This The Venture Bros. review contains spoilers.
The Venture Bros. Season 7 Episode 7
“Get a nerd laid and he’ll think he’s the master of the universe…”
The Venture Bros. is a series that’s predicated on the fact that Rusty Venture is a famous super scientist. More often than not, Hank and Dean are left to experience the aftermath of their father’s many inventions, but those inventions are rarely plot points themselves for the show. That’s why it’s such an innovative idea for The Venture Bros. to finally tell a story that really revolves around one of Rusty’s great inventions.
The show is so used to reveling in Rusty’s former accomplishments, but to actually show that he’s still got the super scientist goods, as well as the kinds of problems that this can pose, makes for a smart, fulfilling structure for an episode. There’s a lot going on within “The Unicorn in Captivity,” but thanks to its intelligent, ornate storytelling, this is actually the season’s best entry so far!
All of the problems in this episode are launched into action when Dr. Venture very innocently invents something that happens to have such incredible power that the Guild zeroes in on it. If the Guild is aware that Rusty has created a teleportation device then of course they’re going to require its abilities. In fact, the Guild is so obsessed with this technology that they’re willing to reward a full Guild EMA Level upgrade to anyone who can acquire it.
The Guild may have their eye on this shiny piece of technology, but the OSI also view this as a supreme threat. In spite of Rusty’s bragging rights, they insist that Dr. Venture can’t go public with his creation because not only could the technology end up in the wrong hands, but Venture’s life could also be in danger. This may seem a tad extreme and a pretty harsh buzzkill to Dr. Venture’s optimism, but they happen to be absolutely right considering that during this discussion there’s literally an evil team scheming to steal this technology.
On that note, the Monarch finds himself stuck in more Guild bureaucracy and attempts to placate his wife and the evil organization. He gets forced to perform some Guild due diligence and fill in for an opening on a heist team that’s full of wild supervillains (Copy Cat, Tunnel Vision, Dot Comm, Ramburglar, Driver X, and Mark Hammil’s Presto Change-o, who is basically his version of the Joker, but on bath salts). It’s fascinating to see the inner workings of this heist team and the idea that they’ve had their eye on VenTech for a while with the hopes that this teleportation project would soon be cracked. I’m seriously curious just how long the Guild’s surveillance had been scoping out Venture’s laboratory!
Copy Cat and his team have a terrific plan put together, but the Monarch is just shoehorned into it at the last minute. What’s even worse is that his job is to be the lookout for the heist—a role that ostensibly anyone could do. The Monarch may come into this heist squad uninterested and belligerent, but he inadvertently comes out the only real winner when the operation is over. Even though the team’s routine is extremely well planned, the Monarch insists that he play by his own rules.
It actually makes a lot of sense that the OSI would have some board of officials that’s essentially their equivalent to the Guild’s Council of 13—the OSI Illuminati, Super Sentinels, whatever you want to call them. These individuals are impressed with Rusty’s ability to crack teleportation and want him to consider joining their shadow organization, but only if he’s eventually willing to donate his new invention to their cause. Rusty’s journey goes in some interesting directions, which happens to include the series’ biggest Kubrick homage to date.
This is a perfect moral quandary to see Rusty caught up in. Dr. Venture is certainly an egotistical, arrogant character, but he’s not necessarily a proud individual a lot of the time. “The Unicorn in Captivity”—which in a way refers to a proud Rusty Venture—allows the character that level of satisfaction before it then turns into a colossal ordeal for him. Rusty would ultimately be happier by the end of this episode if his teleportation efforts remained failures and never got off the ground. It’s his success that knocks him further down here and reminds him that his brain is a detriment as much as it is an advantage for him.
Dr. Venture’s recruitment by the OSI Illuminati is effectively juxtaposed against the Guild’s heist team’s attempt to burglarize VenTech. While Rusty struggles with what to do with the potential clout and power that he acquires from his invention, the Monarch directly prospers from his enemy’s tech. By the end of the episode, Dr. Venture and the Monarch’s fortunes have basically flipped. As one plummets the other soars; almost as if they’ve been teleported to each other’s places. Additionally, there are some really satisfying teleportation gags in this episode. The re-directed bullets and using the device as a murder weapon are inspired ideas. All of this made me realize that there hasn’t been nearly enough teleportation slapstick done in comedy. Could a Portal film please be a buddy comedy?
As the Monarch’s heist continues, he stumbles upon the news that Copy Cat’s plan is to betray all of them. They’re actually all a part of a decoy heist team that’s meant to take the fall as Copy Cat’s real team (which is just made up of other versions of himself) gains the goods and glory. Thankfully, the Monarch gets tipped off and some exceptional good luck leaves him in the perfect position. He actually experiences uncanny fortune enough times in this episode—all to hilarious effect—that you’d think this was a Domino one-shot or something. Not only has he just become the Guild’s top earner, but now he can waltz in with a fancy teleportation device, too.
“The Unicorn in Captivity’s” biggest surprise is that Rusty’s brush with affluence is really all just a virtual reality simulation that’s designed to influence him to hand his teleportation device over to the OSI. Even then though, this thorough game of manipulation is still all for naught. What’s impressive here is just how long the episode holds out on the simulation reveal. The bulk of Rusty’s adventure here is all a façade and it’s not until the post-credits scene that the episode shows it’s true hand.
The Venture Bros. never shies away from elaborate ideas and that’s exactly what makes this one work so well. There are subtle hints that Rusty’s story may be a fabrication (the open bar, red moko cooler’s, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s inexplicable appearance at the orgy), but there’s really no reason in the first place to be suspicious about it.
This whole experience is also slightly frustrating because an OSI Illuminati would be such ripe territory to explore in the show’s future…You know, if it were actually real. It seems like as soon as Brock and Hunter Gathers leave Rusty and turn out the lights that this is when the VR experience begins. You can even hear the sound of the VR apparatus start up during the blackout if you listen carefully. It’s a brilliant little detail and it makes a strong case for why this is one of those Venture Bros. episodes that works even better the second time that it’s watched.
This episode isn’t so much concerned about the tragic ramifications of Rusty losing his invention, but it’s still a surprisingly bittersweet installment. Dr. Venture finally creates something important and then he decides to give it away to an imaginary organization. He explicitly states what a gamechanger this invention will be for his reputation and Rusty’s pride over this creation makes the downer ending all the more depressing.
“The Unicorn in Captivity” is a subtly layered episode of The Venture Bros that makes every moment count. This entry delivers plenty of action, irreverent dialogue, a mix of extreme personalities, and some actual character development. These are all staples of great episodes, but on top of that there’s even a twist that actually comes as a surprise. The episode does well to bank on Rusty and Monarch’s ascent/descent through their fields as it lets the actual Venture Brothers continue to have a rest (although I’d be surprised if they didn’t show up in the next episode). Hopefully both the Monarch and The Venture Bros. as a whole can continue to ride this high for the final leg of the season.
And keep checking those apples for fly parts, guys! Be vigilant!
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.