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Dr. Horrible's Deep Analysis
August 5, 2008
8:04 pm
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Hi,

I found this on http://brilliantstuff.wordpress.com, apparently created as a fan site for Dr. Horrible mini-series. With the right permission of the original autor, I copy here the analysis:

\"Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Brilliant stuff. The little brother of \"The Dark Knight\", this summer.

This is one of those jewels that comes up from time to time, totally unexpected. It blows you away, it has already exploded and its wave is gonna get you, like the maidens, no matter where you are.

Joss Whedon's idea has been so skillfully settled down that it takes a serious effort to critizice any aspect of it. First off, if you know nothing about Dr. Horrible, let's say it's a musical. We're going to discuss the insights of the story, the real depth of the characters, the TRUTH of it all. Muaha, muahaha... errr... enough.

This takes back the old concept of Darth Vader's root of all evil in an interesting twist of archetypes. Dr. Horrible is the villain, WANTS to be the villain and puts all his energy into it. Captain Hammer, his acknowledged nemesis, is the hero. The two of them know their role and stick to it... yet the story unfolds itself differently.

We find a deep soul in Dr. Horrible. This is a love story and a tragedy, Dr. Horrible is our Cyrano de Bergerac, he will prove to be caring, light hearted, intelligent and clumsy in the inside of his cloak of evilness. He's got the talent of a winner but he can't even manage to talk to the girl of his dreams.

He's also bitter in his views, this is what makes a real person out of the character, what approaches him to that Vader's concept we've mentioned. He's a tragic character, and in the end, the story gravitates around the point that he states in the very beginning: \"The world is a mess and I just need to rule it\". And that's his reason for being evil, in which evilness is his way of fighting the world, protecting himself from the pain of living into the mess. In a certain way, he is fighting for the sake of a better world, he does good by being bad.

First song in the second act brings all the matter to the surface. It's the tragedy unveiled, bitterness at its fullest:

\"Because the dark is everywhere and Penny doesn’t seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain\"

He fights the dark even when trying to embody it, he's the evil character because of the circumstances, because there's no choice. The world has made Dr. Horrible, he's just played along until it was too late to get back from darkness.

Tragedy lies in the fact that the doctor gets trapped under the weight of living, the weight of the world. And this is no joke, because the worst case scenario of fighting your darkness is believing that darkness is all there is.

Captain Hammer is there to provide a counterpoint to Dr. Horrible, the tragedy of the doctor's life embodied as the pretended hero. This just helps to frame Neil Patrick Harris' character by remarking how differently the two characters are treated: all the creative genius on the doctor's behalf is utterly ignored and the arrogance of the Captain is stressed and rewarded.

Now, Penny might be confused as a romantic figure to complete the story, but she is not. According to the very description of the doctor, she is \"the girl of his dreams\". What we see in that character is the twin soul of the doctor, although the path they have chosen differ substantially from each other. 

She sees the world as the mess that it is, she sees the darkness. But she has chosen to discredit the belief that there is just darkness in exchange for her efforts, she fights the world by denying the virtual impossibility of changing it, ignoring the voices that scream that you're going to achieve nothing, because there is nothing to achieve.

Victory of darkness takes place when you're fooled to believe that there is no change for the better, just surviving. This is the real tragedy behind the brilliant Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. \"

Ing.

August 6, 2008
1:21 am
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It's a good post, I'll agree.  However, I've seen better analysis on these boards here.  Just take time to read and I think you'll find some very talented writers (and analyzers) here.  🙂

August 6, 2008
4:20 am
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In the Doctor's rants I found shades of Lord Ilpallazzo (Excel Saga), the inept anime mastermind who noted the world's corruption and founded an ideological organization to conquer the madness (of course, anyone who has seen the show will realize he eventually created more madness, thanks largely to the titular character, but that's not the point). However, the endings of the two stories are polar opposites: In the anime, Ilpallazzo was literally rescued from his darker half by the undying love of a devoted girl. I assume anyone reading this will know the end of the Doctor's story; even so, the eerie irony of the mocking voices softly calling \"All you ever wanted\" cannot go without comment.

