Monday, April 18, 2016

"The Venture Bros." Year Six (or Twelve)

Eight episodes?  After all this time, the sixth season of "The Venture Bros." was only eight episodes?! And yet, I can't be too angry because this latest run was one of my favorites in years.  Rusty and the Monarch clan both got storylines that were hugely entertaining.  Brock is back doing what Brock does best.  The show has never looked or sounded better, and the story really seems to have some momentum behind it.  You can't really be too upset when a show has such a fantastic season and leaves you wanting more.  And resolutions were never exactly the Ventures' strong point.

I think I missed a special or two somewhere, because all the characters were in completely different places from where I last remember them being.  It's not difficult to catch up though.  Doc Venture inherited a major windfall and is now busy running a gigantic tech company into the ground and enjoying oodles of money.  He and the boys have moved to a new headquarters in New York, and thanks to Doc's new status, the Ventures are considered important enough to be assigned Brock as a bodyguard again.  The Monarch, however, has been left functionally unemployed thanks to the loss of his army and cocoon.  Still not allowed to officially arch Dr. Venture, he and Hechman 21 have been overseeing the remodeling of the old Monarch homestead in Newark.  The Missus has been staying busy as a chairwoman for the reorganized Guild of Calamitous Intent, and growing frustrated with both her husband and a new vigilante hero wreaking havoc on the Guild's top villains - the Blue Morpho.  

There are some excellent new characters in the mix this time, including villains Wide Wale (Hal Lubin), his daughter Sirena (Christine Miloti), and Red Death (Clancy Brown).  However, it's the ground covered by old favorites that really kept me invested.  Pretty much everything involving the Monarch, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, and the Blue Morpho was fantastic.  We got some great character stuff for the Monarchs as their personal issues push their marriage toward the rocks.  A big piece of the Monarch's past is revealed, shedding some new light on his legacy and his hangups.  The Missus remains sympathetic as a career woman in crisis, trying to shore up the increasingly dysfunctional Guild, and I'm anticipating some real fireworks when she and the Monarch finally have it out.  Meanwhile, Doc and Brock seem to have regressed back into old roles a big, but the Venture boys are still forging ahead.  Dean's taking college classes and Hank is smitten with a new paramour, and it's frickin' adorable.  I've always rooted for these two, and it's heartening to see how far they've come.

And I wonder if it's because I've been watching for so long, or because the creators' pop culture references have finally converged with my own frame of reference, but the show's humor clicked with me this year in a way that it only occasionally did before now.  I got the Green Hornet/Blue Morpho parallels.  I got the extended Andy Warhol parody, complete with a video threat based on "Empire."  I even recognized every single reference in Billy and Pete's Christopher Lambert geek-out.  Now I want to go back and watch some of the earlier seasons and see what else I missed.  I've always enjoyed the "Venture Bros.," but this is the first time it's felt like I'm totally on the same page with it.  I suspect that the increased serialization of this season and the tighter plotting also helped quite a bit.

I feel obligated to list a few flaws.  Yes, the ending felt like it cut off at a completely arbitrary point - which it was, because the creators have admitted the finale they intended wouldn't fit the constraints of the show, so it's being rejiggered for next season.  Yes, having an increasingly large cast meant that lots of characters like Sgt. Hatred and Henchman 21 barely got any attention.  Heck, Dr. Orpheus and Dermott didn't appear at all.  Yes, the "Saw" and "Taken" references in the last episode were unbearably outdated (though that may have been on purpose).  However, this is the liveliest, most exciting season of "Venture"  I've seen in ages.  It feels like the show is getting back to its roots and primary conflicts.  And as a spoof on costumed heroes and villains, it's ironically more timely than ever.

It pains me that I may have to wait another two years to see how this storyline plays out, but the "Venture Bros." have proven time and time again that new episodes are worth the wait.  Go Team Venture!

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