This Venture Bros. review contains spoilers.
The Venture Bros. Season 6 Episode 1
It’s been over a year since Venture Bros.’ “All This and Gargantua-2,” and around two and a half years since the eight-episode fifth season, but the Ventures are back for another eight weeks (before disappearing again for who knows how long). Because of this, the premiere is placed in a somewhat unfortunate position. The episode has to cover the fallout of “Gargantua-2,” set up multiple major plots for the season, introduce a new city filled with plenty of new characters and allegiances, and catch up viewers who don’t remember season five/the special that well. “Hostile Makeover” does an impressive job setting up season six in a plot-heavy episode.
The episode picks up right after “Gargantua-2’s” epilogue,* with Rusty waking up from his shock at the reading of his brother’s will. Rusty has inherited his brother’s multi-billion dollar companies, including the newly built headquarters in New York, so the family moves on up to a deluxe penthouse in the sky (complete with musical montage).
*The epilogue wasn’t televised with the special, but was instead posted online by Adult Swim.
While Rusty reaps the benefits of his brother’s death, the Guild of Calamitous Intent is on the brink of collapse. The Sovereign is dead* along with half of the Council of 13. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and Phantom Limb, the only competent leaders left, are faced with figuring out how to keep the Guild running without The Sovereign. The scenes in this plot continue “Gargantua-2’s” obsession with the bureaucratic-side of supervillains with a focus on politics and the power vacuum caused by the loss of a strong leader. It’s like Game of Thrones but talky! If you enjoyed (or if you even remembered) the political maneuverings of the special, you’ll probably love this, but otherwise it’s a lot to take in on top of the NYC move.
*Although it’s possible that both The Sovereign and Jonas Jr lived (there was no definitive proof the eagle that was shot down was The Sovereign), I hope they don’t bring back him back this season. Not only was it a great death, but with Bowie’s passing, bringing him back could lead to some unintentionally uncomfortable scenes.
“Hostile Makeover” spends a good amount of time establishing the show’s version of New York and the Ventures’ neighbors. Team Venture enters in to a developed/realized city with its own culture and society (that Rusty promptly turns entirely against him). It’s a bit jarring given how little interest the show had for the neighborhood outside the gates of the former compound, but it works. The move feels like a sitcom trying to reinvent itself (new location, new supporting cast members, one of the children is going to a local college), and part of that is replacing Jonny Quest with ‘60s Marvel Comics. Rusty’s inheritance of the not-Baxter Building and not-Future Foundation places the family in to a Fantastic Four setting (with a returning Brock Samson as The Thing), the new antagonist is inspired by a now-beloved Marvel villain, a certain web-slinger makes an appearance, and the show gets to play with a capitalist take on The Avengers. The best part taken from the ‘60s is that heroes introduce themselves and monologue their origin stories every time they meet someone new. It is Stan Lee-esque operatic cheese thrown in every five minutes and it is DELIGHTFUL. Hopefully they find a way to continue the joke throughout the season, much like how the comics would re-explain who the hero is every issue.
This episode highlights the season’s push towards casting notable voices from podcasts. Thrilling Adventure Hour’s Hal Lublin plays Wide Wale, a new recurring villain. Lublin has had plenty of practice as a villain playing Welcome to Night Vale’s Steve Carlsberg. Ugh. Also, James Adomian returns to the show as a superhero with a DELIGHTFUL name. Side note: James Adomian plays Jesse Ventura, whose name is similar to Jonas Venture; perhaps his appearance is a reminder that you should stay in your off-the-grid private compound.
In the buildup to the premiere I read multiple conversations about the show and how viewers approach it. A recurring issue they had was fans and critics viewing the show through rose-tinted henchmen goggles and ignoring the show’s problems with gender and pedophilia. As a fan I’ve been guilty of hand waving away Venture Brothers’ troubling elements in the past and I plan to rectify that. I’m going to spend a portion of each review going over the show’s poor gender politics to the point that hopefully you’ll all be sick of it and start pestering Publick and co. to write more female characters just so that I’ll shut up.
There are 11 actors and 32 characters voiced in this episode; there is one female voice actor and three women with dialogue. Two of them were new and played by a returning Kate McKinnon; the third was Dr. Mrs. voiced by Doc Hammer. 9% of the actors and characters are female. Phantom Limb forces her in to a position where she is sold for sexual favors. Hank voyeuristically spies on a woman swimming in a private pool. The episode also makes a meta-joke about the lack of female and poc representation on the show while not actually doing anything to fix it. The punchline is solid though. There is one notable pedophilia joke about having to keep Sergeant Hatred away from an unseen adorable child.
– The animation quality continues to improve from season to season; the detail to characters is wonderful and the episode is full of new set designs. A personal favorite is the overhead helicopter shot of the Venture building in Columbus Circle.
– The sports section in the newspaper says the Cubs beat the Mets; I’m wondering who on the show was bitter about last year’s NLCS.
– Reference that went over my head: Wide Wale is a reference to the type of fabric used in corduroy trousers, which is why he makes an unbearable shuffling sound as he walks.
– Because of the move to New York, the episode featured multiple jokes about PATH trains and the subway. As a commuter I am fully onboard for mass transit complaints.
– The Monarch’s childhood home is modeled after the real Krueger Mansion in Newark, New Jersey, although our version is on Martin Luther King Blvd, not Malcolm X Blvd.
– The credits say the show took part in the New York State Governor’s post production credit program. If my taxes are funding Venture Brothers I am A-Okay with that.