I also noticed the paralells between Dr. Horrible and another infamous musical, Little Shop of Horrors.
Though the film version's ending was undeniably sunny, the original ending (in both the Broadway version and the initial cut of the movie) displays a concluding metaphor that is nearly identical to Dr. Horrible's. The evil that both protagonists saw as a means to improve their world instead consumed everything good they had pursued.

In the end, the story's only true \"hero\", the tragic Miss Penny, is destroyed. Is this meant to indicate that all good is futile in the growing darkness of the world? I wonder, but this I know: Penny was ultimately killed not by Dr. Horrible's scheming, but by Capt. Hammer's arrogance. Remember, he had every opportunity to pull the trigger on his nemesis, but didn't. Hammer fired the fatal shot. What is the significance of that chain of events? That the hypocrites who hold power are the true villains? I suppose it's in us all to decide the answer.

August 7, 2008
2:14 pm
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The little brother of “The Dark Knight”, this summer.

Interesting comparison.  I do think one of the key quotes in TDK is very pertinent to the fates of Penny and Dr. Horrible: \"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.\"

August 11, 2008
11:05 am
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Wow that is actually a good way of looking at it, I didn't even think about Harvey Dent's line there...cause basically thats what happened, Penny died still a hero (helping the homeless and all) and Dr. Horrible truly became the villain.

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August 12, 2008
4:14 am
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I believe the story was so simple that it can apply to many facets of life.

Trials and tribulations, wins and losses, good and evil, love and apathy, truth and lies, awareness and ignorance, choice and coercion, order and chaos, master and servant, dreams and reality, opportunities, disappointments, opposites, similarities… whatever.

It all works. The genius is that people are using Dr. H. as a magnifying glass on the facets of life. Most people I know just go through life without realizing what they have in front of them… for all the good and all the bad. It would seem Mr. Whedon's (the Joss one's) next project seeks to do the same on a micro level (whereas Dr. H. might be considered doing such on a macro level).

It's wunderbar.

That means “marvelous” in German. It's pronounced \"voonderbar\".

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September 2, 2008
11:22 am
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I've got to argue a point here. While I agree that Billy IS a tragic figure, it is because in the end it is his own ineptitude that kills the woman he loves.  Yes, Hammer pulled the trigger but the death ray malfunctioned and it was the schrapnel from that malfunction that killed Penny.  So in essence we are watching the self-destruction of a human being. 

It's enough to break the heart hearing all the anguish and grief in Billy/Horrible's last four words.  He CLAIMS that he won't feel anything but we all know how much of a lie that is. It's another excellent life lesson in that now he has everyting he wanted and it means nothing.

September 3, 2008
9:45 pm
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I find it interesting that Cpt. Hammer, when the Death Ray explodes, is completely freaked out by the sensation of pain. He's obviously never actually felt pain before; this actually explains a lot about him. He's completely shallow because nothing in his life has ever touched him; he has no clue what experience is. He manages social acceptance through being a hero, but has only the most superficial concept of heroism. He's like a toddler, in some ways, completely deficient - but part of it's not his fault. Unfortunately, I sincerely doubt hell cope well with it at this late date. 

September 4, 2008
3:51 am
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Herbwoman said:

I've got to argue a point here. While I agree that Billy IS a tragic figure, it is because in the end it is his own ineptitude that kills the woman he loves.  Yes, Hammer pulled the trigger but the death ray malfunctioned and it was the schrapnel from that malfunction that killed Penny.  So in essence we are watching the self-destruction of a human being. 

It's enough to break the heart hearing all the anguish and grief in Billy/Horrible's last four words.  He CLAIMS that he won't feel anything but we all know how much of a lie that is. It's another excellent life lesson in that now he has everyting he wanted and it means nothing.


Actually (and it took two watchings to notice this) The deathray didn't malfunction, it broke. You can see the case crack when it hits the ground (and a red glow shows thru the cracks) He even tries to warn Captian Hammer about it, but he \"doesn't have time for [his] warnings\". the trajedy here is that Dr. Horrible got the acceptance and the power he wanted, but at the cost of his love and humanity, now he no longer feels (a thing).

