This The Venture Bros. review contains spoilers
The Venture Bros. Season 7 Episode 2
“Pretty poetic, huh?”
“The Rorqual Affair” features prominent scenes where both the Monarch and Gary suffer from prophetic nightmares. These characters have experienced plenty of ups and downs over the course of the past season, but there’s no denying that this “Blue Morpho Saga” has been about the Monarch and other characters trying to hide from who they really are. Even if you’re positive that you’re one kind of person and do your best job to fit that mold, deep down inside you still know when you’re actually someone else.
“The Rorqual Affair” is quite the important episode of Venture Bros. in the sense that the Monarch’s alter ego of Blue Morpho is finally out in the open and over. The episode even pokes fun at how obvious the Blue Morpho’s identity should have been.
On that note, there’s a certain subtext to the installment that explores the inherent unoriginality of superheroes and supervillains, which works as an interesting backdrop to some of this content. In spite of the Monarch’s secret coming to light, the scale of this entry still feels boiled down and like it’s mostly meant to set up plot development down the road rather than stand as its own thing.
“The Rorqual Affair” deals with the Monarch and Mrs. The Monarch’s overwhelmed frames of mind during this near disaster, but plenty of ancillary characters also get moments to shift into the spotlight in big ways here. It’s surprisingly satisfying to see Phantom Limb comfortably become a supporting character in the background rather than a main antagonist for the series.
Most importantly, Brick Frog is back in a big way, and he doesn’t only get many opportunities to address his ridiculousness, but the episode almost goes into overkill on the topic because they’re just as excited to have Brick Frog back, too. This season is clearly already a success with such an early appearance from Brick Frog in the pocket.
The most important of all of these supporting characters is Wide Wale. The arch villain has taken up plenty of focus since his debut last season, but “The Rorqual Affair” is particularly important for the character as it dig into his tragic (Hulk-like) past.
Blue Morpho’s situation worsens when Wide Wale successfully kidnaps him and explains that his origin story revolves around the death of Dr. Dugong, who—surprise surprise—was Wale’s brother. This unbelievable connection between the two of them becomes Morpho/Monarch’s downfall, but it makes perfect sense.
Dr. Dugong’s death happened forever ago (all the way back in the show’s third season in 2008), not unlike the Problem button’s solution in the premiere, but these drastic callbacks perhaps indicate that a lot of this season will look back to the past and be about chickens finally coming home to roost.
This connection between Wide Wale and Dr. Dugong is something that more astute audience members have been speculating since last season, but it’s such a satisfying reveal that actually makes sense that it’s hard to begrudge the show going down this “obvious” path.
The final act of the episode sees both the Monarch and Mrs. The Monarch’s predicaments come together as she, Gary, and Red Death team up so that she can keep her husband alive and so Red Death can get his seat on the Guild (which she frankly doesn’t seem too upset about).
There’s some great chemistry throughout this plan as Gary works alongside Mrs. The Monarch instead of the Monarch himself. Gary has come such a long way since his debut and he works as a great foil to Mrs. The Monarch’s cocksure nature. Throw Red Death into the mix as this ultraviolent wild card and they find an unusual rhythm that gives the episode a strong, enjoyable energy.
Red Death’s long monologue about his past exploits with the former Guild is a particular morbid episode highlight and Clancy Brown’s voice work is just sublime here.
As everyone’s tragic histories collide, confident Hank in Enrico Montasa mode also happens to wander into this episode during the height of all of this chaos. Suddenly, before he’s able to even get out a few bad lies, he’s the one that’s staffed with executing the Monarch. This is something that a Venture should absolutely relish, but Hank is incredibly trigger-shy, even if it would make his life with Sirena easier. Lest we forget, “Enrico Montasa is a lover, not a fighter,” after all.
The end of the episode throws a ton at the audience and the whole point is to get lost in the chaos of how much is going on. There’s a major reveal during the conclusion that tells the audience that a character that’s formerly believed to have been dead has actually just been in OSI protection for all of these years (and he suddenly sounds a lot more like Jimmy Stewart than he did in his initial appearance).
That’s just one of the major revelations that goes down in “The Rorqual Affair” as the episode attempts to re-set the table for what’s to come this season. I know that some viewers have taken exception to the Blue Morpho storyline, but I think that it’s added an interesting layer to the Monarch’s character.
It’s also worth pointing out that both Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer were under the impression that they’d get two more episodes to season six, so these first two installments are very much supposed to be the end/conclusion to last season’s baggage. It may slow down the momentum of the original material that’s planned for this year, but it’s at least a satisfying finish to all of that triple-crossing madness.
The cliffhanger that the episode goes out on once again complicates matters in a major way. It calls back to and overlaps with the premiere episode and provides a strong clue as to why these first three installments are considered a trilogy.
Don’t be surprised if the following episode plays around with chronology a little more to connect these dots. Season seven of The Venture Bros. is still a little tied down by the baggage of the previous year, but they’ve handled all of their stories so far with exceptional care that knows how to look to both the past and the future in impressive ways.
“The Rorqual Affair” may largely feel like a piece of a bigger picture and struggle to stand out as an individual episode, but it drops some important bombshells and advances the season’s story in an exciting way.
Now let’s get a Steve and Dave Killsock one-shot special to happen in 2020, pretty please?