You know that old saying, “the villain is the hero of his own story”? Well, here it is, only a click away: the musical tale of Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) and his ongoing quest to gain admittance to the Evil League of Evil (this year he’s got “a letter of condemnation from the deputy mayor…that’s gotta have some weight”), while awkwardly wooing Penny (Felicia Day), the girl of his dreams, and battling his arch-nemesis, Captain Hammer (Firefly‘s lantern-jawed Nathan Fillion, pictured). And because all of this is coming from the geekalicious mind of Joss Whedon (and his terribly talented siblings) it is an Epic Win*.
Shimmy through past the jump to find out how awesome NPH truly is (which we already knew), the wonders of backlot locations, and why “Epic Win” has an asterisk.
First, let me just say that it’s nice to see NPH (I always want to use his initials as a rate of speed) back in a doctor’s whites. And that those goggles are awesome. Secondly, without someone as magnetic as NPH, this series would fall completely flat; the first few minutes are just him in his crazy-chintzy lab-lair talking into the camera, reading viewer mail, keeping us up to date with his various schemes, and unless you’ve got an actor who can nail Whedon’s blend of sincerity, awkwardness, and wit, you’re dead in the water. (Much like the water created by Horrible’s buddy, Moist, whose power seems to be the ability to create humidity.) But NPH delivers—and, he’s got a wicked-awesome voice.
And the songs are kinda perfect, in the same imperfect mold as the songs from the “Once More With Feeling” episode of Buffy (Act One’s climactic number—a three-way between Horrible, Penny, and Hammer—is very reminiscent of the Giles/Tara “duet” of “Under Your Spell/Standing”). And it’s those imperfections—the odd phrasing here, the weird key shift there—that give the songs a humanity that bleeds over into the characters. The use of the patently artificial-looking Universal backlot sets gives everything a MGM-musical feel.
To top it off, the thing is damned funny. Fillion, especially, is hilarious as the completely-infatuated-with-himself Captain Hammer. He’s all wavy-haired, finger-to-ear bombast, the perfect complement to NPH’s haggard, lovestruck loser.
(As for the asterisk, it’s only because The Venture Brothers has been handily lampooning the hero-supervillain dynamic for years now—the Monarch and Dr. Horrible feel cut from the same cloth—and gets the edge only because it got there first. But it’s no slight against either to mention them both in the same sentence.)
So, what did you think? Will you be tuning in for Act Two tomorrow (7/17) and the Act Three finale on Saturday (7/19)? Will you buy the inevitable DVD after Dr. Horrible disappears from the internet on Sunday? Are you already humming the songs? (I am.)