Moist: ...Is that the new catchphrase?
An aspiring supervillain trying to get into the Evil League of Evil finds himself entangled in a Love Triangle with his arch-nemesis and a girl he knows from the laundromat. Presented as a three-part Musical Web Original Vlog Series, created by Joss Whedon and funded out of his own pocket as a more-or-less direct result of the Writer's Guild strike of 2007-2008.
The series was released for free until July 20, 2008. After that time it was placed on iTunes for purchase (USA, Canada and UK only) and for free with ads on Hulu.com (United States Only) with the revenue from both going to pay the cast and crew. Overwhelming response crashed the servers, and vigorous international response prompted the team to make the videos viewable internationally. A DVD was released in December, 2008.
There's an an official site with liner notes for the various songs, merchandise links, and other goodies. There are also several prequel comics: three half-length ones on the Dark Horse MySpace page for Captain Hammer, Moist, and Penny, a full-length print one-shot for Dr. Horrible himself, and a 3/4 length comic featuring the ELE and Johnny Snow that's exclusive to the trade paperback collecting all the previous comics, all written by Zack Whedon.
There is also a fanmade prequel, Horrible Turn, that has been recognised by Joss as "itsy kitschy glitzy." Whether that is to be taken as a compliment remains to be seen. Also on the fan front are the very well-received fanmade sequel Dr. Horrible's Unofficial Sing-Along Sequel and Doctor Octoroc's 8 bit version of the musical.
Rumors swirled about a sequel for some time before being officially confirmed by Whedonopolis. Production keeps getting delayed due to Whedon's commitments to a few little superhero films you may have heard of, so the best that can be said about the plans is "Hopefully, someday."
The DVD commentary takes two forms - a traditional commentary, and Commentary! The Musical, which is, yes, a whole other musical. Also see the zany theories page for the show. After you've seen the three-parter.
It received its TV premiere on The CW network on October 9th 2012. CW Network President Mark Pedowitz also "said he hoped the CW would also have the inside track if Whedon opts at some point to continue the series", according to Reuters.
From this point forward there are unmarked spoilers. Read after watching the three-parter.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Dr. Horrible isn't even all that evil at first, and he starts out wanting nothing more than respect.
- Almost Kiss: In Act II, after Penny's song, you can see them lock eyes and start inching in towards each other before Penny mentions Captain Hammer.
- Amusing Injuries: Well, Captain Hammer considers them amusing while he inflicts them on a helpless Dr. Horrible. Also, Captain Hammer's injuries from the exploding Death Ray, and by his reaction to them - "I think this is what pain feels like!" Not amusing for him, but very amusing for us.
- Animal Superheroes: Bad Horse is an animal supervillain... well, he's a villain at least. His superpowers are entirely informed, except that he must be smarter than the typical horse in order to lead a league of evil.
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: It would be easy to reach the impression that Bad Horse is a human who themes his supervillain identity after a horse... until the end, when it is revealed that he really is a horse.
- Anti-Villain: Dr. Horrible's motives may seem evil — he wants money and power — but it's less out of a desire for chaos and destruction than it is a desperate attempt to achieve respect, and his unrequited love for Penny is certainly not evil. He uses evil means (robbery and terror) because he has been driven to them by folks like Captain Hammer, who feels that anyone who's just like Dr. Horrible has to be a villain.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The Wonderflonium Doctor Horrible steals is used to power his freeze ray. The science behind it, however, is completely unexplained.
- Arch-Enemy: Doctor Horrible says that Johnny Snow is not his archnemesis, but rather that's Captain Hammer, who dislocated his shoulder...twice, among other humiliations.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During the song "Slipping," we get this gem that shows how Dr. Horrible's determination to get into the Evil League of Evil clashes with his Well-Intentioned Extremist philosophy:"Then I win! Then I get everything I ever/All the cash! All the fame! And social change!"
- Aside Glance: Captain Hammer pulls one when the fan trio says "we'd do the weird stuff."
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In Dr. Horrible's revenge daydream sequence during "Brand New Day" at the end of Act II, he turns into a giant and stomps Captain Hammer flat.
- Bad Date: Moist describes a double date with the twins Bait and Switch that didn't go as he expected.Moist: I kind of thought I was supposed to end up with Bait...
- The Bad Guy Wins: Dr. Horrible is the bad guy and he wins, defeating his nemesis and joining the Evil League of Evil. The way in which he achieves this, however, is so soul-crushing that he truly becomes evil in the process.
- Badass Boast:
- Doctor Horrible finally finds his evil resolve during "Slipping", and delivers a resounding declaration of his intent to rule the world.It's Doctor Horrible's turn/You people all have to learn/This world is going to BURN. BURN- Yeah, it's two 'r's: H-O-R-R, yeah, right- BURN.
- His resolve turns dark, however, in "Everything You Ever".Now the nightmare's real/Now Doc-tor Horr-i-ble is here/To make you quake with fear/To make the whole world kneel...
- Doctor Horrible finally finds his evil resolve during "Slipping", and delivers a resounding declaration of his intent to rule the world.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Dr. Horrible wants to defeat Captain Hammer and join the Evil League of Evil so he can have the respect he feels he deserves. He also wants to date Penny. Achieving the first costs him the second, as in any good tragedy.
- Betty and Veronica: Penny has a choice between two guys: the shy, nerdy Billy and the macho, thuggish Captain Hammer. By the end, she realizes that she prefers Billy, but doesn't discover until too late that he's really Dr. Horrible.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Dr. Horrible starts out as a Technical Pacifist: he refuses to fight an enemy in the city park due to the presence of children, he refuses to kill saying it isn't "classy", and he even keeps up this policy against his nemesis Captain Hammer, despite the constant physical abuse he gets from the Captain. This holds up until the end of Act II, when Hammer reveals that he's dating Penny for no other reason other than because Billy is in love with her. This leads into the song, "Brand New Day", where Horrible states that he's finally snapped and found the motivation to kill.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: The "hero" is worse than the "villain", and the only unequivocally good character is an Innocent Bystander, and she dies.
- Blatant Lies: "What a crazy random happenstance," "we're meeting now for the first time," "when I fell deeply, deeply in love with my serious long-term girlfriend Penny," and "And I am fine / And I won't feel a thing." to name a few.
- Blessed with Suck: Moist has the power... to sweat profusely, all the time. He gained it when his father attempted to treat his dry skin with a radioactive humidifier.
- Blown Across the Room: Captain Hammer is flung across the auditorium from the exploding death ray. He's not seriously hurt only due to his Nigh-Invulnerability.
- Break the Cutie: Dr. Horrible's humiliations in Act II are only the latest in a long line of humiliations and injuries inflicted on him by Jerk Jock Captain Hammer. The ending simultaneously makes him a true supervillain and crushes his dreams.Billy: "Listen close to everybody's heart / and hear that breaking sound / hopes and dreams are shattering apart / and crashing to the ground."
- Break the Haughty: Captain Hammer karmically destroys his own ego by injuring himself with the damaged Death Ray. As he has never felt pain before, he is unable to deal with it and becomes an emotional wreck.
- Brick Joke:
- Dr. Horrible's trying out different laughs at the start of Act I; he appears to have perfected it by the time of Act III, opening "Slipping" with a well-rehearsed Evil Laugh.
- Also, remember Moist's discussion of his double-date with Bait and Switch? At the evil party in the end, he is standing with two blondes, one much, much prettier than the other. Hmm...
- There's a reverse Brick Joke, where the punchline happens before the set up. In "Slipping", Dr. Horrible pauses his song for a second to tell a reporter "Yeah, it's two 'R's, H-O-R-R-I..." Then, in the prequel comic explaining how Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer first met, a newspaper headline reads "Captain Hammer Confronts New Villain: Doctor Horible!" Evidently, he was being careful not to let them make a mistake the second time around.
- BSoD Song: Everything You Ever, the final song in the film. It's lyrically a victory song, but done to the tune of a funeral dirge, for obvious reasons. Neil's Turn from Commentary is also a comedic take on this.
- Buffy Speak: A given when you consider the writer.Dr. Horrible: Moist! My evil...moisture...buddy...Dr. Horrible: I wouldn't want to turn my back on a fellow... laundry... person.Captain Hammer: Mama! Someone maternal!Blurb quoting Hammer: I hope to set an example, you know, for children and stuff.Mayor: Justice has a name; and the name that it has, besides justice, is Captain Hammer.Newspaper in ending: Country mourns Whats-Her-Name.
- Canis Latinicus: The seal of the Evil League of Evil bears the phrase "Homines Non Boni Seriose" which can be translated as "Seriously Not Good Guys."
- Cannot Talk to Women: Billy is so painfully shy that his first on-screen attempt at talking to Penny at the laundromat ends with him mumbling unintelligibly, and his second attempt ("Love your hair.") becomes a Did I Just Say That Out Loud? moment for him when she turns around in surprise. He backpedals hastily, "No, I- I, I...love the air." At one point he tells Moist that he is so close (surely only a few weeks at most!) to achieving "real audible connection" with Penny. He never gets around to actually telling her that he loves her.
- Captain Superhero: Captain Hammer.
Penny: You came from above. / I wonder what you're captain of.
- Even lampshaded by Penny in a line she sings at the end of "A Man's Gotta Do".
- Car Fu: "Captain Hammer threw a car at my head."
