This Venture Bros. review contains at least a couple of unavoidable and major spoilers. Beware. Sorry.
I’m not sure whether I greet new installments of The Venture Bros. with relief or anxiety anymore. It’s the long waits between seasons that do it, I suppose. It gives you more time to worry about whether or not they can keep up that very specific brand of lunacy that has kept the show going for so long. I suppose there’s a little more anxiety involved with “All This and Gargantua-2” since it’s not necessarily the start of a new season, but a “special,” and previous specials were relatively standalone affairs…and sometimes not the most memorable moments in Venture Bros. history.
There’s good news, though. “All This and Gargantua-2” is the best of the Venture Bros. specials by quite a bit. It feels more like an epic season finale than season 5’s “The Devil’s Grip,” and at moments I felt that this one was packing enough in to be a series finale of sorts. That isn’t the case (thankfully), but it definitely wraps a few things up, and whenever we finally do get a Venture Bros. season six (please be this year), there will be some noticeable differences. Characters die, lots of stuff gets blown up, and at the very least it’s going to be difficult for them to hit a neat reset button on the villains.
“All This and Gargantua-2” is solid enough. It has moments where it hits the highs that I really expect from the show, but it rambles a little. I felt that way about much of season five, as well. For a show that plays toward my specific pop cultural tastes the way that The Venture Bros. does, it’s pretty much impossible for me to ever come away from an episode unsatisfied, but there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on with this one, like it’s a little unfocused. I just feel like I’ve been waiting for something to knock me out the window the way “Operation: P.R.O.M.” did, and that didn’t happen at all in season five (which was fine, by the way). Then again, it’s also tough to judge these on a first viewing sometimes, so what the hell do I know?
And really, I shouldn’t complain. “All This and Gargantua-2” is beautifully animated, and for about the one millionth time I realize that I wish there were a “straight” action/adventure cartoon out there that would adopt this show’s color palette and general early space age aesthetic. Then again, I wish there were more action/adventure cartoons in general, and that’s a problem that really should be handled, but this isn’t the time or the place. At the very least this one swings for the fences and feels more substantial than previous specials, and it does a pretty nifty job with the warring elements of making with enough comedy while also dealing with the show’s increasingly complex continuity. It’s also quite a bit better than most of the previous season.
Of course, there are all the expected nods to Star Wars and Star Trek, which seems like low-hanging fruit on the surface, but actually, are pulled off with flair. Obviously, there are lightsabers and Sith jokes, but JJ’s suit looks like the awesome Starfleet jumpsuit uniforms that we only (sadly) saw in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, while the best Star Wars moments are reserved for the music cues. That score is really on point, with a really terrific appropriation of the vibe from the “Battle of Yavin” track from the John Williams’ first Star Wars soundtrack, with those crazy tympani you hear during the countdown sequence. They even sneak in a 20th Century Fox snare drum flourish into the end credits.
As for those big changes, well, JJ may not be dead forever (c’mon, you think a show like this isn’t going to apply the comic book logic of “no corpse, no death” to this at some point?), but I can’t imagine he’ll be brought back any time soon. And if that really is the end of the Sovereign (I won’t spoil how this one happens), that signals a pretty hefty shift in the balance of power. Is Dr. Killinger a suitably mysterious and powerful character to run the Guild or could this finally be Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s time? Is Brock vaping a sign that he’s losing his edge? Is Dean really trying to grow in a goatee? Bring on season six.
Also, can I just ask for a moment of silence for Don Hell? Damn. Loved that dude.