Review: The Venture Bros. - Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel (season premiere)
by Annie Wu, posted Oct 19th 2009 1:37PM
(S04E01) Is it going too far calling Venture Bros. the Lost of animated shows? Because, especially when one compares it to other programs in the [adult swim] line-up, it definitely is. While shows like Robot Chicken are custom-tailored for short attention spans (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), VB does a beautiful job of rewarding the loyal who take time to learn and love the show.
You know how else it's also kind of like Lost? It's really damn confusing sometimes. It wasn't until the very end of the premiere, when bits of my brain were coming out my ears, that I finally managed to put most of the story together in my head, though I knew I would have to watch it at least once to more to seriously understand. I see what you did there, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. Real sneaky.
Unable to help myself, I had built up my expectations pretty damn high in anticipation of this season. I actually started getting really worried because I knew I was asking for too much in my head. As it turned out, this premiere was perfection and l had been worrying about nothing. It addressed most of the loose ends from the end of season three (the Monarch story is coming next week) and also did a beautiful/hilarious job of establishing where the family stands in this world of no Brock and no clone slugs. I could write a full-blown analysis of this episode, but that would take months to write and hours to read. Let's just touch on a few points.
The Venture family has certainly made some changes. Sgt. Hatred, with his boy-loving thoughts supposedly subsided by some OSI treatments, is the new bodyguard. Dean is still kind of a wuss, but seems open to Hatred's presence in the family. Is Dean's new thing going to be crying and running out of rooms in every episode?
Hank, on the other hand, had a tougher time letting go of Brock and showed it by lovingly incorporating Brock's old jacket into his wardrobe and growing out his hair. Major upgrade, by the way. From the looks of the opening credits, I guess Dean is just going to try and grow a sweet 'stache and fail miserably. That's going to be exciting to see.
And Dr. Venture, desperate for some money, sought new clients but only found cloning jobs. I think he got two of the best lines of the night: "You're getting face all over me! Hot melting face!" and "Waaait. You guys are Nazis!" Actually, the whole Indiana Jones-tastic Nazi storyline was fantastic, because it also gave us Brock's "I can cross 'Stab Hitler to death' off my list of cool crap I thought I'd never get to do." However, it took me too long to realize that Dr. Orpheus was actually wearing a costume from Indiana Jones. I suppose it was my own fault for repeatedly wondering "Why is Dr. O dressed as a colorful diaper Dalek?..."
As for 21... Oh, 21. Like most people, I had no idea what that thing in the upper left hand corner was until the end. It didn't help that my eyes were extra-blurry, and I could only kind of, sort of make out numbers. How incredibly geeky is it that they indicated time/continuity through CGC grading? This would have worked on no other show. They even did the actual Marvel Comics #1 cover and used the character names throughout Brock's adventure (with graphics most likely painstakingly designed by Doc Hammer). Come on!
I also loved how 21's actions exactly followed the fanbase's collective lines of logic. Approaching Dr. Venture to clone 24 or asking Dr. Orpheus to bring him back from the dead were both things that mournful fans speculated as possibilities after the last season's finale. Of course, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick repeatedly shot down the idea of 24's return during conventions, so I'm curious to know if they already had these scenes in mind or if it was written in after the fan reaction, as if to say, "See!? We told you it wouldn't work."
It was with Brock's storyline where it really paid off to be a long-term VB fan, as we got to revisit many aspects of Brock's history. I mean, I never thought we'd see Steve Summers and Sasquatch again (or a fat Brock, for that matter), but there we go. There's a great close-up of the portrait on Jackson Publick's blog, by the way. Understanding Brock's past with Hunter Gathers also helped with that big reveal at the end. If I understand correctly, Brock is now part of Sphinx, working alongside Shore Leave, Mile High, Hunter and that barely coherent doctor that Brendon Small voices. We don't actually know a lot about Sphinx, apart from that brief OSI theme tune from last season, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they're all about.
Also, I can't be the only one who was bummed out that Hunter didn't actually get an operation. That sweet 5 o'clock shadow, ponytail and amazing rack was a good look for him! After the reveal ("You don't know dick!"), I realized that the creators were stepping on some thin ice during this year's DragonCon panel (around the 6:30 mark). A fan asked, very straightforwardly, about Hunter's status as a post-op, and, after a little hesitation, the guys had to do a little word-dance around it without drawing suspicion. I can only imagine the sudden chill they must have felt at that moment.
And finally, the first news that I heard this morning was that [adult swim] screwed up the premiere on the West coast, airing the first half of the episode twice. I'm so sorry to hear that. Really, I would have been super-pissed too. I feel the need to come over with a casserole or something and let the entire coast collectively sob on my shoulder for an evening. Though, if you didn't catch the 4:00 a.m. repeat (correctly put together), the episode is available on iTunes and is streaming on AdultSwim.com.