September 4, 2008
4:28 pm
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It feels like they're all somehow variously blind. Captain Hammer is blind to everything but himself. Penny is blind to anything but the good she perceives in people; this leaves her open to the rather nasty relationship with Captain Hammer. She's also blind to how Billy feels about her. Billy is blind to the realities of the situation, both in thinking that he can be in the ELE without doing anything really bad and in thinking that by being evil he can win the heart of someone essentially good. And the citizens of the city are blind to Captain Hammer's true and essentially selfish nature, seeing only what they want. It's like a comedy of mis-perceptions. Only with a bad ending. 

September 11, 2008
11:27 pm
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Oddly, I see the whole thing a tragedy revolving around choice.  Dr Horrible chooses to be evil, and when presented with the opportunity of moving outside that 'frame,' when he first really talks to Penny, he chooses to pursue the evil road - creating the catalyst for all that follows; ie Penny meeting Captain Hammer, and pursuing a relationship with someone who actually 'sees' her.  (By seeing I certainly do not mean seeing inside the real Penny, but up until now she has been ignored... ignored by the public, and even by Doctor Horrible, whom she believes is more interested in texting than her).  Captain Hammer, stops and sees her, and initially after being 'invisible' she responds, only to discover that in her choice of the Captain as a partner, she too has only 'seen' the surface.  Captain Hammer, so wonderfully superficial, only ever sees what he is meant to see, until he chooses to remove himself outside of his 'hero' persona and consequently for the first time feels pain.  My favourite, is the choice of Doctor Horrible who creates a freeze ray to 'stop the pain' - which of course eventually he does.   I know it is a simple way of looking at it, and I do see literary references (although for me they are tied into the tragedies of Thomas Hardy - again books about choices and horrendous consequences)... but as a standalone piece, I love the idea that the choices we make lead us onto the paths of our fates...sometimes to tragic consequences...

September 12, 2008
11:26 am
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Irony. It's full of it. 🙂

I mean, even if you take is as a simple production, it's being used to examine the complexities of life.

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September 26, 2008
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Valgaav said:

...the trajedy here is that Dr. Horrible got the acceptance and the power he wanted, but at the cost of his love and humanity, now he no longer feels (a thing).


Which, as I've pointed out in other threads, I think is a misinterpretation. Look at Billy's eyes as he sings the last two words. He feels.  He feels VERY deeply.  He's using Dr. Horrible as a distraction from the pain that Penny's death has caused him.  He may be covering well as DH, but it's obvious in that three seconds that not feeling is as much of a lie as the song \"So They Say\".

September 27, 2008
10:21 am
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Herbwoman said:

Valgaav said:

…the trajedy here is that Dr. Horrible got the acceptance and the power he wanted, but at the cost of his love and humanity, now he no longer feels (a thing).


Which, as I've pointed out in other threads, I think is a misinterpretation. Look at Billy's eyes as he sings the last two words. He feels.  He feels VERY deeply.  He's using Dr. Horrible as a distraction from the pain that Penny's death has caused him.  He may be covering well as DH, but it's obvious in that three seconds that not feeling is as much of a lie as the song “So They Say”.


Which is why he now where's his new goggled over his eyes so they can't see those eyes in the last shot... mmmaybe.... 😉

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October 3, 2008
2:56 am
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It's a tradgedy but in the end there is a glimmer of hope. The goggles are not the last shot. The last thing you see is just Billy - human, remorseful, wiser - no superheroes or archvillians. Is there redemption for Billy?

October 22, 2008
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TheGamut said:

Herbwoman said:

Valgaav said:

…the trajedy here is that Dr. Horrible got the acceptance and the power he wanted, but at the cost of his love and humanity, now he no longer feels (a thing).


Which, as I've pointed out in other threads, I think is a misinterpretation. Look at Billy's eyes as he sings the last two words. He feels.  He feels VERY deeply.  He's using Dr. Horrible as a distraction from the pain that Penny's death has caused him.  He may be covering well as DH, but it's obvious in that three seconds that not feeling is as much of a lie as the song “So They Say”.


