Tonight was the moment that Venture fandom had been anticipating with bated breath for months on end. Tortured by the split format of season four and the achingly wide chasm between the two halves, I found I was unable to disassociate my excited expectations when attempting to view the episode with the unbiased and critical eye of a cut-throat assessor. I bounced in my chair, squealing like a school-girl in the throes of spring’s first amorous breezes as soon as the episode began. If I may extend this metaphor, the opening of The Diving Bell vs. The Butter-Glider was passionately strong, dropping us directly into an ongoing crises wrought with tense excitement and explosions—it then abruptly careens us off a cliff and dissolves into slightly disappointing inaction, leaving me desperately wanting for more… just like a teenage crush.
Please don’t mistake my initial negativity for outright dislike—I could no more dislike an episode of The Venture Bros. than I could drive a dagger through the heart of a unicorn. It’s just that my expectations were so high, and I waited for so long, and it was all over so quickly that I am left feeling slightly deflated. I blame the waiting period for this. I’m going to stretch my little analogy some more and age it up a bit; say you were an old-fashioned virtuous type who had “saved” themselves till marriage—now its your wedding night and you are faced with the reality that n00b sex is in fact painful and awkward and so very unlike all those romantic lies you were led to believe. If only I hadn’t waited, you lament! I spent so much time building it all up in my head to be this perfect expression of love and communion, and all this time I really should have been experimenting and figuring out how to make it feel good! Waiting sucks!
Ok. That got away from me for a moment. My feelings for this show are quite passionate, you see. I had to get my emotions and biases out of the way and into the blogosphere before I could really pick at the meat of the episode.
At the heart of this episode we see an upswing in the frenzied pacing that has characterized this season. Though no shorter than a standard segment, 4.9 somehow felt as if it were a mere ten minutes long. Character development happens fast—it is revealed that the boys’ minds are being mangled by the constant memory wipes and are then faced (for the umpteenth time) with evidence of their clones as Brock struggles to find another weak excuse. Hatred gets territorial toward his role as family protector only to be swiftly mollified by Brock’s practiced ability to play on the pride of the general’s simple, child-like brain. This is not his OSI training at work; it is clearly a tactic he has picked up in his role as surrogate father. Billy and Pete get another chance to play doctor and show off their skills, providing for me at least, some of the only real laugh-out-loud moments of the episode with their Star Wars reference while on their flashy new motorbikes.
In the enemy’s camp, conflict comes from within as 21’s obvious growth and prowess is marginalized by The Monarch’s equally flashy new mode of transportation.
Why the butter-glider, I must ask. From whence did this silly red-herring derive, and why is The Monarch so suddenly, utterly taken with it? Granted the Aladdin-like musical sequence was cute (and I was actually totally thrilled by the idea of Jackson Publick singing in The Monarch’s voice) but I felt it had no pretense or basis for being included. The last time The Monarch dabbled in fancy, superfluous machinery, explosions, beheadings and ruin resulted; surely he has not regressed so far into the shadow of 21 that he should grow so foolish and desperate. To actually go so far into his flight of fancy that he allows it to affect his sex-life is, to this loyal fan, totally far-fetched. Whatever else may be going on with the crazed butterfly-man, he and Dr. Mrs. The Monarch have always found time to get freaky with one-another. The Sheila that I have come to know and love would not have simply stormed off to the cocoon-cantina for a beverage—she would have had her beloved husband’s balls in a vice-grip over such a betrayal. What the hell is going on there? All of The Monarch’s development that we saw in Pinstripes & Poltergeists seems to have been lost to a cheap shot of shiny toys.
Before I am accused of being a complete naysayer, allow me to list some of the strengths of this episode, most of which lie in their story-telling format and its beautifully cyclical, self-referencing style:
The wham-bam-pow opening of the episode, seen at first through the blurred and fluttering vision of Doc Venture, is a nice throw-back to the very first episode of the season, which opens in a similar fashion through Brock’s eyes.
The new trend of puns related to Brock’s name continues with Brock-Blocking and Brock of Ages. Cute. Who doesn’t love a good pun?
Billy continues his failed quest for a high-five. Will no one indulge him because his hand is so creepy, or because he’s just kind of a loser? I don’t know, but I still think it’s funny.
Hunter is still so hilarious that I want to jump through my television and give him hugs. That’s a reoccurring theme for me, anyone else feel that way?
I have grown accustomed to more laughter from this show—the first half of the season had me in stitches, tears wetting the corners of my eyes. This episode had a few laughs, but not as many as I wanted, not as much as I had been yearning for.
I really honestly liked the Inner-Space thing. The cliché vs. the classic is a line that Doc and Jackson have always skated with finesse, and they continue to do so in a refreshing and creative way. Hatred’s ingenuity and bravery at the end of the episode, resulting in the giant, naked Rusty that fell from the heavens was nothing short of genius. I also thought that the decision to have Rusty out of commission for the whole episode was great—his development has reached a point of stasis, I feel, and it is time for him to be out of the way to make room for the continued growth of his sons and their other father-figures.
As always, I’m left with feelings of love for this show and excitement for the next segment. As a piece of a larger arch, this episode is as much of a treat as its predecessors; it merely had a stupendously steep pedestal to mount in terms of my own avid anticipation. I can’t wait to see what happens next week to all my favorite, flawed characters.
Oh yeah, and that bit about King Gorilla looking like David Byrne? That was priceless. Keep up the good work, team Venture—in the words of SoulBot, I love you.
Review by Lola Wickerman, Junior Writer – The Venture Bros. Blog