- Card-Carrying Villain: Dr. Horrible, who wants to prove his worth as a supervillain to be allowed to join the Evil League of Evil. Not to mention the actual members of the actual Evil League of Evil, like Bad Horse, of course, of course. Ironically, he epitomizes the opposite of that trope in all other respects.
- "I'm Dr. Horrible! (I hold / I've got) a PhD. in horribleness!" Lampshaded by Moist: "Is that the new catchphrase?"
- Apparently before that it was "Horrible is just what the Doctor ordered", which Moist stated needed changing.
- Catchphrase Interruptus: Or High Note Interruptus, at least. Dr. Horrible paralyzes Hammer with his freeze ray right before the last word of his big song. After recovering he belts out the final note before continuing his fight.
- Character Blog: As the title states, Dr. Horrible operates a blog in which he talks of his life as a supervillain. Unfortunately for him, Captain Hammer watches the blog—and so does the Los Angeles Police Department.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Freeze Ray, mentioned throughout Act I and II as something of a joke, comes back with a vengeance in Act III.
- Penny sings, "So keep your head up Billy buddy" to Dr. Horrible in Act II. Later, when Dr. Horrible gate-crashes the Captain Hammer statue unveiling at the end of Act III, he pep-talks himself into killing Hammer, singing, "head up Billy buddy," thus clueing in Penny that her friend Billy is the villain.
- Chest Insignia: Captain Hammer has one of these. It's a... well, take a guess. Notably it's not a cool iconic design of a warhammer, or a jackhammer, or a sledgehammer, but a picture of a garden-variety claw hammer, likely from Sears.
- Child Prodigy: In his prequel comic, it's established that Dr. Horrible was skipped at least three grades in school when he was 8, and is still considered smart relative to his classmates.
- Civvie Spandex: Captain Hammer's costume consists almost entirely of normal items of clothing.
- Clark Kenting: Played straight and subverted. Penny doesn't recognize her laundry buddy Billy as Dr. Horrible (though admittedly she didn't get a very good look at Dr. Horrible). Captain Hammer seems not to recognize him, but it turns out he's just waiting for Penny to leave the room. Penny later recognizes Billy/Horrible after he does a Call-Back to her encouraging song in Act II.
- Coconut Superpowers:
- We see the (dubious) success of Dr. Horrible's Transmatter Ray when he shows off a Ziploc bag full of liquefied gold bullion/bouillon.
- The prequel comic showed him using it to make a steel beam that Captain Hammer threw at him teleport away.
- We only hear from Dr. Horrible that Captain Hammer threw a car at his head. We never see it.
- Subverted twice, in that we see the Freeze Ray and the Death Ray in operation in Act III.
- We see the (dubious) success of Dr. Horrible's Transmatter Ray when he shows off a Ziploc bag full of liquefied gold bullion/bouillon.
- Collateral Angst: Penny dies to fulfill Dr. Horrible's quest to kill someone to join the Evil League of Evil, despite taking away his hope in the process. Her disposable status is even lampshaded by the news coverage of the death of "Captain Hammer's girlfriend, Whats-Her-Name". She's also the only genuinely good character in the show, sealing the crap firmly into the Crapsack World that Dr. Horrible will now rule over.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Inverted (or played straight, depending); Dr. Horrible wears a pure white costume, while Captain Hammer wears the classically villainous black. After Penny dies, Horrible switches to a black-and-red costume, symbolizing the loss of idealism and good intentions.
- Colour-Coded Timestop: The Freeze Ray does this, with the color being blue. "It's not an ice beam."
- Comically Missing the Point: During "Slipping," Dr. Horrible mentions the prospect of "Anarchy/That I run!"
- Condescending Compassion: Captain Hammer displays this in spades in Everyone's a Hero.Captain Hammer: "Everyone's a hero in their own way / everyone's got they villains they must face / they're not as cool as mine / but folks, you know it's fine to know your place."Captain Hammer: "A hero doesn't care / if you're a bunch of scary alcoholic bums."
- Contrived Coincidence: Presenting Penny with an "extra" frozen yogurt surely counts as this, as Billy saw her and Hammer enjoying the same treat earlier.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: It's never actually said whether or not Captain Hammer has corporate sponsors, but it is heavily implied when Dr. Horrible calls his nemesis "Captain Hammer, corporate TOOL!"
- Counterpoint Duet: My Eyes.
- Crapsack World: The world at large doesn't seem to care all that much about right and wrong. Captain Hammer is declared a hero just because he fights for the system; nevermind all the people he hurts. Even worse, after Captain Hammer is humiliated all of the "sheep" who idolized him switch sides to worship Dr. Horrible - clearly they only care about backing a winner, good or bad.
- Create Your Own Villain: It is heavily implied (and outright stated in the prequel comics) that Captain Hammer is the reason why Dr. Horrible is a villain - Hammer believed anyone nerdy or intelligent was destined to become a Mad Scientist, and his preemptive first strikes against the nerdy Billy are what drove him to villainy. Act III cements this when Hammer's attempt to murder Horrible with his own death ray (which goes badly) drives Horrible over the edge into true evil.
- Crowd Song: The final verse of Everyone's a Hero.
- Cue Card Pause: "I hate the homeless...ness problem that plagues this city."
- Lampshaded: "I don't need tiny cue cards."
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: "It's not about making money, it's about taking money." This is blatant hypocrisy on Dr. Horrible's part, as the Transmatter Ray was supposed to transport the gold bar intact, and it's clear from "Slipping" that he is after cash and fame as well as social change.
- Damning With Faint Praise: You don't get much fainter than "I guess he's pretty okay" in regards to the hero of the city! And that was said by the girl who was dating him at the time.
- Dark Reprise: The strains of "Brand New Day" hang over Dr. Horrible's head as he walks through the bar at the end of the film.
- Dartboard of Hate: Dr. Horrible's not a very good dart thrower. Fortunately this is quickly rectified by more direct application of dart to Hammer.
- Death by Origin Story: Penny, unless Joss has something really twisted up his sleeve for the putative sequel.
- Death Ray: Dr. Horrible was originally a Technical Pacifist, but later recants and turns his Stun Ray into a Death Ray. You know it used to be a stun ray because he is shown covering up "stun" with a piece of black tape with "death" written on it.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The "Evil League of Evil" is, arguably, semantically justified; the first 'Evil' describes the nature of the league, the second the composition of the league. It is a league of evil, which is itself evil. However, it most definitely captures the spirit of the trope.
- Designated Hero and Designated Villain: Invoked; thanks to the deconstruction mentioned above, Captain Hammer has a heroic demeanor but is a misanthropic, anti-intellectual, pompous Miles Gloriosus with Super Strength who prefers to beat up and humiliate Dr. Horrible rather than turn him over to the police; while Dr. Horrible is a classic Well-Intentioned Extremist who is too introverted to pull off any serious crimes until Captain Hammer makes it personal.
- Best demonstrated at the end of "Slipping". Doctor Horrible has finally decided to quit pulling punches and turns his stun ray into a death ray to kill his nemesis. When he has his chance to kill the helpless Captain Hammer, he hesitates. When the tables are turned, Captain Hammer pulls the trigger without a glimmer of mercy.
- Despair Event Horizon: After Penny's death, Dr. Horrible just stops caring. In one scene at the end, you see him holding up a bank, only half-heartedly threatening people with his gun. It's implied at the very end that his contempt of the world consumes him, going from a Well-Intentioned Extremist to a just plain villain.
- Didn't Think This Through: When Dr. Horrible announces his plans to attack the mayor on his blog, he is easily thwarted by the police and Captain Hammer because... he announced it on his blog.Dr. Horrible: Also, I need to be a bit more careful about what I say on this blog. Apparently, Captain Hammer and the LAPD are among our viewers.
- Die for Our Ship: In-universe example - the groupies have an irrational hatred towards Penny..."So they say he saved her life / They say she works with the homeless / And doesn't eat meat / We have a problem with her!"
- Dies Wide Open: Penny.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: Inverted on the DVD when the League warns you against using the DVD for non-evil purposes. Ripping the DVD reveals a screen reading "You ripped our DVD? How do you not fear us yet?"
- Dirty Coward / Miles Gloriosus: Captain Hammer is tough and impressive when he knows he can't be hurt and can easily beat up his foes — but the very first time he does get hurt he runs away bawling like a baby.
- The Dog Bites Back: Captain Hammer dating Penny solely to hurt Dr. Horrible, in addition to the massive amounts of pain and suffering he's put him through in the past, causes him to snap and decide the one he's going to kill is Hammer. "Brand New Day" is all about this trope.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Billy is, at his core, a genuinely nice guy who's too shy to act on his wishes, at least at first.
- Don't Explain the Joke / Lampshaded Double EntendreCaptain Hammer: [holds up his fists] "These are not the Hammer." [leaves then returns] "The Hammer is my penis."
- Downer Ending: Captain Hammer is revealed for the punk he truly is. Penny dies, fulfilling Bad Horse's requirement for a murder. Dr. Horrible becomes a famous supervillain and gets admitted to the Evil League of Evil. But now, the world is an empty place, full of haunting memories. Billy's last shreds of idealism and innocence are gone.Dr Horrible/Penny: "There's no happy ending.. so they say."
Dr Horrible: "Not for me, anyway..."
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Penny is killed by an explosion that barely scratches anyone else, taken out by a piece of debris that appeared to be some sort of Penny-seeking missile.
- Easter Egg: On the DVD, in the scene selection, no less. Act II, 'Moist Dries Out'. It gives you a full-screen close-up of the ELE seal, with Dr. Horrible's picture and a countdown from five before it auto-directs you back to the main menu.