Which is why he now where's his new goggled over his eyes so they can't see those eyes in the last shot… mmmaybe….

But in the scene where he and Moist are robbing the bank, he's not wearing his goggles down.  Though if he wears them down during ELoE meetings...yeah that's possible.


October 30, 2008
4:17 am
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What I like is the fact that in a forty-minute production, shot on a shoestring and not taking itself seriously at all, Joss was able to give us a story of a man's descent into villainy that was more compelling and poignant than Lucas managed in three bloated movies.

November 11, 2008
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The way I like to look at it is that Billy and Dr. Horrible were two different personas in one man's mind. In the beginning, there really isn't any difference, it's just Billy wearing a costume, still full of idealism and hope. He wants to join the Evil League of Evil, but almost doesn't comprehend what they really do. You can see from \"My Freeze Ray\" that his primary goal is just to finally work up the nerve to talk to the girl of his dreams, with the secondary being the change of the status quo. It seems Dr. Horrible was a sort of shell he made to hide in, during what looks like was a terrible childhood/adolescence. As told from the Captain Hammer comic, nerds and loners are looked down upon, and maybe even expected to become villains. Billy created Dr. Horrible as an outlet of his anger, as a way to keep hope that the world would change. Anyway, he pulls the Wonderflonium heist, after essentially ignoring Penny so his goals would be achieved. In that particular instance, we see Dr. Horrible finally get some pull over Billy. Billy hesitated, \"Maybe I should...\" but Dr. Horrible made sure he continued the plan, and soon he \"will control everything,\" Which caused Penny to meet Captain Hammer, leading to Billy's despair, which we can see at the beginning of Act II.

It is \"My Eyes\" where Billy really reveals his motives for being a villain. He sees darkness all over the world, almost a nihilist-like seeing of chaos. This is when Dr. Horrible really begins to take control, \"the dark is everywhere but Penny doesn't seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain\" He knows he's as bad as the world he perceives, but there's nothing he can do about it. After that, he seems to be back to Billy, remarking that killing \"Isn't [his] style\", meaning he just can't kill. It's right before \"Penny's Song\" where he finally shows someone, Penny, the pain he constantly feels. \" 'Everything happens--' 'Don't say for a reason.' \" Penny, in turn, talks about her life, growing up lonely, and finding happiness in helping those less fortunate. After that song, they almost kiss, until Penny turns away and mentions Captain Hammer, causing Billy to twitch involuntarily as he asks about him. Once Captain Hammer arrives, and tells Billy of his true intentions, Billy, or should I say, Dr. Horrible starts \"Brand New Day\" a perfect solution to his problems, where Captain Hammer dies, and oh so conveniently Penny goes to him for the keys to a \"shiny new Australia.\"

In the beginning of Act III we can see Penny is having doubts about Captain Hammer, calling him \"pretty okay\" which is not exactly what one would think of their significant other, while sitting alone next to an untouched frozen yogurt. Dr. Horrible is hard at work in his lab, aware that this won't end well, because \"there's no happy ending/so they say/not for me anyway,\" Later, at the ceremony, you can see \"Slipping\" is a kind of tug-of-war between Billy and Dr. Horrible, when he changes his tone, and his beat is erratic. Billy's last act, of hesitation against Captain Hammer, causes Penny to die, and during \"Everything You Ever\" Billy finally gives in, becomes the dormant persona, while Dr, Horrible achieves everything he ever wanted. And the last line, Dr. Horrible feels nothing, while Billy is forced into all the pain caused. Dr. Horrible won, while Billy lost everything.

So yeah, that's my long-in-creation synopsis on Billy's psyche. I gained a bit of it from TV Tropes.org, but I'm sure they won't mind.

November 18, 2008
7:34 am
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So I am going to slightly disagree with the post above me in a sense. I think to properly look at Dr Horrible you have to realize its a superhero super villain thing, while yes that obvious, it means you have to look at it like it was a comic book. Its just a comic written from the villains POV. So as I have watched it over and over I tried to decide if Billy was truly a villain or not. And in the end I actually believe he is. Here is my rabbit hole thought process.

