Catching Up With The Venture Brothers
One of television’s sharpest, funniest and most convoluted animated series, The Venture Brothers returns for its fifth season on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block beginning June 2. It was originally scheduled to return two weeks earlier on May 23 but was delayed — rather appropriate, given the long production gaps that have characterized this series almost since its beginning. In fact, rather astonishingly, The Venture Brothers’ fifth season is airing a full ten years after the first episode aired, a circumstance that would have sank a lesser series. Instead, The Venture Brothers’ comparatively paltry canon of episodes belies how rich and complex the show has become; its plot hasn’t so much advanced as stretched out in every direction, elevating formerly peripheral characters into major players and unearthing Venture family secrets that go back decades — even centuries. A Venture Brothers newbie has an awfully big learning curve to overcome, but even loyal viewers can be excused for losing track of just where the many characters ended up by “Operation P.R.O.M.,” the last episode of season four. So, to help you prepare for the long-awaited season five, Popdose provides a handy guide to the current state of The Venture Brothers, with a few modest (and most likely entirely wrong) predictions about where it all might go from here.
Where We Left Him: Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture remains as embittered, cowardly and self-satisfied as ever, and though his character seems increasingly peripheral to events, he’s still the heart and soul of the show. What makes Rusty so fascinating as a character, but perhaps difficult to employ dramatically, is that his greatest adversary was never the Monarch: it is his own childhood as a boy adventurer, dominated by a father he couldn’t possibly live up to and who, it’s increasingly clear, caused him irreparable psychological harm. Rusty is still trying to keep his father’s company from falling into ruin by plying the shadier side of super-science; “Operation P.R.O.M.” saw him creating his own version of Spanish Fly that mutated a group of call girls into actual, acid-spewing humanoid flies. Beyond that, he remains intent on embarking son Dean on his own career as a super-scientist — and securing for him the kind of grown-up success he could never achieve himself.
What Happens Next: Though the show will never get rid of it entirely, the antagonism between Dr. Venture and the Monarch is too established a joke to be all that funny anymore. Dr. Venture’s greatest battles take place more or less in his own head: his two standout episodes in the fourth season, “Self-Medication”and “Assisted Suicide,” both plumbed new depths in his pitifully warped psyche, and failure is a comedic well that never runs dry. (Think of how many baseball games Charlie Brown lost over fifty years.) Expect more of the same this season, with even more revelations about Rusty’s childhood, his mother (we’ve got to get that story sometime) and the original Team Venture.
Hank and Dean Venture
Where We Left Them: One of the chief plot strands of the show’s fourth season was Hank and Dean’s “graduation” and the very different paths the boys are taking into what will eventually pass for their adulthood. Hank’s solo episode, “Everybody Comes to Hank’s,” showed him tapping into reserves of confidence and moxie he plainly didn’t inherit from his father, while Dean is becoming less and less sure that a career in super-science is for him. The boys are definitely growing and evolving: Hank lost his virginity to doofus best friend Durmott’s mother, and season four ended with Dean giving Triana Orpheus’ stepfather, the OutRider, a surprising and authentically adolescent “Fuck you!” — in the context of The Venture Brothers, a major moment of growth.
What Happens Next: Now more or less grown up, the Venture brothers are on the verge of changes that could define the course of the season. Dean in particular, I predict, is where the action is going to be: he’s outgrowing his dorky childhood persona, and as we saw in the Halloween episode (actually the fourth episode of the upcoming fifth season, shown out of sequence), he has finally learned he and his brother are clones. This is bound to bring his conflict with Dr. Venture to a head, and after that, pretty much anything could happen.
Where We Left Him: Brock had quite a storied journey through the fourth season, quitting OSI (and his job as the Venture family’s bodyguard) to take up with Col. Hunter Gathers and other ex-OSI operatives in the reformed SPHINX, dedicated to fighting any costumed villains acting without Guild sanction. In “Operation P.R.O.M.,” Brock returned to the Venture Compound and fought a final battle with rival/ex-lover Molotov Cocktease, who apparently fell to her death. (Time will tell.) Meanwhile, Col. Gathers was lured to OSI’s flying headquarters and, after a head-spinning game of cat and mouse between himself, General Treister and the mysterious Mr. Doe and Mr. Cardholder, found himself left in charge of OSI.
What Happens Next: Putting Col. Gathers at the helm of OSI could give the program a real jolt of energy. The wild card is Brock: will he come back to OSI and Gathers, take over leadership of SPHINX or strike out on his own? I see him tending mostly toward the latter option, operating independently but working alongside OSI when circumstances demand it. The presence of Sgt. Hatred seems to preclude Brock from ever returning to the Venture family full-time (even assuming the show would make such a retrograde move), but I can see Brock working as a self-appointed shadow bodyguard, protecting the family from a reenergized Guild (see below) while remaining officially unaffiliated with OSI.