- It actually has a purpose... try pressing 5 or 6 on your DVD remote during the countdown. There are two other similar Easter eggs as well, accessed the same way: try pressing Enter during the "Act 2" title and during the "What Just Happened?" special feature when Felicia says "Mariah Carey", and more countdowns will appear. Again, pressing 5 or 6 yields interesting results.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Horrible isn't so sure about this whole killing people thing and is especially appalled at the suggestion of killing a little kid (and future president) to boost his own reputation of evilness. This is introduced in Act I in his response to Johnny Snow's challenge.Dr Horrible: Besides, there are kids in that park.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Captain Hammer has at least one man swooning over him.
- Everything but the Girl: To the tee at the end.
"I say successful in that I achieved my objective; it was less successful in that I inadvertently introduced my arch-nemesis to the girl of my dreams, and now he's taking her out on dates, and they're probably going to French kiss or something... she called him 'sweet'. How is he sweet?"
- This is the ending of Act I and Act III. Listen to how Dr. Horrible describes his own "famously successful" heist in Act I:
- Evil Costume Switch: In Act I, during the heist to steal the Wonderflonium, Billy changes from his normal clothes into his evil persona and dons the Dr. Horrible outfit (complete with goggles).
- In Act III, the final switch from villain to supervillain occurs: from Dr. Horrible's previous iconic outfit consisting of white labcoat, white boots and gloves to a blood-red labcoat and black gloves. He keeps his goggles, but now they've become Scary Shiny Glasses, covering his eyes.
- Evil Feels Good: What Dr. Horrible learns in Act II. Before, his determination to get entrance into the prestigious Evil League of Evil was merely a wish to gain respect. Now, It's Personal. Now, he wants revenge.
- Evil Gloating:
- Captain Hammer's gloating at the laundromat, when he tells Billy/Dr. Horrible that he will date Penny solely because Dr. Horrible has a crush on her. He grinds it into Horrible's face (metaphorically) with, "...and I get what you want."
- Dr. Horrible's song "Slipping" in Act III is the same thing.
- Evil Laugh: What Doctor Horrible is practicing in Act I. He has a vocal coach. He gets it right in Act III."If you're gonna get into the Evil League of Evil, you have to have a memorable laugh!"
- Evil Minions: Moist barely qualifies as a henchman, because in his own words, "Even at my most badass, I can only make people feel like they want to take a shower." He at least tries to play the part by offering Dr. Horrible some rather vicious ways to get into the Evil League of Evil, such as killing children and old ladies.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
- Bad Horse is literally a villainous horse.
- Moist's "superpower" is uncontrollable sweating.
- Moist's double date with Bait and Switch ended with him and Switch. Should've seen that one coming.
- Dr. Horrible's Stun Ray has "Stun Ray" written on it. When he changes it to a Death Ray, he tapes over the word "Stun" with "Death".
- Face Framed in Shadow: During "My Eyes" while singing about the darkness in him rising, he stands so that only half his face is lit by a streetlight. When he mentions that it's rising, he steps back, allowing his entire face to be covered. The only light still hitting his face is from a hobo-fire.
- Fan Disillusionment: Captain Hammer's three biggest fans change their Hammer themed attire and allegiance in favor of Dr. Horrible after he defeats Captain Hammer.
- Fangirl: In-universe example - Captain Hammer has a trio. Well, two fangirls and one Camp Gay fanboy. In the end, they change sides to Dr. Horrible, because Hammer has been defeated, in a nastily satirical twist that helps to prove Dr. Horrible's point.
- Fantasy Twist: In the first song, much of which takes place in the imagination of Billy/Dr. Horrible, he imagines himself slipping up and saying "Love your hair" out loud, then awkwardly trying to cover his Did I Just Say That Out Loud? moment by claiming he loves the air.
- Feet of Clay: Penny starts seeing Captain Hammer as he truly is during Act III: an egotistical Jerkass bully with superpowered brawn. Hammer's final attack on Horrible really shows what's Beneath the Mask and shows him for the punk he is. Subverted with Penny's line, which demonstrate that she still believes in hope — "Captain Hammer will save us."
- Fiery Redhead: Subverted, or at least averted. Penny is so mild-mannered and gentle that she is actually grateful when Captain Hammer uses his super strength to push her at high speed into a pile of garbage. She's so sweet that her dying words are meant as reassurance to her Billy buddy.
- Final Speech: Penny's Last Words are to ask if Billy is alright, and to reassure him that "Captain Hammer will save us." Brutally ironic considering that she'd just seen both Hammer and Billy show what's Beneath the Mask, and in her dying moment she chooses Hammer. Whether she was delirious or not, her attempt to comfort Billy ends up twisting the knife in the cruelest possible way.
"'Cause the dark is everywhere and Penny doesn't seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain..."
- Bad Horse insists that Dr. Horrible kill someone. He doesn't say who. And Penny's the Morality Chain for Billy/Dr. Horrible. Uh oh.
- And, at the end of Act 1, Captain Hammer damages Dr. Horrible's equipment (i.e. the van remote), which almost results in Penny's death.
- Also, several quick lines during the songs:
Horrible/Penny: There's no happy ending/So they say
Horrible: Not for me anyway...
"It's not a death ray..."
Hammer (to Penny): "The only doom that's looming is you loving me to death..."
- The username of the person who asks Dr. Horrible about Penny at the beginning is "deadnotsleeping".
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: Parodied in the opening scenes.
- Freeze Ray: Although in this case, Billy's Freeze Ray is a stasis weapon rather than a real Freeze Ray— it's his rival Johnny Snow that has the "ice beam."
- Freudian Couch: Captain Hammer ends up lying on one of these, sobbing and talking to a psychiatrist after being physically injured for the first time in his life.
- Fun with Subtitles: The "Wiccan" subtitles on the DVD.
- Funny Background Event: Two, both during the "My Eyes" song in Act II.
- In the soup kitchen, Billy shows up "incognito" (Fake moustache and Apron), scoops up soup for the homeless but doesn't throw it into bowl, but back into the pan. He then gives the bowl to one of the homeless.
- Dr. Horrible stalking Penny and Captain Hammer on their date, complete with Mobile Shrubbery.
- Gag Dub: Commentary! The Musical at times has elements of this.
- Gaining the Will to Kill: Dr. Horrible insists at first that, while he wants to rule the world, he has no desire to kill people, because killing "lacks style". The reality is that he's too timid to try, a problem that's quickly rectified when Captain Hammer steals Penny to spite him. The song "Brand New Day" illustrates that there is, indeed, something that can push him to homicide: jealousy. Act III follows immediately by showing him converting his stun ray into a death ray. The ending, however, subverts the trope in that he never does kill anyone directly.
- Genre-Busting: For its first two chapters, it's a musical, superhero deconstruction, romantic comedy about a wannabe mad scientist supervillain and his attempts at gaining power (frequently detailed in his video blog). Then the last chapter ends with elements of classic tragedy, the only remotely sweet and sympathetic character dying in the most gut-wrenching, Whedon-specialty way possible. The montage that follows, however, still includes some brutally funny moments.
- Genre Savvy: Doctor Horrible has a voice coach for his laugh, and respects Bad Horse's work on his terrible Death Whinny. He insists it's about standards. He uses the laugh appropriately later. He has a stunning moment of savviness failure when he spends too long monologuing in Act III, giving the Freeze Ray time to run out of juice.
- Gloved Fist of Doom: Just before Dr. Horrible enters the room to join the Evil League of Evil.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Doctor Horrible literally has goggles, but never seems to do much with them. At the end, Doctor Horrible wears the goggles over the eyes on his new, 'true evil' costume, signifying the completion of his change.
- The Good Captain: Subverted by Captain Hammer.
- Penny drops a Lampshade Hanging by saying, "I wonder what you're Captain of..."
- That could also be interpreted as a Shout-Out to Firefly, another show written/conceived by Joss Whedon (in which Nathan Fillion, who plays Captain Hammer, is the captain of a spaceship).
- Good Colors, Evil Colors:
- Reversed (Or is it?) — Dr. Horrible wears white, Captain Hammer wears black.
- Dr. Horrible's red suit at the end of Act III is definitely an example of this. So are Dr. Horrible's new black gloves, which now match Captain Hammer's black gloves from earlier, hinting that Dr. Horrible is now as evil (and hypocritical) deep down as Captain Hammer.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Dr. Horrible is driven by this increasingly throughout Act II and III.
- Grief Song: Everything You Ever.
- Groin Attack: During the Seasonal Montage in "Brand New Day", we see Captain Hammer first knee Dr. Horrible hard in the crotch while beating him up, then later give him a really vicious wedgie.
- Groupie Brigade: Captain Hammer has one.
- Half Empty Two Shot: The scene in Act III of Penny sitting in the laundromat with two frozen yogurts, waiting for Billy, who isn't showing up.
- Hammerspace: Dr. Horrible produces the Death Ray from beneath his coat in Act III, despite there being no evidence of it being there in earlier shots. While not an actual use, it's also worth noting that Captain Hammer pulls the notecards for his speech in Act III out of his oversized glove.
- Happy Ending: Well, that depends on how you look at it.
- Played straight: Billy finally achieves his ambition. He defeats Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible becomes a member of the inner circle of the Evil League of Evil.
