Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible: Act Three

Genius has a name... and that name, besides genius, is Joss Whedon.

Act III takes the elements we've been building up to and puts it all together. I stand by my earlier criticism of Act II (if you're not completely sold on Penny -- not Patty, as I'd mistakenly called her -- then an act that mostly consists of listening to her sing isn't going to work for you... that said, as I said on Thursday, there was still so much to love) but this act was hilarious, sad, and jarring.

I loved the opening. Nathan Fillion is SO funny on screen, there were a million lines I loved. I particularly enjoyed the fact that after he's frozen near the end of his song, and then unfrozen, the first thing he does is sing the final note. It's like the underrated Coen Brothers movie, The Man Who Wasn't There, where Billy Bob Thornton is sitting on the edge of a bed telling a story at one point in the film, then he gets up before finishing, leaves the house, about 20 minutes of drama ensues (I won't reveal what), he returns home, and sits down on the edge of the bed and picks up the story exactly where he left off. It's one of my all-time favourite moments in a Coen Brothers film.

I also cheered when I saw former Buffy writer/exec producers David Fury and Marti Noxon as the news anchors (you'll remember them as the Mustard Man and the Parking Ticket Lady in OMWF). "It's a good day to be homeless."

But just when this was shaping up to be the funniest installment, Joss has to insert his trademark PAIN. Neil Patrick Harris shows up and it has all the makings of a great funny ender (complete with him stopping his evil rampage to spell his name to a journalist) and then pow, the tables are turned, and Penny ends up dead. Gah!

Now, for all my "meh" about Penny, the reason she's important in this scene is simply because she's important to Billy (and a pawn to Hammer). He wanted to become an evil villain, but he wanted to win her heart even more. Now she's unwittingly helped him accomplish the thing he wanted. The show seemed to jolt here, and where I was thinking, "How will they bring back the funny??" right after, by the time it ended I knew that the main point of the show is that Dr. Horrible will become more evil because of Penny's death. Before, he was pretty close to harmless, but now he will join the League of Evil to take down Captain Hammer and his cohorts, because of what he's perceived Hammer has done to him.

I noticed from the credits that in the League of evil, Doug Petrie (Buffy writer) was at the table as the guy in the weird glasses, Drew Goddard (oh, Drew... my heart flutters), a.k.a. writer on Lost, Buffy, Cloverfield, etc. etc. was the Thomas Jefferson, and Jed Whedon was the Bowie character (which seemed odd... I paused that scene and he has very feminine features if that is, indeed, him. But then again, so does Our Man Bowie).

By the way, how much do I love that the League of Evil contains villains dressed as Jefferson and Bowie???

Would the accidental death of one woman really lead the world to believe he's the most evil villain alive? Of course not, but this is more of a magic realist take on things -- the world appears to be ours, but it has its differences, so let's suspend our disbelief on that one and just assume that the death of Penny makes the world quake with fear.

I really enjoyed Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Is it groundbreaking? No. Did it tell a story that no one has ever told? Nah. Is it the best thing Joss has ever done? Of course not. But it certainly told it in a new and unique way, and if it's successful, it could pave the way for more TV shows on the Net. I loved the music, the dialogue, and those three cowboys singing the telegrams of Bad Horse will always make me chuckle.

Dr. Horrible is the perfect break to a summer of television monotony. Bring on the sequel!!


Anonymous said...

That was his brother? He's very pretty.

I wish Bad Horse had a solo.

I can't say this is my favourite work by Joss. I found it uneven. I like the music though. It does take a turn for the Sondheim (musically and thematically) in act III. Reminded me of Sweeney Todd.

Anonymous said...

Actually Drew Goddard had no affiliation with Transformers, and it has not been confirmed anywhere that he will be working on J.J.'s Fringe. You might have been thinking of Cloverfield when you wrote Transformers.

Anonymous said...

How does he do it? How many of us were expecting a happy ending, only to be cruelly reminded that Whedon doesn't do that sort of thing? And yet, like Nikki, (and, according to the whedonesque site, many others) didn't see this coming despite knowing Joss' m.o.

I'm willing to rank Penny's death up there with Darla's on the Jenny Calender scale of painful character ends. Other things I liked:

-"We do the weird stuff!"

-"I hate the homeless."

-"Ness problem."

-"Captain Hammer will save us." AHH! (heartbreak)

-Horrible's new lab coat.

-Bad Horse.

Nikki Stafford said...

Brian: And by Transformers, I of course meant Cloverfield. *cough*

Not that JJ: I agree with everything you said.

Wait, is that a first? Wow... look at Joss, bringing us together like this. :::Sniff:::

The "I hate the homeless" bit was hysterical, and I loved the three fans standing singing. BRILLIANT.

Beth said...

I enjoyed every agonizing minute. And the singing was good too. Nathan Fillion! So adorable in Waitress, so despicable as Hammer. Brilliant! Everyone else--also brilliant.

The sendup of fandom cracked me up.

Anonymous said...

Nikki, I've said it before, but I'll say it again (genuine praise should oft be repeated) I love your writing. You love The Master (Mr. Whedon) and that shows, but you're not unwilling to critique him as well. And what a wonderful balance for other fans to read.

I too loved 'Dr Horrible.' And I was surprised by the ending. Although perhaps we shouldn't have been -- given The Master's MO, of course -- but also because of this (not fully realized until I'd finished Act III) ...

In one of the early laundry scenes, Billy tells Penny the pie metaphor. How some people are one thing, different underneath, then there's that THIRD layer, the same as the first. It's a one-off joke, and we're supposed to laugh and forget it, but by the end of Act III, we realize it's Billy actually premonitioning (yes it's a word!) himself. HE'S the pie. We meet him as Horrible, then root-for Billy, only for him to end up even more horrible-er (YES it's a word!) by the end.

So, as our darling Buffy is cookie dough ... our darling doctor is pie.

Keep up the good work!

Cheers ...