This The Venture Bros. review contains spoilers.
The Venture Bros. Season 7 Episode 6
“Are you fucking kidding me? THAT’S St. Cloud?”
One of the best things about The Venture Bros. is that it’s a show where the characters actually change and grow. The Simpsons or Family Guy have been on much longer and accrued hundreds more episodes than The Venture Bros, but the characters within The Venture Bros. have gone through more development and progress than both of those other shows combined.
Along with time comes a reasonable amount of knowledge and experience. When The Venture Bros. has been on for seven seasons, it stands to reason that the characters within are going to pick up some lessons along the way. “The Bellicose Proxy” is all about putting these seven seasons’ of experience to use and helping out those that are new to the game. It’s a clever setup for an episode of The Venture Bros. and it causes the characters in the program to reflect on the past in a way that’s healthier and unique to what’s been going on in the rest of the season.
The Monarch and Henchman 21 have slowly been re-establishing their credibility within the Guild of Calamitous Intent, but they’re still far from finished with the frustrating red tape and bureaucracy that come along with the villainous association. There’s an extended look into the many different departments that make up the Guild, such as the hypnosis training center, hologram training center, and the vicious animal training center.
The episode has some fun with this look behind the curtain as it makes the Guild’s trainings centers so cumbersome and numerous that even seasoned Guild members have a hard time keeping them straight. All of these bizarre corners of the Guild could fuel entire episodes, but perhaps the most interesting of these areas is the Guild’s surgical alteration center. “The Bellicose Proxy” shows this program in progress as someone undergoes surgery and comes out looking like Dave Grohl. This adds a fascinating wrinkle to the idea that the Guild is a home for many washed up or former rockstars, like David Bowie. While this is still likely the case, this does perhaps mean that the Guild simply alters its members to look like famous musicians.
The entire episode could solely be the Monarch and 21 getting a tour of the Guild’s inner machinations and it would still make for an entertaining endeavor, but this material is merely the backdrop for what’s to come next for the Monarch. The villain is beyond eager to jump back into fieldwork and get back on the villainy wagon, but he learns that the only way that such a thing will be possible is if he jumps through some more mandatory hoops for the Guild.
The Monarch and 21 can return to arching if they agree to take part in the Guild’s “Big Villain Evil Mentor Program” where they take a struggling Level-1 villain under their wing and impart valuable evil onto them. This has the potential to be a daunting task, but it looks even bleaker when it turns out that the Monarch’s pupil will be Augustus St. Cloud.
Augustus St. Cloud is as non-threatening as Guild members come and the guy doesn’t so much care about being a villain, as he just wants to make Billy Quizboy’s life as miserable as possible. However, St. Cloud’s lack of ambition isn’t a problem for the Monarch, especially since his connection with Billy means that the Monarch will be closer to Dr. Venture, by proxy. He’s definitely an unexpected character to pair up with the Monarch and 21, but it’s a combination that works.
On that note, I never thought that I wanted more St. Cloud in this show and I would have been happy if the character never returned, but he comes across as a welcome presence this time around. “The Bellicose Proxy” actually banks on the fact that St. Cloud is a useless, forgotten character because that’s exactly the kind of villain that the Monarch needs to revitalize. The episode pulls off the impressive feat of making St. Cloud someone that I now would gladly spend more time with in the future. This installment does wonders on making the “villain” more palatable, even if he does still rock the low-grade Magneto outfit.
The Monarch and Gary’s attempts to work with St. Cloud’s limited skills are really entertaining. They try to brainstorm how to turn his weak, blasé attitude into something intimidating. Their plan to turn him into some “Hobgoblin meets the Scarecrow” kind of villain that uses fear gases and cloud bombs also isn’t the worst archetype to fall back on either.
As fun as this is to watch, it’s also a nice glimpse into the Monarch’s villainy skills and his creative process. He legitimately helps out St. Cloud here and provides solid advice, whether he wants it or not. He also gets his wife out of trouble for once, rather than it being the other way around. It’s nice whenever the Monarch gets to demonstrate that there is a competent villain underneath that garish costume.
The Monarch and 21 find great victory in their strategy and sure enough, Billy runs right to Dr. Venture for help, even though St. Cloud’s Level-1 arching threat isn’t frightening anyone. That being said, some foamcore lightning clouds are still more menacing than Pete White as Killer Drone and Billy as Delta Drone (Halloween is right around the corner, you guys).
What’s particularly brilliant about all of this is that it pushes Dr. Venture and Brock into a position that’s similar to what the Monarch and 21 are caught up in. Rusty and Brock attempt to train Billy on how to resist an arch attack and be constantly aware of the threats that he’s now susceptible to. Even Hank gets involved to lend an untrustworthy hand. This dueling students angle is a strong structure for the episode to fall back on and it’s easy to juxtapose these two training lessons against each other while they also slowly head towards collision, too.
Taking place in the background of this low stakes grooming is Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s interrogation of Guild Stanger S-464 after his traitorous ties to the Peril Partnership was revealed in the previous installment. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch is really great through all of this and her rapport with the monotone S-464 is more enjoyable than it should be. It’s nice to get to see Dr. Mrs. The Monarch in this capacity and to get to kick some ass after she’s had to keep things in order for so long. She gets to let loose this week and even though she ultimately needs her husband’s help, it still makes for a strong showcase of what she can do.
All of this plotting very cleverly comes together as the Monarch’s attempts to empower Augustus St. Cloud cross over with Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s bargain with S-464. The Guild intentionally use St. Cloud’s attack as bait that they will draw Kimberly McManus out in the process. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch gives St. Cloud a tremendous amount of power that inadvertently helps out the Monarch in the process, even though she has no idea that the Monarch is aligned with him right now.
The beauty of this showdown is that Level-1 arching basically amount to a glorified performance piece and that nothing of consequence actually happens. It’s all just theatrics and speeches about good versus evil. It’s akin to a bunch of kids playing make believe in the sandbox, which is why it’s particularly appropriate that all of these people look like children in out of place Halloween costumes.
Furthermore, as Dr. Venture and the Monarch watch this Level-1 “fight” go on between these amateurs they reflect on how much they’ve grown since the beginning of their careers. Even if they feel like the same old failures, they actually have come a long way and have gained all sorts of experience. There’s a very circle of life quality to it all, but it works well and feels appropriate, not only due to the reflective tone that this season has had, but also because the show has never really explored the idea of budding superheroes and villains and those that train them.
“The Bellicose Proxy” is an entertaining episode that has a very comfortable structure that plays to the series’ strengths. This is also by far the funniest episode of The Venture Bros.’ seventh season, even if it may not be the overall strongest (However, Dr. Z’s makeover imaginary makeover montage for S-464 is pure gold).
There’s an insane amount that gets packed into this script. That being said, there’s a very simple story that’s told here, but the installment knows how to have its disparate elements compliment each other and dovetail in the end. The conclusion may ultimately lack a little impact, but it’s still a satisfying episode that continues to flesh out the show’s universe. Augustus St. Cloud becomes a surprisingly fun focal point and after Hank and Dean have received a lot of attention over the past few episodes, the episode is smart to give them a rest this week and focus on some underserved characters.
“The Bellicose Proxy” juggles a lot and while it doesn’t resolve everything that it sets up, the episode also never feels overcrowded or like it’s lost in exposition. “The Bellicose Proxy” is a fun look at the educational aspect behind heroics and villainy, but the real triumph here is in just how balanced and reciprocal the episode is.
Now can we please get a Guard-o flashback scene?