- Subverted: Billy's Death Ray explodes in the hands of Captain Hammer. The shrapnel hits Penny and she dies without him ever getting a chance to say how he feels about her, let alone goodbye.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Lampshaded.Captain Hammer: "I don't go to the gym. I'm just naturally like this."
- Hate Plague: Tie-Die has some sort of strange incense powers that can make hippies evil and violent.
- He Had a Name: Played for Mood Whiplash in the closing montage, with newspapers announcing "Girlfriend of Captain Hammer Murdered" and "Country Mourns Whats-Her-Name". It's intended to demonstrate how the Crapsack World cares more about superheroes and supervillains such as Hammer and Horrible respectively than real-life people like Penny.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Bad Horse, until the very end. Also, Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The "Thoroughbred of Sin" is revealed to be... yeah, a real horse. Apparently, the actors who played the Evil League of Evil's members did not know that Bad Horse was a real horse until the scene happened.
- Heel Realization: Dr. Horrible has this over Penny's corpse, as he realizes that now he really is a villain to the world at large.
- Hellish Horse: Bad Horse is a black horse who doesn't look like anything special but his Coconut Superpowers include a "terrible death whinny." He must have done something evil to cause Penny to look horrified at the mention of the Thoroughbred of Sin.
- Hero Antagonist: Captain Hammer, though he barely qualifies as a hero in the first place.
- Hero Insurance: Captain Hammer, big time.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Ok, so the term "hero" is debatable but both Doctor Horrible and Captain Hammer go for Penny. Even if Hammer does just want to screw with Horrible (not to mention screw with Penny.
- Heroic BSoD/Villainous BSoD: Depending on who you interpret as the hero or villain.
- Dr. Horrible twice: first at the beginning of Act II after Penny and Captain Hammer have hooked up, and then the very last shot of Act III.
- Captain Hammer, running away whilst crying for "someone maternal" and then later seen in therapy.
- Heroism Motive Speech: Parodied with Captain Hammer's song "Everyone's A Hero," where he gives a speech about how being a superhero is all based in philanthropy, except he's both incredibly narcissistic about how cool it is to be a real superhero and incredibly insensitive towards the people he's supposedly helping.
- Hope Spot: Dr. Horrible has a moment of triumph as he survives his gun exploding without harm, and Captain Hammer has fled, broken and humiliated. But then he turns around, to see the fallen Penny.
- Hopeless Suitor: Dr. Horrible to Penny, with the difference that Hammer knows that Billy the laundry buddy is not "just a friend."
- Humans Are Morons: Dr. Horrible laments that most humans are sheep and can't think for themselves. To him, only a complete overhaul of the system can fix this issue.
- Hyperaffixation: Parodied. In his prequel comic, after concocting a new way to fight Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible tells Moist to "Fetch the Horrible Mobile!" ...which is just Moist's perfectly ordinary car. Moist wishes the Doctor wouldn't call that because it's "a very reliable car".
- Captain Hammer also claims to own several Hammer-themed items, including the Hammer-Cycle and the Hamjet, although we never see them.
- Hypocritical Humor: "Wow, sarcasm! That's original!" Subtly lampshaded as Horrible pauses a moment, as if reflecting on this statement, before continuing.
- "I Am Becoming" Song: "My Eyes", "Brand New Day", Billy's parts in "So They Say"...
- "I Am" Song: "A Man's Gotta Do" starts out as Dr. Horrible but is hijacked by Captain Hammer before he even gets to the first chorus. "Bad Horse Chorus" is a He Is Song for the eponymous horse. "Everything You Ever" is this for Dr. Horrible at the conclusion of the story.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: "Oh goodness, look at my wrist, I gotta go."
- "I Want" Song: "My Freeze Ray".
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: The deed to be done to get into the Evil League of Evil ("A heinous crime, a show of force, [a murder would be nice, of course]"). After Dr. Horrible's first attempt fails, the league tells him only an assassination can make up for it, and implies another failure will make him a target.
- Incessant Chorus: Bad Horse's henchmen.
- They even appear at one point during a completely different song. They aren't singing, but they are posed and moving in the same way they do when they are. It could be assumed that they are singing, we just can't hear them.
- Incoming Ham: Captain Hammer is Milking the Giant Cow in his very first scene.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Played straight in Act I and Act II. Double Subverted in Act III — even when Dr. Horrible steps up to the plate, he can't follow through with killing Captain Hammer, only for said hero to solve the problem for him, causing his breakdown.
- The Ingenue: Penny comprises this trope distilled. There are hints she is not as naïve as she seems to be on first glance, though. She certainly has experienced sorrow and rejection in her life, but unlike Billy, she did not let this get her down, she kept her optimism intact.
- Innocent Bystander: Penny gets dragged into the rivalries between Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer. In the first Act she is nearly run over by the out-of-control van, and in the last Act she pays for it with her life.
- Insert Cameo: JOSS'S FIST!
- Intercourse with You: Captain Hammer's other reason for dating Penny was for the sex and the bragging rights thereof."This is so nice / I just might sleep with the same girl twice / They say it's better the second time / they say you get to do the weird stuff.""I thank my girlfriend, Penny / Yeah, we totally had sex."
- Intrepid Reporter: There are two people who do not run or cower during 'Slipping'. One is taking pictures of Dr. Horrible. The other is taking notes on his speech, and the latter is in the front row. She doesn't even flinch when he leans over to correct her spelling, gun in hand. She just shows him her notebook.
- Ironic Echo:
- In "Penny's Song", she sings "So keep your head up, Billy buddy" to try to cheer Dr. Horrible up and get him to be more optimistic. Then in "Slipping", Horrible repeats the line... to build up his courage to kill Captain Hammer. (This also clues Penny in that her laundry buddy and Dr. Horrible are the same person.)
- In "Slipping", Dr. Horrible sings triumphantly "Then I win, then I get everything I ever" in anticipation of his victory. In the next song, "Everything You Ever", that phrase instead becomes a eerie, almost mocking refrain about being careful what you wish for.
- In "Freeze Ray", Billy sings about how "I'm the guy to make it real/the feelings you don't dare to feel" regards Penny. In "My Eyes", Penny sings "He looks at me and seems to know/the things that I'm afraid to show", but she's talking about Captain Hammer.
- A smaller one, but in Act I Dr. Horrible informs the audience to "tell their friends" about the Freeze Ray. In Act III he says the same, but to "say it was Horrible."
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The final component for the time-freezing ray is "Wonderflonium." (Which must never be bounced.)
- It's Personal: One of the many reasons Billy finally decides to get rid of the kid gloves and off Captain Hammer.
- Jerkass: Captain Hammer, full stop.
- Jerk Jock: Meet Captain Hammer, corporate tool and narcissistic sleazebag.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Captain Hammer, who Dr. Horrible/Billy's crush, Penny, thinks of as really sweet on the inside, despite being a bit full of himself. The truth is Captain Hammer is only being nice to Penny to get in her pants and simultaneously piss off the eponymous character. Lampshaded when Penny states that he must have a deeper layer that's totally different from the one on the surface, Bily replies that he sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, and that one's exactly the same as the top surface level (like pie).
- Just Between You and Me:
- In Act II, at the laundromat, when Captain Hammer catches Billy before he can slip out the door and then, while Penny is otherwise occupied, has a little chit-chat with him, revealing that he knows that Billy is Dr. Horrible and also that he noticed Billy's/Horrible's feelings for Penny. All the while having his arm around Billy's shoulders in what looks like a jovial, friendly buddy gesture between guys... until you look at Billy's face frozen in fear and impotent rage.
- In Act III, Dr. Horrible's song "Slipping" is the musical equivalent of the supervillain's triumphant monologue. His two-minute song gives his Freeze Ray time to run out of power and release Captain Hammer...
- Karma Meter: The colour of Doctor Horrible's goggles. In Act I, they're reflecting some light, and look white. As the story unfolds, the light gets reflected less and less often, and the goggles turn darker and darker as Horrible's personality does the same. Finally in Act III, the goggles are completely black. Interestingly, just as "Everything You Ever" starts, light momentarily reflects off the goggles again. Last trace of goodness?
- Kent Brockman News: "It's a good day to be homeless!" Also: "Next up: Who's gay?" (Cut to a shot of Dr. Horrible's hands working in the lab - possibly an Actor Allusion to Neil Patrick Harris - then straight to Captain Hammer's flaming fanboy.)
- Kick the Dog: Captain Hammer is made of this. In Act II, Hammer reveals that he's dating Penny just to mess with Horrible.
- Knight Templar: Captain Hammer, the self-designated Hero. Not only does he not hesitate to shoot a helpless opponent in the face, but according to the Captain Hammer: Be Like Me! comic he considers everyone who is a "freak" or a loner or just good at science and math a potential villain and danger to society. Although not explicitly stated, it's heavily implied that Billy was a good kid until Hammer's "first strike" assaults on him turned him vicious.
- Lame Rhyme Dodge: "Love the...uh...air."
- Large Ham: Captain Hammer, especially in-universe. Especially in-universe. Dr. Horrible, by contrast, is mostly subdued...up until "Slipping," where he goes full ham as only a singing, Death Ray wielding supervillain in top Evil Gloating form can.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Done to Captain Hammer in a quite literal way. He tries to kill Dr. Horrible with his own death ray, despite the Doctor begging him not to, and the death ray exploded. All because he pulled that trigger he ended up in therapy and Penny ended up in the morgue.
- Late to the Punchline:
- People have reported only getting the Bait and Switch gag later, and/or after repeated viewings.
