Here at Techland, only one television program manages to tie into so many of our geeky obsessions all at once. Superheroes, mythical creatures, action figures and barely believeable sci-fi all flop onto each other on the glorious cavalcade that is The Venture Bros. Cartoon Network’s just started airing the series from the start and Techland’s Hive Mind is taking the occasion to re-watch the exploits of Hank, Dean, Brock and Dr. Thaddeus Venture. Join us as we witness how Venture Bros. evolved over its four stellar seasons.
[Programming note: Anyone who’s been actually watching the Venture Bros. re-runs has noticed by now that they’re not showing the series in order. Rather than jump around the continuity, the Joint Venture feature’s going to keep going on in series order. This is because we love you, dear reader.]
This week, Michelle Castillo, Evan Narcisse and Graeme McMillan talk about Season 1/Episode 8: “Mid-Life Chrysalis”
GRAEME: There’s something wonderfully complex about “Midlife Chrysalis” – Rusty’s more traditional midlife crisis being balanced by Brock’s anti-midlife crisis, where he chooses responsibility and family over meaningless sex with the one non-caesarian-scarred stripper in the entire joint, as well as using the Kafka metamorphosis metaphor literally *and* tying it into the Monarch’s egomania (Was he trying to turn Rusty into someone like him?).
MICHELLE: Dr. Girlfriend’s observation Rusty and the Monarch have a lot in common, as all heroes/villains do, is interesting. The way the two treat those “closest” to them (Dr. Girlfriend in the case of the Monarch and I guess the the Venture sons for Doctor Venture) shows a lack of total disregard for their feelings, yet a need to be wanted and admired.
GRAEME: Each plot thread worked on its own as well as reflecting each other, and offered insight (Brock, who won’t beat people up when he doesn’t have his license, no matter how much he wants to), comedy (Rusty as man-about-town) and slight creepiness (the Monarch getting excited while watching his girlfriend seducing Rusty – although, I admit, I loved that he freaked out with paranoia afterwards)
EVAN: Again, so much of what makes this episode work for me is stitching together pastiches of past cultural moments. Doc’s moment of self-doubt serves a window to 1970s singles culture (and lots of awful fashion) whereas Brock gets called out (explicitly by the strip club bartender) on the ’80s action figure tropes he embodies, complete with cheesy training sequence montage.
MICHELLE: Random thought: Why would anyone leave Dean in charge!? Well, I guess he shows more common sense than Hank… but H.E.L.P.eR would have been a better choice.
EVAN: I remember thinking that Dean in his slave get-up was a really uncomfortable riff on the Jonny and Hadji relationship from Jonny Quest when I first saw this.
GRAEME: While Brock’s arc probably offered the most meat of the episode – He finally comes out of the “barely restrained killing machine” cliche that he’s been in for the majority of this season so far, and we see how important his job, and especially the kids, are to him – this ep was really about Rusty for me. I love that his midlife crisis was so dull and ordinary, right down to the new car (and hilarious wig), and that his attempts to play ladies’ man were so toe-curlingly awkward. It’s so right that he gets nervous before “seducing” Dr. Girlfriend, but becomes such a self-confident idiot afterwards: The scary part is over, so he can go back to feeling as if he can do no wrong again.
EVAN: But, as you say Graeme, this ep’s about more than the riffs. Brock’s sense of duty and gleeful righteous killing sprees gets interwoven with the idea that this makeshift family means everything to him. And Rusty’s misadventures underscore just how lonely the guy is. I think this might be the first ep where the running tease of the boys’ missing mother starts. That running subplot’s always been interesting to me because, while we know that the bulk of Hank and Dean’s DNA comes from Dr. Venture, the *ahem* original versions must’ve sprouted with the aid of some egg donor somewhere.
GRAEME: Also great: Rusty really wants to be Brock, in so many ways, and Brock wants to have what Rusty has: a family. Or am I reading too much into that?
MICHELLE: No Graeme, I think you’re on to something here. Brock has always been more of a father figure to the Venture brothers, and despite his macho character, he’s proven that love and emotion can be his fatal flaw. Just see his relationship with Molotov Cocktease. Even if he is really interested in getting in her pants (or skimpy one piece suit), he does care about her.
What really surprised me is that Rusty really wanted some companionship. Even though he acts like the lone wolf most of the time, this quarter life crisis showed us that he wants somebody or something to love. When Brock ditches him, Rusty cries out that he’s not allowed to leave because Rusty needs a body guard. We all know it’s because the Doctor just wants a wingman, a friend.
GRAEME: Best line of the episode for me is tough: “You don’t need a license for Operation ‘Get Me Some'”? “Condoms? Rusty doesn’t need gadgets to please a woman”? “If you put that under your pillow, the tooth fairy would give you, like, a grand”? Too… many… options…!
MICHELLE: Don’t forget – Rusty: “So I never got your name…” Monarch: “Oh crap, we never planned for this contingency. Quick make something up!”
More on TIME.com: