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| Image by Screengrab from Dr. Horrible

Wow. Just, you know, wow. Just four days ago Joss Whedon's

was a special treat privy to only the most Whedon-obsessive. Instead, and despite having a publicity department consisting of Whedon himself and one assistant, the show went viral with a vengeance as

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,

,

, the

, and

--to name just five diverse outlets--ran stories on the

Dr. Horrible

phenomena, while on iTunes episodes stayed at or near the No. 1 slot.

I could trot our faux sage speculations about net/TV/geek-culture convergence, zeitgeist, or whatever, but what I can't get out of my head is a vast new audience watching what they surely assumed would be a frothy closer and instead getting their heart slammed with a dramaturgical ball-peen hammer as everything ends in perfectly timed tragedy, followed by a montage of tuneful misery that, of course, includes some great visual jokes. (A quick, WTF pan past a scowling and dead David Bowie as member of the Evil League of Evil is a personal fave.)

A few years ago, Whedon put a fine point on it in a previous interview with this writer: "People who know my work know: I love to kill."

And so [SORTA SPOILER ALERT] just as

Buffy

's sweet witch Tara died a devastating, pointless collateral damage death, so, too, does

Dr. Horrible's

's most guileless character. But Whedon kills not only to break hearts but also to underline the terrifying randomness of mortality and skewer the politically handy notion of heroic death.

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Anyway, and shaking off the sad, you have to wonder at Whedon's ability to get you so damned

involved

in a new cast of seemingly silly people's dramas, at his ability to do that and squeeze in about nine really, really good off-Broadway-style show-stoppers. Best of all, in the last five minutes of

Doctor Horrible

, you realize that what you've been watching was a supervillain origin story. Which implies an actual

Dr. Horrible

series, the rumor and possibility of which Whedon has teasingly done nothing to dissuade.

Conceived of during the writer's strike, which to a great extent was about authors opting to take less money upfront in favor of a larger share of play-date and endless repeat revenues,

Dr. Horrible

was a

where nobody made any money making it, but will literally reap the aforementioned zeitgeist and equal shares of those iTunes downloads in perpetuity. Or as Whedon put it in an NPR interview, the show was also an absolutely idealistic attempt to "create content and ultimately create jobs without the studios." And so

Horrible's

success is the super-rare example of the right thing happening, where everybody who should win actually does.

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