- The same is true for the Fury Leika joke and gold bullion and other Stealth Pun jokes.
- Nobody gets the Conflict Diamond reference. She's apparently a bad date.
- The commentary notes that the picture of Penny that Dr. Horrible holds when he sits in the big chair being taken from a Stalker with a Crush vantage was less noticeable than expected.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: Does it ever. The series is about the length of a standard hour-long TV show, and in that time it manages to fit in every bit of character development, deconstruction of various tropes, Foreshadowing, stealth humour and all the other minute details which are mentioned on this page. As of October 2016, there are 307 tropes on this page for 42 minutes of musical (and more on the subpages). Every last second always counts.
- Dr. Horrible's theme from the act openings shows up played normally in the middle of "Slipping" as the song switches from him philosophizing to being in full villain mode, and as a harsh version with heavy downbeats in "Everything You Ever" as he suits up in his new red-and-black uniform.
- The same Lonely Piano Piece melody shows up in both of Penny's solos "Caring Hands" and "Penny's Song", and then in the credits where it gets overtaken/drowned out by a loud, heavy version of Horrible's theme.
- The background chords of "Slipping" play when Dr. Horrible is throwing the remote onto the courier van, and later in the credits.
- Lethally Stupid: Captain Hammer. After destroying the device Dr. Horrible was using to control the Wonderflonium van, he lets it drive out of control so he can seduce a random bystander. Then he tries to use Dr. Horrible's broken Death Ray, causing the explosion that killed his girlfriend, turned his nemesis into a true villain, and made him to feel pain for the first time in his life.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: Brand New Day.
- Little "No": Dr. Horrible is too paralyzed with grief to manage a Big "NO!", or even much in the way of speech at all, as his mind catches up with Penny's demise and the implications thereof.
- Living Legend: Captain Hammer, Bad Horse, and the Evil League of Evil are all incredibly well known. By the end of Act III, so is Dr. Horrible.
- Lock-and-Load Montage: The Doctor converting his Stun Ray into a Death Ray in Act III. Also at the end of Act III, the Doctor changes the color scheme of his Mad Scientist getup.
- Lonely at the Top
- Lonely Piano Piece: Penny's theme and song, as well as the beginning of "Everything You Ever". Doubles as a Simple Score of Sadness.
- Loose Lips: Dr. Horrible has a blog, which he uses to talk to his fans about various things he's done and is planning to do. This backfires on him when it turns out his viewing audience includes Captain Hammer and the LAPD.
- Lost Love Montage: My Eyes, the first song of Act II, seems to be this for Dr. Horrible.
- Love Makes You Evil: The entire second half of the story.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Used intentionally throughout.
- Bad Horse's songs sound rather heroic, but it was about an evaluation of evil and murder as a last resort respectively.
- "Brand New Day" is an upbeat rock anthem about plotting murder.
- "Everyone's a Hero" is an inspirational anthem that actually insults its audience.
- "Everything You Ever" is a (supposedly) triumphant victory song with the cadence of a dirge.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Horrible and his various inventions. Also possibly Professor Normal, given that headgear.
- And Mister Maniacal in the prequel comic.
- Made of Iron: Captain Hammer. Also Dr. Horrible is able to either survive, or at the very least dodge, having a car thrown at his head, not to mention the other abuse Captain Hammer piles upon him.
- Metaphorgotten: As a Joss Whedon production, this show is frankly swimming in this and Buffy Speak.Billy: "Tell you how / how you make / make me feel / what's the phrase? / Like a fool / kinda sick / special needs / anyways..."
Penny: "(Cut off the head) of the human race?"
Billy: "It's not a perfect metaphor..."
Capt. Hammer: It's curtains for you, Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains.
Dr. Horrible: Gwurk???
Billy: "Sometimes, there's a third, even deeper, level, and that one's the same as the top surface one."
Billy: "Like with pie."
Dr. Horrible: "See you at the aftermath. Peace!" (Beat) "But not literally..." (click)
Captain Hammer: "The only signature that he needed was my fist. With a pen in it—that I was—signing with."
The Mayor: "Justice has a name, and the name that it has, besides justice, is Captain Hammer."
Captain Hammer: "It may not feel too classy / begging just to eat / but you know who does that? Lassie! / and she always gets a treat."
Captain Hammer: "But home is where the heart is / so your real home's in your chest."
Captain Hammer: "Give my regards to Saint Peter ... or, whoever has his job but in Hell."
- Really, the whole song ''Everyone's a Hero'' is a combination of Metaphorgotten and Condescending Compassion, turning every inspirational verse into a Broken Aesop.
- Meaningful Name: Captain Hammer is a real tool.
- Also, Penny. At a coin wash.
- Mickey Mousing: Captain Hammer repeatedly slams Dr. Horrible into a car in time with Penny's part of "A Man's Gotta Do"
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Captain Hammer blubbers like a baby and needs to see a psychiatrist to deal with getting physically hurt for the first time.
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: Moist. "Humidity Rising" reveals that his condition was caused by a plutonium-powered humidifier.
- Missing Steps Plan: "Yes, it's true I was vague on the how..."
- Mobile Shrubbery: Dr. Horrible uses it to follow Penny and Captain Hammer around at the beginning of Act II.
- Mood Motif:
- The crunchy guitars of determination in "Brand New Day"
- The Creepy Drums of Sinister is that middle part of "Slipping"
- The Violin of Tense Suspense is audible at the end of "Slipping" We see Horrible hesitate ...will he pull the trigger on the death ray and take out his nemesis once and for all...?"Here goes no mercyyyyyyyyyy...."
- The Theremin of Mad Scientist is audible at the very end of "Everything You Ever" and through the closing credits.
- The Harp of Sweetness is in the mix for most of Penny's songs, especially "My Eyes".
- And then, appropriately enough, in a minor key thrumming in the background during "Everything You Ever".
- Mood Whiplash: The series begins with a light comic tone that begins hinting at darkness in Act II, to abandon the comedy (almost) entirely by the end of Act III. Although Dr. Horrible singing: "Say it was (H/h)orrible! Spread the word! Tell your friends! Tell them the tale. Get a pic! Do a blog!" amidst the carnage is still pretty funny (especially in light of the title of the musical). He even pauses mid-rampage to make sure a reporter is spelling his name correctly. Not to mention the headline which reads "Country Mourns Death of What's-Her-Name" during the Downer Ending. Mood Whiplash, indeed.
- Morality Chain: Penny to Billy, made clear in "Penny's Song". Notice that his blinking tic crops up most often when he's dealing with the Billy/Dr. Horrible moral dichotomy, and is crucially visible during the "Head up, Billy buddy" line during "Slipping" as he works up the resolve to shoot Captain Hammer. He truly starts turning evil.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Horrible has a PhD in Horribleness.
- Mortal Wound Reveal: After the Death Ray explodes, Dr. Horrible happily looks on as Captain Hammer discovers what pain feels like, then turns to see Penny was impaled by the shrapnel.
- Most Definitely Not a Villain: When Dr. Horrible meets Captain Hammer in the laundromat, the first thing he says is "We're meeting now for the first time."
- Mundane Utility: Dr. Horrible wants to use the Freeze Ray as a "conversational aid" to get up the nerve to speak with Penny.
- Also, in the ELE comic, Johnny Snow uses his ice beam to chill a six-pack of beer/soda.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Dr. Horrible's motivation for going after Captain Hammer. He hopes to make it up to Penny by giving her "the keys to a Shiny New Australia".
- Musical Spoiler: In Act III, after the Death Ray explodes and Captain Hammer runs off screaming and crying like a little girl, Dr. Horrible picks himself up from the floor and starts to grin with the sudden realization that he has won after all. And then he turns around, and sees... And everything goes very quiet. No music, not a sound. Just his expression, changing to horror.
- Musical World Hypotheses: Mostly Alternate Universe Hypothesis plus All In Their Heads, but still a bit of the Adaptation Hypothesis:
- Judging from the half-embarrassed way in which Billy stops singing when Moist enters, Freeze Ray seems to imply he really is singing, hence Alternate Universe, though the laundromat scenes are All In His Head. However, it's possible that they were going through his head while he was at the laundromat and that he really did say "Love your hair" out loud, pass it off as a comment about the air, and leave with the rest of the song playing in his head.
- Both versions of the Bad Horse Chorus are Adaptation Hypothesis: Billy actually is reading the letter, but the singing cowboys are an artistic touch to make the reading of the letter more fun. They show up at the end, though, and Johnny Snow interacts with them in the comic, so maybe Bad Horse is just so awesome that every letter comes with them.
- Brand New Day and Everything You Ever are All In Billy's Head, inner monologues that are clearly not heard by the other characters around in the scene.
- My Eyes is an All In Their Heads duet, with no other characters present in the scenes being aware of either Billy or Penny's singing.
- Caring Hands, A Man's Gotta Do, Penny's Song, So They Say, Everyone's a Hero and Slipping are all probably Alternate Universe.
- Musicalis Interruptus: Multiple events and situations lead to people repeatedly being unable to completely finish their songs.
- Act I has Moist interrupting "My Freeze Ray," Dr. Horrible interrupting "Caring Hands" with a scream of surprise, and Captain Hammer stealing "A Man's Gotta Do"
- Act II has perhaps the most interesting one, where Penny interrupts her own song due to her Almost Kiss.
