We’re three episodes into season 5 of The Venture Bros. so far, and many of our favorite characters are still adjusting to their new transitional roles for the times ahead. The bulk of “SPHINX Rising” revolves around Henchman 21, now the lone member of the secret SPHINX organization after Brock and company rejoined the O.S.I., as he tries to figure out just what the heck his purpose is now that he’s the one calling the shots.
It was nice to see everyone in the show besides The Monarch referring to 21 by his real name, Gary, now that the ex-henchman considers himself to be one of the “good guys.” And of course, Gary’s new role on the Venture compound also leads to some comical tension with Sergeant Hatred, whose own shortcomings as the Venture’s bodyguard are beginning to show more and more. After Gary’s crime-fighting attempts get in the way of the O.S.I.’s own operations, he is put on a very thin leash to stop interfering with the responsibilities of an actual government organization. So in his attempt to rebuild SPHINX and gain some credibility, Gary begins hiring a number of new and eccentric soldiers to the reestablished order, including Hank, as an agent named Destiny who wears a golden female Sphinx costume. The miscommunication between Hank’s codename and Dr. Venture and Sergeant Hatred’s belief that Hank is now dating a “loose” stripper named Destiny was one of many highlights of “SPHINX Rising.”
The rest of the episode deals with The Monarch’s latest ploy at destroying Dr. Venture, by donning prosthetic masks and disguises and infiltrating the Venture compound to plant some explosives. But the best part about The Monarch and his wife’s plan was their absurdly funny cover story as Beaver Inspectors (since the gag “Beaver Inspector” t-shirt from his bachelor party is the only thing The Monarch has to wear besides his Monarch suit). The only thing that really didn’t work throughout these segments is that Dr. Venture failed to recognize the incredibly distinct voices of The Monarch and Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, which remained completely unchanged despite their disguises. I know Dr. Venture isn’t the smartest guy in the room, but here he just came across as overly foolish.
However, there is also an interesting revelation near the tail-end of the episode, where The Monarch finds an old photograph depicting that he and Dr. Venture were once friends and played together as small children. The Monarch’s obsession over this discovery (so much so that he doesn’t even care about the inevitable failure of his latest Beaver Inspector plan) leads me to believe that this will almost certainly come into play for The Monarch’s character in future episodes for the rest of the season.
But despite a very strong episode with most of the Venture Bros. cast shifting comfortably in their new directions for the season ahead, I do have to admit that “emo Dean” is already starting to get a bit weary. While Dean’s new personality was a welcome change in last week’s showing, this week his overt sadness doesn’t come across quite as comical, rather that it comes across as, well, just sad. However, Sergeant Hatred’s oddly comforting life advice manages to salvage these drier bits of the episode, and the fact that his words actually seem to help Dean’s inner crisis, well that’s just icing on top of the hatred cake.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars