Thursday, December 2, 2010

Go Team Venture!

I'm caught up on the fourth season of "The Venture Bros" at last, and so I thought I'd put down some thoughts on the finale. Needless to say there will be spoilers, spoilers, and more spoilers. Also some conjecture about the show's future and other odds and ends.

I can see how the one-hour "Operation P.R.O.M" could stand in for a series finale in case the show doesn't go on. The ending credits promise that there will be a fifth season, but considering how rocky the "Venture" production has been at times, I'm not holding my breath. The episode brought several storylines around to a natural place to pause, if not definitely conclude. There were a few major revelations and developments, such as Hunter Gathers being left in charge of the OSI, Sergeant Hatred reuniting with Princess Tinyfeet, Molotov and her Blackhearts resurfacing, and the blowup between Henchman 21 and the Monarch couple.

However, I felt that all the major conflicts that I had any investment in were resolved earlier in the season. Hank and the Alchemist figured out the identity of Dermott's father, Dean and Triana's relationship came to its natural conclusion, and Hank got a straight answer out of Rusty as to why he treats the boys differently. Season Four as a whole was very good about developing its characters, though it didn't always add up to anything climactic or exciting. The subplots with the Revenge Society, SPHINX, and the Guild were good excuses to play with lots of wacky costumed characters, but their maneuvers against each other haven't had much impact on the rest of our cast yet.

Because several of these storylines have been left open-ended, there were some grumbles that "Operation P.R.O.M." wasn't much of a series finale. There are still a lot of loose ends that could easily take another season to resolve. The formation of the Revenge Society would seem to be building up to something, but none of the villains involved appeared in the episode. In addition, we still don't know who killed Henchman 24, the big question left at the end of the Season 3 finale, or who Dean and Hank's mother is, or the fates of a dozen other minor characters. What we did get, however, was a lot of good character moments, including some genuinely touching signs of growth in our leads. Whether that growth is for good or bad, however, is up for debate in some cases. Dean getting a spine means he's growing up at last… into Triana's stalker.

What I always I always loved about the show was how human the characters were. Among the major characters, there isn't a single one of them who is entirely successful, secure, and emotionally healthy. Brock Sampson probably came closest, and you got a sense in the early seasons that his overzealousness about his bodyguard job probably accounted for much of his tendency to get too involved in the screwed-up lives of Dr. Venture and the kids. But in the finale, as he was charging back toward the compound intent on delivering some of the old ultraviolence upon Molotov's infiltrators, it was different. Brock is no longer the Venture bodyguard, and he has no particularly strong ties to the motley crew of has-been and never-been heroes. But, as 21 put it so nicely, he likes these people.

If I had my 'druthers, there would have been a lot more Orpheus and the Order of the Triad this year, and a lot less of Shore Leave and SPHINX. I really wanted to see Dr. Henry Killinger again, and the Sovereign, and Sally Impossible. On the other hand, I got plenty of Pete White and Billy Quizboy, Dean and Hank both grew up a lot, and even Rusty is acting like a more mature parental figure, almost in spite of himself. Henchman 21 easily had the best arc of the season, going from pudgy slacker in a butterfly suit into a deeply conflicted and extremely effective a butterfly suit. I love that the guy who would never have been more than a minor player on a regular action show has turned into one of the most poignant protagonists of "Venture Bros."

I want a fifth "Venture" season, but I think I'm okay if it ends here. As Dermott's storyline proves, sometimes it's not good to have all the answers. Resolving everything would mean that there would be nothing left to look forward to, nothing left to speculate about or discuss. Nothing ever ties up neatly in real life, so it's fitting that "Venture Bros" should end a little messily too.

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