- Act III finishes on a high note (pun intended) with the Freeze Ray interrupting Captain Hammer's "Everyone's a Hero" (who is determined to finish anyway) and Billy interrupting his own "Slipping".
- During the end credits, Penny's soft and melodic theme is quickly drowned out by the rising theme of Dr. Horrible.
- My Greatest Failure: The story is designed to set up Penny's death as Dr. Horrible's greatest failure, driving his transition to villainhood.
- Mythology Gag: Dr. Horrible creates his Death Ray by, er...modifying, a Stun Ray. Said Stun Ray is a repainted Alliance stun-gun, carried upside-down.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Despite all of Dr. Horrible's attempts to be evil, it's Captain Hammer who causes all of the really bad things to happen.
- In Act I, he smashes the device Dr. Horrible is using to remotely control the courier van, making it careen out of control and almost kill Penny.
- In Act III, when he slams his fist into Dr. Horrible's face and sends him flying backwards, the Death Ray goes flying, too. The sudden impact on the floor causes it to begin sparking ominously. Hammer doesn't notice, and, despite Horrible's warning, seeks to kill the Mad Scientist with his own weapon. But when he pulls the trigger, the Death Ray explodes.
- The story is about largely Captain Hammer's part in "breaking" Dr. Horrible as a person.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Dr. Horrible's part in "My Eyes"."Any dolt with half a brain/ Can see that humankind has gone insane/ To the point where I don't know if I'll upset the status quo/ If I throw poison in the water main..."
- Also: "The world is a mess, and I just...need to rule it."
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Captain Hammer.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Freeze Ray and some of Dr. Horrible's other inventions. During "So They Say," we can see Horrible working out plans on the whiteboard to convert the Stun Ray into a Death Ray.
- No-Respect Guy: Until Act III, Dr. Horrible was more of a villain wannabe than an actual force to be reckoned with.
- Noble Demon: Dr. Horrible fits this trope to a tee, at least before the finale.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Penny's spiel in Act I trails off with "...so they can buy rocket packs and go to the moon... and become florists" as she realizes that Billy's attention is elsewhere.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Although a Technical Pacifist and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain throughout Act I and II, and held in contempt by Captain Hammer, it's Hammer's pursuit of Penny that spurs Dr. Horrible to finally go all in on the Evil business, converting his Stun Ray to a Death Ray to defeat his nemesis once and for all. While it's Hammer who ends up pulling the trigger, the result of this (Penny's death) is the final step to drive Dr. Horrible to true supervillainy.
- Not So Invincible After All: Captain Hammer, as seen in Act III when the Death Ray explodes in his hand and proves his Miles Gloriosus nature — "I'm in pain! I think this is what pain feels like!"
- Oh, Crap!: "...that's not a good sound..."
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Evil League of Evil.
- Only Sane Man: (at stage 3: Violent Sarcasm) Billy/Dr. Horrible is exasperated that he seems to be the only person who can see through Captain "Cheesy On The Outside" Hammer's disguise and spot him for the jerk he is. Everyone else (the "sheep") are practically worshipping Hammer.
- Opposites Attract Revenge: A good summary of the Love Triangle dynamic, complete with Murder the Hypotenuse.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Billy's "disguise" while tailing Captain Hammer and Penny at the soup kitchen, which consists of a moustache and nothing else.
- Parental Abandonment: Implied in the comic Penny: Keep Your Head Up.
- Patter Song: "Brand New Day" starts this way, and is a bit of a tongue twister. Neil Patrick Harris admits in the commentary it was incredibly difficult, and the crew admit they wrote it for him that way because he was the only person who could properly sing it.
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Billy wants to be an achiever, he longs to be taken seriously, and he believes the only way he can attain his goals is by becoming a supervillain. After he applies for membership in the prestigious Evil League of Evil, Bad Horse puts the metaphorical thumbscrews on poor Dr. Horrible, demanding that Horrible must prove that he is ruthless enough... or else."He rides across the nation, the Thoroughbred of Sin / He got the application that you just sent in / It needs evaluation, so let the games begin / A heinous crime, a show of force / (a murder would be nice of course)""The Evil League of Evil is watching so beware / The grade that you receive'll be your last, we swear""It's a brand new me / I got no remorse / Now the water's rising / But I know the course / I'm gonna shock the world / Gonna show Bad Horse / It's a brand new day / And Penny will see the evil me / Not a joke, not a dork, not a failure."
- Pietà Plagiarism: When Dr. Horrible carries Penny's body to the stretcher, like an offering.
- Playing the Heart Strings: The beginning of "Everything You Ever" with violins, and throughout with the harp strumming.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Captain Hammer, despite being the Designated Hero.Captain Hammer: *singing to the homeless* A hero doesn't care if you're a bunch of scary, alcoholic bums!...Captain Hammer: If you're not a friggin' 'tard, you will prevail!
- Pow Zap Wham Cam: As Dr. Horrible encroaches more and more on Billy's psyche, the shots of him become more angular and starkly lit, culminating at his sudden appearance at the shelter dedication. His "Last Shot of Remorse" ("A thing...") has him completely out of uniform, just looking pitifully like he needs a hug.
- Power Incontinence: Moist is always icky wet due to his profuse sweating, and it's bad enough that when he brings Horrible the mail, the top few pieces are soggy.
- He fights a losing battle with the lid of a preserving jar, too.
- And to complete the trifecta, the finale has him dropping the money bags he's supposed to be carrying during the bank heist.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Dr. Horrible gets a suitably cheesy one in his prequel comic, when he declares "Your meter's expired, Captain Hammer!" before setting off all the pre-explosive-trapped parking meters that Captain Hammer's standing in the middle of.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Two, right after each other, one of which is a Metaphorgotten, by Captain Hammer in Act III.Captain Hammer: A death ray! Looks like Dr. Horrible's moving up. Let's see if this one works any better than the others.Dr. Horrible: Don't!Captain Hammer: I don't have time for your warnings. You give my regards to Saint Peter...or whoever has his job, but in hell.note
- Product Placement: Dr. Horrible uses a remote program on his iPhone for nefarious purposes. Guess who's sponsoring the episode downloads. It was actually Nathan Fillion's personal iPhone, so this is more a coincidence than anything else.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: From whichever angle you look at it — for a "hero", Captain Hammer takes It's All About Me to its egotastical limits; and as a Villain Protagonist, Dr. Horrible is about world domination under his terms. The world's only too happy to ignore the work of good people like Penny to worship its heroes and villains.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: While Dr. Horrible is technically a villain at the start, the story is how he goes from a Harmless Villain to an embittered member of the Evil League of Evil.
- Psychotic Smirk: Dr. Horrible, at the end of Act II as he starts singing "Brand New Day."
- Punch-Clock Villain: Apparently even villains need to do laundry.
- Punched Across the Room: What happens to Dr. Horrible as a result of his hesitation with the Death Ray. Hammer unfreezes and lets fly with a haymaker that sends the somewhat hapless Mad Scientist sliding across the floor.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Dr. Horrible at the opening of Act II, and his disheveled look after Captain Hammer threw the car at his head. "Eyes full of unshed tears"? Check. The second half of Act III is overflowing with this trope. The poor guy carries his emotions on his sleeve, or rather, on his face.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Dr. Horrible gets everything he wants but the girl.
- In Billy's prequel comic, the villain he looked up to succeeded in defeating his heroic nemesis. He was beaten to death by a mob moments later.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Everyone's a Hero" is this disguised as a Rousing Speech.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Moist's friend "Pink Pummeler".
- Recurring Riff: bum BUM bum, bum BUM bum!
- Repetitive Name: The Evil League of Evil.
- Rescue Romance: Captain Hammer "saves" Penny from a runaway van and they become an item. Even though he saved her by throwing her into a pile of trash. And it was really Dr. Horrible who stopped the van.
- Romantic False Lead: Captain Hammer, to some degree.
- Rule of Cool: It's a super-villain musical. It practically subsists on this.
- Rule of Symbolism: In the "My Freeze Ray" scene, when Billy uses his freeze ray to stop "the world", You can see that only Penny stops moving. Penny is his world.
- Similarly, "Everything You Ever" starts with the lines "Here lies everything / The world I wanted at my feet." while Penny is literally lying at his feet.
- Sanity Slippage: From "My Eyes" all the way to the end, you can see Billy and Horrible vying for dominance of the brainpan.
- Sanity Slippage Song: Probably most evident in "Slipping", but definitely in "My Eyes" and "Brand New Day" as well.
- Sarcasm Mode:Dr. Horrible: Wow, sarcasm. That's original!
- Secret-Identity Identity: Billy and Dr. Horrible.
- Shiny New Australia: Trope Namer. Dr. Horrible plans to give Penny Australia once he takes over the world according to "Brand New Day."
- Shout-Out / Mythology Gag: Possibly. During their duet, Penny asks Captain Hammer (played by Nathan Fillion) what exactly he's supposed to be the captain of.
- Also, the head of the Evil League of Evil is "Bad Horse." And the company who puts out most of Joss Whedon's comics (including the Captain Hammer comic) just happens to be called "Dark Horse." Okay, could be coincidence, but still.
- The newsreaders in Episode III were played by David Fury and Marti Noxon, also from the Evil League of Evil, "Professor Normal" is played by Doug Petrie and "Fake Thomas Jefferson" by Drew Goddard. All were writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- The "do not bounce" warning on the Wonderflonium is ...horribly similar to the warnings that go along with "Happy Fun Ball" from Saturday Night Live.