In the beginning he is practicing his laugh. This is an important note for later!

At the moment he could walk away, the moment he could win Penny.... he turns from her to complete his caper. His work comes first, so its not just her he is doing everything for, or he would have walked away. He is selfish and does what \"a man has to do\".

His solution for saving the world is to take it over by force. There is a three fold juxtaposition in the entire show. Three \"heroes\" out to save part of the world. You see CPT Hammer saving the world by being a super hero, Dr Horrible trying to save the world by taking it over, and the Penny, just trying to save her corner of the world by helping the homeless. But the world rejects her heroism, no one even remembers her name. But Billy actively seeks to be a villain, and he even refrences Bad Horse as someone he wants to be to Penny.

When he decides to Kill Cpt Hammer he leaves Penny on her own at the laundry. Something he has never done. But in a moment of true aspiration and when he believes he can be truly great, he drops even her in his attempt to become a great villain.

To me the largest evidence that he is truly a villain is \"Slipping\". This is where I differ from the post above, he is not trying to decide to do it, How does it start? With his evil laugh, the laugh he has been practicing, so the song.... in true comic super villain fashion... Is his monologue, and you can tell by she triumphant attitude. He has rehearsed it over and over, he is proud, He knows just want to say. He has agonized over the words to say to the public. This to me is great evidence that, he wants to be a villain, he may not want to be evil and kill, but he wants to be the bad guy. But he is not ready to be truly evil, toward the end of the song he finishes his rant... and the tone changes, the monologue is over, and he turns towards business he looks for Penny, then turns his weapon on Cpt Hammer. But because he was a good villain he did not expect to make it this far, what always happens in comics. The hero always escapes during the monologue, but Cpt Hammer did not, and now Dr Horrible was going to pull the trigger.

I think the greatest argument for him being still a little kind is he does no fire. He wants to get interrupted, because as soon as the freeze ray stops, he drops his weapon and looks away, like a good comic villain should.  a real villain would have shot right then, but he plays his comic book role, and is thus foiled by Cpt Hammer. But when Hammer wants to kill him, he shouts warning, he does not beg for his life, he is trying to save Hammer! but alas Hammer was an idiot and would not listen.

I believe When Dr Horrible carried Penny's body he was laying to rest everything that held him back from being a true villain. He had no reason to be good any more. But in the bank scene his heart was not in the robbery, why? Because there was no girl to fight over, but not just that, there was no hero to try and stop him, Whats a villain with no hero? Whats the fun when you always win.

Dawning the Red suit was his final shedding of all that was left of Billy, he was now DR Horrible, with a PHD in Horribleness!!! the butterfly had spread its wings.

The part I dwell on the most are those last few second, There is Billy, Naked in a sense and looking forlorn. But why, why is he there, was this whole blog a dream and none of it really happened and he was just billy.... or was it from right after Penny died, and he said I wont have anything left to feel for, or is it at the end, is it his last cry for help from his decent into the ELE? those last second speak volumes.

November 22, 2008
6:14 pm
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Xanza781 said:

The way I like to look at it is that Billy and Dr. Horrible were two different personas in one man's mind. In the beginning, there really isn't any difference, it's just Billy wearing a costume, still full of idealism and hope. He wants to join the Evil League of Evil, but almost doesn't comprehend what they really do. You can see from “My Freeze Ray” that his primary goal is just to finally work up the nerve to talk to the girl of his dreams, with the secondary being the change of the status quo. It seems Dr. Horrible was a sort of shell he made to hide in, during what looks like was a terrible childhood/adolescence. As told from the Captain Hammer comic, nerds and loners are looked down upon, and maybe even expected to become villains. Billy created Dr. Horrible as an outlet of his anger, as a way to keep hope that the world would change. Anyway, he pulls the Wonderflonium heist, after essentially ignoring Penny so his goals would be achieved. In that particular instance, we see Dr. Horrible finally get some pull over Billy. Billy hesitated, “Maybe I should…” but Dr. Horrible made sure he continued the plan, and soon he “will control everything,” Which caused Penny to meet Captain Hammer, leading to Billy's despair, which we can see at the beginning of Act II.

