Review: The Venture Bros. - Return to Malice
by Annie Wu, posted Nov 9th 2009 12:40PM
(S04E04) It's enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious, in a town called Malice. Yeah. I totally just made that up. Right now. Free words of wisdom, from me to you.
This episode wasn't spectacular for the purposes of laughing-out-loud. It was funny in a few moments, yes, but I spent most of the twenty-some minutes resting my chin on my fist, brow furrowed with concern. All the characters are going through some heavy stuff right now, and that inner turmoil, dealing with loss and identity and love, came bubbling to the surface in this episode. Doing so, again, isn't much of a gut-buster, but it makes for beautiful character development. Can you tell I have faith in this show? Maybe a little too much.
One of the major points in this episode was 21's grieving process over the loss of 24. In addition to bulking up and becoming a genuinely feared henchman, he's been carrying on one-sided esoteric, nerdy arguments with a skull, which we'll for now assume is that of 24. I'll admit, before the season started, I had already accepted 24's death as something 21 would just have to deal with alone, but thanks to the post-credits clip, it looks like there's going to be a spooky, scary mystery surrounding this whole matter.
Plus, someone in the comments of the Mantis-Eye Experiement discussion post noted that Exodus 21:24 is the "eye for eye" verse. Real sneaky move.
Also, apparently heated cryptozoological or pop culture-centric discussions are common among the Monarch's henchmen. Also, also, I was caught off-guard by the henchmen actually looking different from each other, instead of just being 24 copies. Was this a move to humanize/individualize them after a major character tragedy, in a "Henchmen are people too!" way? Or just because they got sick of always drawing square-jawed 24?
Speaking of drawing, did anyone else notice that Dr. Mrs. The Monarch's boobs completely exploded when she was on the phone? Of course you did. That was, you know, interesting. Of all the characters, I feel like her design is the most inconsistent. She's always attractive, but I thought she looked the best mid-season two when she was a little more angular and not just all circles, even in the face. Maybe they're trying to push the cartooning more, emphasizing her short curviness to contrast with, like, Molotov's extra-tall, lean silhouette. Sorry, is my illustration-tainted brain showing?
Ahem. Anyway. There were some tender character-revealing moments between Dr. Venture and Dr. Girlfriend, 21 and the boys, puffy-faced Monarch and 21, Sgt. Hatred and the rain ("What would Giant Boy Detective Do!?"). I especially liked that talk between Dr. Venture and Dr. Girlfriend, as it wasn't as sleaze-fueled as their conversations in the past. Not much action, not too many laugh-out-loud moments. It felt like a half-hour staircase to something bigger and crazier that will surely come later in the season.
I believe this was the first Doc Hammer solo writing effort of the season. It felt very Doc Hammer-ish. Hammer also seems to have been doing a lot of design work lately. That magazine cover we saw for all of two-thirds of a second was distinctly his doing, and I think we also caught a glimpse of the moon-orbiting Astrobase on the back cover of something at some point. Oh, and if there are any full-on Hammer fans lurking around here, you should probably go here (kind of NSFW... Just scroll carefully). There's also this Auxiliary Magazine interview he did recently, in which he talks about fashion, painting and a little bit of Venture Bros. Just putting that out there.
Finally... I miss Dr. Orpheus already. Let's get some of that action going again.