Joint Venture 201: The Venture Bros. from the Very Beginning

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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 like that, this Joint Venture feature’s going to keep going on in series order. This is because we love you, dear reader.]

This week, Evan Narcisse, Michelle Castillo and Graeme McMillan talk about Season 2/Episode 1: “Powerless in the Face of Death”

GRAEME: I love, love, love this episode. The misdirect in the titles and in almost all of Jonas’ dialogue, where he keeps pointing out that he and Rusty are Venture brothers, as if the show is going to keep Hank and Dean dead.

MICHELLE: The techno intro threw me off the first time I watched it. I actually thought that they killed off the Venture brothers and were continuing on with a new set of siblings as the “stars of the show.” Hey, it still would fit with the whole wacky nature of the show!

My favorite part was how they subtly recreated the titles to have Rusty and his twin fetus running. Funny thing, I think the show could have gone on without the Venture boys.

GRAEME: The whole episode sets up a whole new Hank/Dean-less status quo that seems completely convincing (Jonas is ridiculous capable and well-adjusted! Rusty isn’t! Comedy ensues!), only to blow it up in the last ten minutes with the revelation that Hank and Dean are clones, and have been for the entire first season (The montage of various earlier deaths is spectacular – not only the comedy ones done so over-the-top, like running with scissors or smoking, but the scene of them sleeping in their beds and Rusty explaining, “We had a gas leak then. The silent killer”). There’s just something great about the offhandedness about the whole ridiculous thing, especially when Brock and Rusty start laughing about the past as if cloning your children over and over again is not this insane, horrific thing.

MICHELLE: Best jump the shark moment in TV history ever.

EVAN: I feel you on the misdirect! Part of me still hopes that in an alternate universe somewhere, the JJ and Rusty VB show is alive and well. (Note in this alt-reality Venture Bros. show, Hank and Dean are ghosts.) Anyway, that opening really hit me in the gut. It’s such a great blend of music and visuals that drives home the loss and change in status quo for all the characters, driving straight into Rusty’s need to escape responsibility. As farcical as it is, that bit still hits on a resonant, emotional note.

GRAEME: Also, is this the last time that Rusty is a super scientist whose work is successful (And, considering that Hank and Dean both return, apparently normal, each time, then it’s probably his MOST successful invention)? I feel like this is the point where Rusty’s failure becomes more pronounced – in comparison to Jonas, perhaps? – and his whole accomplishment of, you know, successfully cloning people gets brushed under the carpet more than a little bit.

MICHELLE: I never thought about it this way. He cloned human life? I guess Doctor Venture isn’t as much of a failure as we thought he was season one, although I agree he’s still nothing compared to his father.

Looking at the other characters, I’m glad we get to see the guilt that has overtaken Doctor Orpheus since he let the boys “die.” He’s one of the most sensitive and kind hearted characters on the show (in comparison to everyone else), and I like how his overly dramatic reactions actually seem normal in comparison to the whole random cast of characters.

Also, I like how we get to check in on how 21 and 24 are doing. “Former Henchmen Anonymous” meetings sound like the place to be on Friday nights. Sign me up!

GRAEME: The Monarch in jail is a lot of fun, just as it is to watch 21 and 24 try to deal with loves as something other than henchmen (I agree with the tip that a beard is not a replacement for a chin… If only someone had told me that, years ago), but the unexpected “I’m helping you escape for love” thing from King Gorilla is definitely the highlight of that plot, and maybe the entire episode, for me. I don’t know why it gets to me, it’s such a cliche, but… it really does. I find myself completely sucked in by it, a moment of… sincerity, maybe? But there’s something about it that made me surprisingly happy, both for the Monarch and for the writers, if that makes sense: An idea that the show is about more than just snarking about things, even if it’s just making sure that a guy can try and win his girlfriend back.

EVAN: Aside from the hilarious jail sex bits, the prison sequences continue the excellence in the supervillain creation department. Tigerriffic’s sad suit dependence, the weirdness of Mister Monday and, best of all, White Noise’s racism. The tossed-off ideas from Doc Hammer and the boys could power a half-dozen other shows. But, as I keep coming back to, they’re so good when they’re riffing on nerd lore of the past. My favorite bits by far are Hector and Swifty, the pastiches of Hadji and Muhammad Ali. The flashback where Jonas, Sr. and Rusty meet Hector plays as an almost exact recreation of Dr Quest, Jonny and Race meeting Hadji. ( “A little brown boy! Can we keep him?!” I love the way that Hector just got forgotten, too.

GRAEME: Favorite line of the episode: “But, Hank, no! Hank is quite upset! Rage… His rage…! He calls you a crumb bum! Or maybe a crampon! It’s hard to hear him.”

But what do you two think?

MICHELLE: Mine is, “Fly, fly my pet. Let the beating of your wings ignite the hurricane of my second coming. Tell the world, ‘The Monarch Shall…’ OWWWW!” He’s right: It’s just apropos that he gets to keep his butterfly minions in jail.

EVAN:  Favorite lines for me: “Look, Twiki! I have some biddy-biddy-big government contracts to work on. I’m biddy-biddy-back in action and there are biddy-biddy-bills to pay!”

“Who is your grief counselor? Mother Teresa?”

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