It is “My Eyes” where Billy really reveals his motives for being a villain. He sees darkness all over the world, almost a nihilist-like seeing of chaos. This is when Dr. Horrible really begins to take control, “the dark is everywhere but Penny doesn't seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain” He knows he's as bad as the world he perceives, but there's nothing he can do about it. After that, he seems to be back to Billy, remarking that killing “Isn't [his] style”, meaning he just can't kill. It's right before “Penny's Song” where he finally shows someone, Penny, the pain he constantly feels. ” 'Everything happens–' 'Don't say for a reason.' ” Penny, in turn, talks about her life, growing up lonely, and finding happiness in helping those less fortunate. After that song, they almost kiss, until Penny turns away and mentions Captain Hammer, causing Billy to twitch involuntarily as he asks about him. Once Captain Hammer arrives, and tells Billy of his true intentions, Billy, or should I say, Dr. Horrible starts “Brand New Day” a perfect solution to his problems, where Captain Hammer dies, and oh so conveniently Penny goes to him for the keys to a “shiny new Australia.”

In the beginning of Act III we can see Penny is having doubts about Captain Hammer, calling him “pretty okay” which is not exactly what one would think of their significant other, while sitting alone next to an untouched frozen yogurt. Dr. Horrible is hard at work in his lab, aware that this won't end well, because “there's no happy ending/so they say/not for me anyway,” Later, at the ceremony, you can see “Slipping” is a kind of tug-of-war between Billy and Dr. Horrible, when he changes his tone, and his beat is erratic. Billy's last act, of hesitation against Captain Hammer, causes Penny to die, and during “Everything You Ever” Billy finally gives in, becomes the dormant persona, while Dr, Horrible achieves everything he ever wanted. And the last line, Dr. Horrible feels nothing, while Billy is forced into all the pain caused. Dr. Horrible won, while Billy lost everything.

So yeah, that's my long-in-creation synopsis on Billy's psyche. I gained a bit of it from TV Tropes.org, but I'm sure they won't mind.


Much in agreement, although i don't think it was so much different personalities as it was priorities.

When Dr Horrible first started he wanted to change the world by becoming the darkness, and therefore making it less dark. But then when Penny came into his world, his priorities shifted to change the world \"for her\" to \"show her\".

Then, following your psychiatric ramblings, as everything slowly becomes real, his original motive for becoming this villain slowly disappears, and he decides instead of helping the world by being the good darkness, he instead wants to control it, and have power over it.This mindset begins to take over with his own rage at Captain Hammer, as shown, like you said, with the line in My Eyes, where he says that \"Penny doesn't seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain\".

Billy/Horrible becomes consumed with power and revenge, and the Billy side of him, that's still thinking about Penny and his original goal of helping the world, starts realizing that he's going to fail, as shown in when he says off handedly \"not for me anyway\" in So They Say.

Once the Billy side of him realizes this, his first goal of bettering the world curls up in a corner and dies, leaving behind only his desire for power, which he justifies with his old priority of having Penny. However, once confronted with the choice to kill Captain Hammer or not, he chooses not to. While he hesitates, he is weighing his goals in mind, deciding what is most important. And in this moment of reflection, his plan fails, just as he had predicted.

That's my psychobabble for today.

Um, this is irrelevant, but I think someone mentioned this earlier, about how it was \"Captain Hammer's arrogance\" that killed Penny, not any sort of incompetance from Dr Horrible. I think that this is a fairly key point as to how he ends up not feeling anything. Horrible/Billy has finally gotten everything right, he has his fame, his death ray and freeze ray worked perfectly, but because his nemesis just had one last bash to send at his head, Horrible's life was ruined forever. He became utterly and totally numb, the pain from Penny's death cancelling out any joy from his victory.

i lied earlier i guess...

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