The Monarch, Dr. Mrs. the Monarch and Henchman 21
Where We Left Them: The Monarch and spouse tenuously remain Guild-sanctioned villains, exploiting a Guild bylaw that allows them to continue to target Dr. Venture as a relation of their “official” arch-nemesis, Jonas Venture, Jr. Henchman 21, having transformed himself over the course of season four into a genuine badass, got a taste of life on the good guys’ side when he fought alongside Shore Leave at the Venture compound. In a glorious, expletive-laden tirade, he quit the Monarch’s employment, presumably to work for SPHINX (assuming that outfit will continue to exist). Just as significantly, he seems to have moved on after the death of Henchman 24, leaving him in even greater need of new direction.
What Happens Next: With 21 gone, there’s very little still going on within the Monarch’s world. As discussed above, his feud with Dr. Venture is on the verge of going stale, and there isn’t a lot of mileage left in his and Dr. Mrs. the Monarch’s attempt to live a happily married life. The psychotic Pupae Twins (aka Kevin and Tim-Tom), while always good for a laugh, aren’t really interesting enough to drive the stories themselves; the last thing I want is a backstory on that batshit-crazy pair. Things in the Cocoon are in need of a shakeup, and I have a thought as to what it might be …
Phantom Limb and the Revenge Society
Where We Left Them: Phantom Limb went through a rebirth in the fourth season, going from a deranged loner plotting to take down the Guild himself back to his former suave, conniving glory. Phantom Limb joined with Professor Impossible, Baron Ünderbheit and the newly recruited Fat Chance to form the Revenge Society, bent on getting even with everyone who ever wronged him … which, as it turns out, is nearly everyone.
What Happens Next: Along with Dean Venture, Phantom Limb has the greatest potential to set the course of the show in the next season. I predict Phantom Limb will succeed in taking over the Guild of Calamitous Intent. Why? Because putting Limb in charge is the perfect way to revitalize not only the Guild, but the Monarch — imagine if the Guild was suddenly run by a man the Monarch detests (and who detests him in return), and who is just as intent as the Monarch on destroying Dr. Venture. And imagine the further possibilities of a newly emboldened Guild squaring off against an OSI under the leadership of Col. Gathers. These episodes would practically write themselves, and I’d be surprised if something along these lines doesn’t come about. (Besides, with a new album to promote, David Bowie surely doesn’t have the time to put into the Guild that he once did.)
Pete White and Master Billy Quizboy
Where We Left Them: Conjectural Technologies is still occupying its lonely trailer park headquarters, and its sole members are still linked in their peculiar friendship. Billy had a more interesting fourth season than Pete, making a name for himself as a brilliant (if unaccredited) surgeon and performing a heart transplant for the villainous Monstroso (who was, we presume, killed by Brock Samson shortly after recovering from the procedure).
What Happens Next: I don’t foresee any major revelations for these two, and I expect them to continue in their role as occasional helpers for Dr. Venture. If anything major happens, I’m guessing it would center on Billy and further test his loyalty to Pete, but I don’t see the two of them ever going their separate ways; they’re too well-matched to each other.
Dr. Orpheus and the Order of the Triad
Where We Left Them: Dr. Orpheus, Jefferson Twilight and The Alchemist are still building themselves into a proper good-guy team, living on the Venture compound and occasionally rubbing shoulders with SPHINX. Orpheus is one of the few characters on the show who is actually good at what he does and it was fun to see him plumbing Rusty’s soul in “Assisted Suicide.” Al, for his part, provides some of the show’s best comic relief and he made a great foil for Hank in “Everybody Comes to Hank’s.” The major development in this strand of the show was Triana Orpheus’s decision to move in with her mother and develop her budding powers as a sorceress.
What Happens Next: Like Pete and Billy, Orpheus and friends aren’t quite in a position to drive the action in a major way, but I expect at least an episode or so devoted to Triana and her growth as a power in her own right. It seems that she and Dean are a little too disgusted by each other to ever be close again, but I am open to being surprised on that front. I also hope to see the Alchemist team up with Hank again; chemistry such as theirs should not go to waste.
Dr. Jonas Venture, Jr.
Where We Left Him: The fourth season found Rusty’s stunted twin brother embrace his role as a hero and learn to enjoy the experience of having his own arch-villain. He turned his island fortress into a museum dedicated to his father, whose legacy he has no qualms in appropriating, and continues to enjoy the kind of success that Rusty only dreams of … though, being a Venture, he can’t seem to help sabotaging himself in the end. He spent much of season four offstage, constructing Gargantua II, his orbiting space station.
What Happens Next: Jonas’ absence has been uncharacteristically made light of in the last few episodes, so I am expecting him and his completed space station to come back in a big way soon. With Professor Impossible now firmly on the side of evil, look for Sally Impossible to play an important role as well, particularly if Phantom Limb succeeds in taking over the Guild.
Think these predictions are as wrongheaded as Rusty Venture trying to write a musical? What are you looking forward to in the next season of The Venture Brothers? Tell us in the comments below!