Where can I get an application to HankCo? Episode 4.12 is a visionary masterpiece. As they have established time and again, Astrobase Go proves unafraid to take their sordid tale of woe into dark and risky places, ultimately providing us with a rich and thought-provoking story.
The opening of the episode seems like well-worn territory; Rusty continues to thrust Dean into his failed super-scientist footsteps with an internship in New York, even going so far as to make his sensitive son don an old suit that he himself wore in his intern days. He sternly lectures Hank about finding a job. Hatred is lovably quirky and befuddled on nighttime jet functions, and adorably excited about tickets to a Broadway production of the Music Man. Cut to a Hank-operated business reminiscent of exploits seen in season 1’s Tag Sale-You’re it! It makes sense, of course, that one of the only ways Hank can think to make money is by selling his father’s possessions; it’s one of the only examples he’s ever been given to follow. Once this comfortable Venture formula has been set up, however, the meat of the episode is revealed: the mystery of Dermott’s parentage, alluded to in past episodes but never fully scrutinized, is about to be investigated by Henry Allen Venture, expert gumshoe, and his girl-Friday, the Alchemist.
The colorful palette of VB is transformed into a moody, grainy, sepia-toned world. Parodying and borrowing from the noir & pulp-detective genres has been done nearly to death and it therefore takes true talent and creativity to execute this oft-referenced style with grace. The writing of Hank’s narration is seamlessly beautiful and crude, pairing potty-puns with genuine pulp-detective lingo, simultaneously making the viewer marvel at the language and giggle at the penis jokes. It also subtly references a seed planted in season 1’s The Trial of the Monarch: recall Hank’s statement about the Guild going in clean without harming dames, to which a bewildered Brock asks where the hell he picks that kind of stuff up, having never seen him read. The Alchemist is seen out of costume for the first time, and his features suddenly come across as perfectly sculpted for a shady noir sidekick. In the noir-scenes, the pacing is slightly slower than the usual break-neck speed of the show, harkening back to the subtle, tight-lipped style of the pulp genre. The transitions between the noir back and forth to the regular style are exquisitely smooth; the viewer is left to determine whether the noir-scenes are done strictly for our benefit and the sake of the story, or whether we are seeing the world as Hank imagines it.
Back in the Technicolor world, a heartwarmingly realistic scene transpires between Orpheus and the Alchemist. As always, Orpheus offers hospitality in the form of his famous frittatas, while sagaciously advising his teammate-turned-roommate. Meanwhile, back in the land of noir, Hank goes to visit the mysterious Nikki. Thus did the climax of this episode take place in two planes simultaneously, and I am not exaggerating when I say that my jaw dropped and hung stupidly open for the entirety of the show, until well after the credits had rolled. What followed was all at once shocking, heart-wrenching, disturbing, upsetting, amazing, transformative and masterfully-played. I think we’d partially all like to stand up and cheer along with Hank for losing his v-card to a foxy older woman; that’s the fantasy of many a horny, young and innocent adolescent. For the most part I’d imagine those fantasies don’t include said foxy woman comparing you to your father before throwing herself at you, but this is the VentureVerse, where daddy-issues come standard like fries with your Happy Meal. Once the cheering subsides, however, we are left with the other side of the reveal which constitutes most of the afore-mentioned adjectives. The overt discomfort felt radiating from the scene between Nikki, Mrs. Fictel and Rusty is a marker of how impressively this episode was written. All of the pain, shame and rage that the characters displayed seemed to bleed off the screen and soak straight into me. Bravo to the continued level of fearless storytelling that VB employs, allowing no subject to be taboo. Through all the fanciful, science-fiction aspects of the show, we are never allowed to forget that this story could be about real, flawed people who experience all the mistakes, darkness and ugliness of the real hurtful world.
Despite the shocking darkness of this episode, the ending is humorous and uplifting (yeah, Total Recall reference!) as well as astonishing; the cliffhanger appearance of an impressive version of Rusty has us stunned, mystified and waiting eagerly, as always, for the next installment.
VentureFans! There is a lot more I would like to say on the subject of Statutory Rape in this episode. For my expanded thoughts, please listen to the GoVentuRadio podcast this week—I’m not just trying to plug the podcast here; issues of consent are extremely important to me, so I would love if ya’ll would tune in and hear what I’ve got to say. I love you!
— Lola Wickerman
Review by Lola Wickerman, Junior Writer – The Venture Bros. Blog