everything from The Tick to The Specials to be taken seriously. It’s interesting to watch though as Penny gets turned from object to subject, unable to even respond in any way to the revelation that Billy is Dr. Horrible and whose last words express hope in Captain Hammer, the man she was escaping from just seconds ago. It says something about how using female characters in this kind of storytelling reflects on the story itself.

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