Dr. Horrible Postmortem: I GUESS I recommend it

19 07 2008

I talked up this Joss Whedon project, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in my last post. It’s a fine example of creative work in the internet age, pulling together the strengths of old media and new, and delivering a fun and entertaining meta-humor laced comic story!

Well, the final act’s up. Any my recommendation’s dropped considerably.

Now, this is a matter of personal taste only. As a writer, I can appreciate the craft and acknowledge that the direction the story goes in is a perfectly valid and appropriate one. But as a viewer… I feel like I’ve been donkey punched. For those not in the know of that horrible term it’s when you’re making love and everything’s going great for the both of you and then the guy punches you right in the head, so your pain causes your muscles to contract and he feels more pleasure. That’s kinda the same thing here… for reasons I’ll put behind a spoiler cut. (Remember, the series goes offline after tonight, so if you wanna watch it, watch it now.)


So here I am, it’s 2am, and the episode goes up. I’m super excited and wanna see how the story ends. And I end up going to bed shocked and depressed and wishing I’d never put any emotional investment in the story in the first place.

What started out as a fun story of romantic yearning and silly villainry ended up with the love interest being brutally and accidentally murdered. In the end, nobody is truly happy, and the series ends on a complete down note of depression and despair.


Like I said: Makes sense, as a writer. As a fan I feel like once again, Joss pulled the rug out from under me just to flog his obsession with beloved character pointless death angst. He does this all the time. It’s like Frank Miller and whores, Joss can’t go without pulling so hard on your heartstrings that they break. I guess I should be thankful that on his run on Marvel Comics’ Runaways he didn’t have 12 year old cute fun kid Molly Hayes raped and murdered.

I don’t like bait and switch. I don’t like sadistic authors. I don’t care that it made perfect narrative sense. As a reader/viewer, I’m not happy with the results, and that’s all that really matters. If I knew going in that he was gonna take a sharp left turn into hopeless bleak despair maybe I could’ve enjoyed it more… and since it was JOSS I should have known. I didn’t know, I wasn’t prepared, and the overall experience turned up sour.

I guess I can recommend it. It’s well crafted. Just don’t hope for something FUN.




13 responses

19 07 2008

This is why I didn’t bother to start watching it. Welcome to Josstown. ^^;;

19 07 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I really, really should have known better. When he’s not viciously killing your hopes and dreams he’s actually quite entertaining, is the problem. That’s the lure.

19 07 2008

Well, Whedon’s works are always deeply satisfying, but for the same reason as Greek tragedies; they satisfy our craving for justice and recognition of an arbitrary universe. Whedon adds “and we will move on,” something the Greeks didn’t have but I think is a perfect addition.
I dunno. I think maybe I enjoy it because I got into Japanese “we lost WWII and it sucked, but thank god” comics and got to appreciate that whole “winning isn’t everything” theme in entertainment that we don’t otherwise have in North America. For me, it was five stars, but that may be because I like stories where the ending is not cheerful.

19 07 2008

The funny thing was I totally called Penny accidentally dying and that getting the Doc into the ELoE, but I had almost the same reaction as you. I guess I thought it would be… funnier? I don’t know.
I watched it a second time and after the initial shock, I think I do like it quite a bit. But I’m good at getting non-emotional over stories like this.

19 07 2008

Agreed. I just watched them all right now and… wow. What a terrible ending. I mean I guess it sort of made sense for her to die with the way they took the plot, but it could have ended differently, I think.
Blah :(

19 07 2008

I watched it, and I saw it coming. Alas.
Another sadly ironic point is that the Doctor’s (hollow) victory is actually the result of his failure: both the stasis ray and the “death” ray fail, the latter catastrophically. He’s never really in control of his own destiny, just a pawn of luck/fate/the plot.

19 07 2008

And once again I confirm that Joss Whedon is Not For Me and I avoid getting involved in any of the stuff he has produced.

19 07 2008

I don’t like bait and switch.
He telegraphed it, too. Remember who Moist went on a date with offscreen early in the story?

19 07 2008

Another sadly ironic point is that the Doctor’s (hollow) victory is actually the result of his failure: both the stasis ray and the “death” ray fail, the latter catastrophically. He’s never really in control of his own destiny, just a pawn of luck/fate/the plot.
In a larger sense, though, it was inevitable. There was no way that he could walk down the path of evil and win Penny, it just wasn’t possible. Her getting accidentally killed in the fight with Captain Hammer was just piling gratuitous badness upon necessary badness.
Consider this: if, instead of trying to build stasis and death rays, he’d just started talking to her when he found that he liked her, she probably would have become his girlfriend. Everything that he did was counterproductive.
If Penny hadn’t died, the story would probably have involved her rejecting both of them: Dr. Horrible for being a supervillain, and Captain Hammer for being a jerk.

20 07 2008

I really have to agree with this. It didn’t feel like Joss killed off a character just because he could (See also: Wash), but more like a character- building culmination of what was pretty much inevitable.
Dammit – it makes me want to see more of the story! Is that really it? I want to see the toll it’s taken on the good(?) Doctor, possibly a whole path to redemption inspired arc and such, but does that really fit the character?
On an entirely different note, Otacon is coming up. I’ve spotted you, 2F, at a distance at the past couple of them, but haven’t had the time/guts to give you a proper fanboy greeting. I’m hoping announcing my intentions this way will change that for this next one.

20 07 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I agree it does make SENSE to kill her off. It’s just… it feels lousy. Like the series was lighthearted and funny and romantic and then turned into dire bleak despair. That’s why I’m saying it’s bait and switch; sure, it makes narrative sense, but it’s not what I wanted in a story. I wanted something to cheer me up, and it WAS cheering me up, until it stuck a knife in my eye. I don’t like that, no matter how much logic is behind it.
Feel free to stop me and say hi at Otakon. I may be en route to something and can’t talk long, but I don’t mind greets. :)

21 07 2008

Ahh, finally. I was getting kinda fed up with it by the second episode, but the third episode really turned it around. The Hammer got Hammerblocked, NPH’s hetero character now might be able to pick up some attractive, less whiny ladies, and that scrawny redhead has left the building. Hated her from the start. Good ending to an otherwise unremarkable series.
“~\o We do the weird stuff. o/~” Hehe.

22 07 2008

I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the ending as well. Given his apparent ability to manipulate time, I was expecting him to pull a last minute save out of the bag right through the end credits.

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