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Review: The Venture Bros. - Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel (season premiere)

by Annie Wu, posted Oct 19th 2009 1:37PM
venture bros premiere
(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.

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ChebGhobbi

I really like Sgt. Hatred. The scene where he gets Hank to shoot him was really touching (though, I'm pleased to say, not in a typical Sgt. Hatred way).

The reason #21 had the X-1 is that the Monarch captured it (with H.E.L.P.eR.) at the end of 'The Family that Slays Together, Stays Together' part 1.

October 22 2009 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
t-boned

Sorry to be the nay-sayer here,but the long awaited 4th season premiere episode was a bit of a let-down.The story picks up with new characters and situations that left me saying "What did i miss??!!??" It would have helped if it were a hour long episode for sure,kind of cheap after waiting all summer.The Sgt. Hatred joining the Ventures as their new bodyguard storyline was weak,why not Dr. Orpheus and the triad? Why not some,if not all of the original Team Venture brought out of retirement? The sarge is one of my least favorite characters and now he's been brought to the forefront of the new storyline,he's a one dimensional character who was only interesting and/or amusing for about two minutes,and that was a long time ago.And what's with the X-1? And where was the main villian,the Monarch?GEEZ there's more loose ends now than with all the previous finales put together.Maybe Venture Bros has run its course and the creators are just trying to sail through on their previous work and slowly euthanise the series?

October 20 2009 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to t-boned's comment
Annie W.

While I agree that an hour-long episode would have been even better for a premiere, I don't think I can side with your other points.

I believe it was perfectly acceptable to leave the Monarch action for the second episode rather than immediately take it on in the premiere. The major crisis after the S3 finale was not Monarch-related (we last saw him trapped in his own vomit-covered metal suit...) but concerned the Venture family itself. The titular Venture brothers are suddenly at their most vulnerable (clone-less) and they lose their bodyguard. THAT needs to be addressed. And it was! In less than thirty minutes! Come on, that's beyond impressive.

Sgt. Hatred isn't a huge fan-favorite, sure, but thinking in terms of bodyguards, he's far more well-equipped than the likes of the Triad (who are still trying to work out their own team dynamic) or the old guys of Team Venture, (who are, you know, old guys). I'm not crazy for Sgt. Hatred either, but I think he's worth giving another chance, if only to see how he takes on this job. He's already being way more involved than Brock was, at least in training. Brock was kind of like the cool babysitter-bodyguard, and Hatred seems like he wants to be the encouraging teacher-bodyguard.

I'm pretty sure 21 and his LARP crew "borrowed" the X-1, which is why the exterior was covered in tributes to 24.

And I think the only new characters were that Fritz Nazi guy and Hitler, and they were just there for one-episode giggles, really. I don't foresee them coming back for any reason.

October 20 2009 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RAB

"Like most people, I had no idea what that thing in the upper left hand corner was until the end."

Annie, I've seen you at too many comics conventions to believe that!

October 19 2009 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beergas

Nice write up. One of my faves too. Glad to see others are in it. Do like Brock tho, voice & lines.
For some reason I was expecting more, like an hour. Some times it used to even start 2 mins or so before actual time.
I'd come in on the hour and wonder what the heck was going on. Others like Swim run that little pre cartoon before full cartoon so I was thinking well what'd I miss.
This was a good one - esp well drawn & designed.
Oh, Go Yanks.
Bit of East Coast humorness.

October 19 2009 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BillS

West coasters: Apparently Adult Swim is going to re-run the episode at 12:30 monday-thursday nights. So even if you don't want to catch it online, you can still see it.

October 19 2009 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

Good thing I have DirecTV and have access to both the east coast and west coast channel feeds!

October 19 2009 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LRM

Good episode. I think I was a little disappointed only because it's been so long since a new episode and the 20-30mins just wasn't enough.

Am I forgetting something or did I miss something? How did #24 get the jet? And is he finally his own super villain now?

October 19 2009 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RJ

Yes, the show repeated the first 15 minutes after the commercial break-- at first I thought it was some kind of wierd retelling of it and I was trying to figure out what was different about the show from the first 15 minutes-- and then after it repeated, they went to a rerun of an old Metalocalypse show. They should have cut the rerun of the Metalocalypse show and instead shown the second half of the new Venture brothers. It shows that Adult Swim just operates on "autopilot" even when one of their premier "must watch" shows is on the air. I am very disappointed in AS for being totally asleep at the wheel on this one.

October 19 2009 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RJ's comment
Zachary

I had the same reaction you did. First I thought there would be some minor variations the second time. I didn't expect them to cancel Metalocalypse, but I hoped the glitch had somehow pushed everything back 15 minutes instead of just wiping out the second half of VB.

October 19 2009 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shadowracer

It's completely fair to call Venture Bros. the Lost of animated shows. Especially since it has such sharp writing and well developed supporting characters.

October 19 2009 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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