- In the Song "Brand New Day" Dr. Horrible sings, "And she may cry, but her tears will dry, when I hand her the keys to a shiny New Australia." This is a nod to Superman II, and Lex Luthor telling Zod he will help them defeat Superman in exchange for A little parcel of land...Australia!
- Penny's "..and become florists?" comment when Billy isn't paying attention. Becoming a florist is stated as an indicator of some sort of implied mental derangement at least twice in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Dead Bowie being in the Evil League of Evil might be a shout out to The Venture Bros., where David Bowie (voiced by not David Bowie) is the head of the Guild of Calamitous Intent.
- This isn't the first time Neil Patrick Harris has played a role in Doogie Howser, M.D..
- There's mention of a Deputy Mayor in Act I as well.
- There seems to be a Serenity model hanging in Billy's house, framed rather conspicuously in the background of any shot of him vlogging. According to the DVD commentary, this is a silhouette formed by several pots and pans hanging up and is quite unintentional.
- The final scene is extremely reminiscent of Barney's Face–Heel Turn flashback in How I Met Your Mother (season 1).
- Penny's clothing during the "Penny's Song" scene looks a lot like Snow White's.
- Shrinking Violet (the male version): Billy. Although he is smart and quite handsome, he is bitter, cynical and painfully shy around women. He wants to be an achiever, but things never work out the way he wants them to. He dresses like someone who does not wish to draw attention to himself, and his circle of friends seems to consist of his buddy Moist. He invented his alter ego Dr. Horrible, a cooler Mad Scientist version of himself, who unfortunately gets bullied mercilessly by Captain Hammer. Not only that, but the perpetually squicky Moist appears to have a more active social life than he does. How depressing is that?
- Signature Style: It's a Joss Whedon story. Honestly, what other ending did you expect?
- Simple Score of Sadness: Again, Penny's theme and song, a Lonely Piano Piece with her singing about how she hopes to make the world a better place.
- Also significant in that it gets quickly drowned out in the ending credits by Dr. Horrible's much louder and darker theme.
- Singing Telegram: Courtesy of the Bad Horse Chorus.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The "My Eyes" duet highlights this contrast between Dr. Horrible and Penny.
- Smash Cut: A particularly bleak and devastating one is employed at the very end.
- Smug Super: Captain Hammer.
- The Song Before the Storm: Possibly 'Brand New Day', but definitely 'So They Say'. It doesn't hurt that 'So They Say' is the only Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number in the whole blog...
- Sounding It Out: Subverted whenever Dr. Horrible gets a communique from Bad Horse, a trio of cowboys lean into frame to sing the message Horrible is reading (or listening to in the case of the cell phone call). Also, justified when he reads viewer emails to his video blog.
- Spandex, Latex, or Leather
- Spiritual Successor: To Once More With Feeling, the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- And in turn, Mayhem of the Music Meister, the musical episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a spiritual successor of this. Neil Patrick Harris is a singing supervillain.
- Split-Personality Takeover: One possible interpretation of the ending speculates that in the wake of Penny's death, Billy was consumed by the Dr. Horrible persona. If so, it would add a new layer of subtext to why during the end credits, Penny's peaceful melody gets swiftly drowned out after a few seconds by Dr. Horrible's march.
- Split Screen: Twice with Billy/Horrible and Penny singing in duet. In "My Eyes", they were just on opposite sides of a convenient wall. "So They Say" uses a more conventional Split Screen.
- Stalker with a Crush: Dr. Horrible dons various flimsy disguises to blend in and observe Captain Hammer's wooing of Penny. And one of the Captain Hammer fans is an extreme example of this. "This is his hair." "This is his dry-cleaning bill...four sweater-vests!"
- In "Brand New Day" we see Dr. Horrible in his lair admiring a candid photograph of Penny...obscured by and clearly taken from behind bushes.
- Start of Darkness: Some of the prequel comics show how Billy decided to become a villain. There's also Moist: Humidity Rising, which covers how Moist was given his condition and his first meeting with Dr. Horrible.
- Though the show itself technically isn't a Start of Darkness, since it isn't a prequel or flashback, it conveys much of the same feel.
- There's also the comic detailing the beginnings of Dr. Horrible, showing how he was inspired to be a supervillain after seeing a Mad Scientist successfully defeat a superhero while being called Einstein (a nickname used by an ignorant bully) by the mocking crowd and him becoming the official nemesis of Hammer.
- Stealth Pun:
- Moist went on a double date with Bait and Switch. He thought he was going to end up with Bait, but...
- One of the members of the Evil League of Evil is named Fury Leika. Needless to say, she's a woman ("Hell hath no fury like a Woman Scorned"). Not only that, but "Laika" was the name of a famous dog. Put that together with the fact that she wears a wedding dress and most men are likely to think of her as, well, a bitch.
- Dr. Horrible talks about how he successfully transported gold bars from the bank to his lab. He holds up a Ziploc bag full of the gold, which has turned out liquefied (the pun is "bullion" for metal bar/"bouillon" for soup). That one gets a subtle lampshade from the Doctor when he says it "smells like cumin."
- Captain Hammer is introduced as being a corporate tool. Also, since "the hammer is [his] penis," he's Captain Penis. And he's a dick.
- During the second Bad Horse song: "Your humiliation means he still votes (nay/neigh)!"
- Two of the songs on the sound track are called "Horrible Theme" and "Horrible Credits".
- "It's two Rs actually, H-O-R-R... yeah." What kind of journalist would misspell "Horrible"? The kind who's writing down "Whorable".
- Stood Up: In Act III, Penny waits at the laundromat with a second cup of frozen yogurt to share with Billy. Presumably it's a Saturday, given Billy's stated observation of and familiarity with Penny's pattern, and Penny's having said the shelter can open on Monday. He's plotting against Captain Hammer as Dr. Horrible, so he has no idea she was waiting for him, and might even have picked him.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The first time you hear "Freeze Ray", but before you know the actual rhyming scheme. "Laundry day / see you there / underthings" and then the next word is "tumbling" rather than "underwear", which rhymes with "see you there".
- Sugar Bowl: Played straight with the charming "My Freeze Ray" song, and the sweet Penny moments. The sets are also brightly and cheerily lit, and the songs full of delightful, catchy tunes and phrasings. But the Signature Style of Joss Whedon soon changes that.
- Swan Boats: When they are together, Captain Hammer and Penny ride in a swan boat. Lovey dovey stuff.
- Switching P.O.V.: The song "My Eyes", between Penny (optimistic) and Doctor Horrible/Billy. (not).
- Take Over the World: One of Dr. Horrible's declared goals .Dr. Horrible: (re: Johnny Snow, his self-proclaimed "nemesis") "Look, I'm just trying to change the world, OK? I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka!"Dr. Horrible: The world is a mess! And I just ... need to rule it.
- Take That!: How the media in the room reacted to Dr. Horrible after Penny dies by taking pictures and asking him questions instead of getting the police was very eerily similar to celebrity journalists on the red carpet.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Averted in "Slipping", as singing that song wastes all of the time his Freeze Ray had to hold Hammer in place.
- Technical Pacifist: Literally. Dr. Horrible does not want to kill anybody. He also shows disdain for people who don't seem to respect life. He likes to build various ray guns (although with one exception they're all nonlethal) and fantasizes about taking violent revenge on Captain Hammer, but outside his daydreams he hesitates to actually follow through. He shoots into the ceiling instead, while encouraging the onlookers to run away.Dr. Horrible: I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka. Besides...there are kids in that park, so...* scoffs* .Dr. Horrible: It's not a death ray or an ice beam, that's so Johnny Snow...Dr. Horrible: Killing is not elegant or creative. It's not my style.
- Not only does he not want to kill anyone, but when Captain Hammer "saves" Penny by shoving her into the garbage using super-strength after Billy has stopped the van ... Billy is the only one to show genuine concern for her safety.
- When Dr. Horrible freezes Captain Hammer and launches into his showstopper Villain Song, he urges the crowd to run; ostensibly so that they can tell the world the evil scientist is winning the day, but...Dr. Horrible: Go ahead! Run away! Say it was horrible! Spread the word! Tell a friend! Tell them the tale!
- When holding his Death Ray on a helpless Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible sings the line "No time for mercy!" as a cue for him to pull the trigger. But he hesitates, clearly uneasy about killing him. He even sings more or less the same line again ("Here goes no mercy!") to take a second (unsuccessful) stab at it.
- When the Death Ray begins sparking ominously, Horrible attempts to warn Captain Hammer. Hammer refuses to listen, despite the room still having bystanders in it, among them his supposed long-term girlfriend Penny.
- Tenor Boy: Dr. Horrible: Light hair; youthful and good-looking; naïve, (relatively) innocent outlook on the world; lovestruck and madly in love with the girl next door.
- Theme Song:
- Dr. Horrible has his own tune.
- Bad Horse has his own tune and a trio of evil cowboy singers for the lyrics (who like to barge into peoples' homes), right down to a Bad Horse ringtone on Horrible's phone for Bad Horse calls.
- One could argue that Penny also has her own theme, considering that both Caring Hands and Penny's Song (note the self-referential name) follow the same tune, and are incidentally her only solo pieces.
- 13 Is Unlucky: The thirteenth song is "Everything You Ever" A lament on Penny's death and the culmination of Billy's transformation to Dr. Horrible.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: "The League is watching. This is something I have to do alone." Also, the whole "A Man's Gotta Do" song.
