Dec 12, 2013

[TV] The Venture Bros: Season 2

Continuing my adventures following The Venture Bros., we're now on the second season of the show for today's review. The first season wasn't necessarily all that coherent (which is part of the show's charm), but that still didn't stop it from getting to another season. And as with many other shows, this also presented an opportunity for the writers to actually start to expand on the character back stories and flesh things out even further.

This is not to say that the show suddenly evolved into a serious adventure cartoon or something like that. As much as characters have had a chance to develop, they continue to be highly damaged and whose sanity may often be in question given their life choices. But it's the craziness that helps make everything so much fun on a number of levels.

I appreciated the fact that we got a lot more focus on The Monarch as compared to other villains. A revolving line-up of baddies can be pretty fun, but the show really needed to give us more Monarch. And in turn, we also got more exposure to his rather unusual henchmen.

Synopsis: The Venture Bros. is an animated comedy adventure series created by Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch) and Doc Hammer. It airs as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming - which is targeted for more mature audiences.

At the end of the first season, we were all shocked by the death of titular characters Hank (Christopher McCulloch) and Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas) Venture. Dr. Venture (James Urbaniak) ends up going on a tour of the world in his grief while Dr. Orpheus (Steven Rattazzi) decides to take it upon himself to bring the boys back to life since he feels he was partly responsible for their deaths. But in a strange reveal, Dr. Venture eventually admits that he's been maintaining multiple clones of the boys due to their tendency to put themselves in harm's away. And thus we're introduced to a new plot device that becomes pretty important as the series continues on.

Meanwhile The Monarch (Christopher McCulloch) is still in jail, but is naturally trying to figure out a way out. His plan is to escape from prison and find a way to woo back Dr. Girlfriend (Doc Hammer), who is back with ex-lover Phantom Limb (James Urbaniak). This eventually leads to him reconnecting with two of his henchmen, 21 (Doc Hammer) and 24 (Christopher McCulloch).

I mentioned the series tries to expand a bit on the back stories of the various characters, which it does in its unique Venture Way. In "Assassinanny 911" we have Venture bodyguard Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton) on an official assignment from the Office of Secret Intelligence (OSI) to assassinate his former mentor, Colonel Hunter Gathers (Christopher McCulloch). It's an interesting look into what kind of a mad man could shame the borderline psychopath that is Brock plus the episode also offers another chance to enjoy Brock's odd love interest Molotov Cocktease (Mia Barron).

In "I Know Why The Caged Bird Kills", we are introduced to the somewhat crazy Myra Brandish (Joanna Adler), the Venture family's former bodyguard. She kidnaps Hank and Dean claiming to be their long lost mother, although the truth of this is rather questionable. At the same time this episode has Dr. Henry Killinger (Christopher McCulloch) and his Magic Murder Bag. He joins the Monarch with the express desire to help him better organize his criminal empire.

And the season ender - the two-part episode "Showdown at Cremation Creek" is quite the epic Venture story. I won't go into details in order not to spoil things, but I have to admit that it was a lot of fun. Plus it had David Bowie!

 This season really helped me better appreciate Henchman 21 and 24 more than anything else. Sure there's The Monarch and his obsession with Dr. Venture, but there's something about the Henchmen that I really enjoy. Maybe it's because they're just two geeks in the middle of everything with a bit of a gift for avoiding getting killed despite facing enemies like Brock Samson.

The Venture Family continues to be as annoying as ever with Brock Samson probably being the most interesting part of those stories. And yes, I suppose I have a bit of a soft spot for Dr. Orpheus and the Order of the Triad. They're probably among the worst magically-inclined heroes around but they work so well in the context of the show.

On the whole, the second season of The Venture Bros. is a great continuation of this cartoon and one that is starting to better embrace the fact that they can tell more complex stories with now-established characters. Thus I'm happy to rate this season with 4 instances Dean is mistaken for a girl out of a possible 5.

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