- Throwing Out the Script: Captain Hammer tosses away the notes for his speech and starts singing a song, "Everyone's a Hero", instead.
- Time Passes Montage: A delightful medley of seasonal reflections on Dr. Horrible's relationship with Captain Hammer are as follows:
- Spring (A trellis of roses grow as Dr. H. is smacked into a wall, punched in the stomach, and kneed in the groin.)
- Summer (Captain Hammer punches Dr. H. in the face repeatedly, pausing to smile for a camera-toting tourist in a Hawaiian shirt.)
- Autumn (Dr. H. is hung suspended over a pile of fallen leaves in a brutal Atomic Wedgie.)
- Winter (Captain Hammer spins through a snowfall with Dr. H over his shoulders in mid-TKO as a charity Santa Claus rings his bell.)
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Penny.
- Trampled Underfoot: The "Brand New Day" Imagine Spot ends with Dr. Horrible about to do this to Captain Hammer.
- Trash Landing: Penny gets one of these.
- Triumphant Reprise: Played straight and subverted simultaneously in the finale: in the instrumental bridge of "Everything You Ever", reprises of "Brand New Day" and "Dr. Horrible's Theme" are both audible — and indeed the Doctor has triumphed and is welcomed into the Evil League of Evil. Unfortunately, it's also subverted because Horrible's triumph is Billy's tragedy: The death of Penny and possibly of Billy's nerdy but sweet persona.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: In Everyone's a Hero.
- Truth in Television: Captain Hammer's obsessed fans. Admit it.Groupie number 2: "This is his hair."
- Hey, that's NATHAN FILLION'S HAIR!!! What's wrong about...?! Oh...
- Twitchy Eye: A nervous squint (so pronounced as to resemble a Tourette Syndrome tic) which our protagonist suffers from both as Billy and as Dr. Horrible, so it's not merely an affected character quirk of the Dr. Horrible persona; happens repeatedly throughout the first two Acts (less so during the third). Some examples:
- When Dr. Horrible discusses Penny with Moist, expressing his hope that he will soon make "audible connection" with her.
- After Horrible receives Bad Horse's letter and declares that he will go ahead with his heist to steal the Wonderflonium to prove his worth as a villain.
- During his conversation with Penny on the street, the twitch becomes almost spasmodic, as he tries to reconcile the fact that he's finally talking with her with the fact that he's trying to pull a heist and she's distracting him.
- During the scene where he video-blogs the tale of his latest failure, about how Captain Hammer threw a car at his head, he looks mostly resigned. Then, after a pause he rallies himself and strikes a firmly (fake?) upbeat tone, "Not to worry though! Because I'm..." But that's the exact moment when his tic starts up again, belying his optimistic tone.
- At the laundromat, when Penny touches Billy's face to cheer him up but then aborts their Almost Kiss by suddenly blurting out, "Anyway that's what Captain Hammer says...". Upon hearing his rival's name Billy flinches, hunches his shoulders and squints his eyes hard. Moments later, Billy runs smack into Captain Hammer's chest and tries to avoid meeting Hammer's eyes. After Penny introduces them, Hammer greets him with mock affability, "Oh! Billy, the laundry buddy! Well it is very nice to meet ya!" and then adds, "You look horribly familiar." at which point poor Billy's nervous eye twitch becomes really pronounced.
- When Captain Hammer tells Billy (Dr. Horrible) that he is going to sleep with Penny. Although this is more of a traditional eye twitch of rage.
- A big one in the middle of "Slipping," though that may just be him closing his eyes in frustration at the stupidity of the world around him, and it happens again at the "Billy buddy" line, as a sign that he's not quite all evil... yet.
- Un Evil Laugh: The first act opens with Billy trying for an Evil Laugh but not quite managing it, despite the voice coach. He does get it right in the end, though (just before Slipping, in Act III).
- Unobtainium: Wonderflonium.
- Unpaused: Double Subverted. Captain Hammer is frozen mid-song. After he unfreezes, he punches Dr. Horrible across the room, and then finishes the song.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Turns out to be literally true; Dr. Horrible reports that his evil scheme fell apart because Captain Hammer had been watching his blog videos."I also need to be a little bit more careful about what I say on this blog. Apparently, the LAPD and Captain Hammer are among our viewers. They were waiting for me at the Mayor's dedication of the Superhero Memorial Bridge... the freeze ray takes a few seconds to warm up and I wasn't..." (pause) "Captain Hammer threw a car at my head."
- Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: Attempted by Captain Hammer in the climax of Act 3. After punching Dr. Horrible, he picks up the Dr. Horrible’s Death Ray and intends to use it on the villain. But when he pulls the trigger, it explodes due to damage it sustained from being dropped.
- Villain Love Song: "My Freeze Ray" consists of Billy singing about how he would freeze time in order to have all the time in the world to tell Penny how much he loves her.
- Villain Song:
- Dr. Horrible: "My Freeze Ray", "A Man's Gotta Do", "Brand New Day", and "Slipping" are the classic set of "I Want" Song, "I Am" Song, "I Am Becoming" Song, and triumphant Evil Gloating song.
- Captain Hammer hijacks "A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do" to insert his signature boasting, and then sings "Everyone's A Hero" as a demotivator song disguised as an inspirational speech. Since he's the antagonist, they serve the role of villain song.
- Villain Ball Magnet: Dr. Horrible never wanted to be evil, but society (in the form of Captain Hammer) beat it into him that his intelligence was the stigma of a Mad Scientist. Faced with no other choice, he adopted the role, and in doing so becomes truly evil.
- Villain with Good Publicity:
- Captain Hammer is a colossal dick, but nobody apart from Dr. Horrible seems to pick up on it. In "Slipping", Horrible opines that it's because society desperately wants heroes and isn't able to accept it when they don't live up to the starry-eyed ideal. Penny, for her part, isn't exactly charmed by Hammer's personality, but only really understands his true colors in "Everyone's a Hero", when he boasts crudely about sleeping with her.
- Inverted with Dr. Horrible, the actual villain. He can't earn respect from anyone despite his best efforts, but when his death ray accidentally kills Penny, he starts getting on the cover of newspapers as the most evil villain around — which is good for him, considering it cements his place as a high-ranking member in the Evil League of Evil and sends fear into the hearts of everyone who meets him.
- Villainous Breakdown: After Captain Hammer torments Dr. Horrible with exactly what he's going to do with/to Penny, Dr. Horrible breaks, doing significant damage to his Technical Pacifist nature, although he still hesitates (nearly fatally) when it comes time to finally pull the trigger on Hammer.
- Villains Out Shopping:
- In between evil schemes, Billy's got to do his laundry. And at the laundromat is his crush, Penny.
- Moist is introduced performing the mundane task of retrieving Dr. Horrible's mail.
- Visible Boom Mic: Averted. It's mentioned in the DVD Commentary that the part where Captain Hammer comes back and says "the hammer" is his penis, you could see Nathan Fillion's shadow turn around to come back. This would have ruined the joke, so they digitally removed the shadow.
- Visionary Villain: Dr. Horrible talks like an Übermensch, but can't physically back up his ideas.
- Vlog Series: Used as a framing device.
- Was It Really Worth It?: Dr. Horrible finally has the power and respect he always wanted. The price, however, was Penny's death: the one person he was doing it all to impress. A second-and-a-half shot at the very end shows that Billy doesn't consider it worth it at all.
- Water Source Tampering: In "My Eyes", Billy mopes that mankind has gotten so crazy that if he poisoned the city's water main it might not change a thing. In their prequel comic, the Evil League of Evil actually does try to poison the city's water main.
- Weird Trade Union: Moist mentions the Henchmen's Union, but Dr. Horrible blows him off, claiming that he, Dr. Horrible, is not a henchman, he deserves to be in the Evil League of Evil.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Horrible wants to take over the world so he can improve it and give the Status back some Quo. (Because the Status is...not Quo!)Dr. Horrible: "The world is a mess, and I just need to...rule it.""Anarchy! That I run!"
- What Does She See in Him?: "She called him sweet. How is he sweet?"
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Moist's power is, apparently, to make things moist. Which, if you look carefully, is because he's constantly sweating... Lampshaded frequently by him.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Dr. Horrible calls Captain Hammer on his "acts of heroism".Dr. Horrible: Maybe the fee's too pricey for them to realize / Your disguise is slipping / I think you're slipping.
Dr. Horrible: You idiot! ... You almost killed her!
- Also, in Act I, Dr. Horrible points out the recklessness of Hammer's "heroics".
- Who's Laughing Now?: Stated in "Brand New Day" during his revenge fantasy.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Penny seems to be one, but she's not that wide-eyed, just trying to make the best of things:Penny: Here's a story of a girl/Who grew up lost and lonely/Thinking love was fairytale/And trouble was made only for me... Grief replaced with pity/For a city barely coping/Dreams are easy to achieve/If hope is all I'm hoping to be...
- You Have Failed Me: The other reason why Dr. Horrible has to commit a murder.Bad Horse Chorus: He saw the operation you tried to pull today/But your humiliation means he still votes "neigh"/And now assassination is just the only way/There will be blood, it might be yours/So go kill someone, signed Bad Horse!
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: In the ELE comic, Johnny Snow saves the city's water from being poisoned by freezing it entirely. Which impresses the ELE and causes the media to call him a villain, leaving him to mope miserably that "I'm a good guy!"
Neil Patrick Harris: You do kill a lot of chicks.
Joss Whedon: My personal life is not the point here!